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“The House guest from Hell”. How to avoid being on Part 2/2

The houseguest from hell! And how to avoid being one (Part 2)

After talking to friends and drawing from the many wonderful experiences I have had as a host (and as a guest), when we have had house visits that have cemented and taken the relationship to an even greater level of intimacy, I’ve compiled a general list of do’s and don’t’s. They’re no more than common sense, but it’s often the small things we overlook that become the proverbial mountain. This is even more important if your visit is an extended one.

  • If your routine, your habits are very different from that of your hosts—stay in a hotel. A non-smoking friend recently had a houseguest who smoked heavily. Even though he smoked outside on the balcony, the smell permeated his clothes and the bedclothes, and my friend found his visit very difficult.
  • Fit in with the routine of the household. OBSERVE what the routine is, and if not sure, ASK! Don’t impose your own routine on your hosts. To give you an example—my sister washes up after every meal. She would leave the house with the dishes done and would come back from work to find dishes piled up in the sink. Her guests would have lunch, cups of tea, and leave the dishes in the sink because they (in their own household) wash the days’ dishes in one big lot after dinner! My sister found it irritating.
  • If you have very complicated dietary requirements—stay in a hotel!
  • Give your hosts some time on their own—this is particularly important if your hosts work from home, and they need peace and quiet. Also, your hostess will appreciate having time on her own to get meals and cleaning organized without having guests underfoot. Be aware that while you are on holiday, often your hosts have to work.
  • Be prepared to entertain yourself. Research what there is to see and do in the place. In places like Hong Kong, where the public transport system is excellent, go out on your own, see the sights. Nothing worse as a host than having to entertain the ill-prepared guest who has absolutely no idea what there is to see, or the guest who does not want to do or see anything.
  • Participate fully (and with obvious enjoyment) in household activities.
  • Be aware that there is a fine line between giving the hosts their space and using the hosts’ house like a hotel—just turning up for meals and sleeping. If you are out for the day sightseeing, come back an hour or so before dinner, help with little chores (like setting the table) and talk to the host. You should leave your host with the impression that spending time with them is also one of your priorities.
  • Keep your room tidy! Unpack, put clothes away in a cupboard (if you are given space) or back in your suitcase), place your shoes neatly out of sight under the bed.  Make your own bed. Don’t make your hosts/ hosts’ helper have to shift your stuff around to vacuum your room. Attempt to make the room look like it was when you arrived. If your hosts have to use the room, don’t make them have to shift your belongings to get at a cupboard. Don’t leave your belongings in common areas.
  • Keep bathrooms tidy—don’t spread your toiletries/ cosmetics over a shared bathroom. Leave the bathroom clean and dry, no hair on the floor on in the bathtub. GENTLEMEN—please SIT on toilet seats, not stand. For obvious reasons… think about it.
  • Switch off lights and air conditioners when you leave a room
  • Be more careful of your hosts’ property than you would of your own.

à        Don’t drag/wheel suitcases over wooden floors (they scratch floors).

à        Don’t put your suitcases on the bed to unpack (god knows where your suitcase has been and what germs are lurking on it: if you need to put the suitcase on the bed, ask for an old sheet to rest it on). Ditto handbags on dining tables (result of a recent study: more germs on the average woman’s handbag than on the floor of a public toilet).

à        No shoes on bed/bedding or on furniture (see above)

à        Don’t put glasses on wooden tables (ask for a coaster), or fling keys and mobiles on wooden tables (they’ll cause damage).

à        Remember, your hosts often put out their best for your stay—respect their possessions. A recent houseguest fell asleep on a precious silk bedcover, and he drooled over it. Simply taking off the bedcover would have prevented what has proved to be a permanent stain!

  • Take the pressure off your hosts to provide meals all the time. Order in, get takeout (you, the guest, pays), and take your hosts out for a meal. Offer to cook a meal but CLEAN UP after yourself. I once gratefully accepted a guest’s offer to cook, but the mess that the kitchen was left in somewhat tarnished the glow.
  • Take on some of the household chores. My dear friend, Di, who is the DREAM houseguest, takes it upon herself to walk the dog, hang, and fold the washing. It’s important to remember that having a houseguest DOES create extra work—more so when there’s no house help.
  • Be very aware of the difference in disposable income between you and your hosts, and pricing differences in different countries. For example, spirits are very expensive in Australia. For that reason, in most households beer and wine are offered, spirits rarely. A recent guest of an Australian friend consumed two bottles of her (reserved for special occasions) whiskey during his stay that my (non-drinking) friend can’t soon replace. The guest came from a country where alcohol is comparatively cheaper. It would have been thoughtful of the guest to replace the bottles before he left, but then he was simply not aware that the whiskey represented a considerable higher percentage of my friend’s income than his. Similarly, items that are common/ cheap in your home country may be considered luxuries/ hard to access in another country.
  • On the subject—be aware that having guests (however welcome) means more expense for the household. The hosts will probably take you out sightseeing, to dine. Common sense and good manners dictate that you should ease that burden.
  • If there is household help—leave a tip. Ask your hosts how much to give and then give a little more than your host tells you to, as it is likely that your host will, more often than not, ‘under quote’ for fear of appearing grasping.
  • Don’t wear revealing nightwear. This is particularly significant in Asian homes.
  •  It goes without saying that you should take/ leave your host a gift and send a ‘Thank you’ note.

