If you’re spending time with family or friends as a houseguest this year during the holidays, there are certain protocols you should incorporate when invited to stay in someone else’s home.
Yes, you should be on your best behavior in general — but there are also specific things to do to show your appreciation to your host (you might even receive an invitation to return!).
“Staying in someone’s home is different from staying at a hotel where you can do as you please,” Blanca Cobb, a body language expert at TruthBlazer LLC, in Greensboro, North Carolina, told Fox News Digital.
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“In another person’s home, it’s important to be flexible and adapt to your host’s routine as much as possible,” she said.
“This means that outings, mealtimes and bedtimes should align as closely as possible to the hosts’ schedules.”
Here are wise tips on being a great houseguest, particularly at holiday time, as shared by etiquette experts.
Be punctual (and don’t overstay your welcome)
Diane Gottsman, an etiquette expert and founder of The Protocol School of Texas in San Antonio, Texas, said to arrive and depart at the time you stated to your guests.
Even if they say, “Gosh, it was such a quick visit,” leave when you originally said you would, she advised.
“They [may be] getting ready for the next set of houseguests to arrive,” Gottsman said.
Align your timing to the host’s routine
“If your host wakes up early, you do the same,” Gottsman told Fox News Digital.
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“Sleeping in until noon when the rest of the house is tiptoeing around trying to be quiet is rude to your host and host family.”
Mind your shoe-wearing protocol
Gottsman said this is a common etiquette issue among houseguests and hosts.
While it’s not automatically expected, guests may ask as a courtesy if the host wants them to take off their shoes when they enter the home.
“Certainly a guest can ask hosts if they prefer visitors remove their shoes at the door, but not all guests are comfortable taking off their shoes,” Gottsman added.
Also, “if you are the host, and you want your guests to remove their shoes when they come in the door, you have to prepare in advance. Let them know that it’s a shoe-free zone, so that they’re not caught off guard,” she said.
“A guest can ask hosts if they prefer visitors remove their shoes at the door.”
And, some hosts, she noted, take it a step further and offer a basket of new socks, or slippers that their guests can wear to a holiday party. “Of course, that entails purchasing items, and not everyone has the budget.”
Don’t expect to use their vehicle
Rent your own car or call an Uber if you need it, unless hosts absolutely insist you can use their car, she said.
Pitch in with household tasks
Help prep a meal, set the table, do the dishes, take out the trash — or do whatever your host will allow you to contribute, suggested Gottsman.
Also, be nice to their pet.
“Do not feed the pet any table food unless it’s OK with the host,” she added.
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Even more in terms of helping the host with their busy, daily routine, offer to take the dog for a walk or to the dog park.
Respect your host’s property
If you spill something, clean it up,
If you break something, replace it, said Gottsman.
Keep your opinions to yourself
Steer clear of giving your opinion on volatile topics such as politics, religion or family gossip, said Gottsman.
“If these topics do come up, you can engage in a respectful manner and keep your tone of voice non-judgmental, without feeling the need to prove your point,” she said.
“If the conversation gets heated, it might be a good time to take their dog for a long walk!”
Bring a thoughtful gift
Although not a requirement, bringing a host gift is a thoughtful gesture that would leave a lasting impression of your gratitude, said Cobb with TruthBlazer.
A few ideas: Muslin Comfort’s 365 Blanket, made of 100% pure cotton, in a variety of sizes; a piece of jewelry from Sallyrose, which sells iconic brands; or the Flora Springs Holiday Cabernet Sauvignon 3-Bottle Gift Set, which has festive bottles for celebrating the season.
What to do if you’re truly uncomfortable with something
Planning is key, said Pamela Eyring, an etiquette expert and president of The Protocol School of Washington based in Columbia, South Carolina.
“If you are picky about your pillows, bring one from home,” she said.
If you want, it’s acceptable to ask for an extra pillow or blanket — but do let your hosts know you will be fine if they can’t accommodate that request, Eyring said.
Also, if you tend to run warm or prefer a cooler room, consider bringing lighter sleepwear or a small portable fan, she recommended.
What about when you depart?
You should ask your host how you may assist with putting the guest room in order on your departure, Eyring told Fox News Digital.
“Ask if your host would like you to strip the bed, wash the towels, clean the bath, etc.,” she said.
“At a minimum, empty any trash cans in your room or bathroom and wipe down the counters and sink.”
Above all, enjoy the time with loved ones — and make the most of being together during the holidays.
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