16 Ways to Be a Gracious Houseguest

‘Athithi devo bhava’ in India means ‘the guest is God’. How do you, as a guest, behave in a manner to merit such respect?

A gracious guest is one who makes his/her host want to invite them again and again. You want to be remembered for being an uncomplicated, unassuming person who joins the host family in most of their activities with enthusiasm as a house guest.

A good guest makes sure not to leave a mess behind them and is one who pitches in with help in whatever way possible. Mind you, the help must be welcomed by the host and not turn into a tug of war.

Before your visit…

  • Send to your host, the time and mode of arrival and get their coordinates. With the correct address and GPS, it is easy to take a cab or auto to reach your host’s residence and spare them the trouble of having to pick you up.
  • Keep your host in the loop about any delays. With your travel details, they too can track your train/plane if you’re delayed and are unable to contact them.
  • Your departure dates or any changes to it must also be communicated to the host so that they can plan their life after you leave.

bear-suffers-from-honey-intolerance-at-tableAs a guest…

  1. Do take a small present for your host. Ask if there is something that they would like from your place of residence. Do factor in kids and elders in the house and, health conditions like diabetes or BP before you buy food items as gifts.
  2. Coffee, tea, chocolates and local delicacies are good gifts. Clothes may be a tricky wicket for your choice may not be theirs. For kids, books and t-shirts are always welcome.
  3. A pretty houseplant plant or a bottle of wine (provided they are not teetotalers) make for thoughtful gifts.
  4. If you cannot carry anything, then offer to take them out for a meal or cook them something. You can also shop locally to suit the needs and tastes of your host.
  5. Do tidy up after yourself in the house. Pick up dirty plates and glasses/mugs. Help to lay and clear the table.
  6. Do check with your host about segregating waste. Discard stuff in the designated garbage bins.
  7. Make your bed and wipe up the bathroom counter, mirror and bathtub.
  8. Do not hesitate to ask for something. Avoid rummaging around in your host’s home as it can lead to delicate interpersonal situations.
  9. Make sure to inform your host about your plans while in their city. This will help them plan their meals, cooking, outings, etc.
  10. Check with your host if it will be convenient for them if your friends or family members can visit you in their home. Avoid inviting them for a meal.
  11. Before you leave, help kick-start the cleanup process by stripping bed linen and putting towels, etc in the laundry basket. Empty the wastepaper basket too.
  12. Send a message that you have boarded the plane/train and that your journey back has begun.
  13. Once you are home, call your host to inform them about your safe arrival.
  14. Remember to follow up with a thank you note by post or email. When you tell your host that you truly appreciated all that s/he did for you, you will be welcomed back again and again.
  15. Avoid mentioning awkward moments, little misunderstandings and any kind of shortfall in their hospitality.
  16. And finally, do invite them to enjoy your hospitality!
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Padmini Natarajan
Padmini Natarajan calls herself Dame Quixote for she is forever tilting at windmills! A storyteller, poet, columnist, blogger, editor and journalist, she has specialized as a Culinary Editor and contributed content, edited and collaborated on Cookbooks. She has worked for over 15 years as Part-time Language Editor and Writer of manuals, curriculum textbooks and other material with an E-education organization, EZVidya/Chrysalis that is aimed at empowering Teachers, Students and Parents. She taught Vedic Heritage at Kalavardini to children from the ages of 3 to 14 and written and directed skits and plays. She won the Gourmand Special Jury Award in Paris in 2009 as co-author of ‘Classic Tamil Brahmin Cuisine’. Her book of short stories - ‘Crossroads: Stories from South Indian Lives’ - has good reviews on Amazon. Padmini has been concerned with paying it forward with her involvement in organizations like Sneha, a suicide prevention NGO, Canstop, Cancer Support group and many women’s organizations. Her other passion was acting, on stage, TV and screen. She is a wordsmith, a voracious reader, crossword buff, a music maniac who listens to Golden Oldies and has a strong Facebook presence. Nowadays she is an armchair activist and world traveler from the safety of her home. Quite the hypochondriac, she is exploring spiritual enlightenment through Vedanta and loves to spout philosophical thoughts to unwary audiences.