Can I stay the night at a friend's house? What are the rules?
December 17, 2013 2:09 PM   Subscribe

I'm not sure I ever really learned the rules of when it is OK to stay the night at someone's house (non-romantic). This is my roommate from last spring semester. I Facebooked her a few weeks ago to say I was swinging by town on the way to my parents and if she wanted to hangout. She said yes and offered me a place to stay for the night. I mentioned I was going to stay in a hotel room. She said that if I change my mind, I can stay with her.

I'm a broke college student and she is a bit older, but we got on well enough when I lived there and she said I was her favorite roommate. I guess I just never really learned the rules of staying over someone's house, is it imposing? Rude? I only knew her for one semester. Are the rules different for college students?
posted by eq21 to Human Relations (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This sounds pretty common. She offered to save you some money and extend the amount of hanging out time by having you stay over. It's not imposing or rude if she asks. I haven't been a college student for a long time and this will still happen on occasion when I'm traveling. We also host friends who are swinging through town for a night or two.

Whether or not you're comfortable with doing it is a separate consideration. Does she have a spare bed or air mattress, or will you be sleeping on the couch/floor?
posted by muddgirl at 2:12 PM on December 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

I ask people if i can crash with them whenever I go anywhere. By a fairly scientific count, I've crashed on 50 couches in 9 years and I've had a higher than average income the whole time. Some people scoff at it. I usually repay them by cleaning or buying a meal.
posted by sandmanwv at 2:15 PM on December 17, 2013 [10 favorites]

Totally normal and much more fun than a hotel, in addition to the cost savings.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:16 PM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

She went out of her way to offer and even re-offered again when you said you were staying at a hotel. Not imposing at all.
posted by the jam at 2:17 PM on December 17, 2013 [23 favorites]

She offered; and not because you put her on the spot. Asking to hang out does not make people feel obligated to make such an offer. You're totally good. Also, your previous relationship (roommates) makes this seem natural.
posted by spaltavian at 2:17 PM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

The rules:

Fold your blankets on the bed/couch in the morning.
Don't hog the shower.
Be especially polite to other household members or friends.
Buying a meal or bringing a bottle tends to be customary.
posted by mochapickle at 2:18 PM on December 17, 2013 [28 favorites]

Bring a hostess gift like a bottle of wine or an orchid plant!

This is Etiquette 101, btw:))
posted by jbenben at 2:20 PM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

(I should clarify that it's not necessarily rude ask if you can couchsurf or stay in the spare bedroom at someone's house, either. It's just that this particular situation seems particularly clear cut.)
posted by muddgirl at 2:20 PM on December 17, 2013

- offer to do the dishes
- bring a token gift (wine usually works ok, depending on the situation)
- be quick in the bathroom
- clean and neaten up all messes you cause
- make sure you know when you have to be out the next day if they have work or whatnot
- say thank you more than once
posted by edgeways at 2:27 PM on December 17, 2013 [5 favorites]

The rule is: if someone offers, you are allowed to say yes. If she'd only offered once, I would say you should maybe consider whether or not the offer was just to be polite. But since she offered twice, I think you're good. What everyone else said about being a good guest applies, though as someone who frequently hosts out-of-town friends, I'm happy enough if they clean up after themselves, provide entertaining company, and maybe buy me a drink if we're out.
posted by lunasol at 2:34 PM on December 17, 2013

The rules you've gotten so far are pretty good, I'd say. I might add:
- Unless notified, you can assume bedding/towel and a spot to sleep will be provided.
- Be cognizant of when other people in the house go to sleep. She might let you know, or you might feel it out over the course of the hanging-out time. Don't be that guest who keeps chatting until the wee hours while your host wants to get to bed.
- It's bad form to ask if you can go out alone and come back at some unspecified time after everyone is asleep.
- Typically you should try to not be the last person to wake up, but the more familiar your friendship, the later you can sleep in.
- Definitely fold the linens in the morning

Of course, the better your friendship, the more you can bend the rules. These are just baseline.
posted by homesickness at 2:44 PM on December 17, 2013

I ONLY ever offer my couch to someone if I GENUINELY want them to stay.

Yes - take her up on her offer but follow all the great advice above and make sure you actually SAY Thank You to her!
posted by JenThePro at 2:54 PM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

You are totally in the clear and should take her up on her offer unless staying at her house is something you actively don't want to do for your own personal reasons. Bringing a small gift is nice, but not mandatory especially if both of you are broke and know how much even something like a $15 bottle of wine can hurt one's wallet. (Though it is Christmastime, so some kind of gift would certainly not be out of order – it could easily be something very small though, it's mostly about the thought.)

