Houseguest karma
May 1, 2015 6:03 PM   Subscribe

I've had my share of regrettable houseguest behaviours in my early 20s (I am 30 now), so I am choking this up to karma. But I am curious: I've had consecutive houseguests in their late 20s/early 30s who are fantastic people but rough-around-the-corner as houseguests. Is this a generational thing? Is it particular to the artsy/academic type that I hang out with? How do I politely tell them "I consider you a good friend, and that part won't change. I am unhappy with [behaviour] in my home, so if that doesn't change I can't host you again."?

Unlike my early 20s self, nowadays (that is, at least since my mid 20s) I always bring a gift for the host. I let them know when I am arriving and departing. I clean up after myself, keep the bathroom super tidy, I eat whatever food they are generous enough to provide but never expect them to feed me, and if we go out together I pick up the tab...etc. I make sure to exchange pleasantry and catch up if I didn't make the trip to see the host specifically.

I have hosted a lot of people in the same age bracket that I am in. I have had:

- One house guest who showed up without even her pyjamas. She borrowed and then complained about my PJs, an old spare laptop, and a bike. She said she came to see me, but then requested to see all the expensive landmarks (which I can't afford myself), and did not want to pay for herself to go ( I offered to take her there), nor wanted to just hang out. Then she complained that I wasn't a good host because we didn't do anything fun, even though I took her on free excursions. She expected me to be on a blow out vacation with her even though I made it clear I had to work. I provided meals and she complained about them; and when she was hungry she interrupted my work to asked me to cook. Then she asked me to go buy her cherries. She made fun of my accent and was passive aggressive.

- A house guest who told me she would arrive at 10pm, then went to a bar first and did not arrive until past midnight, even though I told her I had to be up at 5 the next morning.

- A house guest who leaves a puddle of water on the bathroom floor every time she uses the sink, and would not clean up.

- Numerous house guests who are slobs and leave clothes strewn around, never make their own beds ( I don't have a guest room so this would be my living room that is looking disastrous), and leave dirty dishes around. I am not a clean freak by any means.

- Several house guests who either 1) said they are here to see me but then actually just sleeping at my place to socialize with other friends or for some other events 2) said they are here for work/events but then actually just hanging around my apartment all the time which really stresses me out.

In the last 3 years I have hosted one person who brings a small gift and one person who bought me a meal. Everyone else never even said thanks. I just don't understand. If I can learn to not do these things, why can't my friends? More importantly, how do I tell them that they are terrible guests?
posted by redwaterman to Human Relations (42 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Oh man I hear you. I just stopped saying yes to the people who were the worst. Their behaviors indicated to me that they were too narcissistic to ever hear any feedback I might offer them. It made a big difference.
posted by Hermione Granger at 6:23 PM on May 1, 2015 [8 favorites]


They're not terrible guests, they're terrible people. Don't allow them back. They won't change.
posted by taff at 6:23 PM on May 1, 2015 [63 favorites]


These people are pretty inconsiderate, but expecting a gift is weird.
posted by almostmanda at 6:24 PM on May 1, 2015 [30 favorites]


More importantly, how do I tell them that they are terrible guests?

By saying no the next time they ask.

Seriously, screw people like that. Never inconvenience your host, always clean your shit up, and contribute to the household. And I find a good way to avoid situations like these is to only host close family and friends who you know won't be dicks.
posted by futureisunwritten at 6:28 PM on May 1, 2015 [7 favorites]


More importantly, how do I tell them that they are terrible guests?

Next time that they ask if they can stay, say "No."

You could go to the effort of explaining to them the very many ways they are terrible guests but it sounds like the lot of them need to learn this on their own by having formerly open doors shut on them. Be one of those doors, don't worry, you won't be the only one.
posted by jamaro at 6:29 PM on May 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


Maybe I'm the jerk here but at this point in my life, the only people I invite/accept as overnight guests are family and the very closest of friends. Other people are too much hassle to have in my sanctuary.
posted by primethyme at 6:29 PM on May 1, 2015 [16 favorites]


More importantly, how do I tell them that they are terrible guests?

Just don't invite them back or say "Sorry can't do it" the next time they're looking for a place. I think there's a bit of a divide between "Can I crash here?" sorts of guests and "I am coming to visit you" sorts of guests. In the latter case you'd be expected to be hanging out and feeding the guest or whatever. In the former, you'd just be providing space and not much else. In either case the people you have outlined were inconsiderate, however I don't think everyone, especially at that age, knows to bring a small gift. It's sort of culturally dependent (I grew up rural and it's not a thing I learned until almost my thirties, for example) so I don't see it as a mark of no-manners to not do it, but it's a mark of having manners if people do it.

