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How to be a good houseguest

August 24, 2000

How to be a good houseguest

By KEVIN CLAPP / staff writer

See also: How to have a successful visit

It seemed like a good idea at the time: Invite college buddy Jeff to stay a few days with you, your wife and two young kids.

But after two days of hearing him rattle around the kitchen and laugh at late-night movies after you've gone to bed, what once was an anticipated visit has become a countdown to his departure.

Having a houseguest can be enjoyable and a way to help family or friends save money. It also requires a set of ground rules so neither host nor guest grates on the other, creating friction.

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"The key really is to always be the kind of person they want to be around. You want to be desired, not the kind of person they say 'Whew, I'm glad they left,' " says Internet etiquette expert Noe Spaemme. "You lose a friendship, or it's a very, very long time before they think about inviting you back."

Spaemme, who under her pseudonym gives advice for Web sites, including www.expertcentral.com, www.askme.com and Etiquette Hell at www.thinds.com/jmh/ehell, says being a good houseguest requires nothing more than common sense.

Other etiquette experts agree. Unfortunately, they say some people view being away from home as a license to let their manners lapse.

"Some people have the idea that hosts are there to take care of you, when you are supposed to be as accommodating to them as they are to you," says Karen Mallett, co-founder of the Winnipeg, Manitoba-based In Good Company, which provides etiquette and protocol workshops.

"They aren't your maid. You don't leave your dishes on the table, you take them up to the sink or wash them yourself," she says.

Anne Winters, national director of National League of Junior Cotillions, says poor manners are nothing new, a result of a more relaxed way of life that has developed in the last 30 to 40 years.

She and Sue Fox, founder of Etiquette Survival Inc., say busy lives and a lax atmosphere are no excuse for not taking time to be a gracious host or guest.

"I think people have become accustomed to being rude and thoughtless, and it's really sad," Fox says. "We're all busy, and we're all stressed out, but it doesn't mean we don't act with respect."

Besides, experts agree that what goes around comes around. If you stumble as a guest, odds are good that others will hear about it.

"The word will get around and you won't get invited back," Winters says. "You don't want to be a guest where people are dreading that you are coming."

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