One of the best things about being a bonafide grownup is the noticeable increase in fancy parties and get-togethers. I'm talking about dinners at your friend's house, cocktail parties with the neighbors, and weekends spent schmoozing around plates of cheese. It's all so adult-y and great — until you commit a houseguest faux pas.
Yes, I'm talking about using the last square of toilet paper and not telling anyone. Or showing up ridiculously late as your friend's home-cooked meal gets cold. (Not OK.) But I'm also talking about the lesser-known things we all do wrong as houseguests.
If you, like me, really appreciate plates of cheese and crashing on your old roommate's couch for a week, then it's totally worth storing such info in the back of your brain. Once it's tucked away, you'll have a better shot at avoiding accidental rudeness — and getting invited back again.
But remember, it's not just about avoid faux pas. It's also about making an effort to be great company, too. As entertaining expert Carla McDonald tells me via email, “Being a good houseguest is ultimately about being kind, gracious, respectful, and appreciative." With that in mind, read on for things to avoid, so you can secure the title of best houseguest ever.
1. Arriving On Time
If you've been invited to a dinner party, you may think showing up on time is the right thing to do. But arriving at 6:59 for a 7 p.m. dinner can actually cause your host a ton of stress. So, if you think you're about to be too on time, it's a good idea to stall. "Drive around the block a few times if you have to and arrive ... five minutes after the start time at the earliest," says McDonald. "Your host — who will inevitably be running around doing last minute things — will appreciate it."
2. Showing Up Without A Gift
It doesn't matter if you're just there to eat dinner, or to live on your friend's couch for a week — a little hostess gift will be much appreciated. This is especially true if you stick with the theme of the get-together. "So, if you’re invited for dinner, a bottle of wine or a bouquet of flowers is great," says relationship expert April Masini, in an email to Bustle. "If you’re staying for a week, a housewares gift or a beautiful vase is more appropriate."
3. Not Offering To Pitch In
Is your friend scrambling around and trying to set the table, or throwing dishes in the sink with reckless abandon? If so, don't just stand there. "Houseguests sometimes overplay their hand as guests and underplay the fact that they’re in someone’s house," says Masini. "So offer to do the dishes, walk the dog, or babysit the kids." Little things like this are so very polite, and can even guarantee another invite in the future.
4. Covering Your Food In Salt
Imagine spending two hours preparing food and then sitting down to watch guests over-salt your delicious creation. It'd be kind of insulting, right? So don't do this to your host — even if his or her food could totally use the extra seasoning. "The polite thing to do is skip it and just eat a low sodium meal," says McDonald.
5. Sneaking Off To Use Your Phone
It should go without saying, but staring endlessly into your phone is super rude. Yes, this is true even if you're at your best friend's house and even if she's on her phone. Don't be the one who is half talking, half texting. It's much more polite to save texting for later.
7. Sitting Silently In The Corner
Not everyone is teeming with charisma, so it's OK if you find it mildly difficult to chat at get-togethers. And yet, it's still not a great idea to sit silently in the corner. "Quiet guests make the host worry that you're not having a good time," McDonald says. So make it a point to get up, mingle a bit, and throw out the occasional one-liner. Your friend will truly appreciate it.
8. Not Sharing Your Plans
Are you staying for the entire weekend? If so, don't forget to update your host with your plans — lest you experience any scheduling conflicts. "If you keep your schedule secret from them ... you may show up with a packed calendar of meetings and get-togethers outside their home, and they’ve planned a dinner party, bought tickets to a concert, [or] scheduled other events because they thought you were coming to stay with a blank calendar for your visit," Masina says. (Oops.)
9. Treating Their House Like A Hotel
Yes, you're feeling comfy. And yes, you're a guest. But that doesn't mean you get to leave wet towels on the ground and your bed unmade. Doing so can move you from welcome guest to huge burden in about five seconds. So make a point to straighten up after yourself. "Place your dirty towels and sheets in a hamper in the laundry room, so they’re easy to wash, but fold the coverlet and duvet at the end of the bed as they were when you found them," McDonald says. These little things will make a huge difference.
10. Assuming Your Host Will Entertain You
If you've been invited for a bit of a stay — say, an extended weekend — it's perfectly reasonable to assume your friend has some plans for the two of you. Just don't expect her to be your source of 24/7 entertainment. McDonald tells me it's a good idea to show up and let her know you're totally down to go to the museum alone. Or out for a solo hike. That way, if your friend gets busy, she can go about her day without feeling riddled with guilt that you're all by your lonesome.
11. Bringing Your Dog Or Cat
Unless your host gave the OK, McDonald tells me it's not exactly the best idea to show up with an unexpected pet. Someone in the house could be allergic to cats, or afraid of dogs. You just don't know. So even if you're "just dropping in," it's still a good idea to leave your pet at home.
12. Not Saying Thank You
This one seems so obvious, and yet it's easy to get caught up in the moment and totally forget to say "thank you." Make sure you're gracious throughout your visit, say "thanks" before you leave, and then follow up once it's all said and done. "After you return home, send a heartfelt, handwritten thank you note," McDonald suggests. And hey, maybe even a little gift — especially if you stayed awhile.
13. Making A Big Deal When You Leave
It's always awkward to leave a party early. When you're the first to go, it's so tempting to loudly announce your departure, and follow it up with long apologies and goodbyes. But doing so dampens the mood, and can even make other guests leave early, too, McDonald tells me. Keep your goodbyes low key and make a swift exit.
By doing so, and avoiding the other faux pas above, you'll be one heck of a houseguest. I promise.
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