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How to Be the Perfect Houseguest

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    Make Yourself At Home

    DO: Get your own glass of water or brew your own cup of tea. These gestures save your hosts the trouble, and send a positive message that they’ve succeeded in making you feel comfortable. DON’T: Take it too far. You may be comfortable throwing clothes on the floor or leaving the bed unmade at your own house, but be a neatnik in others’ space.

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    Help With The Chores

    DO: The dishes. Your host is not your mother (even if she is, you’re a grownup now). Check the dishwasher to be sure the load is dirty before adding to it, or hand-wash and dry whatever you used and put it away. DON’T: Damage things unintentionally. Use what your host uses to clean nonstick cookware. Certain things may not go in the dishwasher — sharp knives or delicate stemware, for example. If you’re not sure, ask.

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    Fit In With Routines

    DO: Adapt to your host family’s routines. Sharing a bathroom? Find out when others usually shower, and work around their schedules. Don’t stay up late watching old movies if the family goes to bed early. Make sure your car isn’t blocking anyone who needs to leave before you. DON’T: Be nosy. Your hosts’ phone messages and mail are none of your business!

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    Pay Attention To Food

    DO: Warn your hosts ahead of time about special dietary needs or allergies. If shellfish or peanuts make your throat swell shut, they’ll want to know before they start preparing shrimp pad thai. DON’T: Expect everyone to bend over backwards to accommodate your preferences. If you’re on a restricted diet or are just a picky eater, volunteer to feed yourself.

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    Respect The House Rules

    DO: Follow your hosts’ cues. A pile of shoes by the front door means you should take yours off too. If your hosts say grace before meals you’re not obliged to join in, but wait until their prayer is concluded before taking a bite. And if there are young children in the household, follow their parents’ lead about what’s allowed in terms of behavior, food and bedtime — and, yes, that even applies to you, grandparents. DON’T: Offer your unsolicited opinions about the house rules.

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    Chip In With Expenses

    DO: Contribute in some way if you’re staying more than a day or two. DON’T: Make a big deal of it. Discussing money can be awkward, so try a more subtle approach. Replenish grocery items, fill the gas tank, bring home a takeout meal to share or take the family out to dinner.

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    Be Energy Conscious

    DO: Be aware of your energy use, for the sake of both the environment and your hosts’ utility bills. DON’T: Dawdle in the shower, leave lights on unnecessarily or throw open windows when the heat or AC is running.

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    Be Clear About Your Plans

    DO: Communicate! Let your hosts know when you will arrive and depart, and discuss your plans for each day. They might like to join you or invite you to return for a shared meal — or they may prefer to simply hand over a spare key and let you come and go as you please. Ensure that expectations match up on both sides. DON’T: Assume that your hosts will be cooking or playing tour guide unless they offer.

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    Speak Up If You Need Something

    DO: Be frank. Your hosts want to know if there’s something they can do to make you more comfortable. They may not be aware of the temperature in the guest room, so if you’re chilly, ask for an extra blanket. DON’T: Rearrange guest room furniture or fiddle with the thermostat without permission.

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    Say A Proper Thank-You

    DO: Bring along a blank card so you can leave a thank-you with a few lines about your favorite memory of the visit. A small gift is a nice gesture too. For example, if you’ve traveled from far away bring something from your home turf — maple syrup from Vermont; wine from California — as an invitation to reverse roles someday. DON’T: Overstay your welcome, even if you don’t want to say good-bye. As Benjamin Franklin once put it: “Fish and visitors stink after three days.”

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