Monday, December 29, 2008

On being a good guest... and a good host

Note: These are just my observations. Some of them are things I definitely need to work on; I don't consider myself a perfect guest or host.

1. If your host gives you specific instructions about when and how to arrive, FOLLOW THEM. The host has probably given you those instructions for a reason, and they know best about how to arrive at their home in a timely and convenient fashion.
2. Ask before taking something from the kitchen.
3. Reasonable requests (a sweater, a drink, an extra blanket, etc) are perfectly fine. But don't bug the host constantly.
4. Let your host know about allergies or specific food concerns (like vegetarianism) in advance. Showing up at a meal and then picking at your food because you're vegan and they're serving hamburgers makes the host feel bad and makes the guest feel hungry. Without being overly picky, let the host know if you have food concerns.
5. Be on time. This is really a corollary of Rule #1, but it merits its own number. If the host asks you to come an hour before Shabbos, don't think it's polite and/or convenient for the host if you waltz in five minutes before Shabbos.
6. Follow the rules in the home. If they don't eat in the bedrooms, don't sneak candy into the bedrooms and hope you won't leave crumbs. If they don't sit on the arms of the couch, don't sit on the arms of the couch (or at least ask before doing so).
7. Ask where you should sit at the table (and where guests usually sit in shul so you don't end up sitting in someone's makom kavua).
8. Be polite to the other members of the host's family and don't make them feel unwelcome in their own home, and definitely don't ignore them at the table or dismiss what they say. They live there and are doing a favor for you. Don't make them regret it.
9. Be aware of when other people in the house are sleeping and don't be overly loud.
10. Even if your host is doing something that bothers you, be nice to them. It's difficult to be "on" for an entire weekend, and the host also spent time preparing for your stay. Remember that when you leave, they still need to wash the dishes and the linen that everyone slept on. Be grateful.
11. Be helpful, but if your host repeatedly tells you to please sit and not serve, listen to them. Maybe once someone broke their china and since then they never allow anyone to carry anything.
12. Be gentle with their possessions and think about how you would want someone to handle your things if they were in your home.

1. Smile at your guests and genuinely make them feel welcome.
2. If they keep asking for stuff and it bugs you, keep your cool. Fulfill requests with a smile anyway.
3. Tell guests in advance if your home runs in a specific way. For example, if you always serve the wife first, tell guests so that they'll know and you won't get annoyed when they don't do something exactly as you would have it.
4. Cook food that you know your guests can eat and enjoy. If you are having someone who is allergic to mushrooms, don't cook three varieties of mushroom souffle and hope your guest will be content with the challah.
5. Don't dictate to your guests what they should do at every given moment. If they want to play a game, even if you'd rather read a book, give in.
6. Don't ignore your guests in favor of, say, a book.
7. Let guests know in advance if you are having other people for one of the meals or if you are eating out so that they aren't caught totally off guard when someone else shows up.
8. Stick with your guests in shul so that they don't feel completely uncomfortable and/or lost. Show them where the bathroom is and where the siddurim and chumashim are kept if they don't already know.
9. Don't tell embarrassing stories about your guests at the table.
10. Don't fight openly with your family.
11. Don't insult your family in front of guests. It will make your family upset and the guests uncomfortable.

1. Try not to inconvenience the other party.
2. If one party feels inconvenienced, don't show it.
3. Be aware that it's sometimes difficult for the other party to be at someone else's house or to be hosting people and don't act like you're the only one who may be having a hard time.
4. Smile, even if you're not in a good mood.
5. Be dan l'kaf zechus if a guest says something that seems off.

Any thoughts/suggestions?


G said...


I bet there's a GREAT story behind this post!;)

badforshidduchim said...

Aw... if the guest is boring, are you sure I can't read instead?

YB said...

This is an addition to host rule 3: Tell your guests if something is broken, muktza, etc. For example, if your faucet needs to be turned a specific way to fully shut off, or if you have a firdge/freezer with a light that goes on inside it tell them.
Addition for the guest: Allow the host to run the show. If the host wants to start the meal don't continue talking.
Also, with regard to helping out, it really is a fine line that is often hard to toe. When should I help and when should I not. Make a good assessment at the begining of the stay.

And for guys out there you can help too, even if there are women at the table who seem to have everything covered (the least you can do is ask and be told no).

G said...

Smile, even if you're not in a good mood.


the apple said...

No good story, just lots of little occurrences adding up to it.

Smile anyway because there is nothing worse than being in someone's house and feeling like all they want you to do is leave. Or when the host is all crabby and YOU just want to leave!

G said...


Why is there this great assumption that the lack of a smile automatically means there must be a negative expression in its place?

the apple said...

Smile, laugh, whatever. I didn't mean sit at the table with a fake smile plastered on your face - just don't display a bad mood. Sever panim yafos and all that.

Erachet said...

Hmmm, I suppose it's probably not a good idea to play practical jokes on your guests, either, then...? (Sound of Music style?)

(btw, my word verification is "trousers")

Daphne said...

I think that the rules you outlined are good general rules. However, I also think that every host is different, and many of the rules you mentioned don't always apply. For example, I've had plenty of hosts tell me that I won't be able to come back unless I make myself completely at home. Therefore, I've been encouraged to go into the kitchen at any time and take whatever I want. I know when I have guests in my own home, I want them to ask me for whatever they need or want. The attitude I take is that no request is too small, no matter how trivial it seems. Also - there are many hosts who take a slightly more forgiving attitude when it comes to arriving late. Sometimes people just miss the train, and as much as the guest should make a huge effort to come on time, the host can also be understanding that these things happen.

G said...

Don't ignore your guests in favor of, say, a book.

What about one guest ignoring another in this manner?;)

the apple said...

Aw... if the guest is boring, are you sure I can't read instead?

What about one guest ignoring another in this manner?;)

Hehehe ;). In 9th grade, before our grade shabbaton, our mechaneches gave us a long speech about being social and not going off to the side to read a book while everyone else was doing something fun. I remember thinking, how does she KNOW??

harry-er than them all said...

nice post.
also if you are a guest and you break something tell the host. sometimes it was broken before, sometimes not. in terms of offering to pay for it, i do, but hope they don't take me up on the offer...