Guest

					               To be a Guest...




Thoughts on the art of being a courteous and thoughtful
                         guest




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                      To be a guest .....


This pamphlet is intended as a guide for all those who are house
guests. Being a guest can be an enjoyable experience for yourself
as well as your host. Courtesy and thoughtfulness are the keys to
being a good house guest.


Who is a guest?
A guest is a visitor at a location other than their normal residence. A
guest can be a child returning to their parents’ home after a stay at
college, a relative visiting another relative in another city, or a
friend visiting another friend, or a traveler staying at a hotel, B&B,
cruise ship, or host family. The duration of the visit can be
overnight, a weekend, several days, a week or an entire season.


Why are there rules?
Why should there be “rules” for guests, can’t people just “be
themselves” wherever they are? Actually, there are rules wherever
you are. This pamphlet is not going to address the “rules” while you
are residing at your permanent residence -- whether at home (with
rules from the parents), in school (dorm rules), in the military
(service rules), in prison (warden rules), or elsewhere. However,
there are some basic rules of civilization that are important.
Whether it’s 1950, or 1980, or 2003 .... Courtesy and thoughtfulness
are timeless.


Guest of an immediate family
Even if you are a family member home for a visit -- whether a
student returning for a weekend from school or an older mid-life
child visiting the siblings or parents -- you are still a guest of the
owner of the residence. Don’t assume that your room is still your
room (and you can keep it as messy as you did when you lived at
home!), or you can get by with the same rules or manners as when
you were a child. All the “rules for the guest” still apply with the
 added caveat that since you know more about the family and the
residence, you might be even more helpful and courteous.



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Guest of     a non-immediate family or general
traveling When visiting other relatives, friends, family of friends
or even lodging while traveling, it’s important to treat the hosts with
courtesy and thoughtfulness for all they are offering and providing
you as a guest. You can get even more philosophical and think that
having good manners is a method of perpetuating a civilized
society. If you don’t believe that -- still think of the courtesy and
thoughtfulness towards your hosts.


Before the visit
One of the most important tasks before the visit is to ensure the visit
is okay with the host (this seems obvious, but don’t assume a visit is
always welcome). Ask the host if the dates and duration are
acceptable (there may be conflicts with the host due to previous
plans, illnesses, etc.) and if there are any joint plans (tours, dining,
etc.) -- this will help you decide a wardrobe. Also, check if you have
any other questions -- transportation, pets, friends as guests, etc.
There should be no surprises for your host or for you during the visit
- communicate clearly with the host.


Extended visits
In addition to the common courtesy rules listed below, there are
some considerations to think about particularly if you are spending
an extended time as a guest. If at a private resident you might offer
to help in the outdoor tasks (weeding, cutting lawn, raking leaves,
snow shoveling, car washing/waxing, etc.), or inside tasks (laundry,
cleaning, painting, etc.). You can also offer to run errands (pick up
or drop off of dry cleaning, rental items, grocery shopping, taking
children or older adults to appointments or events, etc.). As a guest
on an extended stay, you should think of yourself as a bit more
helpful than a weekend visitor.




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Follow-up after the visit
No task is complete without finishing the paperwork -- even the task
of being a guest. The cardinal rule of being a guest is to always
follow the visit with a handwritten thank-you note. Phone calls and
e-mail thank you responses are signs of your appreciation, but a
hand written note is the standard. A simple verse of thanks to the
hosts for their hospitality is all that’s needed. Even while being a
guest at a hotel you should consider leaving a tip for the
housekeeper who cleaned and organized your room during your
stay (many cruise ships include these charges as part of your room
fees). For extended stays or for an unusually helpful host a thank
you gift might be appropriate -- flowers, books, etc. However, don’t
worry about the gift -- but remember the note.



                   Rules for the Guests

The following rules are applicable for all guests. Although they might
not be applicable for all travel situations, the underlying theme is
consistent --- courtesy and thoughtfulness. The categories are
divided along location and activities.

