Which of your own behaviors should you change when you have guests over?
January 18, 2007 8:46 PM   Subscribe

When friends with whom you don't usually spend time in close quarters come for a brief stay at your house, what things should you change about your everyday, hanging-around the house behavior?

The question is when people stay over, which of their regular activities can a person do without offending their guests? It's a tricky trade-off between being comfortable and displaying common courtesy for the guest.

I ask because I have noticed that when I have friends or relatives over for an extended stay, I start to feel ill at ease and begin pestering myself with questions about cleanliness of my living space, my eating habits, the impression they might get of me by seeing the tv shows I watch, my grooming, etc.. etc... So I want to make it clear for myself as to what behaviors should be changed in the presence of visitors and which should just be left alone.
posted by gregb1007 to Human Relations (29 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Wear pants.
posted by sugarfish at 8:51 PM on January 18, 2007

Loud sex. I don't ever want to hear my hosts having loud sex. If they make "it" easy to hear, I imagine that I've overstayed my welcome.
posted by bilabial at 8:53 PM on January 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

I would think that true friends, no matter how close they are to you, wouldn't care about most things.

I hate when I go to a friend's house and they say "Oh, my house is such a mess." Like I'm going to judge them on whether or not they got around to doing laundry before I showed up.
posted by Brittanie at 8:55 PM on January 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

I usually close the door to my bedroom (at least slightly, so the cat can come in), but I never would without anyone here. I also give more effort to keeping the cat off the table. I would never read while I eat if someone else is over. I imagine some people would try to curtail their, er, toilet duties (at bedtime). I've always thought doing so (as long as we're not talking wind symphony) would a) make me a less pleasant host, eventually and b) smacks of weird deference-to-an-alpha-male/female type behavior. I've also felt it was impolite to sleep past my guests, but I sometimes can't help it and now I have a reputation that excuses said behavior. If you don't generally have set meal times, it's probably nice to change that to accomodate guests. Clean the sheets -- especially theirs, but it's a great excuse to clean yours too.

All bets are off, btw, if it's a "busy time". I just spent a wonderful weekend with some friends who needed to get various amounts of work done (as did I). Unfortunately it was the only weekend available for many months. We suspended most all of the rules and it worked out great working during the day and going out at night.

Some things that have bothered me in brief stays at other people's houses: compulsive email checking, compulsive phone use, compulsive cleaning.
posted by ontic at 9:14 PM on January 18, 2007

Don't use drugs in front of them unless you know 100% for sure that they're cool with this.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 9:21 PM on January 18, 2007

I don't know why you'd change the tv shows you watch (unless you really want to watch better ones deep down), but unless it's a brief "boarder" situation, why watch tv shows at all? Having friends over is a great excuse to get out on the town, stay at home and play a game, or drink a bottle of wine, listen to music, and tell old stories. At least with movies/tv, choose something mutually agreeable.

Oh, and I've never minded if people take care of maintenance grooming while I'm around. But toenail/fingernail clipping totally skeeves some people out. Take caution.
posted by ontic at 9:22 PM on January 18, 2007

Whenever my baptist uncle comes to my dad's house, we can't drink beer there. He's prolly on to us, though.
posted by wsg at 10:02 PM on January 18, 2007

When Ihave visitors I always shut the toilet door while I'm in there. Not so much otherwise. I just wish all my guest would do the same.

We generally disscuss things like meal times, bathroom rotation, quiet times (eg I sleep til nine but you can be noisy/awake after seven) and adjust as necessary depending on guests.

And no sex on the couch.
posted by shelleycat at 10:27 PM on January 18, 2007

Yes, pants, for-the-love-of-Christ. Please? Maybe a shirt, too?
I have male and female friends that swan around their houses without clothes on while talking to me. It makes me crazy, which is surely a flaw in my character, but it could be that one of your guests will have this hang-up, too.