So don't invite them back and also check yourself to see if you're somehow appearing too casual about these things than maybe you feel. Like, the guest who wouldn't clean up the bathroom? What exactly happened? Because if I had a guest who refused to clean up they would become an instant ex-guest. Same with no-pajamas complain-o person. So think about whether you're trying to appear casual about things and expecting people to just pick up how you really feel (Ask vs Guess culture is usually mentioned here) But otherwise, don't waste time on crappy houseguests and communicate expectations really clearly with anyone who would be staying with you in the future. I don't think it's an age thing, though it might be a maturity thing.
posted by jessamyn at 6:31 PM on May 1, 2015 [14 favorites]


I would post a different answer to the first part of your post than I would to the specific behaviors you describe these guests engaging in.
Unlike my early 20s self, nowadays (that is, at least since my mid 20s) I always bring a gift for the host. I let them know when I am arriving and departing. I clean up after myself, keep the bathroom super tidy, I eat whatever food they are generous enough to provide but never expect them to feed me, and if we go out together I pick up the tab...etc. I make sure to exchange pleasantry and catch up if I didn't make the trip to see the host specifically.
For my group of friends, some of this is overkill; I would never bring (or expect) a gift unless it was a very special occasion. I would pay for my meal if we went out, but not theirs. I would definitely try to keep everything clean, catch up, help pay for any food I ate -- but a lot of what might be counted as formal pleasantries wouldn't be necessary or would even be weird.

One house guest who showed up without even her pyjamas. She borrowed and then complained about my PJs,

She's an asshole.

A house guest who told me she would arrive at 10pm, then went to a bar first and did not arrive until past midnight, even though I told her I had to be up at 5 the next morning.

She's also an asshole, but perhaps not as bad as the first one. Some people don't take arrival times seriously, and have to be reminded that it is important. If you told her "I have to work early and I want to be in bed by 11:00" it's worse than if you didn't.

- A house guest who leaves a puddle of water on the bathroom floor every time she uses the sink, and would not clean up.

If you asked her to clean up and she refused, she's being an asshole. If you didn't ask her, and you're just stewing in resentment -- she might not think it's important or might not notice, so thoughtless but not terribly rude.

- Numerous house guests who are slobs and leave clothes strewn around, never make their own beds ( I don't have a guest room so this would be my living room that is looking disastrous), and leave dirty dishes around. I am not a clean freak by any means.

Yeah, this is one where you and I have social norms that differ considerably. No one among my friends makes their bed, and I wouldn't even dream of expecting people staying in my living room to make their bed either. As for dirty dishes, ... norms differ on that as well. A polite "hey, could you wash your dishes," is something I would try. If they refuse, then they're being an asshole. If they just are doing it while you quietly simmer in resentment... eh.

Several house guests who either 1) said they are here to see me but then actually just sleeping at my place to socialize with other friends or for some other events 2) said they are here for work/events but then actually just hanging around my apartment all the time which really stresses me out.

Hard to comment on this one because it seems really subjective.

Honestly, some of this seems to be rooted in a feeling that your space has been invaded.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 6:34 PM on May 1, 2015 [24 favorites]


These people are pretty inconsiderate, but expecting a gift is weird.

It is never a good idea to go to someone's home empty-handed. Always bring a gift. Could be a bottle of wine, could be dessert, could be flowers.There are no exceptions to this rule. Your host will appreciate it.

I think you really need to start saying "no." Who are your friends, really?
posted by Nevin at 6:39 PM on May 1, 2015 [34 favorites]


I don't usually have a gift on arrival, nor do I expect one, mostly because I hate traveling heavy. But I always do something by the time I leave (Typically by providing a meal or two.) And of course the assumption is that the host is always right; if I don't like their rules I can pay for a hotel next time, right?

I wouldn't extend an invite to any of these people except maybe the slobs, and only then if you hadn't asked them to leave the living room useable as a living room and not their private space.
posted by tchemgrrl at 6:42 PM on May 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


She expected me to be on a blow out vacation with her even though I made it clear I had to work. I provided meals and she complained about them; and when she was hungry she interrupted my work to asked me to cook. Then she asked me to go buy her cherries. She made fun of my accent and was passive aggressive.

