One of the most valuable lessons in social decorum that my mother taught me was how to be a good house guest. During our annual month sojourn in Italy, we often have a succession of guests who stay for a few nights or an entire week. Past guests of ours have included Italians, Americans, and English, business associates, family friends, and friends of my daughters'.
We have been fortunate in consistently hosting guests who have been charming, polite, sociable, and flexible. It is always a pleasure to spend time with friends like these.
Possessing the knowledge of how to be a gracious guest is useful and much appreciated by those hosting.
There are a few simple things that a guest can do to make his or her stay easier for the host. Here are some things that past guests have done for me, and that I also do when I have been a guest in someone else's home, that make the stay enjoyable and relaxing.
Making It Easy
When you arrive and when you depart, try to schedule your travel originating from the closest or most accessible destination possible. If you can reach the station, airport, car rental agency, etc. easily by public transit all the better. If not, try to find somewhere close by so that your hosts don't have to log many miles to pick you up or drop you off.
Saying "Thank You"
Sometimes a simple thanks to your hosts for their hospitality throughout your stay lets them know that you appreciate the energy they have put into preparing for your visit. It comes down to the simple fact that people like knowing that their efforts are noted and enjoyed. You don't have to arrive with an extravagant gift, but a bouquet of flowers or a small rememberance, such as a scented soap, shows your appreciation nicely. And regardless whether or not you come bearing gifts, a thank you note should always be sent after your visit.
Go With the Flow
First, try to turn off your cellphone or Blackberry, and control the urge to check your e-mail compulsively unless you have something truly urgent to attend to. Also, keeping your schedule and expectations flexible is foolproof way to ensure a pleasant visit.
Go The Extra Mile
Hosts love it when guests offer to help out. You don't have to do any heavy lifting, but keeping your room tidy, loading your dishes in the dishwasher, helping to set the table, or unloading dishes from the dishwasher (this one gets MAJOR points) alleviates a little bit of the stress that comes along with entertaining.
Applying these tips is easy and painless, and might just upgrade your visit from a good experience to a great one.