#990: Living in a tourist city, feeling like a hotel.

Dear Captain Awkward,

I recently moved with my partner to a very popular area for tourists. We’ve encountered an issue with friends and acquaintances who visit to view the area, not necessarily visit us. We end up financially supporting their visit… including parking costs, gas money, wear and tear on the car, and groceries. They don’t seem to be genuinely interested in us or how we are doing. How do we approach accepting visitors into our home, without ending up as their personal hotel and valet service?

Thank you,
Lisa

Dear Lisa,

I am very annoyed on your behalf. Here’s what I suggest:

  • Talk it over with your partner and then place a (eternally renewable)(3-6 month) moratorium on any visitors staying with you. “We’d love to see you when you’re here, and we’re happy to make some local recommendations for where to stay and what to eat, but we can’t put anybody up just now.” You don’t have to give a reason beyond “It just doesn’t work for us to have people stay during that period, sorry! Let us know where you end up booking.”
  • Anyone who invites themselves for a visit and/or balks at this – “What do you mean we can’t stay with you?” – goes on a longer, perhaps permanent houseguest ban.
  • You don’t have to be fair or consistent. If your friends are great houseguests and your family not so much, host the considerate folks as it suits you and don’t host the inconsiderate people. If some people put a lot of love and effort into maintaining a relationship with you even though you live far away, give them priority over people who get in touch only when they want a free vacation spot and who put your shoulders up around your ears.
  • If a visit is looming, it’s okay to discuss your expectations and availability. “When you’re here, we have Sunday afternoon or Tuesday night free to meet up for a meal or museum tour or whatever. Will that still work?” “We can cook or take you out for one dinner while you’re here, is there a night that works best for you?” “We can put you up for one night but not the whole visit.” Setting limits like this isn’t mean, you’re helping people make good decisions about how to budget their $ and time.
  • If you did start hosting people again, you can absolutely put limits around it. A good friend has a “extra bedroom, free for up to 3 days with 1 month’s advance notice, no pets or babies” policy. She’s transparent about it, and nobody’s offended if she says “Sorry, that won’t work,” to a particular request.
  • Also, a lot of my friends and I have a houseguest policy of “I will bring you your first drink/feed you your first meal and then show you where we keep stuff so you can help yourself going forward.” Day 1 I’ll hand you a mug of coffee if I’m making some, Day 3 you’ll probably hand me one because you got up earlier and got a pot started.
  • Pay attention to please and thank you. I don’t get bothered if people don’t bring a host gift or send a thank-you-card – I’m pleased and surprised if they do it, but I don’t really expect it, especially from family or close friends. But people who never say thank you of any kind? I do notice that. It’s okay if you do, too.
  • Everyone who vacations together/dines out together/hosts people needs to figure out some way to talk about money. I can’t recommend the Splitwise app enough for this purpose, with friends and as a script: “We’d love to take you out for one night while you’re here, otherwise is it okay if we split the bill or do separate checks?“After we grab you from the airport let’s go by the grocery store and you can buy some of the breakfast foods you like best so we have them in the house.

I know this attitude is SHOCKING and FORBIDDEN in certain families who have a culture of “When you visit me, I pay for everything and when I visit you, you pay for everything” or “The older generation always pays for the younger” and I predict that the old Ask Culture vs. Guess Culture divide will rear its head with this advice. What I’ll say about that is, yeah, the expectation seems to be that the Letter Writer will provide everything when people visit and also that structure and those expectations aren’t working, so it’s time to maybe clarify the unwritten rules so they work for everyone even at the risk of some awkwardness. Whether it’s easier to Have An Awkward Talk That’s Considered Rude vs. The Prospect Of Such A Talk Is Far Too Awkward, We Will Shut Down Hosting Altogether, the Letter Writer & partner can determine for themselves.

Fortunately for everyone, tourist destinations have tourist support services like hotels, restaurants, and taxis. Your friends get can themselves to and from the airport, rent a car or hire a guide to local attractions, and feed themselves. Try to make any tour-guiding or ferrying or feeding you do solely because it gives you pleasure to spend time with these people, not because they expect it or you feel like you have to.

To sum up:

  • Take a break from trying to be the perfect hosts.
  • Take a break from hosting houseguests at all. I suggest 6 months as a starter period, but another way to decide is to stop hosting until you actually start to miss it. 
  • When you do host again, do less. Do less tourism and/or logistical support for visitors. Spend less money and effort. Limit the time you’ll spend with the people so instead of them thinking “Aw, we have the whole week to hang out” you can plan more quality, relaxing time together in advance.
  • Pay attention to who is cool and who is not cool.
  • You’re not being selfish or rude if you set limits around how much you want to host or around turning down people who are more about the place than they are about seeing you.
  • Re-work all of this in a way that works for you.

You got this!

❤ and boundaries!

P.S. Edited To Add since I’m in a ranty place today and I just binged all of The Good Place in 2 days.

