Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Travel Tip Tuesdays: How to Be a Good Guest

If you’re a budget traveler like me, you’re going to end up spending a lot of your trip as a guest in somebody else’s home. When I traveled, I usually got positive feedback from people who have hosted me, so, despite feeling a bit arrogant for covering this post, here goes. Being a guest, like many things in life, requires balance.

Observe, observe, observe… Your goal from the moment you see or meet your host is to figure out what will make them feel most comfortable. Some people love to bustle around making you elaborate food while you sit on the couch. Others like to tell you to raid the fridge after you help them fold their laundry. All styles of hospitality are great in their own ways, and picking up on this early on will help you be a good guest.

…but be yourself. Don’t put on a facade or try to force yourself into something unnatural. Everyone reacts differently to different kinds of situations, so just adjust your own attitude without trying to change your personality. 

Chores are fun when you do them together!  (They are even more
fun when you're allowed to eat the undersized blueberries.)
Be eager to help out… Many people love it when you pitch in and help. I’ve had people rave about what an amazing guest I was, just because I washed the dishes! Asking if anything needs to be done— and then insisting that yes, you will really do it if they want you to— is never amiss.

…but don’t force your host to let you help. Some people would honestly rather do the work themselves, without any help. If this happens, don’t keep insisting that you need to help. Just let them do their work, and be available to talk or entertain yourself, depending on the situation.

Engage with your host… Especially if the host is someone you’re meeting for the first time, be sure to show interest in them. Ask questions, share about your own experiences, and then ask more questions. Try to get them talking about themselves (which most people will readily do).

…but don’t make them feel like they have to “entertain” you. Some hosts get stressed out if they feel like they need to sit and talk to you all the time. Try to make it clear that you’re perfectly happy to entertain yourself. (For instance, you can share your sightseeing plans, or mention that you brought plenty of books to read.)

Don’t complain… Nobody likes an entitled guest. If someone is putting you up in their home, you should be grateful, even if the air conditioning is broken, their cat is a terror, and the food is mediocre. 

I made American pancakes for my hosts in France.
Thomas put mustard on his. We were all baffled.
…but if something is really bothering you, bring it up politely. If there is something that honestly makes you uncomfortable (unexpected invasion of privacy, for instance), or something that can be easily fixed (you need more blankets), don’t be shy about bringing it up. Most people would much rather you said something than be uncomfortable. And of course, if things are awful beyond belief, bid your host a polite goodbye and go stay in a hotel.

Offer gestures of gratitude… Who doesn’t love a good “thank you?” While you’re staying with the person, show them that you’re grateful. Use your judgement to figure out what kind of “thank you” your host would most appreciate. Cook them a meal, help them with something you’re good at, fold them an origami crane, do the dishes, play them music, leave a sweet note when you leave. 

…but don’t try to “pay them back.” Opening a home is a truly wonderful gift, and it isn’t something that you can pay back. Don’t undermine your host’s gift by trying to “make it up to them.” Just accept it, and then both of you can enjoy your host’s generosity.

Above all, be chill. Focus on relaxing, take everything in stride, deal calmly with bad circumstances, enjoy the good times, and seek to create a calming presence. If you’re relaxed, your host can relax too— and that, as a guest, is your ultimate goal.

Have a travel question? Leave a comment and I’ll answer!

No comments:

Post a Comment