Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Etiquette Challenge: Close quarters


I adore this blog. Can you come to my house? I think we need you as a live-in instructor/ comedienne.

I am visiting friends in the New York City next weekend and staying with them in their smallish apartment. How can I be a great guest?

Best regards,

Dear Christine,

Thank you for your note. I would love to come over but I really can't stay, there is ever more civilized wreckage to attend to all over. But I will keep the offer in mind should my large-vehicle antics cause me to need a new perch.

So, Darling, it is not ideal; this sleeping about in cramped spaces with people with whom you probably never intended to be quite so intimate. Surely they insisted and you accepted and here we are, fait accompli.

I admit this subject made me cringe, so I am leaning on Amy Vanderbilt here; several experiences with this subject have left my mind with a complete block on these situations. My stemware bears the marks of visitors to our former townhouse in Boston, somewhere in a landfill.

As a guest:
1. Observe the to-bed hour, breakfast, and bathroom schedules and fit yourself into the scheme in an unobtrusive manner.
2. Use your suitcase as a bureau and do not unpack anything you do not immediately need.
3. If you are staying more than one day, make your bed and refold the sofa (or what have you) at the start of the day. Fold the linens you used when leaving. Make up the bed with new linens and refold into a sofa leaving your linens in the laundry if it is obvious or in a neat pile on the sofa if not.
4. Make your own breakfast and do your own dishes.
5. Write a warm letter of thanks when you leave and send (or have brought along) a little gift.
(6. And on a personal note: Please limit the amount of wine you drink and replace all the stemware you break.)
Just to be thorough, a few thoughts for the cramped quarter host or hostess as well:
1. Provide bath, hand, face towels and a new bar of soap on a rack in the bath and a cup with toothpaste for a place to store their toothbrush. Point them out when you show the guest around.
2. Provide a location in a common area for the guest to hang their clothing and leave a few spare hangers there. Mention that you have an iron and board should they need it.
3. Make up the sofa or bed with clean linens, pillows, and plenty of blankets.
4. Give a few gentle hints as to what the household schedule is in the morning; an astute guest will extrapolate when to use the bath in the least obtrusive manner.

Christine, it is my sincerest hope that you enjoy your stay and that your hosts' glassware remains intact.

Best wishes,

Reference: The Amy Vanderbilt Complete Book of Etiquette, Letitia Baldridge.
Photo credit: Living, etc.


Karena said...

Tips for hostess and keep family and friendship relationships loving and intact.

little augury said...

great advice as always. It gets even harder as one gets older-the creature comforts-among them-a little privacy and a door are musts! GT

Michelle said...

I'm going to disagree on pulling the linens off the bed. I have kids and often have a back log of laundry - and that's before the extra sheets and towels of guests. Having guests pull the linens puts one more load in the already busy laundry room. I would rather they leave the sheets and let me pull them when it is convenient for me to wash them. Especially if they are leaving mid-week and I won't get to the laundry until the weekend.

columnist said...

Staying with friends must be the worst experience ever, even in a very large house, and should be avoided, at all costs, if friends you intend to remain. It's destroyed several of my friendships. Just splash out and stay at an hotel. It really is so much more convenient all round. The best remedy is not to have a guest room, and make clear sleeping on the sofa is a no-no. (I never would, so I wouldn't offer it to anyone.)

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