Kitchen/dining areas:
Preparing the meals -- always offer to help in the kitchen for food
preparation. Even if you don’t know how the meal is going to be
prepared or you don’t think you have any culinary skills, there is
always something an extra person can be of assistance. Washing
or cutting food, beverage preparation, table setting, etc. are all
examples of this pre-meal help. The host or hostess may not want
any assistance with the pre-meal, but at least offer your assistance.

Eating -- a few basic rules (even if you don’t follow them in the
privacy of your own residence) are imperative while dining with
others.
 Only eat in the host designated areas of the residence. In your
own residence you may eat in your bedroom, entertainment area,
walking around the house/apartment, etc. However, you should



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only eat food (or drink beverages) in the areas the host as
designated as appropriate and acceptable.
 Don’t start eating until everyone at the table has received their
food.
 Don’t talk with food in your mouth; chew with your mouth closed.
 Use your utensils -- all of them -- not your fingers to separate, cut
and place your food on your fork. Use your fork to put bite sized
portions into your mouth.
 Use your napkin to wipe your lips or fingers.
 Don’t reach across the table for food, ask to pass the food.
 Don’t slurp your beverage.
Don’t burp or belch -- regardless of how good the food tasted (the
custom might have been acceptable in ancient Rome, but not in
modern times).

After meal activities -- includes clearing the dining area, storing
leftover food in the refrigerator or cupboards, washing dishes (or
loading the dishwasher), drying the dishes (or emptying the
dishwasher), removing the garbage/trash, etc. Once again, these
are not highly technical tasks and anyone could and should be able
to perform them. Make the offer, but respect the host /hostess if
they would prefer to clean the fine china or crystal themselves.


Bedroom/bathroom:
Sleeping -- the area for sleeping may vary considerably. It might be
a private bedroom, shared room, sleeper sofa, sleeping bag/cot, etc.
Understand the arrangements before your visit so you can bring the
appropriate attire for sleeping. If you have previously lived in or
visited the residence, don’t assume your present stay will be in the
same area or room. (Even if you are a child returning for a
weekend, don’t assume your previous room is still your room.) A
few basic rules:
 Make your bed every day. It should look the same after a night’s
sleep as when you arrived (even if it doesn’t at your own
residence!).
 Pick up you clothes (clean or dirty).          Keep them neatly
organized in your travel bag, guest closet, or simply fold then on a
pile in the corner near the bed.
 Place trash in the appropriate receptacles (not on the floor).
 Open the window coverings during the day close them at night.
 After you last night’s stay, remove the sheets and pillowcase
from the bed and fold neatly on the floor. Replace the bed covers



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as normal. If time permits and facilities are readily available, you
may wash the sheets and your towel.

Bathroom activities --- in most cases the bathroom will be a
shared room. Even if you have a private bathroom, the same
guidelines apply.
 You can assume you will have one towel to use for your stay.
 Keep the sink and tub/shower areas clean and dry. Wipe the
sink tops after your use. Ensure you use the bath mat and the
shower curtain (if available) is on the inside of the enclosure.
 Hang up your towel after your use to dry for the next day.
Always flush the toilet after every use.
 Keep the toilet area clean and dry.
 Use the trash receptacle for used tissues, cotton swaps, and
personal hygiene products. Make sure they are placed in the
receptacle.
 Use the bathroom fan if one is available. The steam from a
shower or bath can affect the wall coverings as well as the mirror
visibility.
 Don’t assume you can share toiletries. A shared hair dryer or
curling iron might be okay, but toothpaste, razors, etc. should be
one’s own.


Entertainment areas:
The entertainment areas can vary depending on the residence you
are visiting. There may be a common family room where everyone
socializes, or there may be multiple rooms (family, living,
recreation/basement, study/library, kitchen table, outdoors) where
activities occur. If you have a private bedroom there might be
facilities for your entertainment (TV, music, reading, coffee, etc.).
Never use the private rooms (bedroom, bath) of the host. Always
understand the host’s policies and follow their suggestions and
offers.

Type of entertainment -- this can be a difficult situation. You might
prefer to “just read a book” in your room, while you host may want to
talk with you about your travels, studies, family, etc. Try to reach a
compromise -- socialize enough for the benefit of the host, but then
you can retire early to your room to read in quiet. Oppositely, you
may want to watch TV or a movie, while your host would prefer to
read or listen to quiet music. If you are sharing a common space,
be courteous to the host’s wishes (it is their residence). Usually,
compromises will be made to accommodate everyone’s interests.


