Nov 25 | House rules

Holiday Season is almost upon us, and for most of us that means enjoying good food, drink and some company. This company often is either family, friends, or sometimes even total strangers – and sometimes they even stay with you, even when the dish washer is packed up and the leftovers found their way to the fridge. And usually, guests and visitors are a nice addition to the everyday hustle and bustle that comes with the holidays.

Sometimes though even the most beloved guest makes you fly off the handle. Not necessarily because he, she or they (in the following I’ll use “he” as a generic placeholder, also for hosts) intend to do so, it mostly happens rather inadvertently. And believe me: me writing this does NOT mean that I am above it all, rather au contraire.

Since we moved to California, we have way more guests and overnight visitors than we ever had before. (Exhibit A: California is more attractive than the Ruhr Area in Northrhine-Westpahlia, Germany.) And with a steady flow of house guests, sometimes it is just the time you spend together in a small, confined space that makes things a little awkward. Quality time has its perks – however, it also can be pretty intense.

We are lucky enough that we haven’t had super-awkward times with anyone yet, but you probably all know what I mean when talking about that moment when you wish you could point a finger at the house rules (sitting somewhere clearly visible in a nice, decorative frame) and make your counterpart read them (again, or for the first time ever). Or in an extreme case, point at the door.

The upcoming period of “merry confinement and togetherness” made me think about my hypothetical house rules, sitting in their hypothetical frame. Everyone has things on his/her mind that he/she would love people to respect, to do unasked, to come up with, … without explicitly verbalizing it.

Grandma's house rules
Grandma’s House Rules – very comprehensive! I found this on Pinterest / etsy

Grandma’s House Rules (pictured above) are a little more fun and less serious that others out there who focus mostly on being kind and saying please and thank you (which is, after all, really important – but there is so much more!). But since they do so in a nice typo, I could see myself having them around…

However, there are always bullet points to add. And lest we forget – this is not a one-way-street. Rules may be great for guests, but hosts should also not forget them.

“Rules for the Guest”:

  • Your host is a person who has a life. Try not to guilt-trip him too much if he does not have as much time for you as you would want him to, due to work or other obligations.
  • If your visit takes you to a nice destination with lots of sights to discover, please remember: your host is not a tour guide. Nor is he responsible for planning all-round and all-time entertainment for you. Of course, especially if you don’t see each other very often, he will love to spend time with you and might start plotting where to take you once you announce yourself. Also you should think and plan, and check the internet or travel guides to figure out what you want to see or where you want to go. Be prepared, and offer also to venture out alone some time!
  • If you are on good terms with him, the place you stay is your host’s home. Maybe you even stay on the sleeper sofa in the living room. 🙂 Anyhow… wherever you rest your head in the house, it definitely is not under the roof of an all-inclusive facility. Don’t expect that, and since it’s not “meals & service included”, act accordingly. Your host might appreciate a little help. Not necessarily with full-blown houseworks (unless you are a real whizz at the vacuum), but contribute and try to find out what might be a good move. Go shopping (you’re eating there, too, right?), chime in with the chopping and cooking (if he lets you), don’t leave your stuff all over the house, walk the dog, ask if you can be / do ____ (whatever fits, insert here). It’s a nice thing to do!
  • If you are currently planning on visiting California, get used to use less water. 🙂 The state is in a serious drought, and it helps if you don’t let the water run while brushing your teeth or to turn the shower off when lathering your luxurious body with soap. If you want to bring plants as a present – succulents are totally trending right now!
  • If you like what your host is cooking for you (in case you are eating there), pay him a compliment from time to time. And if you don’t like it, please don’t spit it out… dislike can be enunciated in polite ways, too. Nothing is as frustrating as planning, cooking and serving meals that someone put a lot of thought and love into to someone else who never comments. Also keep in mind that just because you might be used to eating meat five times a week, or always having an elaborate breakfast, your host might not necessarily share the same preferences. His house, his table, his rules. (This might be undermined by offering to cook from time to time… 🙂 )

“Rules for the Host”:

  • If you want help (or also no help) with something, ask your guests kindly. Not everyone is a mind reader (go figure!), and it’s hard to figure out what you want if you don’t express yourself.
  • If you have guests for dinner or for an extended stay, it’s always nice to be a little prepared. It might be a good idea for instance to check if he/they have allergies or are vegetarian/vegan (if you don’t already know). This might avoid one or another embarrassing or even hazardous “table-gate”.
  • You have your daily routine, your guest has his. If he is on vacation and wants to sleep in, let him. If he does not like extended hikes or extreme couch-potatoeing, also let him. Do not force your way onto your guests, because you sure wouldn’t like it the other way round, would you? If you are on extreme ends of the panoply for some things, try to find the happy medium.
  • Be nice to your guest(s), even if you don’t feel like it. It’s always nice to be nice to people, and especially to those visiting you. If you are upset about something (or just in a weird place), tell them. (see point 1)

There is probably more that can be said, but well… I have no intention of creation the motor of all house rule lists. You probably got the idea by now, right? Any points where you found yourself, or a guest of yours? Did you ever have annoying visitors that drove you crazy? If yes, how? What does it take to make you go (a little) crazy? Would you want to know if you’re a guest? And how do you manage to be a good host? What are your (secret) tips? Wanna share?

And even though you will of course assume that this is all based on true happenings or personal experience, I will never tell you if it is. Or not. Or only partially. It will remain classified forever, or at least for e very long time…


Wishing you all a happy, joyful, and peaceful Holiday Season!


By the way (1): Here in the USA, Thanksgiving is apparently the holiday that moves the most people across the country. Travel activities are getting quite crazy, and people will go quite a distance to spend it with their families and loved ones. In Germany, Thanksgiving is not really a thing – but the holiday that would come closest in importance and travel activity might be Christmas. Although Christmas is a little different from the US: the “main event” is on Christmas Eve, December 24th, before the festivities continue on December 25 and 26. And after that, you have a few precious days to recover from all the exciting meals you had before it’s party time again on New Year’s Eve.

By the way (2): Since we are all only human, I am pretty sure that also moi has not been the perfect guest at all times. In fact, I know it. Sometimes moody, sometimes not up for conversation, and certainly not cheerful when I didn’t have enough sleep… Dear all whom I ever offended when staying with you, please accept my sincere apologies. And tell me next time (if you haven’t told me then)!

By the way (3): Be that as it may, I will probably never have one of those cute framed “rule books”. And even if someone annoys the heck out of me, I often won’t say anything. Because I don’t like hurting friends, or worse, family, … or other people… or even flies for that matter. I always want everyone to like me, and so I shut up. (Usually, my face or my body language gives me away in spite of that.)


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