Rules for Guests

Neatly made bed in a grand room

If you are a visitor, follow an easy code of behaviour to avoid forever queering your pitch with hospitable friends.

  • The true house guest from hell is the who doesn't know when to leave. As the expression goes, 'visitors, like fish, stink in three days' Confirm both times of arrival and times of departure well before you're due to show up.
  • If you're held up by traffic, or unforeseeable circumstances, ring ahead and let your host know.
  • Bring a present, not necessarily flashy, but thoughtful - for example, some single-malt if you know it's the host's particular tipple.
  • If you are highly allergic to any foods then you should inform your host, clearly and succinctly, before you arrive.
  • If you merely suffer from mild food intolerances, or strong dislikes, take a more circumspect approach. The potential seriousness of the problem should be weighed up against the offence and inconvenience that it will cause to the host.
  • Presenting someone with a long, and varied, list of foods to which you have a mild aversion is quite unacceptable; on the other hand, if one - commonly served - food will make you feel ill and uncomfortable, the host should be told.
  • Find out what the weekend programme is so that the right shoes and clothes are packed. Do not expect the host to kit you out.
  • Only take a dog that is happy sleeping in the car. Even then it is essential to ask first as the host's dogs may not like other dogs on their patch.
  • Keep the physical evidence of your presence in your host's house to a minimum and tidy up after yourself - no muddy wellies in the hall, coats discarded in the sitting room, half-drunk cups on every surface.
  • Offer to help (with laying tables clearing dishes, washing up etc.).  Your host may well decline your offer, but at least you've made the effort.
  • Unless specifically invited to do the contrary, don't make yourself too at home. So don't help yourself to food from the fridge, or alcohol, or turn on the television. Always ask your host first.
  • Don't assume that you can use the washing machine, or run piping hot baths in the middle of the day. Check with your host first.
  • If you are bringing children, discuss their routines and requirements with the host beforehand, and do not expect the weekend to revolve around them. Make sure you have plenty of toys to keep them entertained and do not abdicate responsibility for them or treat your hosts as babysitters.
  • Find out what time your host will be serving breakfast and make sure you are up and dressed on time; do not linger in your room until mid-morning.
  • Be flexible and accommodating. If your host suggests a walk, or a visit to a stately home, or a shopping expedition, acquiesce gracefully. You're on their territory and should fall in with the prevailing mood.
  • If you go out with your host - to a pub, restaurant, tea shop - try and pay for the drinks or food. It's a gesture of gratitude for the hospitality.
  • On the morning of your departure, check whether your host would like you to strip the bed. If you're told not to bother, then make the bed neatly, and ensure that everything in the room is exactly as you found it.
  • Above all, leave exactly when you said you would: too early and it looks like you're trying to escape, too late and you've outstayed your welcome.
  • Once you're home, send a handwritten note thanking your hosts for their hospitality. Do this within a day or two of your return.
SHARE THIS:

Home Life

Debrett's Handbook

Debrett's Handbook

Debrett's Handbook

Debrett's Handbook

Debrett's new publication encompassing correct form, modern manners and everyday behaviour

search now
Debrett's Books

Debrett's Books

Debrett's Courses

Debrett's Courses

Training & Classes

Training & Classes

Providing the skills and confidence to be welcome and at ease in any professional or social situation.

search now
Guide to Entertaining Etiquette

Guide to Entertaining Etiquette

Guide to Entertaining Etiquette

Guide to Entertaining Etiquette

Explore and celebrate the many British rituals, customs and traditions that punctuate the year.

buy it now