Also have food in your house -- snacky food: fruit, crackers -- even if you usually just eat out. It sucks to be bolt awake at three in the morning at a friend's house in a city you don't know, and there is nothing in the kitchen but Lucky Charms and beer.
posted by Methylviolet at 11:22 PM on January 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

It sucks to be bolt awake at three in the morning at a friend's house in a city you don't know, and there is nothing in the kitchen but Lucky Charms and beer.

Methylviolet does not speak for all of us.
posted by andoatnp at 11:43 PM on January 18, 2007 [2 favorites]

Keep some lights on, just to illuminate the way. You don't want someone waking in the middle of the night with explosive diarrhoea and they can't find the toilet quickly.

No conversation from the toilet or to someone on the toilet.

Give people plenty of freedom if it's an extended stay. Even give them a key to the house. Don't be like a friend of mine, who had two visitors from interstate. She laid down the law thusly

"I have to go to work at 6, and I'm back around four, so you'll have to be ready to leave the house at 6 and meet me back here any time after I'm home".

That's right, she kicked her visitors out when she left for work, at 6am. In a city unknown to them. A long way from the city and public transport. If you don't trust your visitors enough to leave them in your house by themselves, don't invite them to stay.
posted by tomble at 12:08 AM on January 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Give them a key, a map of the town, and information on how to use the public transport. I try and keep an A-Z with my house, the nearest bus-stop, the bus-stops back from town, and the bus numbers written in it to lend to guests. But we get quite a lot of guests (through servas and just generally).

Don't put the television on unless they want to watch it "hey, wanna if we watch the news?" or even "hey, we're going to watch X, that OK with you?" is fine, but just sticking the TV on? No. Radio is OK as long as it isn't too loud. But hey, I've got guests, I should be talking to them. And turn it off once the program is finished. TV as background is plain rude.

I think checking email is OK, but you should ask your guest if they'd like to check theirs when you do it - this gives them the opportunity, and if they say "no" every time, maybe you're checking yours too often.

I'd have thought that the pants, loud sex, and toilet door concerns didn't need voicing but I agree with them 100%.

I always get some milk (cows milk, I usually have soya) and some bread (we don't always have this in), and first thing show them where to find tea/coffee/margarine/honey/marmite/bread so if they get thirsty or hungry they can sort themselves out. Whenever you make a tea or coffee offer one to them.

If it's an extended stay I'll take them to the shop opposite so we can get anything else they want, and show them the washing machine, and within the first few days I'll walk up to the main street and show them all the restaurants, the cash machine, and maybe take them for a curry.
posted by handee at 1:53 AM on January 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

I manage my animals so they're not a nuisance, have more food/beverage than usual, have both planned activities with them and allow them free time without me(us) in the house (so THEY can have loud sex!), usually have some candies around and fruit, and if I know their favorite drinks (juices, beer, wine, teas) I make sure they have it.

I am always awake before guests (true anyway), but don't klang and bang as much and make sure they know where all the basics are and how to operate. My houses always have small nightlights but with guests, I leave pathways to things like the kitchen or bathroom dimly illuminated. Sleep schedules are all over the place, but fortunately, I am an early riser and my perfect wife is a late sleeper, so at least one of us can match guest's customs.

If they are in town for business, I usually offer directions, supplies, etc.

Guests get their own towels/washcloths and clean sheets, washed BEFORE they arrive, not after they leave. (Makes them really fresh when new guests come, but complicates things for unexpected guests!).

Damn, I'm some kind of geriatric boy Martha Stewart! I want to stay with me.
posted by FauxScot at 4:04 AM on January 19, 2007

Some nice things I've observed as a guest, some of them quite unexpected:

When going for groceries, hosts asking if I'd like anything or if I'd like to go with (yes, usually, thanks).

Hosts asking nonsmokers if it's okay to smoke (in their own house!).

