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Hosts, Guests and Intruders

Joined: 6/22/2009
Posts: 52
Summer is a season when people travel to visit friends and family and make new acquaintances along the way. Hosting visitors can be one of life’s most rewarding and greatest pleasures. It also has the potential to be a very stressful and frightening experience. The outcome is ultimately in the hands of the host or hostess, and with some careful and thoughtful planning most of the pitfalls can be avoided. For me, surprise visits are always the most likely ingredients to produce such stress. With a few simple guidelines, be the perfect host or perfect guest, and avoid being the dreaded intruder.

Accurate scheduling seems obvious, but is occasionally left to the last minute causing unnecessary problems. Planning ahead is good for both the host and guest. Summer seems to be the busiest time of year in many respects. Kids are out of school; the weather is warmer and conducive to lots of outdoor activities - sports, barbecues, beach parties, camping, etc. It takes as much time to plan for fun times as it does for business and school appointments. Careful scheduling really pays off. People suddenly have something to look forward to; celebrations and parties are planned; and sometimes distant cousins have the chance to get together, maybe even for the first time.

Surprise visits are usually not welcome. Although some people associate surprises with spontaneity, I consider unexpected guests to be unwanted intruders. The surprise guest is, after all, the antithesis of polite, or well-mannered, This reaction is likely a throwback to my childhood where it was instilled in me to always phone ahead before I was to visit anyone. It’s the total disregard for the other person that sets me on edge. What are people thinking who just drop in without fair warning? I don’t appreciate such interruptions and I don’t expect that anyone else does either. Crashing a party or showing up at someone’s house without being invited is rude and disrespectful. My advice is to avoid this at all costs.

On the other hand, preparing for house guests can be a delightful experience. Guests always appreciate little touches. Flowers cut fresh from the garden, a small bowl of fresh fruit, or a bathroom with fresh towels are always welcoming. Although going to extra trouble comes naturally and appears effortless to some hosts, guests need to remember that their visit alone creates a change in the daily routine, sometimes even a bit of a disruption.

Both guests and hosts should be aware of any allergies or food aversions. Know the difference too. An aversion is an inconvenience; an allergic reaction can be life threatening. I find that the summer garden can provide special seasonal ingredients which, when incorporated into a special meal, can add that something memorable to enhance a lovely meal. People who travel from other parts of the country or from foreign lands especially enjoy local favorites. Here in St. Andrews, for example, steamed lobster, mussels simmered with garlic, wine and freshly chopped tomato seem to be big hits.

If you are planning a party at home and your house guests are from out of town, I think it’s always smart to inform them of any important local news such as recent deaths, illnesses, births, weddings, etc. An informed house guest is likely to avoid inadvertently putting his or her foot in their mouth.

Thankful guests should bring a thoughtful house present. Appropriate host gifts can include specialty foods, nice bottles of wine, chocolates or decorative items or collectibles known to be favorites. I find a colorful bunch of fresh flowers which can be easily arranged is fun. I usually don’t give potted plants because they aren’t really disposable and require ongoing care. If staying for several days, offering to cook a special dinner for your hostess would be a big hit, especially if you have a special talent for cooking.

A small kitchen  appliance might be a useful gift such as a coffee press or tea strainer with an assortment of teas. Think about something in a modest size-a unique wine stopper, decorative lemon squeezer, some small specialty kitchen tool. Of course your gift may be purchased during your stay once you see what your host needs, collects or wants. The length of your stay will also determine the type of gift you give.

Following any visit, a hand written sincere thank you note is a sure fire way to show how much you appreciated the time and trouble to which your host and hostess have gone. I have found a number of local stores that sell fantastic cards for all kinds of occasions. In St. Andrews, Boutique La Baleine seems to always have just what I need for a great card. Hand made cards, available in some stores, cost a few dollars more but they are sure to have a Wow effect, reflective of the time you have just enjoyed with your friends.

Being in sync with one another’s schedule; considering special likes and dislikes; and avoiding unnecessary surprises, all show the respect you have for each other. I can think of nothing more rewarding than a well planned and highly anticipated visit with friends and family as well as the new friendships which often emerge as a result.

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