Don’t be that friend who no one ever wants to stay the night! Here are my top tips on how to be the perfect houseguest while still having a great time.
Visiting a friend in a new city is one of my favorite ways to see the world. What’s not to love about it? You get to spend quality time with your bestie, see the city from their eyes, cook meals together, and you don’t have to research public transportation options or anything like that because they can just tell you how to get around. Win-win all around!
Last week, I crashed on my friend Flora’s couch. She just moved to Hamburg, Germany a few months ago and is living it up in a quieter part of town. Our days were spent taking walks by the lake, eating Spaghettieis, and generally chillaxing, and I was all for it. When I first arrived (very jet lagged, I might add), I told Flora I’d jotted down a few things I wanted to do in Hamburg and her first response was “Thank goodness! I hate when people visit and they expect me to plan the whole visit.” To which I gave a hearty ‘amen!’ because I HATE when friends visit me without having first researched the area I’m living in. It stresses me out, and I feel like I spend the entire visit guessing what they want to do and am never sure if they’re silently counting the hours until they can get away from me.
Flora’s comment spawned an entire conversation about how visits from friends are usually one of two extremes — incredibly amazing or incredibly draining — and it got me thinking about how little we talk about being a good houseguest. Growing up, my mom read my brother and I a book all about having guests come to stay, and the one line that was repeated over and over again was, “A guest is a guest, and we give them our best.” To this day, this mantra rings through my head every time someone comes to stay with me, but what mantra should we use when we’rethe guest?
Even though being a good houseguest feels intuitive, it’s so easy to fall into our own patterns and forget that we’re being allowed to stay in someone else’s home. Just think back to the guests you’ve had at your house over the last year — anyone in particular you remember who stressed you out? I bet you were glad to see the backside of at least one person, even if you love them dearly. For those of us who need a subtle reminder now and then on how to be the world’s best houseguest, here are a few of my top tips on being the friend everyone actually wants to have visit.
Make a list of things you want to do
I don’t expect friends to come with a lengthy itinerary or know how to get from my house to the city center via public transportation. But I really appreciate when friends take the time to write down a couple things they’re interested in seeing in my area. At the very least, it’s nice when they have an idea of the types of attractions they’re interested in. Just telling me you love art museums or aren’t up for lots of walking today helps me out. Yes, I have a good idea of what my friends will and won’t want to do when they come to visit me, but I’d still be guessing what exactly they’re up for, and that stresses me out.
I lived in NYC for the past three years, and I had a handful of people visit me who just said they wanted to do whatever I wanted to do. Well, since I’ve been to the 9/11 memorial at least a dozen times with other guests and could probably recite all the information cards at the Natural History Museum, I don’t necessarily want to go back to those sites, but if you haven’t been before you might want to. You see my problem? I want guests to feel like they’re on vacation when they visit me, but for both of us to have a fab time I need them to do a little legwork before they arrive. You see my point?
Speak up and say what you want
In American society, we’ve been bred to be polite all the dang time. It can feel rude to speak up and say which activities you’re most interested in since you’re the houseguest. But that’s what your host wants you to do! And I’m not just talking about saying which sites interest you — I’m talking about everything. Do you need another blanket on your bed? Would you like tea or coffee? What do you like to eat for breakfast? You’ll actually make your friend’s life easier by saying what you want. Because guess what? They want to make you happy! And for people like me who didn’t inherit the good hostess gene, it really helps us out when you just say what you need. It makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside because we feel like such good hostesses (which we’re not, you just took away all the guessing for us!).
Go to bed when your host is ready to
This is a two-way street; so if you often have friends over, listen up. If your friend keeps yawning or hints at being ready for bed, agree to go to bed as well. They’re probably more tired than you are since they’ve been the one hauling you around all day to keep you entertained. If you’re staying in a separate guest room (lucky you!), you can always stay up reading or watch something on your laptop with your headphones in. But if you’re crashing on the same bed, try to chill out and let you friend sleep. You’ll get along better when you’re both well rested, and your friend will appreciate you being so accommodating.
Be ready to do things on your own
The number one way to ruin a visit with friends is to try to spend every single minute together. I know some friendships thrive on this, but everyone I’m friends with needs time to themselves each day to recharge. Be conscientious and try to give your friend a little space throughout your visit. This doesn’t mean you have to go off and explore on your own or spend an entire afternoon apart. It could be as simple as each of you reading your own books for an hour at night or watching a movie while they take care of some housework. Don’t be afraid to do your own things for a little bit. I guarantee you’ll both be thankful for it and you’ll return to your conversation feeling more alert and refreshed.
Offer to pay for things
I’m currently in a stage of my life where I can’t afford to pay for everything when a friend visits. Yes, I’d love to pay for all the ingredients when we make a home cooked meal, but I can’t always afford to do so. It’s really nice when a visiting friend offers to split the cost of groceries with me, or when they pick up a few grocery items to contribute on their own. I try to do the same whenever I visit friends since we’re all at the same point in life.
No matter how much money your friends make or how comfortable they are paying for, say, your first few bus tickets or breakfast items or what have you, you should make an offer to pay for things. Even if you know they’ll turn down your offer, it’s the right thing to do and they’ll appreciate your willingness to chip in. If I the friend I’m staying with paid for most of the groceries or something like that, I always try to keep an eye out for something I could give them in return, like a nice bag of coffee beans or a giftcard to their local grocery store. You don’t have to blow your budget on a thank you gift, because even something small is a nice gesture.
Come bearing gifts
Again, don’t feel like you need to spend a lot of money or time picking a gift to bring to your friend’s house. But coming with a housewarming gift in hand is always a good call. If you have room in your bag, bring a candle or box of nice tea. Or keep things simple with a card and a bar of chocolate. Even if I’ve been to my friend’s house before, I try to remember to bring a little something-something because it feels good to treat them to something they wouldn’t normally buy for themself. You definitely don’t have to bring anything, but if you’ll be staying at their house for more than a day or two it’s a kind gesture to make.
Pick up after yourself
I don’t think you should worry too much about being a perfectly tidy houseguest, but do your best to pick up after yourself in shared spaces and keep your clutter contained. Remember to wash your morning cereal bowl after you use it, and scrape any bits of toothpaste in the bathroom sink down the drain — things like that. And before you go, try to remember to make the bed you slept in and tidy up the space you were staying in, even if you know your friend is going to just unmake the bed and wash the sheets. Little things like this add up, and your friend will be so appreciative!
Schedule in chill time
Some of my favorite memories from past visits with friends were when we were just hanging out on their couch catching up. Growing up in Indiana, there wasn’t a lot to do in my area, so most weekends were spent at friends’ houses watching movies, baking, or playing with their pets. And although my friends and I have lived in some pretty wonderful cities the last few years, it’s still so nice to unwind at their house and just be. No matter where your friend lives or how much exciting stuff there is to do there, schedule in time to relax at their place and catch up. Years from now, those moments will be the ones you appreciate the most. Remember: you can always revisit that one art museum or shopping district on your own, and if you don’t give yourselves time to spend quality time together you’ll regret it!
Tell me: What’s one pet peeve you have when you have guests come to visit?
More posts you’ll love:
- Prepping for House Guests: 8 Simple Ways to Spruce Up Your Space
- How to Travel with Friends as an Introvert
- Traveling with Friends: What to Ask Before Vacationing Together
- 5 Useful Tips for Falling Asleep in an Unfamiliar Place
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