We already talked about sharing information and expectations in the first part of this series, and today I want to continue forward with that idea in relation to staying in someone’s home. I would say that I am somewhat of an expert on being a guest because Travis and I have lived with many different families in transition to becoming missionaries. We have learned the hard way what works, and what doesn’t. When a friend or relative opens up their home to you, there are things you can do to make their time as hosts a very pleasant experience.
Here are a few simple tips that will have any host asking you back to stay another time:
-Say, “Thank you!” … I cannot overemphasize this point enough. Saying thank you is a simple way to express your gratitude. Unfortunately, not enough emphasis is put on saying please and thank you in many newer generations throughout various cultures today.
-Be thankful. You might be asking me why I put that right underneath saying thank you, but being thankful and saying thank you are two separate things. Saying thank you is a verbal expression, while being thankful is a state of mind that will show in your attitude and actions. Make sure you keep things in perspective. Your host is doing you a favor by allowing you to stay in their home with their family. There is never a circumstance where someone is obligated to take you in, so don’t act like it is their duty. You are the guest, and if you want to be the best guest possible, you need to keep an attitude of thankfulness in your heart and mind at all times.
-Help out around the house! I’m not saying you need to delve in and scrub the bathroom floor, but doing the dishes (by washing them in the sink, or loading them into a dishwasher if there is one) is a great help when you have 2 or 3 extra people eating at every meal. You can also fold up your bedding in the morning (if you are sleeping on a futon or pull out bed) or make the bed. Just make sure that however you help, you do it in a gracious way, reminding the host that you don’t feel obligated to help, but that you want to. If a host feels that you are helping because you feel obligated, or you think their house is a pig stye, they are going to be offended, which is not what you want.
-Offer to help out with groceries and increased utility costs. These are the two things that hosts will most likely never ask for help with, but that can be somewhat costly. Make sure you are careful about how your phrase your offer. You don’t want to offend your host by insinuating that they are dirt poor, but at the same time you want to phrase it in a way that is not easy for them to refuse if they actually need monetary help in this area. In many cultures it is customary for someone to reject taking in a guest unless they can provide them with all they need while they are visiting, including food, so this is a delicate subject. You might want to say something like this, “We appreciate you allowing us to stay with you, and as our way of saying thank you, we would really like to help purchase some groceries. In fact, I would love to go along with you on your next trip to the store.” It is much easier for most people to accept you going along and paying for groceries on the spot, than to accept money towards groceries. Plus that will give you a chance to scope out the new and exciting foods that place has to offer.
-When all else fails, leave a gift. There are hosts that will never, ever, ever accept your financial or physical help while you are staying in their home, and that is their right. However, there is still one thing left that you can do to bless them for the time you have spent in their home. You can leave a gift for them. If they have children, you can pick a small toy, or a piece of clothing out for them. You can also get them something fun to eat, or leave an envelope with some money for a night out to relax after you have left. You can also look around their house for something that is worn out and replace it, like a spatula, or a coffee mug. It doesn’t have to be something extravagant. It’s the thought that counts, I promise. You could also get something extremely practical, like a box of detergent to replace what you used while you were there visiting.
Remember, you don’t have to put on some dance and show about how much you appreciate your host. It’s really the sincere, little things that make a big impact.
How do you thank your host for allowing you to stay in their home?