“Have you ever planned a visit to someone in another city, and when they ask you what you’d like to do when you’re in town, answered with ‘oh, anything is fine, whatever you want‘?”

…should probably go on the Do You Maybe Belong In The Bad Place questionnaire.

 

 

269 comments
  1. Andraste said:

    Been there! I used to live in a tourist city as well, so I feel you. My personal rule of thumb was this: people who were coming primarily to see ME were welcome to stay at my house. This meant family and close friends–actual people I really enjoyed seeing. People who were coming primarily for CITY or EVENT could stay elsewhere unless it was very short term (overnight, maybe a weekend). If they wanted to get dinner or coffee I was down and had plenty of recommendations, but if you’re coming to see the city, isn’t it great that there are lots of hotels around? 🙂

    • OH, yeah. I used to live in Central Florida, and we learned quickly how to tell the difference between people who wanted a free hotel and Disney trip versus the people who wanted to spend time with us.

      We are Disney lovers, ourselves, so we would be happy to accompany them to Disney World, but not the whole visit. If you’re not happy just hanging out with us at home, then you might as well get the hotel. But if you just want to be WITH us, then spending time together at Disney World is great, because all that time in line, or sitting holding your seats for a show or parade (seriously, get your seats an hour before-hand) is at least half of the fun, because we get to CHAT!

      It’s the difference between a great visit with a friend, interspersed with occasional attractions, and a fun trip to a big attraction, for which you have to pay the price of chatting with people.

      Then there are the people who saved up and saved up and saved up, and still can’t afford a hotel, but with free lodging, they can afford the trip, and yes, they want to spend time with us, but their main goal is actually Disney World. We’d go with you to Disney part of the time, and enjoy the hanging-out times, and then relax at home (or our regular work, not relaxing but necessary), while you do another day or two at Disney, and then maybe have another day there together, and so it’s the best of both worlds. BUT, you still have to be a decent houseguest and not expect to be waited on hand and foot or leave your laundry all over the floor. And also, wait for the invitation, y’all!

      • Indoor Cat said:

        I definitely concur about the difference between visiting someone and vacationing somewhere but wanting a free place to stay.

        I know this is a cultural thing, but, gut-check wise, the latter feels SO rude to me. I mean, between options like Couch Surfer ( which often involves trading spaces) and AirBnb, which is generally cheaper than a hotel, why would plan A be “ask a distant friend or cousin to put us up.” At least with Couch Surfer and Air Bnb you know before you ask that, since the person’s on the site, they want to have people in their house and won’t feel awkward or imposed on. Plus, if they say no, there are no social consequences for either the host or the travellers.

        • CoffeegirlKarin said:

          @Indoor Cat: I am a host on Couchsurfing, but I don’t accept guests who are just looking for a free hotel or hostel, either. I live in a large city that has a lot of fairs and exhibitions as well as a VERY large airport, so I’ll get couch requests from people who are on layover and need a place to sleep or are working at an event and need a place to crash. I personally feel like it’s insulting to be treated as a free hotel, because I like hosting people and want to hang out with them and get to know them.

          • Meagan said:

            As someone who has never been able to host (Though when I do get occasional requests, despite my ‘let’s meet for coffee’ status, they are of that nature), but has surfed a lot… I want to get to know my host!? I want to cook them dinner, pay for the wine, meet their friends, do laundry with them, give them a house concert. It’s SUPPOSED to be about getting to know locals and having a more personal cultural experience, not “Hey stranger, can I inconvenience you by crashing tonight?”.

            Why would anyone be eager to host people like that?

          • Meagan said:

            As someone who has never been able to host (Though when I do get occasional requests, despite my ‘let’s meet for coffee’ status, they are of that nature), but has surfed a lot… I want to get to know my host!? I want to cook them dinner, pay for the wine, meet their friends, do laundry with them, give them a house concert. It’s SUPPOSED to be about getting to know locals and having a more personal cultural experience, not “Hey stranger, can I inconvenience you by crashing tonight?”.

            Why would anyone be eager to host people like that?

          • CoffeegirlKarin said:

            @Meagan: I get so many requests from people who are looking for a free hostel, outright saying that since the hotel prices are high they need alternative accommodation.
            As Lois stated below, CS has started selling (out) the website by implying that that’s what the website is for.

            And the level of entitlement I get from some newbie surfers is staggering, so that I’m tempted to not host newbies anymore (sorry, I’ve been very frustrated by CS lately).

