Guest appearance

EVERY CULTURE takes pride in its impeccable and warm hospitality. They talk about it almost as though they are the only ones specialising in this art and are privy to the secrets of making a guest feel welcome and comfortable! Our own culture is replete with stories from mythology where the theme of honouring one's guest is equivalent to godliness. Sir Max Beerbohm must have had this in mind when he said, "Mankind is divided into two classes: hosts and guests!"

The whole emphasis is on the host, his role, responsibilities and duties. But, what about the guest? They are the other side of the coin. Most people's reaction once a guest leaves, especially a houseguest, is one of immense relief. Obviously, they tried the patience and limits of their hospitality. Ben Franklin stated that "Fish and visitors smell in three days," while Eduoard Laboulaye claimed that "The first day a man is a guest, the second a burden, the third a pest." Even Miss Manners wrote, "The ideal guest room does not have a guest in it."

The going is not too good for the guest, is it? There are guidelines for the guests also that goes beyond "just showing up" — whether it is an invitation for an evening get together, or you are staying with someone as a houseguest. Follow these and you can be sure of the welcome mat being rolled out for you, and not yanked from under your foot!

* Respond to an invitation promptly, that means, within 48 hours.

* Once you accept an invitation, please show up within half-an-hour of the specified time. Unlike what you might have heard, it is not fashionable to arrive two hours late. It is plain rude and inconsiderate.

* Once you are there, make every effort to meet and talk to people. This is not the time to act shy. It is your responsibility also to make the party a success.

* Don't take the liberty of showing up with people who are not invited, especially children; if it is unavoidable, have the courtesy to inform your host.

* If you are staying as a houseguest, make sure there is no confusion about exactly when you are arriving and exactly when you are leaving. The emphasis is, as you guessed, on the word `exactly'.

* Arrive with a nice gift as a token of appreciation.

* Unless otherwise offered, make your own transportation arrangements for arrival and departure.

* Find out the normal routine of the house and adapt to it.

* Don't expect to be entertained every moment. Remember you are on vacation; they have their normal chores and routine to adhere to.

* This is not a hotel. Don't use the host/hostess as a way station for your other socialising.

* No peeking into closets and cabinets, however curious you might be.

* Don't even think of using the telephone, especially for long distance calls, without getting prior permission. Even then only if it an absolute "must" call category. The host will be put in an embarrassing position and most probably will not say a "No", but will be anxiously eyeing the clock! There are enough public telephone places. Use them.

* Offer to help around the house. Be neat, and clean up after yourself, especially if sharing a bathroom.

* Offer to make a meal or, better still, take them out for a nice dinner. After all, you are saving a fortune on the hotel cost!

* If you use something, replace it; if using their car; return it with a filled tank of petrol.

* It doesn't matter what your TV watching habits are. Don't monopolise the TV just because you think as good hosts they are supposed to defer to your wishes!

* Be sure to show your appreciation to the household staff; they will welcome the monetary kind to just a smile and kind words.

* Whatever happens, don't make the ultimate guest sin of overstaying your departure date. Depart when you said you would.

Now go ahead enjoy yourself and let others enjoy being with you too!