10 Things Only Southerners Know About Being a Great House Guest

There are certain rules of etiquette that Southerners know they must abide by.

Zoë Gowen
Charleston Loft Bedroom with Asian Screen
Photo: Ralph Anderson

Remember that glare your mother used to give you to keep you in line when you were at friends’ houses? Come on, you know that glare. In case you've tried to block it from your memory, here are a few reminders to make sure that you’ll get a return invite.

1. Never arrive empty handed.

Give a gift that fits with your particular weekend scenario. If your visiting for college friend for a long weekend, you can bring a nice bottle of wine and a cheese board. If you’re visiting your in-laws, stop by your local bakery and pick up some tasty muffins that everyone can munch on for breakfast. If you’re going to a long weekend at someone’s cabin or beach house, check with your hostess to see what she needs you to bring and then bring an extra little something on top of that.

2. Never open their refrigerator without being invited to do so – or asking first.

This is a fine line scenario. But, it is not okay to drop your bags and immediately fix yourself a glass of their pulp free, organic orange juice. Once you’ve spent the night and settled in, then it’s okay to serve yourself.

3. Never interfere with their pets.

What does that mean exactly? Don’t feed their pets, don’t comment on their pet behavior, and don’t let the pet out without asking first. Your job as a houseguest is to tell them how adorable their pet is. Also, don’t bring your own pet unless you’ve been invited to do so. The same rules apply for children.

4. Never pack messy.

The last thing that your hostess wants is to make countless trips back and forth to the door to help you with your things while hiding the horror on her face that you may never be leaving. Pack as neatly and as minimally as possible.

5. Never use all their hot water when showering.

If your host insists that you take all the hot water, then you should interpret that to mean—shower fast so there will be enough hot water for them.

6. Never put yourself in a situation to horrify a grandmother or a small child that you pass in the hallway.

Always leave your room fully clothed. Ladies should always have on a bra even if it’s under their pajamas. If you don’t have a good read on the situation—dress for the day before even leaving the room.

7. Never make the hosts do all the cooking and the cleaning.

You need to at least offer to help with the appetizer, set the table, and/or clear the dishes.

8. Never make it obvious that you think you’re on vacation.

Remember that you’re a human with working parts sharing in this home for a short while. If the garbage is full, offer to take it out. If you see the morning paper on your way inside, pick it up.

9. Never assume that it’s okay to not make your bed.

As soon as your feet hit the ground, you need to start pulling up those sheets and fluffing those pillows. If it’s an elaborately made bed, take a picture of it before you get in it. In fact, put the whole room back together exactly as you left it.

10. Never leave without saying thank you.

And then say it again with a handwritten thank you note.