Because You Are Polite

by Ginger Philbrick

My husband and I have just returned from a most delightful, and comfortable, road trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway. We stayed with gracious friends along the way, and at dinner on the last night, I asked our host and hostess to help compile a list of tips for making their hosting of guests go smoothly.

Following are their suggestions, with just a little editing:

• Let your host know your approximate arrival time as soon as you know it.

• Let your host know beforehand when you will be leaving. Tip for host: if you are unsure when guest is leaving, ask, “How long will we have the pleasure of your company?”

• Ask your host how she would like you to leave the used linens and towels when your visit is over. You may think she would like you to strip the bed of its sheets and pillow cases, but she may swoon when she sees her Serta laid bare!

• Be sensitive to the bedtime of your hosts and go to your bedroom when that time comes. It is perfectly polite to ask when they usually retire for the night. Otherwise, gaping yawns and cessation of conversation could be useful hints.

• If you wake up before your host, make as little noise as possible. However, if you have been told to make yourself at home, feel free to enjoy the rooms that are not private—living room, porch and even kitchen if you have been shown how to make coffee.

• When it is meal time, ask if you can help with preparations but if your host refuses your offer, stay in the background and don’t “hawk” over her while she is working. Sugar can look an awful lot like salt to a distracted cook.

• Be as kind as possible to the family pets. “Love me, love my schizophrenic cat” is not just a saying.

• If you break, spill or accidentally plunder, express your regret and offer to help repair the damage. Do not make it Act 1 of an ongoing play about repentance.

• Before you leave, double check your surroundings for your belongings, and leave your room as nearly as possible the way in which you found it. Don’t forget to check under the bed where underclothing loves to hide.

Of course, there are many other manners tips for the overnight guest, such as always send a thank-you note and don’t snoop in the bathroom medicine cabinet unless you do it very, very quietly. But I think we’ve given you enough to get you started……

Ginger Philbrick is the owner of Because You Are Polite LLC. You are invited to email your manners questions to her and she will respond as time and space allow. You may contact her at