13 Things a House Guest Should Not Do

Leave Your Bad Habits Behind When Visiting Friends and Family

woman packing a suitcase on a bed

Have you ever been the host of rude houseguests? Or are you the houseguest who has family members and friends running in the other direction when they see you coming?

Being a houseguest carries some responsibilities that you need to understand. Bad manners will keep you from being invited back.

What to Do

If you plan to visit someone and stay overnight, spend some time brushing up on the basic etiquette guidelines of a well-mannered guest. Follow house rules, don't forget to bring a hostess gift, and of course, send a thank you note after you leave. It's not that difficult if you get in the habit of having good manners.

What Not to Do

Here are 13 ways a houseguest is sure to annoy a host:

  1. Forget to ask about house rules. Everyone has them, so make that the first thing you do when you arrive…or even better, before you go. Share them with all family members who will be with you and emphasize the importance of following them. Some of the rules may not make sense to you, but there is a reason the host family has them. And please, don't question or challenge them.
  2. Leave a trail of clutter. Most hosts expect a little bit of disorder when guests stay in their home, but don't be the person who leaves dirty socks and underwear leading from the bathroom to the bedroom. If you accidentally squirt extra toothpaste that lands on the counter, don't leave it for the host to deal with. You should have more pride in yourself than that, and there is no excuse for making more work than necessary for your host. If you want someone to pick up after you, stay in a hotel.
  3. Take over the house. When you visit someone, don't bring a carload of your personal belongings into their home. Bring only what you need for the stay. You also shouldn't act like you own the place. Your host has graciously allowed you to stay in her home, so treat the privilege with care and respect.
  4. Stay up all night watching TV or blasting the stereo. Never cause your hosts to lose sleep, or you might wind up face-to-face with a sleep-deprived, angry person who will do anything to get you to leave. Respect the time for lights-out, even if you find yourself staring up at a dark ceiling because you're normally a night owl.
  5. Smoke in a non-smoking home. You should never light up in the home of someone who doesn't smoke. It's rude and can make the hosts angry and possibly even sick. If you can't resist a cigarette, go outside to smoke, and remember to properly dispose of your matches and butts. Don't even think about trying to sneak a smoke in the bathroom; the host will know, and it will put you in a terrible light.
  6. Be demanding or finicky. If you visit someone's home, be as gracious as possible during all events they plan for you—including meals. Never turn your nose up at any food. If you don't care for it, be discreet and eat around it. If they want to take you to the zoo, don't let on that you don't like animals. You might be allergic to your host's pets, but you should never expect them to be banished to the backyard while you are there. You'd be better off staying at a nearby hotel and visiting the hosts on neutral ground than demanding that they make major changes to accommodate you.
  7. Be snobby. Okay, so your host's house is half the size of yours and the food isn't the gourmet fare you're used to. What's the big deal? You're the one getting the free room and board, so plant your feet firmly on the floor and enjoy a down-to-earth vacation. Your host will not appreciate a snobby guest.
  8. Be inconsiderate of time and plans. When your host tells you that dinner will be served at seven, be there early enough to get washed up and help set the table. Never show up late and expect the host family to wait for you. If you want to be extra nice, offer to help prepare the meal. It goes without saying that you should help clean up afterward. Not doing so is rude and disrespectful.
  9. Forget the value and expense of utilities. Don't forget that water and electricity cost money. Keep your shower short and turn the lights off when you leave the room.
  10. Bring Fido or Muffin. When visiting someone's home, don't bring your family pet unless the host specifically asks you to. This can be a terrible imposition on someone who isn't used to being around animals. And if they have pets, you might find yourself having to referee a dogfight.
  11. Expect to be entertained. Count your blessings that you have a nice home to stay in. If you want entertainment, find it on your own, unless your host specifically states that it will be provided.
  12. Stay too long. Most hosts don't mind putting up with guests for a couple or three nights, but beyond that may be asking too much. You're better off leaving before the host is ready to let you go than staying past time she wants to give you a swift kick out the door. At a certain point, the party is over, and it's time to get back to everyday life. Both you and the host will look forward to seeing each other again if you don't overstay your welcome.
  13. Speak negatively about the host family after you leave. When you stay in someone's home, you're bound to see them at their best and their worst. Remember that no one is perfect. If you don't care for something about the way they do things, let it go. Never gossip about them to anyone.

Being a good houseguest requires a mix of kindness, humor, and good manners. If you follow the basic guidelines of proper guest etiquette, you're likely to get invited back. Also, don't forget to send a thank you note and offer your home when your host plans a visit to your area.