When I stayed with some non-vegetarians once, they refrained from cooking meat while I was there. I mentioned that it was fine if they wanted to cook meat; I hadn't intended to change their eating habits; but still they didn't. I thought this was a very considerate thing for them to do, and much kinder than I had any right to expect. This could be generalized to other groups with specific eating habits, though I imagine it's the hosts's decision whether to adopt the guest's eating habits, and that the polite guest should accept the decision without complaint.

Being given a key is nice, though not always possible, depending on where the host lives. It allows some freedom, which both guest and host probably appreciate.

A guide to public transit--buses and/or subway--is very helpful.

Explanations of anything the guest might not know about or have any reason to expect (I have little experience with subways; my hosts explained that I would need to keep my ticket stub to run it through the machine a second time when leaving the subway, else I would have to buy a second ticket).

At the start of the visit, a brief tour of critical places is always nice, though not always possible: here's the grocery store, here's the bus stop, that direction is downtown, etc.
posted by Tuwa at 6:04 AM on January 19, 2007

If your shower (or anything else) is weird to use, explain how to use it the first day your guest is over.

Put out some fresh hand towels and other towels in the bathroom. Always give each guest freshly cleaned linens on their bed.

Show your guest where things are like extra shampoo, toilet paper, soap, toothpaste, oh...and a plunger. The worst thing happened while we were staying at my husband's grandparents'. The toilet clogged and they HIDE the plunger! This happened at 2 am so there was nothing to be done until morning. It was a bad time.

Being fully clothed, even if it's just sweats thrown on after waking up, is crucial. Men, this includes wearing SHIRTS. Boxers do not equal PANTS.

Definitely have food. If you don't drink coffee, at least have some instant coffee (with caffeine). A huge issue with visiting my husband's grandparents are that they do not drink any caffeine whatsoever (this is not out of religious reasons, they are just high strung without it). There is nothing worse than being stranded somewhere with a caffeine withdrawal headache. Also if you are a coffee drinker, have some tea and/or decaf on hand. Snacks like candy, granola bars, a couple kinds of cereal, cookies, whatever, are nice to have on hand. Show your guest the things you have so they feel comfortable having some if they get the midnight munchies.

Show your guest where you keep silverware, glasses, etc.

Try to keep at least the bathroom clean during the entire length of the visit. It takes 2 seconds to swish-clean the toilet everyday.

Definitely have some dim lights on at night so they don't walk into the wrong room or bump into an end table.

Show them how to work your tv if they wake up before you. If you are comfortable with them using your computer to check e-mail, show them anything they need to know about turning it on, etc.
posted by tastybrains at 6:38 AM on January 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Also show them where you keep the aspirin, Tums, band-aids, etc.
posted by tastybrains at 6:39 AM on January 19, 2007

What sucks is going to someone's house and you want to pour a beer or glass of water and there are no clean glasses.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 7:45 AM on January 19, 2007

Have coffee. And don't just have like those cheap coffee packets you collect from when you stay in a hotel and they have free mini coffee things. Because you know what? Coffee goes stale, honest. (My mother does this because my partner is a coffee lover but the partner usually ends up going out to starbucks anyway because the coffee is so stale. Spring for some newly-purchased coffee.)

Also, yes, even if your guests are family, wear a full set of clothing (my mother, again. Yeesh).
posted by marginaliana at 7:54 AM on January 19, 2007

Ask about allergies! I have a severe allergy to most fragrances, so it is much appreciated when the hosts will unplug all the Glade Plug-ins and not spray perfume and cologne in a shared bathroom. I would also be absolutely thrilled if the sheets and towels I would be using were washed in hypoallergenic laundry detergent (one of the fragrance & dye free types) before I arrived. I hate worrying about waking up with a load of hives after sleeping in flowery smelling sheets.
posted by chiababe at 8:01 AM on January 19, 2007

This is nitpicky, but if you have long hair and tend to clog up the tub so it doesn't drain properly, please clean out the drain. I hate showering at other people's houses and ending up ankle-deep in water. (better yet, keep it clean all the time, for you own sake!)

