After many years of moving or traveling a lot and being content with a laptop, a candle and a place to sleep, I got a place where I could host people. And through that experience of hosting a lot of people, friends, friends of friends, parents, and more, I realized that my view on being a good guest was maybe not everybody’s.
Once upon a time a new friend stayed with me for a few weeks. I had met her not too long ago on an island and she was coming to Berlin so I offered to host her. At the time my dad just happened to be staying with me in the guestroom, so we were sharing the space. My friend is a lovely person but after a week of friction my dad asked me "Are you in love with her, are you sleeping with her?" and when my answer was no, he looked at me baffled "why are you tolerating her behaviour, cant she go somewhere else?".
Granted, she hadn’t been the best guest from our point of view and I didn’t really know how to address it so I decided to ask her whether shed be open for some feedback on how to be a better guest. Luckily she was open for it and this is what came of it.
4 steps to be a great guest (with any kind of host)
Step 1: Always bring a present.
This can be something local from your country, a bottle of wine (or non alcoholic alternative), chocolate or even something thoughtful, the gesture is more important than the actual present. This will soften up your host and put him/her at a friendly predisposition.
Step 2: Be overly tidy
More than you would usually be. Make the bed, put the dishes in the dishwasher, clear the table, keep your clothes in one place. The goal of this is to be "invisible" as a guest, aka "i’m not even here". Tidyness makes conflicts disappear because the host doesn’t see you as an intruder and feels respected.
Step 3: Take the spaces people are not using.
Watch where the host or housemates like to hang out, and pick a different spot that is not in use. Ask if its OK to use that space and try to stick to it, this way people don’t feel inconvenienced.
Step 4: Celebrate the host by a gestures of gratitude
Invite them for a moment together, a dinner, a thank you letter, cooking for them or even just a coffee. This will make him/her feel very appreciated.
BONUS: Be forthcoming
Try to be useful, even if just in gesture. For example if you are going out offer to go shopping or to take out the trash. Creating value for your host makes you an extra nice guest and the host won’t want to let you go.
Of course this is not an exhaustive list, and different cultures will put value on different things, but I have found that you cannot really go (too) wrong following these steps.
May it be useful, and may it make you a good guest and give you a better, more connected time traveling.