Proper House Guest Etiquette Everyone Southerner Knows

There are specific rules that Southerners know.

Charleston Loft Bedroom with Asian Screen
Designer Matthew Bees mounted an Asian screen from the ceiling in this loft bedroom to create the illusion of a wall. By using the screen, the open-air feeling of the loft was maintained. Photo: Photo: Ralph Anderson

Staying at someone else's home is a great honor and should be treated as so by respecting their space and property. Proper house guest etiquette means showing appreciation to your host during and after your visit. Those who do good manners will most likely reward you with a second invitation to stay, which is always a friendly request. Remember you are a guest, whether related to the host or not and act how you would want anyone staying in your home to behave.

Remember that glare your mother gave you to keep you in line when you were at friends' houses? Come on. You know that glare. If you've tried to block it from your memory, here are a few etiquette reminders to ensure you get a return invite.

Great House Guest Etiquette

Never arrive empty-handed.

Give a hostess gift that fits with your particular weekend scenario. If you visit a friend from college 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 get an extra little something.

Never open their refrigerator without invitation—or asking first.

This rule is a delicate 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.

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 pet unless invited to do so. The same rules apply to children.

Never pack disorganized.

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.

Never use all their hot water when showering.

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

Never be in a situation to horrify someone you pass in the hallway.

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

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

It would be best if you offered to help with the appetizer, set the table, or clear the dishes.

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.

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

As soon as your feet hit the ground, you must start pulling up those sheets and fluffing those pillows. If it's an elaborately made bed, take a picture before entering it. Put the whole room back together exactly as you left it.

Never leave without saying thank you.

After leaving for your visit, repeat your appreciation in a handwritten "thank you" note. To be prepared, purchase (and possibly fill out) a card before leaving so you can put it in the mailbox as soon as you return.

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