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Lounging -- treat the furniture and living spaces as they belong to
someone else (they really do -- they belong to your host!). Even if
you are a perennial lounger and put you feet up on every piece of
furniture - don’t. It all belongs to your host.
Movies and music -- should be appropriate for the total audience. If
you are the sole audience then there are no other considerations.
However, you might like to watch an R-rated movie or listen to loud




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music, but if the audience involves young children or older relatives
of the host family you need to find the lowest common denominator
(it’s okay to watch a Disney movie or listen to soft music once in a
while!).
Telephone -- with the advent of cell phones, this is less an issue
than in the past. You may assume use of the telephone at the
guest residence for short duration local calls only, but still ask first.
Long distance calls are another matter. Never assume you could
use the phone for long distance call gratis. You should carry and
use a calling card to make long distance calls. If you do use the
host’s phone for a long duration outgoing long-distance phone call,
you should consider leaving some money for the use of the phone.
10 cents/minute (or $1 minimum whatever is more) is reasonable.
Smoking, drinking, use of controlled substances, weapons -- in
a nutshell, avoid them. Do not smoke in bedrooms or other rooms
unless specifically designated for smoking. Even if the host is a
smoker, it would be appropriate to only smoke outdoors (smoking by
an open window or door is still inside the premise). Alcohol can be
consumed only if offered by the host (assuming the participants are
of legal age), and only in moderation. You should never get
intoxicated as a guest. Use of other controlled substances is
unacceptable and should not even be taken upon the premises. Do
not bring a weapon into the residence on a visit (accidents can
happen!). Leave it at home or lock it in your vehicle.
Friends and visitors -- you might want to have some friends visit
while you are a guest. Always check with the host. They might
anticipate a quiet evening with you (guest) and you would prefer to
have some friends (five or six?) to visit and watch movies. Please
be mindful of the hours of entertaining that would be appropriate.
Pets -- do not bring your own pet with you no matter how loving the
creature. Your host may be allergic to animals, may have their own
animal, or simply does not like any pets. Find someone to care for
your pet at your home.
Hours of entertaining -- you might be a night owl and stay wake
until 3am, then sleep until 2pm. Your host (or lodging provider)
might have other patterns or requirements (even state parks have a
10pm noise curfew and hotels have checkout times of noon). Your
host may have early hour waking (and early hour sleeping) patterns
due to work. A reasonable “quiet hour” is 10pm or 11pm. “Lights
out” might follow the closing time for bars -- 1am or 2am.
Remember -- courtesy and thoughtfulness of the host provider.


Transportation:



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As a visitor and guest transportation is always a consideration. If
traveling by air, you need to plan for transportation to and from the
airport. Do not assume the host can pick you up or return you to the
airport. If traveling by motor home or automobile, you will need to
understand parking policies (there may be restrictions for motor
homes even in residential areas, apartment areas may have limited
or no guest parking, even hotels may charge for overnight parking.).
If traveling without a vehicle you may want to consider rental or
public transportation (bus, cab) before asking your host to borrow a
vehicle. There might be financial, insurance or availability concerns
that would not allow your use of their vehicle.
If you do use a vehicle provided by the host, please ensure you
treat it appropriately and with care. No eating in the vehicle. Ensure
the vehicle is returned with a full tank of gas (even if was given to
you with only half a tank). If you use the vehicle for a cross country
trip an oil change upon the return is reasonable. The vehicle should
be returned clean (definitely inside and outside - if the weather
conditions allow for it).


Closing comments.....
It may appear this guide was overdone and unnecessary; however,
it’s just a simple reminder of the thoughtful Rules for Guests. If you
follow these rules you will be an appreciated guest -- someone that
might be invited again and again, rather than the dreaded guest a
host would like to avoid.


Enjoy your stay ... Wherever it may be.




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“To be a Guest ...” was compiled by Bill Wiktor with inspiration and input from others
in the field of manners and etiquette. 7/2003




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