We host many domestic and international guests in our Austin home. It is always a pleasure to listen to them share their travel experiences. I am frequently asked: What does an international etiquette expert expect from a house guest? As you may suspect, my response is based on professional advice and personal experience. The most important factor for me is being a gracious hostess and making sure that my guests feel welcome, relaxed, and comfortable.
Invited to be a house guest? Consider these etiquette tips so you receive a second invitation:
Avoid Surprises: Don’t show up unannounced or with the unexpected. Bringing an extra guest or a child as a surprise is beyond inconsiderate and is rude to the host who has made special plans. What if your hostess purchased 2 first row VIP concert tickets to your favorite show in advance?
Share Your Schedule: Confirm the date and time of your arrival and departure—in advance. Then arrive when you say you will, or call if you’re running late. Some guests stay too long, and some don’t stay long enough. Strike the perfect balance and observe a two-night maximum. Remember, if you’re not ready to go yet, it’s the perfect time to leave!
Make Sure Fifi Stays Home: Don’t ask if you can bring your sweet, fluffy animal. Arrange for a pet-sitter at your home or a refresher obedience class during your absence. Someone in the host’s home may have pet allergies.
Don’t Arrive Empty-Handed: Bring an appropriate hostess gift. If the host is a family member or close friend, a personal gift is best. Gift ideas include stationery, linen napkins, diffusers, candles, local artisan items, a coffee table book, wine (if they drink alcohol), chocolate, cookies, or a favorite food item. If the host family has children, a small gift for them will be especially appreciated. A gift such as a board game for the entire family is always a hit!
Show Consideration: As you arrive in your host’s area, text or call to ask if you can bring anything they might need or want during your visit, such as a spur-of-the-moment item from the grocery store. They may need a 50 pound bag of ice or a case of mini bottle water bottles.
Be Neat & Tidy: Keep your guest room tidy, even if there is household help. Just being there creates extra work! Make your bed daily, hang wet towels on the rack, and clean up after yourself and your family in common areas. Be on time for meals and join in planned group activities.
Be Self Sufficient: Avoid relying on your hosts for anything other than a complimentary place to stay. Your hosts are not your personal concierge service, so rent a car, hire a tour guide, and buy your own museum tickets. Be sure you have researched local area activities and packed accordingly. Avoid requesting anything special unless it’s absolutely necessary.
Before Departure: Remove the linens from your bed, clear the bathroom of used towels and place them in the laundry room or on the washer. Ask your host where the clean sheets and towels are kept so you may make the bed and replace used towels. Some hosts may decline your offer, instead preferring to do it themselves or have their housekeeper make the bed—others will be thrilled. Be sure to double-check that you haven’t left any personal items, including mobile phone chargers, so your hostess doesn’t have to mail a package to the Czech Republic!
Write a Handwritten Note: Within 24 hours of departure, write your hosts a thank you note showing your appreciation for their hospitality. Include a small token of your appreciation such as a bookmark if they were especially accommodating, even if you brought a hostess gift.
Sharon Schweitzer JD is a recognized international etiquette expert, an on-air contributor, corporate trainer, and the international award winning author of Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Guide to Building Trust, Inspiring Respect and Creating Long Lasting Business Relationships. Her work and travels have taken her to over 60 countries on seven continents. With over 20 years’ experience providing consulting and training to more than 100,000 attorneys and corporate executives in law firms and global corporations, her clients range from MD Anderson to Charles University in Prague and NFP. She has been quoted by the New York Times, Fortune Magazine, and numerous international media outlets. To learn more about Sharon, connect with her at www.sharonschweitzer.com follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/austinprotocol and Facebook at www.facebook.com/protocolww.
Photo credit: ©iStock.com/akurtz
Bringing an extra guest or a child as a surprise is beyond inconsiderate and is rude to the host who has made special plans. – This happened to a host where she had to send her kids away to live with relatives to accommodate the sudden extra guest.