          • Lois said:

            @coffeegirlkarin I not only don’t host newbies, I don’t host, surf, or meet with anyone with fewer than five references, and I also only host or surf with women or mixed gender pairs. You gotta do what you gotta do! All this being said, I STILL feel like couchsurfing’s safety mechanisms are better than Airbnb, although that’s largely because I know how to make the sad remnants of CS’s system tell me what I need to know. If it were up to the new owners of the company, we would be providing free accommodations to total newcomers and have no local community at all. :-(:-(

          • Lionheart26 said:

            I quit CS in the end for similar reasons. To be fair, it’s also cos my boundaries suck. I will take someone to the grocery store “so you can choose what you want for breakfast” , and at least half the time I end up paying for it all. İ’ve even had guests invite me to a restaurant and then expect me to foot the whole bill (which I do cos I suck). I find the audacity of people who take all they can just staggering. When it works well, CS is such a great concept, but it’s not for the weak!

          • Christine said:

            That’s terrible! The appropriate thing to do is pay for the groceries and take you out for dinner, or some combination thereof. You’d be doing the couch surfer such a kindness opening your home.

          • Jane said:

            Yeah, I’ve only ever surfed, but I only do it when I have the emotional energy to engage with my host and the money to cook a meal or foot a nice host gift. If I am in a situation where I am too tired to talk to someone, I pay for a hostel or sleep in the airport.

          • CoffeegirlKarin said:

            Same. I just recently went on a three week backpacking trip and the thought of searching for CS hosts, writing requests, and the associated negotiation was overwhelming, which is why I opted to stay in hotels and hostels this time around.

        • Lois said:

          Sadly, Couchsurfing’s new management and advertising has given this impression. But the Couchsurfing community is very much against the idea of quid pro quo or being about a “space” — it’s about personal connections. It is really sad to me and many other CSers that the ownership of the company no longer agrees with the users about why we are using the service. 😦 But yeah, we ain’t Airbnb and anyone who wants a free place to stay is doing it wrong wrong wrong.

        • Emmers said:

          Well, the answer to “why” is “because strangers.” Plus everything outlined in “Living and Dying on AirBnB,” a great and sobering piece about the importance of government regulation.

          But NONE of that entitles anyone to use a friend’s house for vacation. It’s like tipping: if you can’t afford the hotel, you can’t afford the trip.

    • I never knew how many winter friends I had until I moved to Miami. But it was actually OK, because I was lonely and everyone who wanted to visit, even if a lot of it was their wanting to see Miami, was someone I wanted to see.

      I had a horrible job where I worked long hours, so it was very easy for me to tell friends they were welcome to stay in the guest room but I wouldn’t be able to entertain them. I got extra house keys made, grabbed a bunch of maps (I lived in Coconut Grove, which was very walkable – no car necessary), and assumed my guests knew how to find food.

      Almost everyone was stellar, including my friend Anna, who stayed the night before my aunt was arriving, and who washed the sheets and towels and re-made the guest bed before she left (while I was at work).

      Maybe I am just lucky and have really thoughtful friends and relatives?

      • Thanksforallthefish said:

        Sounds pretty awesome and lucky! Also I think having that hard limit of “can’t entertain” may help?

      • I don’t live in a massively touristy city, but when I’ve hosted friends and family, I’ve had similar experiences. I explain, well in advance, that I work ZXY days and that I’m not available to drive them around. I’m happy to give them the apartment key, the wifi password and give them free reign of the pantry and fridge. If I have a free evening, I’m happy to go out to dinner with them, but that’s not always the case.

    • lizinthelibrary said:

      I also live in a tourist place. Fortunately most people seem to already have accommodations and just want general recommendations. So I have a generic email saved that I tailor and email off to people, especially the more acquaintance types. If you like this type of activity, these are the best companies, so on and so forth.

      We had friends who when they first moved here made the mistake of basically being a free hotel/guest service for everyone they knew and lost an entire summer to hosting people. They laugh they won’t do that again. They’re much better at saying no or saying yes, but you entertain yourself.

  2. Mahkara said:

    Good advice all around! In addition, I wouldn’t let people borrow my car + would only take them to locations that I wanted to visit, anyway. (i.e. you want to spend your weekend at the beach and so do they? Awesome! If not, they can get a taxi/bus/rental car and do it on their own. I’ve started doing this where I live (Seattle) because I freaking hate the Space Needle and don’t intend to waste an afternoon + $40 on something I don’t find all that interesting.)

    As far as groceries go, I think it’s 100% reasonable to find some way to either segregate stuff you don’t want to share with guests (i.e. this cupboard is yours to nosh on, the rest isn’t), request that they pitch in (i.e. “I’m happy to pick up stuff you want when I’m at the store provided you pay me back!”) or just not share at all, period. A free room is pretty freaking generous as is. I honestly don’t see any reason to *also* provide free food + a car + whatever else. (But then, I’m also a grinch. But still…groceries can add up pretty fast, especially if people have demanding palates.)

