How to be a wonderful guest

how to be a wonderful guest

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Do you know how to be a wonderful guest? We love having visitors but have learned a lot about how we can be better guests over the past two years living abroad. When we decided to move to London we made a conscious decision to rent a place with a spare room. We love visits from family and friends. It is a great way to catch up and spend quality time with the people you care about the most.

Since we moved to London I have learnt a lot about being a great guest. And I regret to say that in the past I have not always exhibited the guest behaviours I am going to describe. But I hope we will do a much better job in the future. Here is what I have learnt

How you can be a wonderful guest

tips for being a wonderful guest

Check in with your friends’ routine

Most people have a rhythm they live their life by. As a family with small children we stick to a routine with standard meal, bath and bed times. It is not nearly as flexible or exciting as my single life but that is the way it is for now. Your single and couple friends will also have a routine which may include commitments to work that need to be moved or adjusted while you are visiting. So do check in with them well before your arrival so you know what to expect when you arrive.

Communicate your plans early and often

Knowing when you are arriving, departing and scheduling activities helps your host understand how they can make the most of their time with you. They can then adjust their routine accordingly if necessary. Even if you think you are not going to be any trouble to your hosts, more communication and specifics are best. ‘I’m arriving at around 4.30pm’ is much more helpful than, “I’m arriving in the afternoon”. If you have an itinerary – share it. Google has ways of tracking flights so it is possible to know when flights are delayed. The same thing applies to rail and bus journeys. As your host, I want to make sure you feel as comfortable and welcome as possible and knowing what your plans are helps me to do that.

Fit into their lives

We love having visitors and it is great to watch the kids getting to know them better. Join in with some meals and play time. Make a cup of coffee and chat or pick up a few chores or jobs that need doing. Most people are unlikely to take you up on an offer to ‘help’ so if you see something that needs doing, just do it. Looking after the children for half an hour while your host runs errands is an amazing help. After each set of visitors we accumulate a backlog of admin tasks that take a while to catch up on long after they have left. If we can get a few of these things done during your visit it is a great help.
advice on being a great guest

Keep yourself tidy

Some would say our home is extremely tidy and that is the way I like it. I actually can’t concentrate too well when my house is messy. If you are a guest then your host’s standards apply.

A special note on meals

If someone is in my home I like them to share at least one meal with us. I actually can’t think of anything worse than guests watching us eat our dinner. Also, we have a tiny fridge and freezer which is quite normal in London. Catering for extra adults takes some planning so that we are not at the shops everyday. So communicating what your plans are concerning meals is important. We also love when guests offer to make a meal for us. To me, that is one of the kindest gestures anyone can do.

Dietary requirements

These days, many people have allergies, intolerances and food they avoid. It is quite impossible to keep on top of everyone’s needs especially if you don’t see them regularly. So it is a good idea to communicate or remind your hosts of your needs well in advance of a visit.
[wc_testimonial by=”” url=”” position=”left”]We cherish your visits and want to spend the time catching up and creating new memories[/wc_testimonial]


These are not expected but are of course always well received. I am afraid our kids now equate visits with new toys, an expectation I am trying to reset. We love wine and foods from home. It’s funny how you crave things you normally wouldn’t eat too much of. Haigh’s chocolate freckles are a favourite with us. And Aussie lollies/sweets/candy. They are the best in the world. Our family likes try new cafes and restaurants out so it is always appreciated when guests take us out for a meal.


The greatest gift of all to parents. I would much rather leave my children for a few hours with trusted family and friends than a paid babysitter. Not to mention it is cheaper. It is also a great way for you to have a break from us and vice versa.
how to be a wonderful guest

Time to talk

Above all, spend time with your family and friends. We cherish your visits and want to spend the time catching up and creating new memories. That is really the greatest gift you can give.

About us

We are an Australian family of four who live in central London. Having a spare room for guests was and is a serious financial consideration but one we thought was important for both us and our children. We want them to spend time with family and friends from our home in Australia. We have been lucky that almost all of our guests have taught us more about being wonderful visitors than we could teach them. The one universal truth I have learned along the way is there is no such thing as too much communication when it comes to being a guest.

