Thursday, July 21, 2011


There are rules of conduct when it comes to visiting friends or family.Whether it be a summer vacation, Thanksgiving or any other major holiday or simply a catch-up visit there are certain given points of etiquette that must be met so that you will be sure to hear your host say, “Come back real soon, honey, I mean it!”
When visiting my friend Dickie Van den Heuvel and his partner Chi Mui in Wells, Maine recently I was the perfectly fashionable house guest. Here are my ten rules that are sure to guarantee any self-respecting person another invitation.
1. THE TIME FRAME: In advance it is important to discuss the exact time frame in which the invitation has been extended to you. Visiting a host’s summer home is one thing and a city home another. A summer house may have a busy week-to-week schedule so the host would expect you to arrive and depart as planned. As for a city visit your host may have a weekday work schedule so do keep yourself busy during the day. However, don’t go off on your own merry way and treat the host’s home like a hotel. Instead make yourself free in the evening and weekend to spend quality time with your host. If it is a weekend only invitation the time frame is shorter but it is still necessary to respect the host’s schedule. When visiting family or relatives an entirely different set of rules would apply and the visit is usually negotiated on a personal level. However, in all of these situations there are ways to show your gratitude and make your visit pleasant any time of the year.
1. SHOW UP ON TIME: Remember to show up on time at the station or airport especially when your host has to travel almost an hour to pick you up at your arrival destination. Unexpected transportation delays may cause you to be running late. That’s quite understandable but be sure to call on your cell phone and update your host on when you expect to arrive.
2. COMMUNICATION: If you have any food allergies or even a medical condition that your host is unaware of be sure to discuss it in advance.Obviously you cannot expect your host to produce special meals to accommodate your special needs, so let them know that you will be purchasing those specific food items when you arrive. Don’t be shy; ask your host if they have any specific household rules. Smokers should check on the host’s policy on smoking in their house or apartment. As lovely as the sound of a clock chiming out the hours maybe to your host if you have sensitivity to these chimes, as I do and cannot sleep, politely ask your host if the clock could be turned off only at night. In any case it is best to remember to travel with ear plugs.
3. TRAVEL LIGHT WITH A TOTE AND HANDBAG: Since I never like to drag along a suitcase I always ship my fashionable digs and beach gear in a medium size box, which I send by U.S. Parcel Post so that it will arrive close to my destination arrival date. However, it is best to ask permission of your host first before you ship anything. Since the post office will deliver the box directly to the host’s home they should not mind your sending clothing this way, but obviously you should not pack a box so large that it seems that your entire fashion wardrobe has been shipped. That’s not acceptable.
REVERSE INSTRUCTIONS: Prior to your departure simply reverse these shipping instructions and repack the same box and mail it back to your home address. If time runs out before you leave and you need to request of your host to mail the box for you; remember to leave enough money to cover the cost of the postage and add a big ‘Thank You’ note.Always recheck the room to be sure that you haven’t left anything of value or importance to you behind. However, after you have returned home if you forgot an item the most convenient way to request its return is to send a padded self-addressed and stamped envelope in a larger stamped envelope addressed to the host and in a note politely ask your host to mail the missed item to you.
4. The PROS and CONS of GIFT GIVING: Unless you know exactly what the host or hostess really wants or needs, my advice is, “Don’t bring anything!” Politely tell the host that you would prefer getting them something they truly would like or need during your visit. I listened for this opportunity and when one of my hosts exclaimed that he wanted to shop for some potted plants to replant in their garden, I quickly joined
them on this shopping expedition.When check out time came I reminded my hosts that I wanted to give them a meaningful gift and at the cash register I gladly paid for the plants. This gesture not only pleased my hosts but it was something they really wanted and, since the perennials chosen would reappear each season, I would be remembered favorably as well. People in Maine like to hang patriotic and symbolic flags on poles by their front doors or garage. On another occasion we visited an amazing store, Harbor Flags in Wells, Maine which housed an incredible inventory of every kind of flag from all over the world. When one of my hosts asked if they had a signature flag of Scotland I took this opportunity to buy that flag and give it to him as a gift. It’s easy to be the perfect guest just keep your ears perked up to get clues as to what wonderful gift you can give your host that has personal meaning.
