Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Etiquette of staying at someone else's house

As I walk home past the park full of children football playing in the twilight I am reminded that it will soon be Spring and that brings about the prospect of holidays. As an evangelical proponent of family holidays and driving holidays for that matter, it's inevitable that you are going to have to stay at some point in someone else's home. After all travelling and not visiting any friends in the area would be a little rude, not to mention embarrassing if they find out. (And yes we found out )

Having been on both sides of this delicate coin I can tell you it can go wrong really quickly and really spectacularly. So to avoid this we have developed a couple of strategies.

Staying at someone else's houses really requires a bit of chameleon like behaviours from everyone as you are going to need to assimilate yourselves in to someone else's routines. Not to mention the acceptance of their idiosyncrasies.

The first thing to do before arriving is shopping. No -  not for shoes or clean underwear, they should already be packed. You need to bring food.

In saying that showing up with 36 eggs and 2 kgs of bacon may be interpreted as  "We're concerned about what you are going to serve us for the rest of the day so were filing up early."

Its also not a great idea to request meals other than the one being prepared. It's not a restaurant eat it or don't eat it, I don't care. I'm not meaning to sound rude about it but if you're on holidays the last thing you need is to spend hours in the kitchen.

And no I am not separating the components of stew to only the bits you like, so don't bother asking.

As good a cook as you are , you should only intervene in cooking if the dish/meal is in real danger - of catching on fire.
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And of course the golden rule - never touch another mans barbecue unless invited. Even if he severs part of his arm during the cooking - wait until invited as he may choose to cook on through.

In regards to sleeping arrangements, be prepared is my motto for this. When people stay with us we have spare mattresses everywhere, but not everyone has this or the space to accommodate them.
I never have laughed so much at the kids starting out on a nice inflated bed only to wake up in the morning as part of a giant blue child sandwich.

If you have a favourite pillow or have paid more than $10 for the pillow you currently use, by all means take it along.

Cleaning again is something that you should only help where you can. Unless you have the wording of a  career diplomat I would avoid telling someone you are going to mop the floors as this may just come across as a criticism of their current living conditions.

That being said if you have just finished a meal with children and there is more food on the floor than the table it may be OK. Unless they have a dog or a baby- both of which are viable alternatives to vacuum cleaners.

image courtesy of

One of the odd things we noticed has been our/other children travelling in kids travelling in someone else's car to destinations. Nothing is quite as odd as children deciding which car they are going to drive in. This is made all the more amusing when they choose a couple without children. And by amusing I mean for the couple as the children divulge all manner of private conversations about you and your daily routines.

I'm now almost home and the evening sky has started to show some stars and the smell of dinners cooking is creeping around the quietly parked cars. I know that for the time being, I wont have to adjust my routine and that - for the moment - is just the way I like it.

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