How To Be A Good House Guest (And Get Invited Back)
Over the last 4 months, we’ve become quite acquainted with spending time in other people’s homes. Between WWOOFing and WorkAway, we’ve spent 7.5 weeks in the homes of strangers. Plus, when we were home for Christmas, our lack of permanent housing meant we stayed with family and friends.
Given that we’ve been invited back by everyone we stayed with, we like to think we’re pretty good house guests. Given some of the horror stories we’ve heard from our WWOOF hosts, we know that a good number of people just don’t understand how to conduct themselves in other people’s homes.
So for those of you that find yourself being offered some good old fashioned hospitality by others, particularly you WWOOFers and WorkAwayers that we’ve heard more than a few horror stories about, here are some tips to help earn you a repeat invite. This stuff works whether you’re at your best friend’s house or a farm in the middle of nowhere with people you’ve never met. It’s pretty basic stuff, all common sense, but we figured we would list it out anyway. Apparently it isn’t so basic for everyone.
Clean Up After Yourself
This one is such an elementary “duh” type of thing that it should just go without saying. But it doesn’t. If you’re generally a messy person, try really hard not to be when you’re outside of your own home.
Here’s an easy way to make yourself useful and have people think you’re a pretty swell person: do the dishes. Seriously, who likes doing dishes? Nobody! That probably includes you, but the five minutes of discomfort you’ll experience washing dishes (even if you didn’t dirty them) sends a message that you actually appreciate being let into someone’s home.
And don’t just help. Help graciously. If you act put out because someone asked you to take out the trash, it’s pretty much the same as if you just didn’t do it.
Also, don’t wait to be asked. If you see something that needs to be done (and you know how to do it), then take the initiative and take care of it yourself.
For you WWOOFers and WorkAwayers, there aren’t any jobs that are beneath you. You signed up to help out, so help out with what’s needed. We’ve mucked horse stalls, mulched gardens, weeded, and hauled 50lb stones for 4 hours without griping.
Spend Time With Your Hosts
You’re a guest in someone’s home. It’s not a hotel. While we were home at Christmas, we had far too many places to go. There were family events and dinners with friends and this and that. People understand that. But they would also appreciate you actually spending some time with them, as much as you can. If you’re staying with friends and you have to go out to catch up with other friends or family, invite your friends or be prepared to spend some time when you get back to the house so you’re not just walking in the door and going “Thanks for the bed, see you tomorrow!”
With WWOOF and WorkAway, the most rewarding part is getting to know these new people, learning about the culture and way of life of the household and the area, and hopefully creating new friendships. This isn’t to say that you need to spend every moment of your day with your hosts, but eating dinner or watching movies or drinking wine and talking goes a long way. If you actually make a good impression, you might find yourself getting invited to everything from a Mardi Gras party to an opera to a turkey shoot to a shopping trip.
Contribute Your Skills
This is an above-and-beyond type of thing. Obviously, if you’re on a WWOOF farm or Workaway site, you’re contributing some level of skills, be they carpentry or animal care or whatever. Or maybe you don’t have any of those skills and are there to learn them.
I’m talking more about the things you can do. For instance, can you cook? Help with dinner. Can you bake? Make some cookies. If nothing else, play with the kids. Or if there aren’t any kids, play with the dogs! There’s something you can do and just by offering to do so, your hosts will be greatly pleased.
Personally, we love helping with dinner and baking sweets, so those are the big ways we contribute and give back to our host families. And Knox contributes his skills, too – he plays with our hosts’ dogs.
Be Open To New Experiences and Be Tolerant
Let’s face it; we all do things a little differently. Some like their toilet paper hanging over the top while others like it hanging under. Either option is correct but we all prefer one over the other.
One of the wonderful things about being a houseguest is learning something new from your hosts. So be open to that! Don’t be critical of the way your hosts do things. You don’t have to like it, but you should respect your hosts’ way of life while you stay with them.
And who knows, you may discover that you actually like your toilet paper hanging the other way!