These are the kind of people you think are otherwise "fantastic"? I think there are just a huge amount of people out there who don't think about other people at all, even once. There are so many people like this out there I think they're more common than people who do think about other people. So anyway next time one of these "fantastic" people asks to stay at your house, just say you don't host overnight guests anymore. You're allowed to say that.
posted by bleep at 6:48 PM on May 1, 2015 [7 favorites]


These people are pretty inconsiderate, but expecting a gift is weird.


Actually your guests should either give you a gift when they arrive or buy one during their stay and give you one before they leave, if they were not able to travel with many things. Or they should take you out for a nice dinner during their stay to say thank you.

Your description of your guests' messiness and lack of gift giving makes me think you're hosting americans. You just have to let them know what's expected verbally, or since that sounds more like trying to discipline children, say no as everyone suggests. They're taking advantage of you.
posted by Blitz at 6:56 PM on May 1, 2015 [12 favorites]


Gift giving varies per culture. In the Netherlands, it would be rude to show up empty handed for a dinner, let alone for a stay as a house guest. I find Americans often due (though not always) show up empty handed, though they usually treat for a dinner sometime during the stay. (My own rule of thumb for a multi night stay is to give in gifts to the host roughly the cost of one night's hotel stay.)

I live in Hong Kong now, and I get quite a few house guests. I usually make the conditions clear when they ask to stay "share guest room with cats, cannot take vacation days, I do not want to take the Peak tram again myself, but I will leave you guide books so you know how to find things". So far that works. It sounds like some of your guests are very young, and maybe still not very realistic about how money works, so you may need to be more explicit.
posted by frumiousb at 7:04 PM on May 1, 2015 [7 favorites]


Just say no... to bad guests.

We have people come stay, and no present is ever expected (but if it appears it's nice!) and they've all been totally considerate and thoughtful. One even has his own key at this point (he started visiting/crashing when he was in his mid-20s). This doesn't sound so much generational as it does just plain bad manners.

Really, it's okay to decline without also offering yourself as their etiquette tutor.
posted by rtha at 7:05 PM on May 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


The first two are garbage human beings who you should eject from your life as forcefully as norovirus would eject shit from your ass. The others are varying levels of annoying who I would consider on a case by case basis, although I would probably friend dump someone who said they were coming to see me and then used my house as their hotel to hang out with other people.

In general your expectations (a gift? every time? really?) are a little high but not super unreasonable.

The way you tell people who you consider to be friends that they are terrible guests is to say "you are my friend and you are a terrible guest. in order for us to remain friends you can no longer stay over at my house."

The way you tell garbage human beings that they are terrible guests is to say "lol get the fuck out of my house and never return".
posted by poffin boffin at 7:09 PM on May 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think there are two things happening here; you're not super into having people at your house, and, or BECAUSE, the people you do have stay with you are terrible. I promise these are not judgments, because I am just like you! I have a few friends who are less mature, less financially stable, and less anal retentive about their homes than I am, and having them in my house is awful. I don't think I'll ever have houseguests unless I know firsthand that they are conscientious, and won't be staying long.

Some people, like me and I'm guessing you, looked forward to growing up and being "real" adults. I love bringing wine to dinner at someone's house, because it makes me feel like I did it! I grew up!

Sadly, not everyone shares our values. Some people don't notice when they have left the bathroom less tidy than it was when they came in. Some can't afford to buy our dinner (probably why they aren't at a hotel). Some of them don't know that you're considering them as "a houseguest" and not "fuck yeah, my buddy is coming to stay with me!".

In general, you can probably already tell what kind of guest someone will be. If you have any doubts at all, it's time for that old chestnut: I'm sorry, that won't be possible. Maybe you'll catch up for dinner though! And then you can pay for their meal because it'll be worth the savings in annoyance, and you'll get to feel like a Real Adult!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 7:29 PM on May 1, 2015 [11 favorites]


. It's sort of culturally dependent (I grew up rural and it's not a thing I learned until almost my thirties, for example) so I don't see it as a mark of no-manners to not do it, but it's a mark of having manners if people do it.

It's not just sort of culturally dependent, it is entirely culturally dependent. Gift giving when visiting (or expecting gifts when hosting) is not something I grew up with and it's always a bit weird when people come over bringing plants. (Bringing a bottle of wine or other consumable feels different, somehow, and I try to always do that because treats are nice.) I'm not at all saying that the gift-givers and gift-expecters are wrong, just that the people stating that gifts are a mandatory part of good manners are speaking in absolutes about something that doesn't work that way.

