Etiquette for Houseguests Question

What’s the etiquette for houseguests? Nikki and I have been talking about this. When someone comes to stay with you, what are you as a host supposed to provide (a bed, food…)? What about stuff like a welcoming gift basket for the guest? Is the guest supposed to bring a gift for the host? When you go out to eat or do stuff that costs money, who pays? Does it depend on the relative financial positions of the two parties, does it depend on your stage in life or your relationship to the guest, or are there hard and fast etiquette rules? I’ve always kinda played it by ear, but I’m wondering if there are rules or guidelines I should be aware of.

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  • karlitacat

    Hm… I think guests are *supposed* to bring their own provisions beyond food and board, but it’s *nice* if you think ahead – little toiletries, for example.  Same thing with a gift basket – it’s nice, but not necessary.  If anything, I think the guests should bring a hostess type of gift, nicer/more expensive for the length of time they’re staying.  Some situations will be relative, but with most of the expenses I would say each party pays for his/her portion of the bill.  I suppose it also depends on who invited whom, who chose the activity or the location, things like that.

    I know Nikki had a situation where a houseguest took advantage of their good graces, and I don’t think it’s fair for someone to expect you to pay for anything and everything and come up with an endless array of entertainment (especially if they invited themselves!).  Something my mom does is provide some area books/maps and suggestions of possible landmarks/places of interest/etc. so the guest in question can do things on his/her own.         

    Eh, I could be wrong.  Sometimes I’m surprised when I hear what the “true” rules of etiquette are.  But who makes these rules, anyway?  I think you have to decide what’s best for the situation. 

  • Rhinochips

    First of all, it depends whether or not the houseguests are invited or just stopped by and were asked to stay on short notice or not.  Also, if the houseguests were invited, are they short term (a week) or longer (several months).  Usually, if your houseguest is invited to stay with you for a week, they probably expect a bed to sleep in, hopefully in a seperate room or a pull out sofa (which they should be told about these accomodations before hand), a light breakfast and dinner.  A set of towels should be set out for them so they know which ones are ok to use also.  A gift basket is always nice, but depends on how they are traveling.  For example, if they are traveling by plane, it might be difficult for them to carry it back home with them or if they are continuing to travel elsewhere after they leave your home, again, it could be a problem.  Sometimes the guest will invite you and your spouse out to dinner (on them) as a thank you for allowing them to stay with you.  In that case, you stay middle of the road when picking a restaurant and ordering.  Also, most house guests bring a small hostess gift, again as a thank you for your kindness.  Sometimes it is given when they arrive, such as a bottle of wine.  Other times, it is left in the bedroom for the hostess to find, after the guest leaves.  All of this is just the little something extra that you both want to do to make them feel comfortable and at home, but not make them feel as though they are putting you out.  It also depends on how close you are to this houseguest.  If they are family, close friends, or just someone you want to be hospitable towards.  The true guidelines of hospitality, come from the heart.   Avoid trying to feel like an impartical hotel manager.

  • mmmattress

    Number one houseguest rule: Don’t allow Zach to be your houseguest. He will spill your beans, spoil your food, and soil your furniture.

    Isn’t he coming on Thursday?

  • miller_schloss

    Karla – Nikki’s situation with the guest from H-E-double hockey sticks is what started our discussion. I’ve never had a guest take advantage of us like that before, but it did make me wonder if I was missing some elements of hospitality.

  • hannahbarton

    When I visit you, I plan to use your shampoo, conditioner, razor, deodorant, and toothbrush.

    When you visit me, I plan to use your shampoo, conditioner, razor, deodorant, and toothbrush.

  • daniellehanley

    In general I think the host should provide a place to sleep, clean towels, breakfast and a dinner. The guest should try to take the hosts out for a meal. Everything else depends on variables like relative economic status and relationship and such.

    ryq: I take a tablespoon of fish/cod liver oil a day. I find swallowing that easier than swallowing a dozen little capsules. I don’t think there’s any difference between capsules and liquid, though. Some people say there’s a difference in the brands, so we’re going to try Carlson’s, which is supposed to be the best.

