I went away to stay with friends near Windsor last weekend and this weekend (Easter) I have my sister-in-law staying with us. It has set me thinking about the business of being a guest in someone else’s home and what lessons I have learnt over a lifetime about the protocol of the overnight stay. As far as I can see it there are responsibilities on both sides:
Come equipped with interesting topics of conversation, a few anecdotes (humorous and/or self-deprecating), your political or other opinions (but only to be aired ‘defensively’), a few reminiscences perhaps (if your host is an old friend)
Praise the house & garden. Show an interest and ask questions about the pictures, photos and ornaments - they are there to be noticed.
Be available and prompt if a walk or meal is proposed; make yourself scarce if there is a crisis in the kitchen or the threat of a ‘domestic’
Offer to help with washing up, table-laying but do not be pressing. Usually it’s much easier for your host to do all this without their guest’s assistance
DO NOT dismantle your bed before your departure unless the host asks you to do so. Either just make your bed or leave it unmade but with the sheets, pillowcases in place. If you have only slept in them one night, more often than not your bed linen may continue in use …(enough said)
Give the guest opportunities to rest from entertaining you. They will need the chance to go upstairs and have a little lie down - especially if they are with you more than 24 hours. Suggest this rather than waiting for the guest to ask.
Be ready to talk about your possessions but not too much on the details of their acquisition (unless this is really interesting in itself).
Sketch out a plan of the day for your guest so they know when to be available. If you want to do something that doesn’t involve them it’s OK to say so but make sure they are happily occupied.
Don’t take up your guest on their offers of help but, as above, make sure they are happily occupied (or resting) instead. Don’t encourage them to ‘stand around in the kitchen’ while you work - this is the worst of all worlds.
DO NOT burden your guest with too many activities. It is best to stick to your usual routine (church, reading the newspapers, a leisurely lunch, walk along the canal, pottering in the garden etc) and let the guest enhance the everyday with their appreciation of a novel environment and their stimulating conversation.