When you are a guest in someone’s house, what is the most important thing for you? Is it how clean the house is? Is it what kind of house it is? Is it what they put on the table in the sense of high end or not products? Is it the way they are dressed, the music that is played, the silverware you use or the plates your meals are served on? Is it the quality of the sheets you sleep in, the furniture you use while you are there?
When I was young I was given the one advice I truly think is the most important when it comes down to guests, no matter if you are a guest or if you have guests: It all comes down to how welcomed a guests feels. And honestly this is my piece of advice to my children, actually everyone too. It’s only about how welcomed your guest feel. How you treat them. The effort you put in. It’s not about the price of your house or the furniture, the linen, the silverware, the plates, the food you put on the table. It’s about the heart and soul you put into everything.
Here’s the advice I follow and give for socializing either over dinner or lunch:
When we host, we host from the bottom of our hearts. We want to have a good time with our guests but we want them to have a good time too. It’s not about us, it’s about all of us. For me to feel comfortable I need my house to be in a decent state. It will never be spotless clean. After all I have two kids, two dogs, a crazy cat and a life. But I don’ want it to be messy either.
The funny thing is actually, that I don’t mind if we are invited and a place is messy. As long as I don’t feel we are intruders. I just recently had this little conversation with my husband on a day we were expecting guests and the house was not in a shape I would have preferred it to be. To be honest, it stressed me out. And I did clean up before we started cooking. But to be honest, he was right when he looked at me and asked me if I ever had an issue with being at our friends place when it was not cleaned up to a point where you’d have been happy for it to be photographed. It made me think and I realized that our friends place was hardly ever spotless. But it never made me feel uncomfortable.
What matters is how warm you make your home. With your personality, with the way you treat your guest, the love you put in your food, the way you might set the table.
First of all, I always make sure there is enough food. I think there’s nothing worse than your guests not having had enough food or drinks. I stayed with the partner of a friend of ours once over night as our boys had already left to France and we still had to work. We were due to leave the next morning very early and she lived close to the train station so she invited me to stay over night. I was pregnant at the time with our first baby. She prepared dinner. Honestly: I would have not have enough food in a non-pregnant stage of my life but then I could not even consider it a snack. There was just not enough food. I went to bed hungry.
This is definitely on top of my list: Never let your guests leave hungry. Also make sure you are aware of allergies or things they really don’t like to eat. Nothing worse than serving a meal they can’t eat.
When I set the table I do it neatly. I don’t throw everything on the table. It automatically gives it a better look. Again you show your guests that you care. Serviettes are part of it at all times. I don’t care if my guests use them or not. It doesn’t need much to make a set table look nice, I think. Just put down everything neatly and you it’s already done.
I also believe in serving the food nicely. When you are guest in our house for a meal you will usually get it served on the plate. Hardly ever to I put food on the table for everyone to help themselves. I believe that the we also enjoy with our eyes. It doesn’t take much to prepare a plate nicely. Eat it the way you want but when I get it to you, it looks nice. By making it look nice I’m talking about not overfilling it. No sauce spattered all over and no food on the outside or hanging over the edge…
When everyone is done, after offering seconds of course, we take all the dishes to the kitchen. I like to sit at a “clean” table to keep talking. Dirty dishes don’t have to stand in front of you the entire time.
And you know what: Candles are always part of my hosting. I just think candles are amazing…
Here’s the advice I follow and give for having guests staying over:
It’s the freshly made bed and the fresh towels in a clean room our guests find when they arrive. As most of them would have traveled for quite a while there is always a little tray with soap, shampoo, conditioner and lotion in the bathroom, ready for them to use. I tend to take the soap, shampoo, conditioner and lotion we don’t use in hotels back home just for when we have guests. It looks nice and neat and we all know how good it feels if you can take a shower after a long trip. Depending on how long they are here to stay I fill this tray up so they don’t have to head out and buy stuff. Honestly though: Just for shorter stays. I think at one point your guests can head out and get some of those things too.
Which brings me to that one point: It’s one thing to be a good host. It’s another to be a good guest.
I believe you need to make your guest feel like home as much as you can. But there is your routine too. And both parties need to make an effort to find a compromise of their needs. You can adjust some of your routine but not everything, especially when you have kids. So when we have friends to stay with us, we do look after them but we expect them to help out too.
This doesn’t mean that they have to take over. But doing their own laundry, cleaning their bathroom, making their own bed and maybe either go shopping once, cook a meal for everyone or get a bottle of wine wouldn’t really hurt. Our best guest were the ones we did not have to look after but wanted to. The ones that were doing things on their own if we couldn’t head out with them. They were also the ones that came back to ours with a bag full of groceries to full up the fridge. Or the ones having had prepared a meal when we came home after a long day.
Staying with someone is even more a give and take. And if everything works well, the amount of time they stay with you will never seem too long.
No better advice to end this post than an advice my husband and I were given a long time ago:
“Guest are like fish… After a while they stink…”