To the question of bad guests, I completely agree with the people who are saying to not accept those crappy guests back, ever. As to what to do about a bad guest mid-stay, it depends on how egregious their behavior is. Slightly messy is one thing, but a sopping wet bathroom growing mold is another. It's always ok to politely but clearly let people know that something needs to be done a certain way, because it is easy to misunderstand the systems and procedures of a different house, but it's less clear how to tell someone that they are being an impolite ass.

What it really sounds like is that you have taken on a new role (mature person with a tidy house), but you are inviting people who are still in the more informal "just crashing here" phase that Jessamyn describes. Those are different modes of behavior, and you are finding out first hand how they can be incompatible unless you have the kind of large house (or detached guest cottage) that allows guests to be much more independent while visiting.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:36 PM on May 1, 2015 [19 favorites]


I 100% agree that guests who should make their beds, clean up after themselves, and bring a gift. I just wanted to say that.
posted by hollyanderbody at 7:37 PM on May 1, 2015 [21 favorites]


The gift thing: I either take a gift, or buy my hosts a meal, depending on whether I'm travelling heavy or light. In my 20s, I made sure to cause as little interference as possible for people's domestic routines and work schedules. (I probably count as artsy/academic.)

You don't have to host people who don't respect the guest/host relationship in any of its permutations. You don't have to host anyone at all. You don't have to come up with any explanation other than "I'm sorry, it won't be possible."

I think there are two things happening here; you're not super into having people at your house, and, or BECAUSE, the people you do have stay with you are terrible.

Yeah, the fourth bullet reads a bit that way. Perhaps, OP, you have an Ideal Guest in mind who'll treat your home with respect, be sociable when you'd like to be sociable and make themselves scarce when you're busy. Now, Ideal Guests can sometimes show up, but from the other side, even being a conscientious houseguest can be a little fraught because you're always slightly concerned that your host is making conversation or entertaining you for politeness's sake and there's that little ask/guess dance that goes on about how much space and time you should occupy. Not saying you should tolerate Ms PJ de la Vacay, but if you have a narrow mental image of how you'd like houseguests behave, you either need to spell that out or not host them at all.
posted by holgate at 7:40 PM on May 1, 2015 [7 favorites]


I agree with the "never show up at someone's house empty-handed" rule, especially for someone spending more than one night. It's not about dropping money on them (as with most gifts) so much as acknowledging that the host is doing you a kind favour, one that is saving you quite a bit of money and has the potential to be stressful and disruptive for them. I always side-eye houseguests who don't at least pick up the tab for a meal (or prepare a meal at home), and I myself always try to at least bring flowers or a bottle of wine if I'm staying with someone else.

I think adulting's rules for houseguests are an excellent guideline.
posted by beatrice rex at 8:07 PM on May 1, 2015 [10 favorites]


My pet theory is that it's like phone manners: you learn it from your parents or else you have to pick it up on your own to mixed results. If you stayed with friends/family on vacation as a kid and your parents modeled good house guest behavior, you learn it. I remember my mom explaining we had to be 2x neater than at home, here's the bottle of wine we're going to give the host, don't stomp up the stairs--this isn't our house, eat what she gives you, don't use the decorative seashell soaps. So I think I've internalized how to be a pretty good house guest. On the other hand, if your family stayed in hotels on vacation or were campers or didn't go on vacation or were rude guests themselves, it's up to you as a 20-something to be a house guest for the very first time on your own. Which you might get right or you might not, picking up bad habits along the way.

Again, my pet theory.
posted by whitewall at 8:08 PM on May 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


Thanks for all the comments, thoughts, ideas, etc. I really appreciate all the different perspectives. I am going to keep the thread open for a little bit longer just because I am curious about what people think. Thanks to those who pointed out that I am perhaps not super into having houseguests-- it hadn't really occurred to me, but entirely possible.

On the issue of gifts I should clarify: I don't expect an expensive gift every time-- heck, I don't expect material gifts necessarily. I do expect some sort of acknowledgement, especially if it's for more than one night, and especially if their stay is during a time that wasn't fantastic for me to begin with (stressful times etc). In the past I have gotten a hand written note when I hosted someone who was super broke and that was totally fine. When I am not financially stable myself I have brought a loaf of bread I've made or a card. Like, literally it's the thought that counts. It just makes me feel used if someone crashes on my couch as if that was their birthright.
posted by redwaterman at 8:11 PM on May 1, 2015 [13 favorites]


We travelled a lot when I was growing up. We had friends and family scattered across the country and did quite a bit of guest stays. My mother taught me about my guest and host manners. If you didn't travel like this a lot as a family and have people teach you these kinds of manners, it might be hard to pick them up. I think a certain generation prided itself on having high-class manners, being a good host and guest and learning how to do things properly. And then the next generation kind of rejected that. And now people don't seem to know how to behave at all.

