The Art of Being the Perfect House Guest


As we ascend upon the holiday season, family members travel near and far to spend time with loved ones, share the holiday cheer and of course save a penny or two by sleeping on the pull out sofa in the spare room.

But no matter how close you are, i.e. you lived in their womb for nine months, proper etiquette is mandatory.

I have been on both sides of the coin, as the invitee and invited, and I can say my perspective on staying with other people changed after I was the hostess.

The one thing people fail to mention when you move to the New York is the constant influx of people visiting the city. There is always someone you know, a friend of a friend, or your old best friend you haven’t spoken to in 10 years coming to town and looking for a place to stay.

After my time in such small living quarters in New York, my view of how one should act when crashing on a friend’s sofa has changed drastically.

It simply takes a little bit of common sense and a few months in a New York apartment to appreciate personal space.

There are definitely a few ways to guarantee an invite back.


Be clear about the time you will stay

Being vague or underestimating your time will only put more stress on the relationship when the guest takes advantage and overstays their welcome.

I had a friend of a friend’s cousin move all the way from Canada to Australia, so I offered my apartment for up to a week while she got on her feet. She ended up staying a month … in my bed. I was on the couch. How? I don’t know.


Not only will you be taking up living space, but you will also be consuming food. The general consensus seems to be that, for two or three nights (max), you are on a free ride, but after that it’s only fair you contribute to groceries. Making dinner and taking them out for dinners is also a nice gesture.

Be independent

Being a tourist and living somewhere are completely different. Your friends are obviously thrilled to see you, evident by the invitation to stay with them. But this does not mean you are to spend 24/7 together or expect them to be a full-time tour guide. I have been up to the Top of the Rock more than once and at $30 a pop it isn’t cheap. Make independent plans to do your own thing. This also gives personal space to your host, which can defuse any overwhelming concerns of lack thereof.

Be happy

Nothing is more rewarding to hosts than a smiling face and a sense of contentment (nothing – apart from money for the food, obviously).



Show up empty-handed

What matters isn’t the price, but the thought that went into getting the gift.

Use your host’s toiletries

Toiletries, especially soap bars are personal items that sometimes aren’t even shared among households. Please bring your own soap bars.

Be disgusting

Leave only cleanliness behind you… especially in the bathrooms. What flies at your home may not always fly at some one else’s. Even if you are used to flossing your teeth watching TV at home, you may need to put that habit on hold while staying with friends.

Be critical

Living in such close quarters with your generous hosts will obviously highlight certain aspects of habits and tastes that may be different from yours. Keep it to yourself – even if you think you are giving helpful advice.

Steph_profHerstory is a weekly column on women and travel by Steph Ridhalgh. Steph is a Sydney born; New York based television producer and travel blogger. Not one for being quiet for too long she simply loves talking about travel and lifestyle.

Steph is the founder of STEP(h) ABROAD, a travel and lifestyle resource for those who love to be in the know and know how.

Connect with her on the web, Facebook and Twitter

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