Seconding the plunger thing. Stick it next to the toilet. It'll keep people from freaking out of they clog up the works.

Last thing, I swear - if they drink coffee or tea, make sure they have access to the supplies they need to make a pot if they're up before you.
posted by cabingirl at 8:04 AM on January 19, 2007

Allergies, I think, are the guest's obligation to inform, not the hosts obligation to ask. But maybe I'm being harsh here.
posted by handee at 8:07 AM on January 19, 2007

Show them how to work the tv, the shower, the coffee pot, tricky doornobs. Show them where to find breakfast, snacks, dishes, towels, toilet paper.

I know what you mean about changing the tv you watch. I live in constant anxiety about people learning anything about me and using it to judge me by - it was two years before I put any decoration in my office for just that reason. If you feel like you don't want your academic brother to know you watch America's Got Talent, don't watch it. Really, you should be doing other things with them anyways. If, however, you would die if you didn't see The L Word every week, then say "You're going to laugh at me, but I love lesbian soft-core soap operas, do you want to watch it with me tonight or should I tape it so we can do something else?"
posted by arcticwoman at 8:37 AM on January 19, 2007

What everybody said. And the pants.
posted by pointilist at 9:09 AM on January 19, 2007

Thirding the plunger. Stick it by the toilet, even if that's not where you normally keep it. And if you have multiple bathrooms, shell out the $3 per and get one for each.
posted by Alt F4 at 9:57 AM on January 19, 2007

Some of you sound like incredible hosts. I'm inviting myself over.
posted by Merlyn at 10:55 AM on January 19, 2007

What's up with all your plumbing? I've lived in my house for 7 years now and have only used a plunger once, and that was in the cellar sink after a particularly dodgy cat-hair-washing-machine incident.
posted by handee at 11:21 AM on January 19, 2007

Yeah, my plumbing is fine, but if I had company, I'd put out a plunger where they could see it. For all you know, they might have flaky plumbing at home, and get seriously insecure if they don't see a plunger. It could be a psych thing.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 5:33 PM on January 20, 2007

LIGHT: leave a nightlight on in the hall so they can find the can in the dark.
AIR: fan and/or space heater in the room they'll sleep in.
WARMTH: extra blanket at the foot of the bed
CAT: leave out some benadryl tablets
FOOD: coffee, tea, cream / milk, fake milk (soy or rice), cereal, cheese & crackers, clementines, apples, bananas
HYGIENE: kleenex, toilet paper, towels, tampons, clean towels, contact solution
TRASH: if you're male, putting a trashcan in the bathroom lets ladies dispose of their unmentionables
LIGHT: be aware of the morning light in the guestroom- my bedroom faces west so it's dim in the morning, but my guestroom has eastern exposure, so the mornings are blazing bright. i'm not picky about sleeping in dark rooms, but most guests are- i put a blanket over my matchstick blinds.
NEIGHBOURHOOD: take-out/delivery menus, maps, bus fare/routes.
WELCOME: i always put fresh flowers in the room they'll stay in, and leave a detailed note inviting them to eat things from the fridge and directing them to good neighbourhood attractions for a walk.
posted by twistofrhyme at 7:07 PM on January 20, 2007

What's up with all your plumbing? I've lived in my house for 7 years now and have only used a plunger once, and that was in the cellar sink after a particularly dodgy cat-hair-washing-machine incident.

Well, yeah, I haven't had to use a plunger in MY apartment, but I guess in older houses sometimes the plumbing isn't so good. Accidents can happen any time and nothing is more mortifying to a guest than having to debate what the hell to do when the toilet is stopped up in the middle of the night. Everyone should have A plunger and it should be in an intuitive and easy to find place. Because when the toilet isn't happy, your guests aren't happy.

Also...you washed your cat in the washing machine?!
posted by tastybrains at 9:14 PM on January 21, 2007

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