I think maybe you've also grown out of, "hey! Come crash on my couch!" What may have been tolerable when you didn't have work and responsibilities now just isn't. And that's totally fine.
posted by amanda at 8:11 PM on May 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


I agree with everyone who makes the distinction between houseguests who are there to visit you and "hey can I crash at your place" people. There are considerate guests in both categories, but in my experience the latter category has a higher percentage of people who don't really understand or care if they're inconveniencing you. Crashers tend to be cool with less-than-perfect circumstances - after all, they're sleeping on your couch instead of getting a hotel room - so they often don't realize that other people have higher standards. And, like, it's your couch and you didn't have to really do anything, so what's the big fuss? Ugh.

You can cut a lot of this off by only hosting people whom you have invited specifically to visit you. Not like "oh, you're in town next month, why don't you stay with me" but like "I would love it if you came to town sometime to see me." Anyone who tries to invite themselves over or uses the word "crash" is instantly rejected.

I expect houseguests to leave things roughly as they found them, but I'm going to have to wash the sheets and towels anyway so it's not as if I need them to make the bed. And since they don't know how I like to have my things arranged, I cut them a little slack. In my experience, giving your host a gift is not common practice; it's a nice gesture but I would be surprised to receive one. The guest paying for a meal is more typical, and I'd sort of expect a guest to offer that, but I wouldn't be keeping score. I would definitely expect to be thanked, I mean, duh.

If you want a solid reason or feel like being passive-aggressive, you can always tell hopeful crashers "sorry, I had a really bad experience with a houseguest a little while ago, so I'm not hosting people for a while." Don't elaborate. But all you really need is "sorry, I can't do it." Having crappy people take up your personal space is unpleasant and you shouldn't feel obligated to do it, even if you technically could.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:33 PM on May 1, 2015 [9 favorites]


Your friends have terrible manners and should not be allowed to stay with you again. No need to explain why. They're rude and lack basic consideration. As another data point, I have always brought a thank you gift, treated my hosts to a meal, been respectful of their schedules, didn't treat them like servants, and kept very tidy (including offering to strip the bed on my last day). I always get invited back. Gifts and meals out need not be extravagant, it's a gesture of thanks, not a payoff.
posted by quince at 8:33 PM on May 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


The host/hostess gift thing may or may not happen (it's nice when it does) but to me, things like wiping up puddles one makes and tidying up one's belongings during the day (staying in somebody else's living room is completely different from staying in a guest/secondary/unused bedroom, IMO) are just basic consideration.
posted by Lexica at 8:33 PM on May 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


As someone pointed out above, there are different scenarios applicable to when someone is using your house as crash space vs coming to visit you specifically.

In the first case, they should absolutely bring a gift, they should be as low impact as possible, they should certainly not expect you to cook or show them around, and honestly you should maybe not be hosting this type of person. It is a big favor to grant and it sounds like it's not something you enjoy.

In the second case... see this is where things get potentially rife with misunderstanding. If I'm coming to visit you, it's because I love you, and want to see you despite its being something of a hassle, and I'm taking on the hassle and expense of the travel, and I would be puzzled and hurt if you didn't really want me there, and if you didn't reciprocate my investment in the visit by being a nice hostess and making me as comfortable as you can. I would have figured out in advance how much time you can take off, and I wouldn't come unless you actually WANT me there and are making time to make my travel worth it. Obviously I'm going to be clean and neat, but I'm not going to try to make myself invisible.

I think some of the people you mentioned in your examples are just terrible, thoughtless people, but depending on the scenario, I can see someone who (for instance) traveled specifically to see you, not thinking they need to thank you for hosting them.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:40 PM on May 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


If an otherwise not-horrible person is already there and makes e.g. a puddle, use positive energy when you're making your boundaries clear, so you don't feel like you're being a jerk or twisting yourself in knots. (I'm not that funny, but I would maybe do a "Cahm aaaaahn, Beatrice! What are you doing? You're better than that!" with an exaggerated stink-eye and finger wag. Or I guess just smile.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:43 PM on May 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Just say no to any houseguest who's previous behavior has been unsatisfactory. You have no obligation to host anyone in your home. It's your sanctuary. If people can't behave with common decency (don't inconvince or stress your host if you can possibly help it, and definitely express your appreciation the best way you can afford, even if it is only verbal thanks, that's better than nothing) they can get a hotel or stay with someone who isn't bothered by their crappy behavior.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 8:47 PM on May 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


A lot of this is transitional. In their 20s, people are maturing at different rates and in different social contexts. You seem to be maturing faster than others in your cohort.