5. A ROOM OF YOUR OWN: This is a luxury that demands respect. Hang clothing in the closet and only use the drawers in the chest designated for your use. Show your housekeeping skills by keeping the room tidy, the bed made every morning. You may not have a private bathroom and will probably be required to use the hall guest bathroom so keep it neat and clean as you found it. On a chance encounter with your host remember to wear a robe. Dress is usually casual in a country or beach house setting but that dose not mean that you should arrive at breakfast in your pajamas unless you’re family. Otherwise show respect and appear at breakfast freshly groomed wearing T-shirt and shorts and flip-flops or bathing suit with beach cover up.
6. THE HOUSEHOLD ROUTINE: Every household has its routine so just go with the flow and fit into the host’s regime. Questions to ask: 'When is the computer is open for use?' Or 'May I bring my small dog?"
If you are an early riser, as I am, find out if you may make the morning coffee before anyone else appears for breakfast. In a casual breakfast setting, guests may be expected to help themselves to cereal and may freely open the refrigerator for juice and milk. However, do not leave glasses or dishes in the sink, rinse them out or put them in the dishwasher. You can pitch in at other times and put on an apron and help to prepare a noonday meal or dinner. However, if you are banned from the kitchen help to clean up afterward and put the dishes in the dishwasher. Ways to contribute and show that you are the perfectly fashionable guest include the following: One night let your hosts know that you are ordering take-out from their favorite restaurant or on another occasion invite them out to brunch, lunch or dinner, and of course, pay the bill. During your visit when the occasion calls for a group of friends dining out casually or formally together don’t disappear when the check comes, be prepared and pay your share of the bill.
7. REPLENISH SUPPLIES: If you are staying more than three days it
would show your appreciation for the visit by replenishing some of the items in the refrigerator. However, when the visit extends for more than a week or two weeks you may not realize how much of the general supplies you have consumed. It’s true that hospitality is a gift, but there are limits as to what you can expect from your host. The next time you accompany your host to the supermarket insist on purchasing some of the routine supplies like tissues or toilet paper which could run out pretty quickly with your use. With the cost of gas today if you have been taking excursions about by automobile, even if the host may refuse, insist on putting gas in the host’s car.
8. POLITE SOCIETY: When your host says, “Make yourself at home,”
don’t take that literally. It’s best to ask before you start using things like
sitting in the host’s favorite chair. I was upset once when a guest without
asking took a book from my vintage collection and proceeded to tuck her
feet under herself while sitting on the sofa. Another time, I found a guest
rocking back and forth on an antique chair doing some kind of exercise. I
was astonished by her lack of consideration for the fragile shape of the
chair. If your host likes country music and has the radio on all day, albeit
playing at a moderate sound level, don’t criticize and say that you prefer
Bach and suggest another station. Remember as a guest you need to go with the flow. Even if you are disappointed by a sightseeing adventure, a
restaurant or even if you have a negative comment about the host’s
neighbors keep your disappointment to yourself. It’s just polite. However, if your opinion is asked for that opens the gate for comment or discussion.
9. DEPARTURE: Most hosts would expect you to leave your room in the same state in which you found it. Specific tidying up may include a bit of
dusting and sweeping the floor with a broom or vacuum . You may have
removed framed photos or memorabilia, which were originally on display on the top of the dresser or on the desk, to make room for some of your
stuff. If this be the case then try to replace these items exactly in the spot in which they were located when you arrived. The day of your departure
remember to strip and remake the bed. Put the used linens and towels into the pillowcase ready for the laundry. However, for a visit that lasts a week or two, if your hosts are really busy and your time schedule permits, you can wash and the dry towels and linens and leave them clean and folded on the freshly made bed.
10. THANK YOU VERY MUCH: Having enjoyed the largess of your
host and the true hospitality that you have enjoyed then spare no time in
penning a thank you note. Show your gratitude by mainly stressing how
much you appreciated their hospitality and particularly mention one or
two very special aspects of the visit that impressed you. Don’t bother to
criticize anyone or anybody, stay firm in acknowledging how much you
enjoyed the visit with them and that you hope that there will be many more times to get together. Such a thoughtful individual who has observed the rules of guest etiquette can be sure to receive an invitation to visit another time and hear as they depart, “Come back real soon honey, I mean it!”

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