At the beginning of this year I announced that I was going to do a series on becoming the world’s best house guest, but the more I was thinking about it, the more I thought I should start with how to be a good host. If you are clear about what you expect from your guest, in the most polite way, you will set them up to be the best guest they can possibly be. What do I mean?
Well, you need to start with expectations. This is tricky because as a host, you naturally want to be as gracious as possible, but you don’t want to end up ruining your relationship with your guest over simple miscommunications. There are things you should be very up front about before you make final plans for someone to come stay with you and your family in your house. Here is a small list of things you should communicate with any house guest before they finalize their plans:
-If you are picking them up from the airport, make sure you request their airline information and keep it handy so you can update yourself on their flight information (you can check online with their airline to see if their flight is on time or not).
-Don’t be shy about mentioning your budget (tactfully of course). A lot of people expect to eat out when they travel, and that can be a burdensome expense on the host if they are not honest about it. We tell people that usually we can only afford to eat out once a month, but they are welcome to join us at home for any meal they choose. Of course, we are not offended if they want to go out, and we recommend the best choices to them.
-Make sure to mention their accommodations. We don’t have a spare room, so we put up guests in the living room on a futon. This is important to mention because guests might have an expectation of privacy that you won’t be able to provide. On the other hand, maybe you have a guest room and guest bathroom. Whatever the case, make sure your guest is informed about their sleeping arrangements before they get there.
-Warn them about extreme lifestyle differences. Something we mention to people that are coming to stay with us is that it is very expensive to heat water for showers in our flat (our hot water heater is extremely old and works poorly), so they should not expect to take more than one shower every two days. If they are willing to put money towards utilities, then of course we would let them, but we don’t ask for that contribution in most cases. We also let them know we don’t own a dryer (most people in Greece line dry their clothes) so we tell them to make sure if they are going to do laundry here, they have enough clothes because one load can take 2-3 days to dry in the winter.
-Make sure your ideas of their trip match up. When you have guests come that are expecting to go roaming about site seeing their entire trip, and you anticipated them coming to spend time hanging out with you the whole time, there will be disappointment and hurt feelings. This can be avoided by honesty. Ask your guest if they are coming to be a tourist, or to visit you. Hopefully the answer will be a mix of both, but at least if they are simply planning on using your place as a crash pad for their personal adventures, you will be able to deal with those feelings ahead of time, instead of being hurt once they get there. Of course, if someone is looking at you as free boarding instead of a valued friend, it is ok to mention that a hotel might be a better option for them.
These are by no means the only thing you should do as a host, you also want to make your guests feel welcome. When I was a young girl we visited Missouri (my dad’s home state) to celebrate my great-grandmother’s 80th birthday. We stayed with my grandmother’s sister, and she made each one of us feel so welcome! She even made little gift baskets for my brother and I and placed them where we were sleeping to help us feel more comfortable staying with people we had never met before. Remember that having guests is a privilege, and that your job is to make their stay as delightful as possible. Be warm and loving, and do your best to make them feel the gratitude you are experiencing by having them in your home.
As for being a good guest, well that is up to them, but I hope the series I will be rolling out in the next few weeks will help guests everywhere understand what it means to return an honorable hosts’ good intentions.