For many of us the holiday season means either welcoming overnight guests or being one at someone else’s home. Whether it’s a weeklong visit or a simple one-night stay, there are rules to be set and etiquette to be followed, by both the host and the guests. To help us navigate this sensitive subject we asked Anna Post, great-great granddaughter of etiquette expert Emily Post and co-author (with her sister Lizzie Post) of Emily Post’s Great Get-Togethers, for her top tips.
Long Island Pulse: What are some of the more important ground rules for being a good houseguest?
Anna Post: Time is important to all of us, so plan your arrival and departure dates with your host as early as possible. It’s fine to have a more casual understanding, but it’s important for everyone to be well prepared for comings and goings.
LIP: What about working in some private time as a guest?
AP: You’re most likely to have some sort of schedule or itinerary during your stay and, of course, as a good guest, you want to be a participant and stick with the program, but it’s certainly ok to negotiate a little quiet time too.
LIP: How about pitching in around the house?
AP: A good rule of thumb to remember is that you are a guest the first night and family after that. After your first meal, you should be helping out. Also, if you’re staying for more than a couple days, it’s a nice idea to pitch in for groceries.
LIP: Speaking of groceries, what if as a guest, I have specific dietary restrictions? Should I plan to bring my own?
AP: Between personal diets, allergies, even religious restrictions, there are a whole slew of things that can come up. As a guest, yes, I would bring along some staples or if you’ll be shopping with your host, make suggestions. As a host, especially when welcoming a new guest, always ask ahead of time so you can plan accordingly.
LIP: How do you handle unexpected guests, say someone who had originally turned down your invitation for Thanksgiving dinner, but was able to make it after all?
AP: In my family, we always made everyone feel welcome, even guests we weren’t expecting. One of us would quietly turn to the other and just remind them to let our new guests eat first. This is just one of many reasons why every kitchen should have pantry staples on hand such as a couple different types of pasta and pasta jars or sauce, good cheese, fresh herbs, olives—really, anything you can whip up at the last minute.
LIP: Should I follow-up with a thank you gift for my host?
AP: Yes, it’s always a nice gesture after staying at someone’s home to give a gift or send something later on. And don’t forget to send a handwritten thank you note!