You can solve some of this with boundaries. When someone says they're going to arrive at 10, you can say "Great; I'll leave the key under the mat and will see you in the morning/when I get home from work." No need to stay up for that person. When someone says they want to visit on XYZ days, and you have work, you can say "You're welcome to stay but I'm only available to do stuff from 6 PM to 10 PM, since that's the middle of my work week." Finally, just give your guests "the rules" when they arrive. If you don't want them strewing stuff over your living room, find a luggage rack or shelf for them to put their stuff, and tell them to use it. Tell them the 'quiet hours.' Tell them the deal with breakfast: "I will wake up at 6 and make us eggs" is fine, as is "I will be gone when you wake up and here is where to find cereal, and please wash your dish and put it away." You set the tone.

Honestly, you don't need to give guests feedback. Your life is pretty much going to age out of this issue. But in the meantime, when people stay with you, you get to set the boundaries. So go ahead and do that.
posted by Miko at 9:07 PM on May 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


Then she asked me to go buy her cherries

haha

I agree that people in their 20s are simply living transitional lifestyles-- heck, in my 20s, I am quite a slob at home. I class it up when I visit somewhere else, but honestly I have not yet ingrained reflexive tidiness. And I say "yet" because I get better at this with time, but I am no bang-up housekeeper at the moment.

I usually would bring some kind of small gift, but I've had many guests who don't. I had one terrible guest who had just gotten off of a three-month camping trip and treated our apartment... well, WORSE than you should treat a campsite. But that just underlined for me that it's kind of about where that person is in their life, because a year later they stayed with me again (after living among civilized people again... ) and they were much better and quite polite.
posted by easter queen at 9:18 PM on May 1, 2015


I would add that knowing to bring gifts is basically a middle-class expectation and one you only learn if you had functional parenting conforming to that culture that modeled that expectation for you, and one you only practice if you have surplus income; also, it's something that people let go of a lot in their 20s, because the more you stay with people, the less you expect to give gifts. For instance, in my 20s I basically lived on the road a lot, and I crashed at friends' places and they crashed at mine, and bringing gifts would have been a little...I dunno, bourgeois, or something we just couldn't really afford and didn't value. In those days it was more important to buy a 12-pack, cook a meal, or be a fun person who brought the good times as recompense for your visit. In those days the polite thing to do was simply not to cost your host money, to cover your own vig and maybe sweeten the deal with something you could contribute to the feast, monetarily or in-kind or as a creative person, but not beyond that in a formal sense. I would encourage you not to be offended by someone who doesn't bring gifts, though at the same time pleased if someone does. It took me a long time to learn that this gift gesture was socially important, and it really wasn't until my 30s that I fully participated in that as either giver or receiver.
posted by Miko at 9:28 PM on May 1, 2015 [27 favorites]


I was a terrible houseguest for a lot of years. We rarely traveled when I was young and even then it was to see family, so I was used to my hosts doing things for me and never gave it a second thought. Typical and normal for a young person I suppose.

The way I learned to be a better houseguest was by hosting a lot of people for a few years (after college). Seeing the different manners of people who I hosted, and thinking over either my appreciation of their manners or my resentment at their lack thereof taught me a lot about the guest I wanted to be. So I'm not sure how you could teach these people anything, short of demanding to stay at their place the next time you travel to their town.

