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How To Be A Great Houseguest

“Not many sounds in life, and I include all urban and rural sounds, exceed in interest a knock at the door.” – Charles Lamb (“Valentine’s Day,” Essays of Elia, 1823)

Travel the world as you will, stay in beautiful places, eat great food, drink fine wine, and amuse yourself with the company of good friends.

You can do that — do a lot of it, in fact — without spending a lot of money. Here’s how:

1. Develop a list of friendly acquaintances.

2. Keep in touch with them on a regular basis.

3. Visit them at least once a year. Three or four times a year is better.

4. Stay no more than two or three days at first, a week after you’ve become comfortable with one another.

5. Ask nothing of them except the use of their home. Don’t, for example, expect them to feed you or accompany you to dinner. Don’t expect them to entertain you or spend time with you or even talk with you. Come with a busy schedule of tasks and/or self-amusements. Make it very clear that you expect nothing from them.

6. When they seek you out for dinner or fun, be accommodating.

7. Always bring a bottle of wine to dinner.

8. Always send a thank-you note afterward.

9. Always be fun and upbeat.

If you do all these things, you will always be welcome. And not just once in a while, but almost any time you want to stop by.

I have a friend, TG, who does all of the above. Among the many wonderful guests we’ve hosted over the years, he stands out because he’s (a) so easy to accommodate (i.e., low-maintenance) and (b) so much fun to be with. He visits us three or four times a year. He calls a day or two before he’s due to arrive. He doesn’t ask to stay over — only tells us that he’ll be in town and hopes we’ll be able to get together. We invite him to be our guest, and he gratefully agrees. It’s very simple.

TG does everything I’ve mentioned above, but the best thing about him is that he is never morose, maudlin, or problematic. When he visits, he’s always (100%, all-of-the-time) full of good fun and high spirits. If TG is around, good times are assured. The provision of our home and its amenities is a small price to pay for the blessings he brings us.

My father is a similarly good guest. And my mother-in-law too, although she only stays for afternoons, since she lives close by.

How do you rate as a houseguest? Do you expect to be taken care of? Do you make your own arrangements? Take care of your own schedule? Prepare your own meals? More importantly — do you give your hosts the benefit of your best and most benign personality? Are you upbeat and funny? Positive and encouraging?

If you can answer “yes” to all of the above questions, you will never want for good company, never lack vacation options, and — if you can practice this kind of good naturedness with your 20-something friends and family members — might never need to worry about retirement.