    • Drew said:

      In your shoes, I’d say “Enjoy the Needle! I’ll be at the SF Museum!” But different strokes, plus you may also be sick of the SF Museum by now. (Color me jelly…)

      • Mahkara said:

        I’m okay with the museum, but it’s around $30 to go and I’ve already seen the exhibits. It’s one thing if I’m planning to be in that area, anyway, but buses exist and often weekends are super useful for getting chores done. (Vs. ferrying people around to see stuff that’s not really my cup of tea.) Now if guests want to go hiking…

    • B. said:

      Yeah, I concur. Whenever I visit someone and stay over at their house, my policy is “you provide my roof, I provide your food (and anything else that you may need and I can help you with)”. This means I go on grocery runs, cook, clean, and help with the chores.

      And that’s when I’m visiting someplace because I want to see someone and spend time with them, as opposed to when I want to tour the place (then I just find a hostel and make plans with those of my people who are around, unless they insist that I stay over. In which case, see first paragraph).

      So, to me, expecting your host to feed you for free as well is Very Rude. Even if the guest doesn’t offer to pay for all the food, I’d still expect some kind of splitting of the bills or economic contribution.

      • expecting your host to feed you for free as well is Very Rude.

        Exactly. When you stay with someone, you take them out to dinner. Or you bring the steak and the wine and prepare a meal.

        • Mahkara said:

          Yeah. I’m baffled by the groceries being a cost thing. Generally my guests have been polite enough to buy their own groceries (or pay me back for what I buy) + take me out for a meal (or make something special) to thank me. (FWIW, I do the same. A free room saves me around $100/day…not to mention that being able to buy groceries and cook vs. go out for everything is pretty fantastic! I can’t even imagine hosting someone who was like, “PAY FOR EVERYTHING!”

          • CMart said:

            I definitely think this is a cultural thing, even just on a micro/family culture level. The way things have seemed to operate with my family and very close friends is, when they are coming to see *me* (not just passing through the area and wanting a place to stay, which I’m also perfectly happy to do) or I am coming to see *them* then the host usually stocks up on groceries or often treats the visitor to dinner.

            The logic being that the visitor just spent $X00 on airfare, just to see little ol’ host. What’s an extra $50 worth of groceries to reciprocate some of the cost of being together?

        • robotneedslove said:

          The cultural and micro-cultural things are all so interesting. Like if you come stay in my house, I would probably prefer you don’t cook in my kitchen because I am territorial like a cat. But please feel free to bring food for the fridge or take me out for dinner!

          And that’s how I behave at other people’s places. Like this weekend I stayed at a friend’s cabin and brought tons of groceries and a bunch of beer and left a lot behind and did lots of dishes but only made vague offers to help cook and stayed out of my hosts’ way while they cooked – I hope it felt polite to them and not like I was expecting them to cook for me…. it’s so tricky sometimes!

          • Mahkara said:

            Yeah, I don’t know either. I mean, I have friends who love to cook and seem offended if I help out, so I don’t. (And one will gladly take a bottle of wine if I bring it along but not open it as she has something different planned. Whatever.)

            But it seems pretty freaking rude to not even offer. (Esp. if you’re planning to stay for any length of time.) I can’t imagine a host being offended that I offered to cook a meal/do the dishes/take them out for dinner/bring them a hostess guest, etc.

  3. SpinachInquisition said:

    >>share >>add to home screen

    *Bookmarking this page for future reference!

  4. darthtrina said:

    The Splitwise app looks great, but they had something even better in Vancouver, B.C., where I just visited. EVERY restaurant gladly split the bill on check immediately, and then brought a card reader to the table, so each of us could pay our own bill. It was so easy. I hope all restaurants follow suit soon.

    • In NYC, most restaurants that take cards will accept requests to split checks (either “1/3 on each of these cards” or “$25 on this card and the rest on that one”) with a minimum of fuss, because most restaurant point-of-sale systems make it pretty easy.

      • Goober said:

        There are, from what I understand, two major POS systems designed for restaurants. One will handle split checks for the same table, the other won’t. Or perhaps they just charge extra for training on how to do so. And a lot of smaller restaurants use stand alone credit card terminals instead of something integrated into their POS system, so splitting a check is simple arithmetic (which some waiters/waitresses can’t handle, but most can with a calculator).

        • Raptor said:

          One place I know of, the POS will let you put different menu items from the same ticket, but won’t split an appetizer or pitcher (or anything else you can share) onto two tickets. That was fun for my server friends to explain every day.

          • But why would they even have to explain it? It’s so obvious.

            Every person (or couple or small group) has their very own ticket. If someone on one ticket orders an appetizer or pitcher or something else to share, that is THEIR responsibility to share the thing. They are, in effect, mini-hosting, by sharing that one thing. They pay for it. If they then want to get some money from the other people at the table, that is their business.

            And yet, people have to have this explained to them? Every day? Wow.

          • jaynn said:

            Michelle–I would phrase it as a “can you do this” (I wouldn’t assume) but I have seen items splits between multiple bills before.

            FWIW, check splitting is absolutely standard here in Nebraska. The waiter will typically ask who’s together either while ordering or before bringing the check. It would be weird to find a place that doesn’t do that.

