Across the USA, you will find a vast array of traditions. But, one thing that is common to all of the USA and its various states is the dislike of an uncouth houseguest.
Most Americans are quite relaxed. They are often considered less formal and more forgiving that those in other parts of the world.
Unlike the shocking discomfort that British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was made to feel at Balmoral Castle while spending a weekend with the Royal Family (The Crown, Season 4, Episode 2), you will be made to feel at home in the U.S. so long as you are kind in return.
But you have to keep some ground rules in mind.
Tips to Be a Great Houseguest
1. Carry a gift
If you are invited to someone’s home for the first time, you need to display your gratitude. The accepted way is to bring a gift.
The gift is a token of your appreciation for the effort that your host and their family are making. The most common gift is a bottle of wine. If they don’t drink, you could substitute this with a box of fine chocolates or gourmet nuts and dried fruits.
It does not have to be expensive, but it definitely has to be thoughtful and not picked up at the last minute.
2. Purchase your groceries
If you have a special preference in food during your stay, like putting all-purpose seasoning on everything, make your own purchases.
Though most American homes have an assortment of barbecue sauces, condiments, juices, and coffee, if you desire a special type of dill pickle with your sandwich, purchase it yourself at the grocery store before you arrive.
Of course, if you have any food allergies such as peanuts or prefer to avoid seafood, let the hosts know well in advance.
3. Follow house rules
From the grandest mansion to the humblest one-room apartment, every home has its own rhythm. Slide into it effortlessly. Do you like to have a breakfast of scrambled egg whites at 10:00 A.M. during a holiday weekend? Your hosts might prefer to have pancakes and coffee at 7:00 before they set off for the gym.
In that case, make your own breakfast. Afterward, clean up the countertop and sink. Ask beforehand where towels and cleaning supplies are kept, so that you do not have to search endlessly. It is bad manners to leave behind a grease-spattered stove every time you venture into the kitchen.
4. House rules also apply to music and movies
Don’t ask permission to cue up your playlist on big living room speakers when the rest of the family wants to listen to Christmas carols. You have to jive with them and not make waves.
You might believe A Star Is Born is the greatest love story ever, but your hosts might prefer something more nuanced, such as Pride and Prejudice.
5. Help, and then help more
Offer to water the plants, cut the grass, take out the garbage, and lend a hand with all possible chores.
Nothing is more annoying than a houseguest who believes the host family to be their personal room service.
Do not lounge around all day watching endless reruns and scatter peanut shells all over the floor.
If your host is trying their best in the kitchen to make a roast, ask them what you can do to help. At the very least, you can take the dog for her evening walk, or keep an eye on the toddlers.
They might refuse your help, but you are supposed to ask nevertheless.
Tips to Be the Best Guest at a Dinner Party
1. Arrive early
But, not too early.
Arriving in time for a dinner party is an art that takes practice. You must not be the first to arrive and not the last either. About five minutes after the invite time would be excellent. Carry fresh flowers and a bottle of wine. Dinner parties in the USA are rarely without alcohol.
2. Dinner conversation
If you want to be a cherished guest, have some great stories to tell. No one likes a guest who is glum and chews food in silence.
At the very least, go through a news and lifestyle website and think of a few things to say. A half an hour spent on a website such as USA Today or Huffington Post can give you a lot of raw material.
Think of something interesting and appealing to all, and not staid old conversation about the NBA.
3. Avoid politics
The best way to avoid any unpleasantness is to avoid all conversations about politics. Someone two places down might bait you into making a controversial statement. Stay above the fray and take the high road.
Learn to switch the conversation when something controversial comes up by becoming suddenly interested in the marinade the hostess used.
Political topics are not limited to the political affairs hot in Washington, but also capital punishment, affirmative action, critical theory, abortion rights, immigration, and similar hot button issues.
4. Stay sober
Do not drink more than you can handle. The moment you find your speech slurring slightly, or a flush on your face, cease drinking for half an hour. That is enough time for the effect to dissipate and keep you from becoming too intoxicated.
Note that the host or another guest might be inebriated and push a drink on you. Refuse too much alcohol politely and firmly.
5. Offer to help
There is plenty to do at a party, from arranging the table to removing and washing the plates. Offer to help, but do not insist. A helping hand is always welcome, and there is little doubt that some chore will be assigned to you.
A Tip for Hosts
While this article mostly centers on being a delightful guest, we cannot help but provide a piece of advice for the host.
The U.S. is a nation built by immigrants. As of 2015, there were 47 million documented immigrants in the country. This means a sizable chunk of the 79 million visitors to the US every year comprises parents and siblings of those who have made the U.S. their new home.
Your parents, siblings, and others who visit are not eligible for Medicare or Medicaid. Neither are they covered by employer-provided health insurance.
Yet there is a genuine possibility that your folks might require medical attention because of injury, ailment, or a chronic condition.
As the host, advise them to buy an affordable visitors insurance policy for the duration of their trip. They can be covered and you can be worry-free.
Otherwise, a trip to the ER can end up costing $1,500 or more when you include follow-on consultation and ambulance charges.
Excellent visitors insurance policies are available at Insubuy.
Medical care in the U.S. is expensive, and having a trusted partner by your side can make all the difference.
And as It Ends…
Well begun is half done, but as a guest, whether for the weekend or at a party, the end matters more. You have to remember to be perfectly gracious and express your gratitude.
After a day or two, write a note to tell your host how much you enjoyed their company and accommodation.
If the host does not read email regularly, phone them. Never ever send such a message through Facebook or some similar service.
The perfect guest will, in time, reciprocate with an invite of their own, though there is no hard or fast rule.
People form deep associations during such visits. They are opportunities to see how someone behaves outside their place of work, club, or gym. Grasp the rules we presented, do a little research of your own, be helpful and engaging, and all will be fine.
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