Philip Galanes Gives Advice to Houseguests and Hosts

Friday, July 19, 2013

Summer is a big time for travel, and hosting guests and visiting others can raise some tricky questions about manners and etiquette. Philip Galanes offers advice for house guests and hosts! He's the New York Times Social Q’s columnist and author of Social Q's: How to Survive the Quirks, Quandaries and Quagmires of Today.

Do you have questions about being a house guest or hosting a house guest? Or do you have a disaster story to share? Let us know—leave a comment!


Philip Galanes

Comments [35]

TJ from New York

Okay, So my 1st cousin's ex wife (she and I became very close), who was living with her soon-to-be new husband in S. Carolina asked if she, he, and his 9 yr old daughter, could stay with me for two nights - in NY. I agreed, but when I asked if I could stay ONE night with them for their wedding, I was told they had no room for me. Still, I had already agreed to have them over. Giving me very short notice, she called me and told me that their plans changed - they were now expecting to stay with me for just under a week.

It was prefaced with "I'll take care of everything - weekend dinners, etc... I know you work and don't have time. Don't worry".

They arrived, they were out every day and every night. Food shopping was apparently about only what would interest her fiance. In addition, she invited others to Friday night dinner - at my house. She bought 10 pieces of chicken, which she prepared. Nothing else. I had to shop-last minute, while totally exhausted, and prepare the rest of dinner. She bought wine for next evening dinner's hostess. When asked if she got wine for Friday night, she explained that she and her fiance don't drink wine - so, "no". She also purchased cake for the two of them only, which they devoured like animals.

He walked around with only a towel wrapped around his lower waist, belly hanging out, and sweating all over the house. It was a quick fix for my otherwise decent appetite. In addition, while I was washing dishes, he directed his daughter to bring him the kitchen hand towel with which he buffed his shoes for a good shine. Had I not seen this, I would have continued to use that towel as a hand towel.

When I mentioned my disappointment that they made no time for all of us to go out and spend some time together, she made a feeble attempt to pacify me by letting me know - 10 minutes before they were off to her daughter's graduation - that if I can get ready in 3 minutes, they'll take me for a quick breakfast, but it could be no longer than 15 minutes in total.

To summarize, I realized that my only function in their lives was to save them a few hundred $$ on a hotel stay. They completely took advantage of my good nature & hospitality, without so much as thanking me. The next time I heard from her was two weeks later when she texted me "what time does your plane land" (for her wedding). Needless to say, I was so disgusted with their behavior and lack of consideration or gratitude...I did not go to the wedding. I could not see taking a day off of work, spending hundreds on a flight and hotel, and rushing back home the next morning, and I felt too hurt to want to be anywhere near either of them.

My wedding gift was the hundreds of dollars that I saved them on a hotel.

Jul. 19 2013 06:42 PM

"Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn" wrote (12:32 PM)

"DO NOT reset anything on your hosts' computer. If they allow you to use it to check e-mail, be careful NOT to download ANYTHING at all."

You raise a good point, in general, about the consideration and extra precautions that are warranted when using someone else's computer.

What you want to avoid is doing anything that could alter the contents or configuration of the host computer. Merely /downloading/ files, however, onto one's own USB drive or the like, should be fine. Where one can run into trouble is in /opening/ files. Certainly, an /executable/ (.exe on Windows) file should never be opened. But even non-executable, data-only files can be problematic. In addition to leaving tracks behind, these can be infected with malicious code. The most risky are probably PDF and DOC files but even JPG, PNG, PNG and TIFF files are not without risk.

At the very least, one should be sure to use the browser on the host computer in "private" or "incognito" mode. This prevents data, such as cache, browsing history, cookies and login credentials, from being saved to the host computer.

Better is to use portable apps: self-contained programs that can be kept-on and run from one's own personal USB flash drive. In addition to not leaving tracks on one's host computer, using portable apps also affords the advantage of having one's personal settings and configuration: bookmarks, add-ons, plugins, etc.

Using portable apps can also offer a limited degree of protection against causing any harm to the host computer through one's activity on it, as well as vice versa: having any of one's files or media itself become infected from any malware that may reside on the host computer.

But the /best/ option when using a computer that is not one's own, is to use a /live operating system/. I hope to elaborate somewhat in a future post.