Of course, you should absolutely stand up for yourself and be clear on your boundaries "hey, I noticed there's a puddle on the floor - here's a towel for that"; "hey, please be sure to tidy the living room before you take off for the day, there's nothing worse than coming home to a mess at the end of a long day". "You want me to cook for you? Sure, you go pick up the groceries and I'll cook". As for the one who didn't show up until after midnight - I'm not entirely sure I would have opened the door. The one who complained so much and wanted you to pay for everything - would have gotten a frank sit-down talk for sure.
posted by vignettist at 10:42 PM on May 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Your friends are being terrible guests and you can help set your boundaries by asking them to do things instead of assuming they will be considerate. Instead of "I have to get up at 5am" you say, "you'll need to "check in" at the house by x pm." If they protest, and you simply can't accommodate, suggest they get a hotel the first night and meet up later during the next day. Their lack of social grace does not constitute an emergency on your part. Instead of hoping they have good manners or that they pick up on your expectations, state them directly.
posted by HMSSM at 11:00 PM on May 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Mr. Catspajammies and I live in a fab city that is also the location of a super worldwide known event that makes hotels prohibitively expensive for those dates and fully sold out nearer the time... every year we have people ask to invite themselves to stay with us and we say no. I think if Mr. Catspajammies allowed it, we would have visitors twice a month... and I think he learned the hard way that being tour guide and sharing his space wasn't for him. He didn't want to have to show people around the city multiple times a month, be woken up when they came back after a night out, quiet not to wake them, wondering what they were doing in his flat while he was at work, providing them with food... not because he isn't generous, but because that stuff is stressful!

We do, however, have people to stay if they are close friends... My best friend came a couple weeks ago and stayed with us and we had a great time... but friends we don't hear from often/probably won't see much in the rest of our busy lives? We don't host them. We value our privacy too much and are the type of people who like to be in control of our space.

That being said, we also don't expect to be hosted ourselves...

You have our internet permission to decide that hosting visitors is just not for you.
posted by catspajammies at 12:46 AM on May 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


Definitely agree with the advice of crossing certain friends off your guest list. And for the others -- and for life in general -- setting boundaries, taking care of yourself without feeling guilt, and saying no in a polite and healthy way are valuable skills.

When you say "and especially if their stay is during a time that wasn't fantastic for me to begin with (stressful times etc)", it's making me wonder if maybe you haven't developed those skills yet. That's ok! Now is a great time to start.

The next time someone who would otherwise be an acceptable guest asks to stay with you, instead of immediately agreeing, honestly judge your situation and stress levels and say no when it's a stressful time. You can simply say "I'd love to see you but I've got this, that and the other thing going on so it's not a good time for me to have guests" or something similar. (I know "that won't be possible" is popular on MF but that sounds stilted and overly-formal for your purposes here.)

Good luck!
posted by Majorita at 4:27 AM on May 2, 2015


It is harder for guests to keep tidy when there is no room to unpack. It doesn't excuse leaving clothes all over the place, but I have found that giving guests closet space and a drawer usually took care of messiness.
posted by Milau at 5:14 AM on May 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


Since you're interested in opinions, I think there is a HUGE difference between the first two examples and the rest. Actually, the first one is really, really glaringly awful and I'm having trouble imagining why you're friends with this person. I know sometimes people can get away with being shitty in small ways because they redeem themselves in others, but this person sounds downright mean.

As a side note, I travel in similar circles, and it wasn't until I hit my late twenties that I finally realized it was ok to be judicious about choosing my friends carefully. Before that I pretty much hung out with whoever was around, and if we had fun together, I'd consider them a friend and tolerate all sorts of bad behavior because hey, that person was my friend and we all have flaws. This kind of thing is often chalked up to low self-esteem, but in my case I'm just an extrovert and like having people around. Anyway, I had a lot of friends but also spent a lot of time dealing with stupid behavior and drama. Eventually this got draining and I started being more careful about who I considered a friend. The girl in example #1 does NOT sound like a good friend.

The others sound like they're a bit immature/thoughtless or just thought there was a different understanding, like others have said. The stuff about making the bed or leaving water on the bathroom floor, things like that can probably be pretty easily fixed by just mentioning it to the person. If you would rather not have to do that, then yeah, it's probably best not to host people unless you are reasonably sure they have similar standards of cleanliness as you do.

I do think there's something to your age, for sure. In your twenties, when you're in artsy/academic/activisty/etc. circles, houseguests are often in group houses and become sort of like another housemate for the weekend, and things tend to be pretty casual. Once you hit your thirties, things tend to morph more into "houseguest" territory (with the attendant expectations) so it may just be that some of your houseguests have not yet made that shift in mindset. Again, before offering to let someone stay with you, think about their maturity level.

But yeah, like others have said, this is all very culturally-based, and in the US, it can be complicated because there's no one American culture. For instance, you sound like a lovely houseguest but honestly, I would find your graciousness really nice but maybe a bit much - it would make me feel like you weren't comfortable in my home, or like I had to reciprocate by being a truly exceptional host.