  • twentysixcats

    I would love to have a hospitable house, and when I think about it I’ve gotten several opportunities since Atlanta is a common “stopover” place. I don’t know about “proper etiquette”, but usually I provide for whatever meals they will be around. I also give them my bed (since it’s the only bed in the house :-p), and help them come up with activities while they’re in Atlanta. I’ve been known to give out coupons that I’ve collected for Atlanta activities. :-) I also like to pack a lunch for them for the road when they leave – I remember I always appreciated that when I was in college and road-tripping a lot.

    As for who pays, I usually play it by ear depending on the financial situation of my guests. Most of them have been college students counting their pennies, so I try to be conscious of activities I suggest, and pay their way if I can. Too often I can’t, but we’ve had a lot of fun just playing games in my apartment. It seems that everyone has had a nice visit, but I’m not sure I would know if they didn’t!

  • grace_searcher

    I think it’s more than adequate to provide a clean house, a place to sleep, a tidy bathroom that may have a few small extra toiletries (people forget toothbrushes from time to time!) and meals. Maybe it’s just my upbring, but as a guest, I’ve alway brought the hostess a gift (flowers, wine, etc), just a little thing to show I was appreciate of all that she’s done.

    Just my two cents!

  • whomhavei

    First off, I never spilled your beans and I blame the furniture on muffin.  And the only food I spoiled was in the freezer when the wine exploded.  Secondly, I resent the entire nature of this post because it is obviously geared towards subtly telling me to bring you a gift.  Just for that I’ll return your birthday present, or eat it.  Thirdly, I am coming on Thursday and you will be expected to clean me, feed me, clothe me, and entertain me.  If you don’t, I’ll keep you up all night crying and poop on your floor.  On second thought I might do that anyway.  (I’m just trying to prepare you for your baby.)

  • africaflyboy

    You think about this too much. If I get a bed and breakfast, I’m happy. Heck, I’d even settle for just some good old sweet tea and I’ll get doughnuts down at the corner store.

    Overall, I’d say it depends alot on station or stage of life. Example, if I visit a married couple with kids, they usually pay for everything since I’m (until now) single and in college and broke. If I was to visit you and Matthew, I’d probably try to pay for the food etc, and pay all my bills if we went places because we’re roughly the same age and financial status.

    Hannah rocks for her comment.

  • gwyneth

    if you make rules, then they can be broken, which allows for more awkwardness and hurt feelings. for instance, this one time, i invited people to come stay with me but made them bring their own bed.
    that was probably rude, huh?

  • Mistress_Kath

    LOL, recalling why a certain friend of mine is no longer allowed to stay in other people’s homes…I think one of the guest’s primary responsibilities is to keep their belongings neatly contained and not take over the whole place (OK, OK this can get a little difficult for a rennie in changeable weather, but I did try). Also to leave the bathroom and kitchen as neat as you found it.

    I bring goodies because I truly appreciate that you are saving me the cost of a hotel…also because I always seem to have some stuff with your name on it knocking around my workshop.

  • three_is_magic_number

    When people come to stay with us, we have a guest room so they have a bed, and we stock the kitchen with breakfast food that we know they like. We usually play it by ear for dinners but if I go to visit someone else and we are making dinner, I always offer to pay (or split) the groceries. As a guest, it’s polite to bring a small gift (I usually opt to bring a potted plant or flowers) and if it’s an extended stay, I usually take the host out for a meal. If they are your very close friends though, obviously some of this stuff can be modified a bit. When our best friends come to stay, we basically give them the run of the house and it’s all very casual. If it’s someone you know less well, we obviously try to spiff things up a bit and make it a bit nicer. I think as you get older, especially, having a bed as opposed to a corner of a floor, to sleep in becomes kind of essential.

  • Stout_Sojourner

    Haha, I would were it not so far away. I’m getting better, but the choreography of the dance we’re dling (for the grand opening ball of a fancy hotel)is really rather complicated. Not helping- our German instructor continually changes what we’ve memorized in an accent that makes it difficult to know what he wants and what he’s changed. Oh well, it pays pretty decently and is a one time thing.

  • Stout_Sojourner

    I have a friend who is a dance major at Butler University (located in Indy). I guess they contacted her to see if she was willing to dance and make a little side cash. I got a call from her when they cut most of the older dancers (I think it was a little too fast paced for most) and needed extra guys. It’s really been a challenge, as a non-practicing non-experienced dancer to keep up with everyone else. Also stressful is the prestige of the estimated audience- the governor, the mayor, most of Indianapolis’ power echelon (I’ve heard the event costs $600 a head).