          • Jackalope said:

            Michelle: I’ve gone to restaurants with friends before where we all ordered All of the Things to share (say, 2 appetizers, a main course, and 2 desserts). There wasn’t something that belonged to just one of us besides our drinks, so when the staff just took the whole amount and divided it into 3 that was perfect. I know not every place does this, but it did make it easier than trying to make it so we were all paying the same amt while divvying up the meal items.

          • Raptor said:

            @Michelle In customer service, everything needs to be explained all the time. I once worked in a hotel gift shop, and people tried to check in in the gift shop several times a week.

            I know Cheesecake factory does split items because I had friends who always wanted to go on their birthday, and we would all pay for 1/6th or 1/7th or whatever of the birthday girl’s meal, and it would show up exactly like that on our split check: 1/6th club sandwich

            The place I was talking about had woefully out of date software for all of their operations, which is just not a way to do business. Their hotel PMS (property management system, don’t laugh) looked like the 80s.

        • Brigitha said:

          I worked as a server for almost 20 years, and I can tell you there are dozens of POS systems. Some exploding checks easier than others. So make it easy to split by item, Seat, or dollar amount, but won’t let you do it another way. The kindest thing to do your service to say upfront “can you put this on separate checks?” That way she can keep things organized in the way the works best with her POS system.

    • Interesting! As a west coast Canadian, I didn’t realize not every restaurant did that.

      • Another west coast Canadian here. I’ve only run across one restaurant who wouldn’t do that. I was seriously annoyed, more so because I specifically said at the beginning of the meal “I’m on my own bill” and the waitress said *nothing* until I went up to pay. It’s *weird* and *stupid* not to have the ability to pay for what you specifically got. Particularly since I don’t mind other people treating me once in awhile but when I buy my own food, I sometimes buy more expensive items than I would if someone else were footing.

        Side note, I have relatives who live in Vancouver. Our entire extended family regularly use them as a hotel/overnighter. I’ve been pushed by more than one family member to “oh, just go! They don’t mind!” when I want to go do something in Van, but I absolutely refuse *because* of all the other people using them like that. I mean, maybe it’s just the super territorial introvert in me speaking, but I can’t stand even the idea of asking someone if I can use their house for my convenience. Dude, no.

        Plus side, since I never impose on other people this way, nobody can use that as an excuse to impose on me, and when a lot of family is in town, my home still stays blissfully empty of anyone except me and the cat.

    • I live in Texas, and have yet to encounter a Texas restaurant that even blinks at the notion of separate checks. It’s fairly standard. Not so standard that it is the default. You still have to say, “We’ll do separate checks.” But I’ve never seen a server balk at it. In Texas.

      I understand that in some states, they have rules about this sort of thing, and it is, indeed, difficult to get separate checks. I don’t get it. Why? Who knows? I just know that I’m glad I don’t have that problem where I live. I have enough other problems, after all.

    • peregrinations said:

      I lived in Saskatchewan for several years and it was the same way there. Every restaurant and bar had handheld card readers that they brought to the table. Each person would just pay for their own items and the machine figured out the taxes. It was so easy, I’m amazed we don’t have that in the States yet. Even here in techie San Francisco splitting checks is still a hassle most places I go.

    • jd said:

      This is a Canadian thing, actually, or at least everywhere in Canada that I’ve lived. I don’t know why it is, but I’ve noticed a huge disjoint between my American and Canadian friends that all of us Canadians expect cheque-splitting to be easy and all the Americans assume it will be a huge chore, so I assume it’s a pretty universal difference between the two countries.

      • It is. (American, lived in Canada for six years.) That was an immediately noticeable cultural difference.

      • thathat said:

        Louisiana here. Splitting checks is very much the norm. There are a handful of restaurants that don’t, and they tend to be very pretentious (very briefly, our sketchgroup sports bar went that route. We went elsewhere).

        NOLA might be a little different, but shoot, I think NOLA still has some places that only accept cash.

      • LA said:

        It’s not a universal difference–think it may be a “northeastern/west coast American” difference. Everywhere I’ve lived in the US that was below Virginia, splitting checks is the norm. It’s pretty standard for servers to ask how we’re splitting the check before they even take orders.

        • jd said:

          Oh yeah, *splitting* the cheque is normal all over. The difference is in the hassle in doing it. In Canada, you don’t have to ask beforehand because it’s easy to do, but it seems like in the US, the servers need to know ahead of time because it’s a pain to do retroactively.

          • It depends on where you are. In the south and midwest, it’s not a hassle at all to split checks. I grew up in Oklahoma, and most places don’t care how you split or when you ask to split. Usually, the wait staff would wait until it was time to bring the bill and then ask if it was all together or if it needed to be separated. I’ve never had it be a problem to split stuff at all, whether each person’s items went on their own check or an equal portion of a shared item went on several people’s checks. I didn’t even know it was a thing for restaurants to not split checks in some regions until I ran across online anecdotes of such things in my early twenties.

