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About Claire J. Harris

Claire Harris is a writer in exile who has spent the last decade travelling and working around the world. This is not nearly as glamorous as it sounds and usually involves scraping by on a diet of muesli and cheap wine. Occasionally together. You can find her at www.clairejharris.com

I’ve crashed enough houses and visited enough cities to know how to be the anthesis of a good guest. Learn from my bitter experiences. Do it.  

 

 

Have you ever had someone stay with you about seven days too long? Or got the sinking feeling after six and half days at someone else’s house that you might be that person? Well, don’t worry—I’ve got you covered. Based on some recent experience, here’s a list of things to avoid if you don’t want to be a terrible house guest.

 

Don’t eat all the food!

Look, if you’re staying with someone you know well, a little late-night raiding of the fridge is hardly going to ruin a friendship. Just don’t eat all the food. Don’t cook a meal in front of your host, helping yourself to generous portions of ingredients from their pantry without so much as offering them the scraps from your homemade lunch. There’s a supermarket next door—would it kill you to replace the loaf of bread you finished?

Eat out occasionally. Heck, maybe even invite them out for a meal once during your stay. Or buy them a drink, for God’s sake, they’ve earned it. And heading for the airport leaving a trail of crumbs, unwashed dishes, empty cheese packets and egg cartons in your wake is frowned upon.

 

Don’t insult the city you’re visiting!

I know, I know, people can get a bee in their bonnet about the darnedest things. But quite liking the city they live in often happens to be one of those things. So don’t refuse to leave the house all week because it is your firm belief that “every city looks the same”. Under no circumstances express this belief out loud.

And read the room, bud—if your host seems to take offence and questions whether Melbourne really looks like Moscow and Mexico City and Mbabane, repeating the insult isn’t really the done thing. So pretend to like their city. Find one nice thing to say about it. Who knows, if you actually go outside and take a look around, you might not even have to lie.

 

Don’t ignore your hosts!

When you’re done upsetting your hosts and you’re forced to go to a social event with them which is pretty uncomfortable because, ya know, you haven’t apologised for insulting the place they live in, when you then have to sit on a tram together, don’t stare at your phone.

And whatever you do, don’t put headphones on when your hosts are talking to each other. Don’t walk two steps ahead with music blasting in your ears like a teenage boy and not a grown-ass adult. Look up from your screen and engage in conversation that isn’t about you. It ain’t rocket science, matey.

 

Don’t flirt with senior citizens!

I can’t believe I have to spell this one out—but you’ll make it hella awkward for everyone involved. For you, for your hosts who are desperately trying to pretend they don’t know you. But most of all for the 70-year-old lady whose husband is sitting next to her and isn’t sure how to respond to your innuendo about the room being “hot…not just physically”.

Ditto the octogenarian. Don’t pull her walker ’cause that woman really doesn’t want to dance with you. And if a couple of senior ladies decide to get up and do a comedy routine at the bar, don’t squat on the floor in front of them blowing kisses. Just fight the urge with everything you’ve got—is that too much to ask?

 

Don’t take the “thank you” gift with you!

If you’ve been a terrible house guest and you leave two boxes of chocolates lying around, your hosts are probably going to leap to the conclusion that you’ve bought them a box each—as a way of saying thanks or sorry or something. Sounds crazy, but I guess that’s what a lot of people do.

So don’t take the chocolates when you go. Or, if you simply can’t leave a gift, then at the very very least, give ‘em the old verbal “thank you”. It’s just two syllables, it won’t kill you. Especially when they throw you a prompt like “thanks for visiting us” even though they don’t mean it. Don’t respond to that by telling them how much everyone loves you.

Or do, I don’t care. Get in the damn taxi. Just please don’t come again.

 

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