I’m wondering.. do you have a spare room for guests? Do you enjoy having visitors? How do you think you could you be a better guest?

How to be a wonderful guest
More posts about our expat life
Our expat life a year onDeciding to move country with small children
Things I wasn’t expecting when we moved to London
Take good care of yourself

Linking up with expat writers here:

Seychelles Mama

15 thoughts on “How to be a wonderful guest

    • Katy says:

      Thanks Catherine! I hope this post is shared. People seem surprised we have so many guests. For the most part it is wonderful and any challenges are due mostly to communication issues ?

  1. Seychellesmama says:

    There’s some really great tips in here Katy! We have definitely learned a thing or two about both being and having guests since moving abroad and we most certainly are not perfect at either but we are getting better (I think!!)
    I think that posts like this are really useful as often we can be unaware of our not so great guest etiquette!!

    Thanks for sharing with #myexpatfamily

  2. Lillian says:

    I’ve always regretted not renting a place with a spare bedroom. When we’ve had family visit and some close friends they always ended up on the couch or a blowup mattress in the office/dining room. So Not very comfortable for more than 1-2 days. Great tips on being a guest. It’s lovely to have visitors but it can be draining for the hosts. Mutual consideration and respect is definite must!

    • Katy says:

      Ooh Lillian that sounds cosy. It is a bit of an indulgence but worth it. I’ve just said goodbye to my aunt who ticks all the wonderful guest boxes and hope she had a nice time too. Thanks for your lovely comment

  3. Grey World Nomads says:

    We didn’t do too bad as Couch Surfers and guests before and after house sits (I guess …). Your suggestions are very good as I thought of each of them before. The one I struggled most with is the food as there are so many special diets. No carbohydrates means almost all Swiss dishes are out (I’m Swiss :/) and also with no dairy it’s almost impossible. But – anyway – there is always the salad with … fish? And the Kinder Chocolate Egg for the kids (oh no – no dairy!), and the flowers for the parents or is there anybody allergic to flowers? (don’t take me serious!)

    • Katy says:

      All I can say is thank goodness for the Swiss. Not all carbs are created equal and that goes for dairy too. Mmm mmm now I am dreaming of fondue! Lucky for me we are going to Switzerland in August. Hooray! I am sure you are amazing guests 🙂

  4. Cristin @ Between Roots and Wings says:

    I love this post! There are a lot of common sense considerations in here that I haven’t always thought of, especially the importance of communicating everything. I may just give this a sneaky share next time we’re due for visitors! 😉

  5. Mandy says:

    This is a brilliant post and I relate on so many levels. We do have spare rooms – several in fact – to cater for parents, siblings and nieces!

    I have one point to add: for the love of all that is holy, if your plans falls through TELL YOUR HOST. I can’t tell you how many times I find out people aren’t coming anymore after I’ve booked leave / cancelled holidays / not booked holidays etc.

    • Katy says:

      Ooh that’s not good. Our lives are so busy these days but there are also so many ways to keep the communication channels open. At the very least it’s good to know that plans are a bit fluid. Thanks for your great comment Mandy

  6. Trekking with Becky says:

    GREAT advice! You’d think this would be all common sense but sadly, it isn’t! Kudos for writing this great post, and I couldn’t agree more. Ultimately, everyone needs to be considerate of others and communicate. 😀

    Thanks for linking this up for #ExpatTuesday! 😀

    • Katy says:

      Thanks Becky! I’m just trying to communicate ? and am still learning myself. I was quite ignorant of guest etiquette when staying with a family before I had kids

  7. Mummy and the Mexicans says:

    This is great advice which seems quite obvious when you read it but as a guest you don’t necessarily think about all these points. Reading this makes me realise I haven’t always been such a considerate guest or host! #MyExpatFamily

    • Katy says:

      My philosophy is we can all do better in most things. I can certainly recall times when I didn’t think about some of these fairly basic points too ?

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