Oh, and one other thing I've noticed more since I've had a lot of houseguests in the past few years: it can really throw personality differences and clashes into stark relief. I've had dear friends stay with me who, after a week, I seriously could not wait for them to leave because we just had such different ways of dealing with things at home. Neither of us was wrong, we just weren't really prepared to be in such an intimate circumstance together.
posted by lunasol at 10:00 AM on May 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


for anyone who is going to be a guest:
Communicate, including listening. potential host says I won't be able to spend time with you; I'll be at work means you don't keep them out or up late and you stay out of their way in the morning. host lives in city and may have seen Statue of Liberty, Coit Tower, Hollywood Walk of Fame, World's Largest Ball of String. Ask if host wants to go to attraction or not. Let host know when you'll arrive, within reason.

Do you have allergies, food requirements, pet that travels with you? Communicate and/or stay at a hotel. If host has a cat, the cat is a resident. The cat can stay in host's room while you have a pleasant, even lengthy, dinner, but not for 3 days. If you don't eat gluten, dairy, tree nuts, etc., then bring food you can eat, and bring enough to share at least some of it. Make meals you can eat and host can enjoy. Bringing your dog? Be insanely certain host loves Furzilla a lot. Take Furzy for a looong run, keep Furzy crated, whatever it takes to keep Furzy manageable.

It seems like you are no trouble, amirite? You are intruding in host's personal space, using resources, and consuming host's energy. Buy food, beer, wine, pot, whatever, make meals, clean the kitchen, and get the heck out of the way for big chunks of time.

Leave the bathroom/ guest room/ living room/ kitchen as clean/ cleaner than you found it. Host is still going to have to do laundry, but host shouldn't have to clean up after you.

3 days. That's all you get. Then you leave.

Gift. Bring or leave a gift you know is wanted - gift cert. to bookstore, plant, bottle(s) of nicer wine than host can usually buy, quality chocolate. If you don't do a gift, take host out to a meal, or bring takeout, or some other form of showing appreciation, lessening workload.
posted by theora55 at 10:23 AM on May 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


You can't always predict who's going to be a bad guest. If you look back to before any of these visits -- can you think of any clues you might have noticed beforehand? If so, you may be able to train yourself to say no to anyone who's not considerate and self-sufficient.

Would it be do-able to allow one-night-only visits for first-time guests? I do know most folks plan to spend a whole weekend, but maybe it would work sometimes.

When someone is inviting him/herself to your place, would you feel comfortable saying something like, "I'd love to get together with you, but I can't offer a place to sleep." Some will be pushy and ask why or try to persuade you, so be ready with something to say -- something that feels right to you. I might say that I'm introverted and can't deal with too much "together time." You can always just stop talking if they persist -- just look at them pleasantly and wait for them to realize that you're not changing your mind.

I have a couple of friends who are sort of C+/B- houseguests. But I love these people and really enjoy their company. I know they care about me. I put up with their inadequate manners and sloppy habits and try to overlook them. Also, after a couple of visits from someone, it becomes easier to say, "Would you mind folding up your sheets and blankets so we can sit on the sofa later on."

Some acquaintances just aren't good enough friends for me to invite for over-nights. Even if they turned out to be model guests, I wouldn't want to spend all that time with them. If possible, say no to anyone you don't have a special connection with.
posted by wryly at 12:45 PM on May 2, 2015


Relevant previous AskMes:

How do I be a good houseguest
An Introvert's Hosting Survival Guide Needed

There was also a thread once about how to be a great host - what to provide guests and the like - but I can't surface it.
posted by Miko at 3:22 PM on May 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


It sounds to me like many of these bad exchanges had elements of misunderstood obligation and responsibility. The key may be communication.

I have become very up front about the house rules. We all assume our rules are everyone's rules and obvious, but they aren't (Airbnb in Japan is a good article).

I do a little work before they come via email: Hey, do you need anything in the morning to make your stay comfortable, do you have any allergies or things I should know, etc

And when they get there as a part of the house tour, I just say: this is when I am home and what I will be doing; what do you want to do while you are here, this is what I could join you on and here are some ideas of how to do the stuff I will not be joining you on; you are welcome to eat what I am eating or not; you can eat anything but x because that is for tomorrow's dinner, etc; this is when I will be out, here are your keys; I go to bed at 9, but you can keep your own hours; please take your shoes off at the door, please do not download porn onto my computer, please hang your towel up in the bathroom (not on the wooden furniture), etc. During your talk, remember adults need to know why, it makes a huge difference in their compliance.

However, you might need to take a break from all this hosting. Recharge your batteries and reclaim your space. And then try again.
posted by mutt.cyberspace at 10:13 PM on May 2, 2015


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