    It works out well, though, as I’ve recently quit my job and am thankful for the cash and also the minimal hours this is taking.

  • MaMaMollisa

    RYC: Yes, I have heard of Mercy Ministries because someone suggested that I work for them once… but it was around my wedding and I didn’t really look into it too much.  I should learn more about them, though.  It sounds like they do wonderful things and I really wouldn’t mind working for an organization like that at all!!  :)  

    Thanks for your comment.  :)

  • EiraChaeli

    Etiquette is a lost art! And when friends start
    to consider themselves family and take advatage
    it makes it even more difficult.
    I like to bring a card at least, to say thank you
    for inviting us here. I also like to make sure we
    have cleaned up when we leave, but as a hostess
    it’s hard to have expectations.

  • Fears_Departing

    I agree with Karla. :-) They should bring gifts, it’s a two-way dynamic of being polite and civil and generally over-the-top appreciative…..and we have to admit, these things build bonds, which have long-term value.

  • semajski

    Oh crap. I didn’t bring a gift with me. :) When I come/came, as long as you have 1 homecooked meal for me and I have somewhere to spread out… I’m ok. hehe.

    OT, It looks like Brangelina took your suggestion:
    The Daily Mirror in London reported the couple has signed a deal with a U.S. weekly magazine for the baby’s first pictures.

    “They’ve signed a 2.6 million ($5 million) deal with a publication and the money will go to children’s charity
    UNICEF,” the tabloid quoted a source close to the couple as saying.

    “Angelina’s very private but they figured they might as well use the opportunity of one child being born to help a lot of others.”

  • miller_schloss

    Mike, I think that was Matthew’s idea…I have to give him the credit. Creepy – that’s EXACTLY what he suggested. Either our car is wiretapped, or he and Brangelina think exactly the same way. Either prospect is frightening.

    You were a great guest, by the way.

  • mmmattress

    It wasn’t an original idea…I read some article about the paparazzi fervor (“One shot of the baby could be worth $2 million!”) which suggested that they do something charitable like that. But I’m way off-topic, and off-topic is bad.

  • Punky1974

    I’m not sure about that one. My friends and I usually go “dutch” when we visit each other. We all know what our finances are like as Bible college students and ministers.

  • gwyneth

    when i come, i request that you provide me with pho. in return, i will get your green wall paint on my pants, but laugh when you lean up against the wall and paint your butt green.
    also, you still have my big dice. i want them.

    oh oh! anecdote which i’ve been meaning to tell you: when billiam and marcier arrived, they told us they wanted to teach us this game…involving dice…yeah, it was totally my game. only they have a name for it and one or two new rules, which, when combined w/ my awesome rules, make it a bigger, stronger, brighter (for a new tomorrow) dice game. i shall teach you sometime…it’s still totally you guys’ turn.

  • curlybecca

    I don’t think you need to question your houseguest etiquette too much. I have never been offended by anything when I’ve stayed with you guys… (well, maybe one thing, but I won’t post it on the internet). The point of etiquette is to make people feel comfortable around you, and to make houseguests feel welcome and at home, and I think you guys do that very well. (Lattes anytime, I mean, come on!! What more could a girl want?) I think etiquette “rules” can, and should, be disregarded if they are not in the best interest of your guest’s comfort.

  • lifeunresolved

    i don’t think it so much matters between real friends.

    and acquaintances who aren’t friends probably shouldn’t be staying at your house.

  • Abbas_princess

    Our problem is that a) we don;t have a spare room and b) Our couch doesn’t fold out.  So we don’t have house guests much.  But if I did… I agree with the majority.  A bed, clean, fresh sheets, towels and face washers and new soap, and extra blanket if needed, breakfast and dinner.  If they were invited by us, depending on the financial situation of the two of us (and the closeness of the relationship) I would offer to pay for outings if we suggest them, but if they wanted to go dutch that’s cool.  when Adam and I stay anywhere (usually family down south) we will buy my uncles a bottle of wine and my aunts a bunch of flowers and a card thanking the both of them.

    *shrug*  I’ve never really thought of it as ettiquite…. just good manners.  There is a difference

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