03 June 2010

Don't be the guest from hell

This article is for all those people who have had the guest from hell – leave a copy of this in your drinks cabinet, where he/she is sure to find it.


There is an art to being a good guest. Well, if you don't believe me, try lying around burping on your host's couch while you ask him to bring you another beer, and see whether you get invited again.

This article is for all those people who have had the guest from hell – leave a copy of this in your drinks cabinet, where he/she is sure to find it.

So how does one go about being a good guest?

I demand – nothing. You are in someone else's home, staying free of charge, so don't complain about anything. If the mattress is hollow, put it on the floor, but say nothing. Don't complain if there is no internet connection, vegetarian food, en suite bathroom or laid on transport.

Don't be messy. It is simply vile to leave a ring around the bath and dirty dishes lying around. Your host or hostess is also not responsible for your laundry, so don't put it in the washing basket. Find out how to use the washing machine and do it yourself or pay the char to do it for you.

Don't expect to be entertained. Your hosts have lives of their own and are not at your disposal 24 hours of the day. Get on a bus and go shopping, go to the movies, go sightseeing – whatever you do, don't sit expectantly on the couch at 8 a.m. and ask what's on the programme for that day.

Remember this is not your house. You cannot help yourself to the contents of the fridge and liquor cabinet – they don't belong to you. You are already a guest – you cannot invite other guests over, unless you have asked first.

Telephone trouble. Many an obliging host has become spitting mad when the phone bill arrives – three times the normal amount, because Jakes phoned his girlfriend in Australia six times. Try not to use the phone at all – that's what cellphones are for – but if you have to, leave more than enough money to cover the bill.

Until all eternity. Tell your hosts how long you are going to stay. There is nothing more nervewracking for them than not knowing how long their spare room will be occupied. The worst is when they start looking hopefully for signs of your imminent departure.

Make a contribution. Having you to stay costs money – food, electricity and so forth. Either buy the hosts a significant present, take them out to a nice dinner somewhere or make a financial contribution. If they are struggling to foot the bills, rather give them the money than treating them to an expensive dinner.

Be pet and child friendly. If your hosts have toddlers/dogs/cats, remember they live there – you don't. You have no right to object to the toddler having a tantrum, the dog barking at the postmen or the cat clawing your toe playfully.

Offer to babysit. This is the least you can do. Stay home with the baby, so they can go out to their first movie in eighteen months.

Buy things. Toilet paper, wine, meat and fruit do not miraculously appear in your host's home. They have to go out and pay for these and haul them back. Find out what one night in the local hotel would have set you back and go out and buy groceries to that amount.

Give your guests a break. Go away for the weekend, or even just out for the evening. Your hosts do need time on their own as well.

Don't treat this like a restaurant. Don't expect there to be a cooked dinner on the table every night. Either offer to cook one yourself, or get takeaways. If there is a list the length of my right arm of things you don't eat, sort out your own food. Do the washing up regularly.

Tip the char. She has worked harder because you were there. If you don't give her something, your hosts will probably feel obliged to do that.

Invite them back. Hospitality is a two-way street. You cannot stay with people and then not invite them to stay with you when they are in the vicinity. If you live in a bachelor flat the size of a postage stamp, you may be unable to return the favour, but then at least be available to entertain them for a day or two. – (Susan Erasmus, Health24, January 2007)


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