Summer is here, bringing with it vacations, road trips and impromptu visits.
Whenever I’m invited to a friend’s place in another town, I always go. (Making me, of course, either the worst or the best friend….but at least now you know). I absolutely love visiting a new place with the help of someone who lives there. I get to spend time with a friend and tour a new destination – what’s not to love?
Marco and I have had wonderful weekend trips to London, Cambridge, Madrid, Cleveland, but we love hosting friends visiting Italy just as much as we love visiting friends abroad. With a visit we get to see a friend and show off our life, our town, the culture. Our friends hosting us have always been gracious and fun and accommodating – in return, we’ve always tried to be the same.
Because being invited into someone else’s home is important. Invading someone’s space is a tricky dynamic, but it can be navigated well with a few common sense rules. Want to couchsurf your friend’s homes? Here’s how to do it right:
Plan ahead of time
Talk with your hosts well ahead of time. Maybe they extended a vague invitation with no timeline, so reach out with ample time to plan for both of you. Planning ahead of time also means giving your host a brief outline of what you’d like to do. Want to go off on your own some? Great, do that! It’s good for guests to see what their hosts time constraints are also.
Be flexible or independent
Speaking of which, don’t go to someone’s house with a strict itinerary and a list of demands. I’ll do all I can for you during your visit, but Italy is my home, not my vacation, so be flexible about my time schedules also. Then, if it’s not enough or our schedules don’t work, go out on your own! If we’re busy, we’re still happy to have you, but even more so if you’re independent enough to do something on your own.
Look for – and follow – cues
A lot of host’s frustration could be avoided if houseguests were attentive to nonverbal cues. As with any social interaction, there’s a lot of information conveyed without being said out loud. Look for how your host tenses up when you put your shoes on the couch, leave your brush on the kitchen table or open up another bottle of wine without asking first. Mi casa es su casa….to a point. Peace reigns alongside proper manners.
Ask for what you need
That said, as a host I’m looking to make your stay great, but I can’t do that if I don’t know what you need! Did I give you only one towel but you usually use two? Ask! I promise I have another. Do you need a trip to the pharmacy, ATM, grocery store? I can point it out for you. A visit to a friend’s place is best when everyone is happy.
Don’t stay too long
Three nights is more than enough. More than that requires a special relationship, special attention and more independence.
Show interest in our home
Ok, you’ve made this entire trip to come stay with us in a new place. Of course you mostly came to see our beautiful faces, but let’s get real, it’s the destination that’s fascinating. Be interested! I can’t tell you how many people I’ve showed around Italy, spouting off facts and playing tour guide, who don’t listen to a word I say about the culture, history or sights. Why did you come then? Why am I making so much effort? If you’re going to travel to visit someone, be interested in the life there as well. It only makes sense.
Ok, duh. But beyond respectful toward me, my home and family, be culturally respectful. No one likes the “Ugly American” while abroad. Of course you can act however you want, but if you’re touring around with me than you’re connected to me and I worked damn hard to fit in to this culture, so don’t tear me down into that group with you. Try to follow the cultural norms, to be polite, to travel ethically, and the entire trip will be a breeze!
Of course if you really want the visit to go well come with presents, compliments and a willingness to laugh at everything we say. After a visit this year to Cambridge and last year to Cleveland I’ve been thinking a lot about the stress our trips may put on our friends. I admit we’ve had our share of stressful visits here, but overall we’re happy to host – especially when our houseguests follow these tips!
Are you typically the host or the houseguest? What would you add to the list for the best houseguest ever?