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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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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