    • B. said:

      In Austria and Germany, this is also the policy. The waitperson asks “Together or separate?” and everyone can pay for their own meal if desired. People usually also pay for one round each when going out for drinks.

      In Spain, it’s the opposite: the waitstaff might split the bill if asked, but usually people order lots of things to share and go Dutch (is that what you say when you split a big bill in equal parts?), pay one round each, or order their own food and pay for it by leaving their money on the table or giving it to the person who needs to pay with their card. This leads to a lot of arithmetics on the table, friends spotting one another a lot, and people adoring that one person who always has change and coins on hand.

      In my experience, the Spanish system works as well as the German one, as long as the people involved use their words and don’t try to take advantage. So I think that systems to make paying for groups easier are nice, but in the end what matters most is people being willing to communicate their needs and boundaries and not trying to scam their friends.

      • CoffeegirlKarin said:

        Additionally, it is easier to split the bill in Germany, Austria or Spain because the VAT is included in the final price and you don’t have to do the extra math of having to split the bill and allot the respective taxes (so if the price of my coffee according to menu is € 2.50, that’s what I’ll pay (and € 0.50 tip).

        • B. said:

          Oh, that’s right, I forgot about taxes in the US. Yeah, the Spanish system of splitting bills (aka “no restaurant will do it for you!”) would be far more complicated if people had to add taxes, unless each paid for their own food and then split the taxes costs equally. Now I understand the need for apps in the US ^^”

      • attica said:

        Fun idiom facts! ‘Going Dutch’, which generally doesn’t mean splitting the bill equally, but rather each pays for their own (so I will pay more if I have alcohol and two desserts and you do not), comes from the expression ‘Dutch treat.’ Which originated as a slur by the English against the Dutch (military and economic rivals for centuries). In the same way that ‘Dutch courage’ doesn’t mean bravery but drunken bravado, and ‘Dutch oven’ refers to a single measly pot rather than a blazing hearth capable of cooking many things at once (let’s ignore the far more recent fart-under-blankets meaning for this discussion), ‘Dutch Treat’ means the opposite of “My treat!”: a lack of generosity — every body pays their own way. Obviously, it’s been tamed into just plain handy slang over the centuries, so I doubt any Netherlanders would take offense now, but I pass this along because it’s fun to know!

        • B. said:

          Neat! Thank you very much for the mini dissertation on Dutch-idioms in English, they make much more sense now 🙂

        • Emma9 said:

          It’s good to know ‘Dutch treat’ isn’t that terrible; it’s one of those ubiquitous expressions where I grew up (along with ‘Indian giver’, ‘Chinese fire drill’, etc) that I’ve been trying to train my brain out of. (There were a lot of actual slurs in that environment as well, naturally, but that stuff was easier for a kid to recognize as *deliberately* offensive and thus not internalize.)

          • clorinda said:

            Emma, I could never convince my grandfather that the verb “gyp” was a slur, and for his whole life he used “jew” meaning “to bargain aggressively”–and his mother was Jewish. It makes me wonder what I say right now that will make any grandchildren I may have cringe in thirty years.

    • flynnthecat1 said:

      This was incredibly bewildering for years until I learnt that the US just doesn’t allow people to go up and pay a certain amount of the bill separately. Here you just say ‘I’m paying for X, Y and Z’ or ‘split it 50:50’ or whatever your group wants, and that’s it. It’s just a list of Stuff That Was Ordered, not a final unchangeable bill that needs to be paid in one lump sum.

      We also NEVER EVER do the thing where you send your credit card away?! (You have to put a PIN in anyway! That’s such a ridiculous security risk!).

      So all those bill sharing innovative apps just seemed kind of pointless. Just… go pay for the stuff you ordered? 😀

      • jaynn said:

        Paying at the table is one of the more prominent differences I noticed when I moved south of the border (another one is free refills) In Nova Scotia pretty much everywhere you would pay at the front. The one exception I can think of is Jack Aster’s, and that’s just an unusual place to eat to begin with–I’ll let you guess which part of the sign blinks.

      • Redgirl said:

        As a U.S. resident, I was pleasantly surprised during a recent visit to London that they always brought a card-reader to the table and never took my credit card out of my sight in restaurants. In the U.S. they do this routinely. You don’t have to put a PIN in though. Even when I pay with my debit card they always bring me the receipt to sign.

    • erika said:

      Columbus, Ohio here–and I’ve never run into a restaurant, even on my travels, that wouldn’t split a check. In fact, I didn’t even know this was a Thing. Hopefully this is because it’s becoming more common everywhere.

      • Raptor said:

        I definitely have! Mostly in small mountain towns. Also one in Denver.

  5. Liz said:

    Good advice. I visited friends recently who live nearby (not necessarily a tourist destination, but there are some good restaurants/bars over there) and I paid for one of our dinners as a thank you. We also went to Costco and she picked us some breakfast stuff for us, which was nice of her.

