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Are you a good guest?

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BE SENSITIVE Stick to the host family’s meal times
BE SENSITIVE Stick to the host family’s meal times

Think before you park yourself for too long at someone’s place

When Ashwini Chandru hugged and waved her NRI guests off at the international airport, she vowed to do two things. She would do everything to keep them out of her home. Before that, she would visit them in the US and teach them a few basic rules of guest behaviour.

In the two weeks the mother-daughter duo stayed with her, her apartment turned into a dump and she, an emotional wreck, Ashwini said. Over-reacting? After all, the guests were preparing for the daughter’s wedding, and had varied appointments to choose, print, buy, stitch, try out, visit, get treated for a better skin… you name it. They were in a crazy shopping whirl that demanded empathy.

Ashwini isn’t buying it. “They would go off in the morning leaving a terrible mess in their room and the attached bathroom,” she fumed. “The girl stacked the fridge with “clean” food she had brought, the mother left watermarks on polished wood. They would wipe their plates and cutlery after I had laid the table.”

Ashwini teaches in a school. “I love to cook, but giving me a menu everyday was a bit much to ask! I would still have done it, if they didn’t return to rush into their room saying they had had something to eat.” When the houseguests packed off, an exhausted Ashwini had to clear away mounds of packing and bottles of cosmetics scattered all over the place.

As a houseguest, you can choose to be one of three – “Ugh!”, “Glad you could come” or “Promise to be here same time next year!” If you’re a good visitor, you will never ring the bell unannounced, will not stay more than a few days, won’t disable appliances, and eat what is served and pick up after yourself. If you choose to be a great one, the category that gets invited again, prime yourself to do the following:

Have clear travel plans. Your gracious host will say, “Wish you could stay on,” but most don’t mean it. Push off. Bring a gift for everyone in the host family. Chocolates are safe, if the host isn’t dieting. The safest would be something special to your home-town .

If you’re bringing clothes, make sure to know their tastes. And toys, definitely, for kids.

Carry your own toiletries. Guestroom soap and shampoo may not be your brands, and you can’t ask the host to buy it. Stick to the host family’s meal times. It’s conversation time, too. If you have food restrictions, inform the people in advance. If you need anything extra, buy and share with the hosts.

You’re on a holiday, but they may be working. Stay out of their way at the rush morning hour, don’t go yakking till midnight. Check out house rules. Go with the flow. Don’t smoke in a non-smoking household. Keep your feet away from the sofa. Talking of feet, don’t let your footwear lying around. Don’t expect to be entertained 24 X 7. Offer to help in the kitchen.

Make it special

Want to make your visit a special occasion for the host? Take the family out for a meal. Cook one of your specialities. If you’re out on your own, bring stuff to share. “I buy the veggies, milk and fruits when I go out,” said Delhi-ite Viji Rethinam, a frequent visitor to Chennai. “I also pay for the auto when we go out. I don’t take sugar, and my hosts don’t think it’s a big deal.

Eating out is easy in Chennai so it doesn’t matter if there’s no cooking occasionally. And I never visit without saris / salwar suits / linen from Delhi.”

Handle the children

Bringing children along? Watch the children, don’t allow them to jump on the sofa, shout or generally make pests of themselves. Your hosts, no doubt, will say: “Cho chweet, he / she is just a kid!,” but will be seething inside.

Time to leave? Take care to pack only your stuff. By the same reckoning, don’t leave your stuff behind. Check if the bathroom is in a reasonably usable condition. If you shed hair, clean up.

Finally, thank your hosts profusely. Tell them you had a wonderful time. Invite them to your place. When you reach home, send a thank-you note with a photograph or two you took with them. Sure, you’re a loved one, and is welcome at all times. But people are creatures of habit. Disruption of routine is always a bother. Make sure to compensate for it.

* * *

BE GOOD, DO GOOD

Say something nice as soon as you arrive (“this is a lovely place, has a beautiful view”).

Start eating only after the host does. Keep wet clothes away from wooden furniture. Don’t leave them flying in the front verandah. Broke something in the house? Replace after an apology.

Make your bed everyday.

GEETA PADMANABHAN

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