All that I have said really is common sense and about being considerate. I am absolutely positive that no guest ever deliberately sets out to abuse their hosts’ hospitality, and believe most problems arise because of a lack of awareness. Follow the code above and be the houseguest that will always be welcomed back with open arms.

  1. I just stumbled across this page after googling in sheer frustration, trying to find some help dealing with a smoker house guest. I quit 18 months ago. Even though my relative goes for a walk to smoke, the smell of smoke in my house is overwhelming.

    It’s very distressing, because I am totally unable to focus on enjoying her company. Instead I’m counting the days until she leaves, and finding myself constantly irritated and confronted with the desire to smoke.

    She sprays herself with perfume and chews gum to try and hide the smell. The sound of constant gum smacking only adds to the irritation, and the stink of perfume and stale cigarettes is nearly driving me insane.

    I know I am being snappy and getting overly irritated about little things during her stay, which must seem odd to her. I want to explain, but I don’t want to hurt her feelings. I remember when I was a smoker, I was completely oblivious to how disgusting it was in so many ways to non-smokers, and that there is probably no explaining it.

    • This must be so difficult for you. Is the stay going to be an extended one? If it is… I would take the bull by the horns and tell her that you are finding her smoking hard to handle. You have a very good reason…that the you are falling prey to the desire to smoke again (Please don’t!!)
      Be prepared that the realationship might take a beating, but hopefully she will understand

      • I posted my original comment in the middle of the night, that tells you how much it was worrying me, hehe.

        I did say something this morning, and tried to keep it gracious, along these lines…

        “I really don’t want to offend you, and please tell me if I do. As a former smoker, I am finding the smell of cigarette smoke so overwhelming that I can’t focus on enjoying your company, and I’ve been looking forward to your visit so much….”

        She was really surprised, didnt seem offended, and said she wil try not to smoke while she’s here.

        As a former smoker… I know very well that a smoker will never realize how obnoxious their habit is on so many levels… unti they really quit.

        Thanks for the nocturnal support, lol.

        • Well done! You handled this with grace and finesse. I particularly liked “as a former smoker….and I was so looking forward to having here, but I can’t focus” – sincere, true, and guaranteed to get the other person onside.
          I am pleased that it worked out well.
          And thank you so very much for visiting my blog!

  2. Where to I start? We have had 4 guests staying with us, two are friends we have known for a year and two we met just once but they know the other two very well. The house has been in a state of renovation for over a year which they knew about and their bedrooms were still being decorated 2 days before they arrived. Our own bedroom and bathroom are horrible because we haven’t started on that yet, but i wanted the bedrooms to look beautiful for when they arrived…that was my first mistake, what i should have done is put mattresses on the floor and not bothered. One set of guests are total slobs they dont use wardrobes or shelves, so their clothes and belongings are strewn all over the floor, the other set of guests have no money or if they have they certainly aren’t going to spend it on replacing the wine and beer they have drunk over the week. I am a clean freak and its driving me mad having to pick up their glasses and cups because they cant be bothered to put them in the dish washer! They drink like fishes sometimes 3-4 bottles of wine a day. Not once have they offered to help around the house, nor do they get up until noon! I understand the people live differently but when you come into someones home, you are their guests and you shouldn’t treat their home like a hotel, instead you should try to make it as easy for them as possible and if they ask you not to take wine up to your bedroom when you are so drunk you can barely stand up, surely you should agree, instead of having a stand up row with your host and throwing your weight around? Lets just say they wont be invited back and I cant wait for them to leave!!

    • Dear Diane, my sympathies! I hope that the visit is not an extended one.

  3. 2 guests leave this evening, and the others leave in 5 more days! Seriously I wouldnt treat someone else’s home or the people in it in such a disrespectful manner! I don’t think that I am the kind of person who should have people to stay…especially when we have spent so much money trying to make the house so beautiful!

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