There’s more to being a good houseguest than showing up with a bottle of wine and a box of chocolates under your arm. Hostess gifts are lovely, but a thoughtful guest can set the tone for others, and can even be the social glue that makes the weekend comfortable for everyone. For a host, putting together a guest list of congenial people for the weekend is a bit like setting up a group blind date; it won’t work unless everyone makes an effort. The charming guest who helps his host in small but important ways is a small treasure – and will be assured of future invitations.
1) Be flexible and positive. Have an open mind about the activities being offered, even if they aren’t all that you’d dreamed. An afternoon at the beach instead of the pool won’t kill you, and you can always politely disappear after a decent interval.
2) Staying in someone’s home is not the same as staying in a hotel. Be mindful of your host’s capacity for hospitality. They may not have endless fresh towels at your disposal, or refrigerators full of filtered water. Try not to over-consume the amenities, as there are other guests in need of them, and your hosts will not enjoy spending their weekends lugging extra cases of water or washing towels. If you’re close friends, it’s perfectly acceptable to offer to bring your own beach towels or water, to take some of the hosting burden from them.
3) Offer to help with little chores, such as mixing drinks or chopping vegetables before dinner. Every host is grateful to have a person they can count on to lend a hand.
4) Engage the other houseguests in friendly conversation and try to find some common ground. The time will flow more easily if everyone gets along – or least gives the appearance of getting along.
5) Be neat. Don’t trash your room and think your hosts won’t notice, or mind. (Somebody has to come in every day and replace those dirty towels.) And you don’t want to leave them with a big mess to clean up when you depart.
6) Be clear about your plans. Be specific about when you are arriving and when you’ll be leaving, as well as any meals you’ll be missing. It’s impossible for a host to make meal arrangements if they don’t know your schedule.
7) Write a thank you note and, if possible, reciprocate. Reciprocity is not always possible, but a sincere, well-thought-out expression of gratitude is a mark of character and good manners.