When it comes to staying in someone else’s home, everyone’s got their own ideas on what’s expected.
Overseas visitors, for example, are often taken aback by our Kiwi approach to – ‘help yourself to everything in the fridge/larder/wine cabinet’ and half expect to be offered each time.
But even amongst New Zealanders, levels of etiquette differ from family to family. So how can you make sure, if you’re heading to a boyfriend’s place, the in-laws or a new family member’s home, that you don’t p* everyone off by being accidentally annoying?
Whatever people say, it’s never good to show up empty-handed. While the majority of hosts wouldn’t be offended, it instantly endears you if you bring something along to the party. Whether it’s some brandy butter for the pudding, a fruit salad for later or croissants for the morning – it’s always good to be prepared.
Likewise, although the host has probably thought about this, if you guzzle red wine like a fish, it’s probably wise to bring a few bottles to give to the host, especially if you’re staying for a few days.
Offer to help
When you arrive, it can be difficult to know where to put yourself if you’re around a new group. Make yourself useful by asking the host if you can do anything to help them out – from cleaning glasses to laying the table display.
Polite hosts would never ask guests to clear away the dishes, but after slaving in front of a hot stove, the last thing they’ll want to do is get stuck into some washing up. Once everyone is obviously finished, volunteer to clear plates and at least stack the dishwasher.
Timing is everything
If you’re going to be early or late – let the host know. It might not bother you when people just arrive at your house, but it can be the worst when you’re just jumping in the shower and someone shows up 40 minutes early.
Keep it tidy
If you’re staying a night or two, be aware that your host doesn’t want to be tidying up after you for days on end. If you use a glass, put it in the wash after using it, don’t just expect it to be taken care of.
Good bathroom etiquette
Kind of a gross topic, but it’s amazing the number of people who reported this as being their number one bug bear about having guests to stay. We don’t know how it works in your house, but please leave the area as clean and tidy as when you found it. And gentlemen, put the seat down.
Ask before bringing a pet
Your dog might be your pride and joy, but it doesn’t mean every host is prepared to have a pup running around at dinner time. Ask in advance, and see if there’s anything you can bring to minimise disruption.
Compliment the meal
Be sincere, but always find something to compliment about your food. Your host has undoubtedly gone to quite a bit of effort and expense to get everything ready, and it can be easy to forget to say thank you.
If you stay, leave a thank you
If you’re staying at someone’s place for the Christmas period, why not do something thoughtful when you’re leaving. Pop out and grab them some flowers, a bottle of bubbles or a little hamper of Christmas delight.