  6. The Captain’s advice is excellent, of course!

    I noticed that you mentioned a lot of car-related things, LW. I didn’t drive for a long time, and when I traveled I was very used to taking cabs, figuring out the local public transit, and otherwise not depending on other people to drive me around. Don’t let “I don’t drive” turn into an extra reason for you to be the chauffeur. Now that I do drive, I love giving rides to people who don’t, to pay forward all the rides I got and was grateful for; I didn’t and don’t take that for granted, and your guests shouldn’t either.

    • onyx said:

      Yeah, if LW lives in a touristy place there are definitely plenty of transportation options that don’t burden LW as a host. Even if the city doesn’t have a good metro or whatnot, in this age of Uber/Lyft there’s REALLY no reason for guests to require LW’s car.

    • Anonyish said:

      I also noted the driving and feel that that’s really beyond the call of duty. My parents don’t lend the car to me when I visit them and vice-versa even though when I was younger and still living with them I was on their insurance. When we’re going out together we drive together, and we will give one another lifts to the station, airport etc. but if I visit them and want to take a day trip to see a friend an hour away I get the bus. If LW’s friends need a car when visiting, they can hire one.

    • Oh, one more suggestion: prepare little cards with your address and maybe brief directions to your house, and hand them to your guests when they arrive. I sometimes give out pocket transit maps and $10 transit passes too. If you’re off the transit paths, the number of a cab company might be useful. I don’t suggest this as a passive-aggressive thing, but as a useful service to guests from out of town, though it certainly does emphasize that they don’t get to expect your vehicular assistance.

      I started doing the address cards after a guy staying with us went out, got extremely drunk, let his phone battery run down, spent all his cash (this was before NYC taxis took credit cards), and took the wrong subway to a totally different part of town. He eventually made his way back at around 3 a.m., which was around when the rest of us were considering calling the police. After that I wanted to make sure that even the most intoxicated guest would have non-battery-powered directions back to our house and our explicit reassurance that we’d cover the cost of a taxi if need be.

    • Paulina said:

      Some of the transportation demands can be propagated from the housing demand, since where people live is often far less well-connected to the tourist areas than a well-chosen hotel would be. It piles on the demands. It also may mean that once you make their transportation a lot less convenient, they may be far more interested in booking a hotel.

  7. ayla said:

    As someone with social anxiety, little money and one who has often stayed over and couchsurfed at people places I love what the Cap has said. I noticed that the people who hosted me all have different ideas of what kind of host they want/can to be, totally cool but the times they told me clearly it made it so much easier for me to try be the perfect guest. I never expect people to pay anything for me, but there are those who you can offend by bringing your own food and then those who find it the norm. When you offer to host people(however often it is) they should expect a bed, shower, etc but not a free holiday service. I found it helps talking about prices of activities/public transport beforehand as well. To help visitors/guests know how much they will probably be spending and know I wont be doing it for them. But this requires time though but might avoid stress later.

    Hosting people on a holiday(a luxury) shouldnt be ones duty, it should be something you enjoy. One of my friends always has people over, he loves it and then he loves being alone afterwards too. Another friend doesnt enjoy it at all, its super stressful which is cool too. I hope you can find something that works for you! I love using friends visiting(or people I met on holidays) to do those cool things I always wanted to do but never had people to do them with because they are too touristy.

  8. For places that don’t split bills and you’re stuck with one person paying and then getting reimbursed by the others later, PayPal has a thing you can set up to help do that on the spot (and unlike their other transactions this doesn’t attract a fee).

  9. Red said:

    My mom used to tell her visitors that she would provide bread and breakfast. Sometimes her guests got rather odd breakfasts and she didn’t feel taken advantage of.

  10. Roman said:

    I come from small-town New Zealand, where the culture (and I didn’t really understand this wasn’t universal until I traveled overseas) basically says “my floor is your floor”. It’s acceptable for everyone, from your best friend to a guy who played footy with your half-brother (I’m not even kidding) to request a place to sleep, especially if you’re in a big city outside New Zealand.

    The only thing that makes this workable, aside from the fact you can say no to your more obscure connections, is that the floor is literally all you are expected to provide. Bedding, food, transport, guide services, whatever else… Not your problem, unless you explicitly agree to it. My mother is constantly exasperated when she hosts her rural relatives, because they always bring their own food despite the fact she says they don’t need to. It’s also expected, particularly among the older generation, that the guests will give a koha – a gift – to say thank you. For close friends and relatives this is usually something nice like food or wine, but for more distant connections, it’s always money.

    LW, if you want to have people to stay, you don’t need to offer them hotel treatment, especially if they are there to see the city and not you. “Here’s a bed/couch/floor, bathroom is down the hall, bus stop is two blocks over, we’re free Tuesday night, have a great time.” is a totally cool way of hosting. You’re still doing your guests a favour!

