And How to be Invited Back!

When I was in graduate school, I used to live out in the country, and I would routinely host weekend-long house parties for a dozen guests. However, as time went on, I became irritated with the bad manners displayed by people who thought my parties were worth a several-hour trip each way, and I quit entertaining, much to everyone's astonishment.

When I got older, I gave dinner parties a lot--until my guests became so tiresome that I decided it was no longer worth the effort of fixing a few extra places. Yet, I continually am invited to spend time with friends, over and over again, and sometimes they even pay my airfare. Why? Because I strive to be the perfect houseguest.

Credit: Public Domain

Plan Your Trip

  • Don't impose on people. If you want to see if someone will invite you, merely mention how much you would like to see them. If they offer, great. If not, don't wheedle an invitation out of them. Your friends or relatives may be going through a difficult time, remodeling their house, having construction work done in their neighborhood, or involved in a project that takes up their free time.
  • Never accept an invitation without a clear departure date. You don't want to overstay your welcome, and you probably want to be invited back. Be sure to leave before your hosts are sick of you.
  • If you are coming from far away, ask if there is anything that you can bring them. Local food is almost always appreciated. If your hosts can't think of anything, bring something anyway. You ought to know them well enough to bring something they like.
  • Plan at least one or two afternoons or evenings away from your hosts so that they will have a bit of privacy and time to themselves (unless, of course, you're just staying a night or two). Be sure to keep those days open, as your hosts may have plans already, but let them know that you'd like to spend some time "playing tourist" or visiting other friends, or some other activity that will keep you out of the house for a bit. Even getting a massage or a manicure will do.
  • Write your hosts, preferably a real handwritten letter, thanking them for inviting you, and confirming their invitation, and your arrival and departure dates.

Your Arrival

  • Let your hosts know in plenty of time exactly when you will be arriving, and if by air, what flight. If you are delayed, call them as soon as possible. Your hosts have busy lives!
  • Be as organized as possible, and travel as lightly as possible.
  • Put your gifts for your hosts in an easily accessible place in your luggage so that you can give it to them on your arrival.
  • When you arrive, put your things neatly away in the room in which you will be staying. A plastic container will keep your soap, shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste, and other toiletries neatly collected in one place, whether you share a bathroom or have your own. You want everything to look ready for company at every moment.
  • Take a few minutes to freshen up, then come out and visit. Be sure to ask about your hosts' plans during your time there, and ask if there is anything they would like for you to do together. Whatever they want, agree to it!
  • Ask if there are any things of which you should be aware (when the maid or gardener comes, when trash day is, what time your hosts go to work, etc.). Whatever these things are, make a note and prepare for them, including setting your alarm early for those days.
  • It's perfectly all right to plead for an early night on your first night. Everyone knows how tiring travel can be.

Your Visit

  • Pay attention to your hosts' routines. If your bedroom is near theirs, stay quiet until you hear water running in the bathroom, or other signs that your hosts are awake.
  • Pitch in without being asked. Offer to cook a side dish (or dinner), set the table, clear away the dishes, run a load of laundry, water the houseplants, make coffee, or other things that need doing. If you spill something, get a rag or paper towel and clean it up right away. 
  • Don't complain about the food.
  • Notice if your hosts are running low on anything, and replace it.
  • Offer to take your hosts somewhere: a museum, a concert, a shopping trip, or whatever they might enjoy, and pay for the entire evening.
  • If you accidentally break something, find a replacement right away, online if you must, and pay for it to be delivered, rush if necessary.

Your Departure

  • The night before you leave, pack away everything you won't use the next morning, even if your departure is not until evening.
  • Be sure to express your enthusiasm for your entire stay to your hosts, and thank them profusely for the invitation. If you are not in a position to return their hospitality, you can at least hope that when they come to your area they will drop by for a visit, and propose an activity for the future.
  • If something unfortunate has happened during your stay, try to look on the bright side, and help them to look on the bright side, too.
  • Be as organized as possible for your departure. If you have acquired a lot of stuff, ship it to yourself by the post office rather than juggling extra bags and boxes. Have your plane ticket ready.
  • On the trip home, or as soon after your arrival home as possible, write another handwritten letter to your hosts thanking them for their gracious hospitality. Be sure to offer, in return, whatever hospitality you are able to provide.

Back Home

  • Keep everything that happened during your visit confidential. Do not discuss your hosts' situation with anyone. Whatever you do, don't post anything on social media!
  • Anything you say about your hosts should be complimentary, and vague. Your comments should be along the lines of "Oh, I had the best time!" Never criticize someone who has invited you to their house as a guest.
  • Don't forget to keep in touch with your hosts when you get back home. You do not want them thinking that you were just using them to get out of paying for a hotel room! Stay interested in them.
Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior (Freshly Updated)
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Follow these rules, and your hosts will delight in your visits, and be happy to invite you back. With a little luck, you'll have a wonderful time, and create beautiful memories for everyone concerned.