Jul. 19 2013 02:29 PM

Suzanne Bruner from NYC wrote,

"Also, how does one address gay men. Do they like to be referred to as she?
It's confusing because gay men often call their partners "she"."

The words of longtime gay activist Bill Weintraub:

______Begin Quoted Text____________

Psychologically, the cultural emphasis on anal sex has been, I maintain, devastating also. The division of gay men into tops and bottoms means, inevitably, that a large proportion of gay men, probably the majority, internalize a submissive, feminized role that at best is a parody of the way women themselves actually behave and which has been rejected by most heterosexuals. (The incorporation of this female caricature, which is most clearly seen in the buxom burlesques of drag, should not be confused with the psychologically desirable male goal of coming to terms with the feminine, or intuitive, side of one's nature.) As gay men we experience the results of this internalized self-hate everyday in the bitchiness, the attitude, the hissy fits,

[***********]and the denigrating use of she, her, and girl to refer to other gay men [****]

which, along with alcoholism, drug abuse and compulsive promiscuity, are among the worst aspects of gay male life.

_____________End Quoted Text______________
[emphasis mine]
From 'Frot: The Next Sexual Revolution' by Bill Weintraub (Explicit, graphic, but serious adult content) Copyrighted material. All rights reserved.

Jul. 19 2013 01:01 PM

On the other hand, when we used to visit relatives on Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga in the '50s they would be hurt if we didn't spend at least 2 weeks. Times have changed.

Jul. 19 2013 12:41 PM
Kate from Washington Heights

I had an experience similar to the person who stayed at the home of a rich person. I went to Mexico and stayed with a friend. I didn't realize that she had two chauffeurs and two housemaids, who all waited on me hand and foot. One of the chauffeurs drove me to the airport when I left. On the way to the airport, I asked the chauffeur to stop at a shop where I bought gifts to thank my friend for her hospitality, and asked the chauffeur to drop them off for my friend. I also gave him a bag with four small items (chocolates or something) for him and the other chauffeur and the two housemaids. I said, "And these are for you and Carlos and Ana and Elena (or whatever their names were). He looked puzzled. When I came home to the US, I asked a Latina friend who comes from that kind of wealth back home, and she said that I should *not* have given gifts to the staff because it would make them uncomfortable, and that they might even worry about how it would look to their employer.

Jul. 19 2013 12:40 PM
Mark Fetner from East Rockaway, NY

At least two of Mr. Gelanes's answers were based on lies:

"We're such light sleepers we'd rather stay in a hotel." and "The week was so hectic that we'd rather spend the weekend with just the family."

There's gotta be a better way!

Jul. 19 2013 12:37 PM

Regarding thank you notes, in today's social media environment, it is too easy to at least text or email a lovely gracious thank you to ever make the omission acceptable. As an owner of a second home with tons of guests, I can say definitively that lack of even a text or email thank you would be the kiss of death Vsv further invitations.

Jul. 19 2013 12:35 PM
don coolio

I often get into political arguments with house guests which just riles la joie du vivre.. Often, I like to compare the obama administration to a totalitarian fear-mongers. I argue, that to rationalize obama's actions, even to illustrate their absurdity, is to play into his game, so to speak. it gestures, in essence, that somehow any of this can be discussed rationally, to the credit any of this is NOT categorically derived irrationally.

Jul. 19 2013 12:34 PM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

Another tip for guests:

DO NOT reset anything on your hosts' computer. If they allow you to use it to check e-mail, be careful NOT to download ANYTHING at all.

Jul. 19 2013 12:32 PM
don coolio

I often get into political arguments with house guests which just riles la joie du vivre.. Often, I like to compare the obama administration to a totalitarian fear-mongers. I argue, that to rationalize obama's actions, even to illustrate their absurdity, is to play into his game, so to speak. it gestures, in essence, that somehow any of this can be discussed rationally, to the credit any of this is categorically derived irrationally.

Jul. 19 2013 12:32 PM
Meg from CT

College friend of husband asked if son could stay with us during a NYC internship with husband's firm - we were delighted and said yes. Said intern/child proceeded to be rude and demanding (his acid reflux required his bed to be slanted downward 6 inches..) so I know the answer (we signed up for it) and we learned our lesson.

However, the maddening thing is that father/college friend sent us a flower arrangement and said a mild "thanks". How do you start THAT conversation? Or, is it in the past and should just stay there? It is a bit of a strain on the friendship.


Jul. 19 2013 12:31 PM
dan k from park slope

for their daughter's wedding, i hosted the soon to be inlaws of a family friend from rural Texas, at my parent's house in Park Slope. I came home one night before they did. when i awakened i found the old mans passed out in his underwear in my hallway, the front door wide open apparently all night, toilet paper all over the floor and apparent vomit in the toilet, and clothing all over the house.

Jul. 19 2013 12:31 PM
veronique from brooklyn

what about people who seem more interested in visiting nyc than visiting us? in one case, an old friend/colleague with whom i don't feel particularly close anymore asked to visit, and then went gallivanting off to the city the day after they got here without even thinking of asking whether we were free ... i understand the desire not to impose, but the desire to not include hosts in your plans?

Jul. 19 2013 12:28 PM
Suzanne Bruner from NYC

My sister lives in France and I would like to spend a month in Aug. However, she doesn't mind, I have a brother in law and niece who may not be as excited to put up with me.

Also, how does one address gay men. Do they like to be referred to as she?
It's confusing because gay men often call their partners "she".

I like the idea of the man's list. Not knowing what to do as a guest makes me nervous.

Jul. 19 2013 12:28 PM
Nancy from Morristown, NJ

This is why I'm a hermit!

Jul. 19 2013 12:28 PM
Carla Heitzman from Bergen county, nj

I have the opposite problem with kids. As the mom of two young boys (3 and 5) I _know_ the damage they can do to a house, restaurant, etc. and so I never want to take them anywhere. And I find that friends without kids or with kids that are better behaved are always trying to get us to do things and won't take "no" for an answer. So what would you do? I find especially annoying if I finally give in and then am lectured on my parenting skills...

Jul. 19 2013 12:27 PM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

As a guest:

I call my hosts before I go to ask if there is anything special they want or need that I can get for them. No gift is as much appreciated as one you know they REALLY want.

I always help with household chores.

I always take my hosts to dinner at least once.

I always strip the bed, fold blankets, take used towels and sheets to the laundry room.

I have special dietary requirements, so I often bring some of my own food to save my hosts the trouble of providing for me.

I keep the bathroom I use IMMACULATE. Always wipe out the tub after I use it.

Jul. 19 2013 12:27 PM
steve from queens

don't ever assume the dog is welcome. and when they arrived with the dog, I kept my mouth shut - something unusual for me. it was not until I woke on the second day of their visit and felt something stuck to the bottom of my foot - something like dried glue. It turned out that the dog had shat in my room next to my side of the bed and when I went to bed at 3 am after hours of drinking, I stepped in the poo and went to bed with it on my foot. When I went downstairs quite annoyed, my friend's wife said "I did say to you ALL of us in the email asking if we could stay" i had to explain that here in NYC we are too busy to read into code words such as "all" and understand that that means the mutt as well.

Jul. 19 2013 12:24 PM
Steve from NYC

Does Philip ever sense that he is treated more carefully/differently when he is a guest at someone's house or party due to his expertise?

Jul. 19 2013 12:23 PM
banker lady from White Plains, NY

I have a long-time friend who is very generous with invitations to her beach house, but has, what I think, is an off-putting habit. When I accept her invitation and arrive, I always bring a nice "hostess" gift -- which she appreciates. Depending on the length of the visit, I will occasionally pay for her meal if we go out to a restaurant. However, she has often commented, after one of my visits, or before a next visit, that other guests "bring alot of food" and "take me out to dinner almost every night" of their visits. I feel that hostesses who ask you to bring food (assuming you have no special dietary needs) are not really offering hospitality. How do I handle this without ruining the friendship or having the invitations cease?

Jul. 19 2013 12:23 PM
veronique from Brooklyn

What about guests who we feel are more interested in visiting NYC than us? In one case, an old friend and colleague (with whom I don't feel particularly close these days) asked if she and her boyfriend could stay. They came on a Thursday and on Friday just went off by themselves to do sight-seeing. This has happened with a relative of mine as well--he sends emails saying "We're coming to the Northeast in September on these dates. Can we stay..." without ever saying it would be "nice to see us," or any such niceties.

Jul. 19 2013 12:22 PM
Lesa from Pleasantville

Thank you for giving me permission to take care of myself first! I would like to keep Philip in my pocket to handle situations that just pop up!

Jul. 19 2013 12:19 PM

I strip the bed at the end of our stay, if in a hotel leave them at the foot of the bed in a pile, or take to the laundry room if with family. Fold the bedspread and put the pillows in a stack on the bed. I offer to remake the bed if I'm with friends/family if it's appropriate.

Jul. 19 2013 12:17 PM
Pretzels from Reading, Penna.

HELP! This is a question from a would-be hostess. Several times during the last year, I've had a friend insist he was coming for the weekend and then back out, usually about three days before. At least twice, I arranged to take non-paid time off in order to be a good hostess in anticipation of his stay only to have him cancel. The reasons for canceling are always vague and squishy. I'm thinking of pulling in the welcome mat for this particular person.

Jul. 19 2013 12:13 PM from Manhattan.

Hi. I gave a gift certificate to a fancy restaurant as a thank you gift. The people admitted that they have lost the cerificate. The owner of the restaurant offered a replacement. Should I give the certificate to the friends again or keep it?

Jul. 19 2013 12:13 PM
SV from NYC from NYC

Years ago, my former spouse's mother came to visit us in VT. She had stated before her arrival that she'd only be staying "a day or two" before moving onto her final destination. Upon stepping off the bus she announced she planned to stay with us 2 weeks. It didn't go well. After that experience I always made it my personal rule as a houseguest (even with family) to stay only upon the agreed upon time, and no more.

Jul. 19 2013 12:12 PM

People who come and stay and stay and stay. How do I get rid of them?

Jul. 18 2013 07:13 PM
Joanne from Stamford

I had became friendly with a co-worker at our office in mid-town. She lived in an apartment in Queens and I commuted in from Stamford (a 45 minute ride on Metro-North). I asked her if she would like to join me at the beach on a Saturday. She responded with, "Why don't I just take the train home with you on Friday and commute back with you on Monday morning." It was very awkward because I wasn't inviting her for a weekend getaway, simply a day trip to the beach. I told her that I had a ton of errands and other obligations during the weekend. We were both offended and our friendship took a hit.

Jul. 18 2013 01:40 PM

To the people who strip the linens: Daily or on the last day of your stay?

I hope it's the latter, as laundering sheets daily would be quite wasteful and environmentally irresponsible.

Jul. 18 2013 01:38 PM
Sherri from NYC

Not a question, but: What do we have to do to get Philip into the New York Times and onto Leonard's show daily? I love the questions and his advice. He's better than a Lederer...

Jul. 18 2013 08:35 AM
gayle anne from Park Slope

How do you deal with HINTERS? As in: Your weekend place sounds terrific. Do you invite friends up? (Obviously, this is for people we DON'T want to invite!)

Jul. 17 2013 05:55 PM

While I was pregnant, I invited some friends to stay with us in August. Now that the baby is here, I just don't think I can handle guests. How much advance notice do I have to give to cancel?

Jul. 17 2013 05:40 PM
Linda from Park Slope

My husband's old college friend asked if her son and husband could stay with us while the son did a college tour. We said "Sure." Wow. For starters, our guests blew their noses on the bathroom towels. They festooned the floor of our guest room with open snack food bags and empty bottles. They pulled out the doorknob and left it on the floor, too. Later, when asked, we lightly mentioned to the college friend that the stay had been a bit of a challenge. She rolled her eyes and said, "Imagine what I go through every day!" Should she have sent her son and husband to us?

Jul. 17 2013 12:17 AM
PB from Maplewood, NJ

I always strip the linens and replace the pillows under the bedspread, although I do not fold them. My thinking is that folding linens is a step too far and may lead someone to thinking the sheets are fresh. For the convenience of my host, I drop the sheets off on the washing machine. I am always surprised by guests that leave their room with the bedsheets askew. Do they think they are staying at a hotel?

Jul. 16 2013 07:57 PM
Mike from Branchville, NJ

Upon awakening after a (last) night sleeping as a houseguest, I habitually strip the linens off the bed I used and fold them to be laundered, then replace the pillows under the bedspread. Does anyone else do this? Is it correct?

Jul. 16 2013 05:52 PM

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