Do be a polite houseguest according to the excellent guidelines listed above, which mostly come down to making as little mess as possible, cleaning up whatever mess you do make, being respectful of your host's needs and routines, not taking/moving/eating anything without asking first, and trying to leave the place a little better than you found it. For example, in my case most of the friends whose couches I crash on tend to be the sort of folks to have a perpetual sinkfull of dirty dishes – so I make a habit of doing their dishes for them, unasked, which is always appreciated. Once, a houseguest of mine spontaneously cleaned my bathroom for me, which was wonderful as that's something that I hate doing and consequently don't do as often as I should. Look for something like this that you can do, but don't make a big deal out of it and don't imply that you did it because your host's housekeeping was grossing you out or anything like that.

Anyway, you should go for it. Staying with friends is usually a lot more fun than staying in a hotel, and cheaper to boot. You've been invited twice – you are absolutely in the clear on this one. The only caveat is that there's a sort of tacit expectation that you'll return the favor if possible, should she ever find herself in your neck of the woods.
posted by Scientist at 2:58 PM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

She said yes and offered me a place to stay for the night.

Then, yes, of course it's OK for you to stay there.

Anytime you're invited to stay at someone's house, it's definitely OK to stay.

It's also potentially OK to ask if you can stay at someone's house, but that's a much hairier situation, and if you're not sure if it's OK in your particular circumstances then I would err on the side of not.

I agree with the "rules" that have been set forth in terms of things like hanging up your towel and folding the bedding afterwards.

It's also considered polite to offer some small token, like bringing over a bottle of wine or buying them a round/a meal/whatever if you go out together.
posted by Sara C. at 4:29 PM on December 17, 2013

I'm sometimes weird about having people stay at my place, but that weirdness is almost entirely absent if we were formerly roommates. All of the above advice is great, so I would just add that if the invitation is coming from a former roommate, it's likely very sincere. And sincerely accepting a sincerely offered invitation is pretty much the opposite of rude.
posted by jaguar at 4:59 PM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think it's so nice that you are asking. Some people grow up hosting and being houseguests and it comes naturally (nurturely I guess) to them. If it doesn't to you, there are certainly pitfalls and it's great to ask. (I had a friend with a marvelous spirit of hospitality, but growing up her parents had never really hosted, and she made a few completely unintentional but very basic gaffes that could have ended in worse social consequences than they did).

Yes. It is fine and great to stay with someone. But the 'rules' are different for a guest than for a housemate.

Basically you need to adapt to her expectations. Some people would be totally happy to give you a place to sleep but most people will expect that you will engage socially and as their guest, likely on their terms. You should be game for whatever, be gracious, try to be a fun and easy guest, and try to leave the place cleaner than you found it. Wipe your hair down from the shower, watch where she leaves wet towels to dry, make your bed every day and strip and food the used linens on the last day, etc.

Being a houseguest is fantastic both for saving money and for social time with people you like but it does make its own demands, which is why often people will choose hotels over houseguesting. But for people who are into it, like each other, and are willing to put in the effort, both receiving and giving hospitality can be a wonderful experience.

This woman sounds very nice and I bet that if you told her that you'd love to stay with her but you've never been a houseguest before, that would help smooth over anything. Also you should let her know about any plans you have that will take you out of the house and whether or not she is welcome to join, as ahead of time as possible, so she can plan her own days too.
posted by Salamandrous at 5:38 PM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Totally normal.

Hell, I had a friend ask us recently if he could stay in our 1 bedroom apartment for 2.5 weeks. It's been a little stressful, but also a party. Another friend ended up totaling about 1 month stayed in a 4 month summer once we added up all the random days up.

For "adults", assume bedding will be provided. If you guys are still in a student like situation, that is a lot more variable. I grew up in a very "guests stay at our home!" Eastern European household, so as soon as I moved into my first apartment, I had a spare pillow and some blankets/sheets for any couch surfers. Couldn't imagine not having that. I've definitely stayed at some friends who had to work to scrounge up anything that wasn't on their bed, and stealthily pulled out my towel to cover up a bit more. They of course offered to host, but expectations tend to vary a bit...if you want to be absolutely covered, bring a towel, some travel soap, toothbrush, and a sleeping bag.
posted by aggyface at 1:56 PM on December 18, 2013

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