Through having experienced so many guests over the past 12 months I now have valuable insight into what makes the difference between welcoming a guest back for a repeat visit with open arms, and being forced to mutter lame excuses as to why another visit this side of my being alive is not going to work out. And I must say that I'll be mending my own manners accordingly from now on.
Following input from friends here in Dubai who also have loads of guests, here is the definitive MotV Good Guest Guide:
- Make your own way from airport without complaint unless a lift is specifically offered - exceptions being your parents (you owe them at least a thousand late-night, inconvenient lifts from dodgy places from when you were a teenager... so a lift from a nice, clean, well-lit airport is the least you can do), old people, people with broken legs and people transporting tiny children
- Bring duty-free alcohol (unless your host is Muslim or a recovering alcoholic) and liberate Business Class copies of any magazines or newspapers if at all possible (especially appreciated by those in overseas locations). Confectionary containing high levels of sugar and e-numbers for the kids is always an added bonus
- Do not try inflict dietary restrictions upon your host household except in case of life-threatening allergy and/or lack of teeth (vegans who go a bit wibbly when their organic tofu nudges up against a pack of bacon in their host's fridge should not leave their own home, ever!)
- Offer to wash up after dinner and/ or clear away (not every night, just enough to show willing). If host accepts then do not wander off looking vague, not to be seen again until breakfast
- Do not throw tantrums when things do not go your way (unless under age of 5)
- Balance that fine line between showing healthy independence and spending time with your host. Expecting 24/7 entertainment and chauffeur services will not endear yourself to your host (unless they've specifically offered such enhanced treatment), but going to the other extreme and only showing up for meals is unlikely to earn you any brownie points either
- If your host has household help then be sure to ask as to what extent you can utilise them for your own needs (i.e. laundry, babysitting, food preparation etc). If you do take advantage of their services then it's customary (and kind) to leave them a tip. Ask your host how much would be appropriate
- A phone call or email to say thank you and make appropriately grateful noises once you've returned home is simple good manners and lets your host know you got back safely. A card or letter sent the old fashioned way is always charming but is rarely expected (except by very proper people aged 70+)
- "Sorry but the bidet in the guest suite is leaking, it's a health hazard so I can't have anyone to stay until it's fixed. How long? Oh, a month or two at least. It's a very complicated job, y'know."
- "I've got a terrible case of leprosy and will be in quarantine for a long, long time. Oh, ten years at least."
- "I'm afraid I'll be away on business for the rest of 2010. Possibly the rest of my life."
- "My cat/ dog/ hamster is pregnant. She really needs her rest and she's hyper-sensitive, so she can't handle having strangers in the house at the moment."
- "Didn't you hear that the Home Office has advised against travel to (insert domicile her)
for all (insert their nationality here) ? Yes, it's very dangerous. Best wait until things settle down. Yes, maybe next year..."
- "The guest room is booked up until March 2012. Would you like me to put you on the waiting list?"
- "Hi! We're not in right now but leave a message and we'll get back to you as soon as we can. BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP."