How To Be A Polite House Guest.

As I write this post, I am in Toronto, Canada with my family of four staying in my Parents-in-Law’s two bedroom condo for a week. While it’s wonderful to spend time with them, we are already tripping over each other in the kitchen, my clothes are mixed up with my kids’ clothes, I can’t find my favorite pair of shoes, and we are all fighting to use the only shower in the morning. I’m sure you might understand my situation if you also visit family during the summer.

As I’ve learned from the many etiquette books I’ve read, and frankly, from my own personal experience, there are some definite do’s and don’ts on house guest etiquette to make staying in someone’s home more enjoyable for you, and for them.

My Canadian family. I’m second on the right.

To be a polite guest in someone’s home, and to be sure to be invited back, please DO:

  • Bring a gift. Depending on who you are staying with, and how long you’ll be staying in their home, bring a gift for the family as a whole and even something specific for their children. For example, you could bring a small house gift (potted plant, kitchen items), and a nice bottle of wine or some beer, and then a toy for each of the kids. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but something for everyone based on their likes and hobbies is very thoughtful. If you truly don’t know what they’d like, you could always send a thank-you gift after your visit and you’ve had time to determine what they like and/or could use.

leaf servers from THEORY DESIGN STUDIO (plenty more ideas for summer 2018 HERE)

  • Bring what you need. If you or your family members require something special like down-free pillows, organic shampoo, or almond butter, bring it yourself rather than asking your host to buy something special for you. It’s actually not rude to bring your own food and things that you need because it saves the host time, money and hassle.


  • Have polite table manners. Talk to your kids (and husbands if needed) about having polite table manners in their home and what this means. For example, if you do not pray before a meal but they do, it is polite (if you are agreeable to doing so), to at least bow your head and participate in the prayer. If you pray but they do not, then you should do it silently and not ask them to participate. Nice table manners also means making sure your kids try food they are served, don’t leave the table during the meal, and eat properly (American or contintential style, no arms or elbows on table, etc.). I have many videos on table manners on my website at if you want to review them with your family.


  • Be considerate and don’t ask to bring your pets. If you have to travel with your dog(s), ask the host if there is a kennel near their house where you could board your animals. If they say, “Please just bring them to our house” then great, but otherwise, you don’t want to presume they are okay with you bringing your pets.


  • Clean up after yourself. This should be common sense, but remembering to make your bed, tidy-up the bathroom when you’re done, keeping your clothes neatly put away, and keeping your things together in one place, will be so appreciated by your host.


  • Help out. This means you should do your share and don’t expect to be waited on even if your mother-in-law says, “I don’t need help with the dishes.”  Help clean the kitchen, get your kids to take out the trash, help cook the meals, and even stop at the grocery store to pick up extra food and drinks.


  • Be positive, agreeable, and happy. This really means that you want to do what your hosts would like to do and be an easy guest in their home. So, if they have planned to have a game night and play Pictionary, buck-up even if you hate playing games and try to have a fun and positive attitude. Being agreeable also means that it’s not a good idea to bring up politics, religion, or sports teams if you know that you do not share the same opinions on these issues.


  • Confirm your plans with the hosts before you arrive. If you need to visit other people, or do something that does not involve your hosts, tell your hosts ahead of time to make sure they understand your plans so that you do not ruin their plans or hurt their feelings.


  • Be respectful. This means making sure your kids follow their house rules (ex., taking of shoes in the house, no food in the living room), not using their electronics without permission, including everyone in the home in conversation, meals and outings, and being respectful of their things. Also be respectful of their time and don’t over stay your welcome or expect them to do too much for you.


  • Send a thank you note.  Within a week of your visit, do remember to send a thank-you note saying specifically what you enjoyed doing with them.



I’m now off to go help my Mother-in-Law make dinner for the kids and then I’ll continue looking for my shoes that have mysteriously walked off. Enjoy your summer travels!



Aimee Symington
Aimee is the CEO of Finesse Worldwide, and an etiquette expert with almost 20 year's experience teaching etiquette to adults and children throughout North America, Europe and Asia. Aimee has appeared on NBC’s The Today Show, and she regularly shares her etiquette advice on Charlotte Today, Fox News, and WBTV, on radio programs such as NPR, and in newspapers and national magazines such as Good Housekeeping and Woman's Health. Ms. Symington is also the creator of the award-winning, nationally acclaimed products on manners for children called “Blunders®” and “Manner Mats®” For more etiquette tips for adults and children, please visit her website at Connect on Facebook.