    • I have experienced this sort of thing a lot, when I was in high school. My church would arrange youth conferences in the area, and gather a whole bunch of teenagers to the local church, and we’d stay for a few days. Food was always done at the church, and we’d split into groups to sleep at various people’s houses – literally on the floor. We were grateful for the accommodation, and didn’t expect any more than that.

    • CleverNamePending said:

      This is my approach since I moved to Nearby Big City from Awful Small Home Town, so I used to get some obscure high school friends drift through. I make it clear that they’re getting a room with a door that closes (and clean sheets!), a tour of where the things they need are, a rundown of the public transit options, and the spare key. I’ll usually plan to spend an evening with them, and unless it’s a case of “Poor student” bills are assumed to be split.

      I’m baffled at the idea of expecting me to pay for their meals/outings/lend them the car. Maybe it’s a Canadian Millennial thing? But split bills are super easy/normal here.

  11. Another option is to have a permanent and transparent rule: Only host those people YOU have invited to your home.

    If someone asks or angles for an invitation, or worse, invites themselves, they do not step foot inside your home. You may visit with them at hotels, restaurants, theme parks, attractions, but they do not come inside your home. At least, not on that trip to your city. They may learn their lesson for the next time, and deserve a second chance, particularly if they behave themselves with you, while you are out and about.

    And the corollary to this rule, of course, is: Only go out and about with the people you WANT to spend time with, and doing things YOU want to do.

    Mind you, that does not mean only things you suggested. It only means that you don’t go shlepping about doing stuff you hate, just because it’s Uncle Joe who showed up in town. It’s your time, your energy, and your money, so spend it accordingly. And let them do their own thing, as well. Whether they are in your home or a hotel, everyone needs some time to do their own thing.

    • Vicki said:

      That is a useful distinction. There are things I wouldn’t think of doing but would be happy to join a (local or out-of-town) friend for. When I lived in New York, one of the things visitors were good for was getting to the tourist things I’d never bothered with, both famous (like Ellis Island) and obscure. Depending on the city, there might be enough of them that even someone with a list of things “I ought to get to sometime” might not be aware of what you, the visitor, would especially like to see or do.

      • Yeah, hosting at your house flat-out requires collaborative planning by host and guest. A visit where they stay in a hotel also requires some planning, but not as much, since you’re not so connected 24/7. “So, we’re free on Tuesday and Thursday for visits. What shall we do?” as opposed to “We serve dinner every day at X o’clock, breakfast is at Y, lunch is on your own, we have to work on these days, we’re free on those, and what should we do during all those hours when we’re together?” Lots more planning there.

        Of course, “Let’s just play it by ear” is a valid plan, as long as everyone agrees to it.

        • the815 said:

          It kind of stresses me out when people over-plan. The actual planning and the rushing around to cram everything in. It’s just too Type A for me – like, WTF, am I taking a test, here? I thought this was supposed to be fun… I guess I kind of like a vacation itinerary that’s a middle ground of planning things that shouldn’t be missed with also some buffer time to relax and allow for spontaneous things that strike your fancy.

          I agree it’s hella rude to expect your host to schlep you around and pay for everything. I’m pretty reticent about crashing with friends in other towns unless they’re explicitly like, “PLEASE visit! We’d LOVE to have you! We have a pillow embroidered with your name on it for just such occasions!”

          • Yeah, the friendships that make a person really truly want to have you over (Now I want a pillow with my name on it, thanks!), are rare, and worthwhile. But rare.

            I found that the trick for itinerary planning is to 1) find someone who is totally into planning and enjoys the PROCESS, and 2) take the plan and choose one or two things from it that you really want to do, and leave the rest as “suggestions,” for when you just can’t think of anything, yourself. But, the advantage to all the planning is that you can ask the planner, and that person will KNOW ALL THE THINGS, so it makes it so much easier to be spontaneous, when you can say, “Hey, let’s do this thing right now!” and the planner can say, “It’s available from 10 am to 6 pm, but it gets really crowded between 2 pm and 4 pm, so we should wait for another hour before we head over there. But this other cool thing is available right now, and will be just the right amount of time to keep us occupied until it’s time to head over there, and we can have a great time.”

            Of course, the planner has to be the sort of person who not only loves planning, in general, but is able to throw that plan completely out the window, on the day. It’s a thin line, and hard to walk without hurt feelings, but if you find such a person, treasure them.

    • ReanaZ said:

      “If someone asks or angles for an invitation, or worse, invites themselves, they do not step foot inside your home.”

      That seems…extremely, overly harsh? (On either an ask or guess culture side.)

      If someone clearly EXPECTS you to host them or asks rudely or invites themselves without some history that would make that okay, sure. But even asking or ‘angling’ (the soft asking of guess culture) is BANNED FROM HOME? How on earth are you supposed to even know someone is coming to your city and looking for a place if they don’t say “Hey, I’ll be in town in August…any way I could possibly stay with you?” or “I’m here in August and looking for a place to stay…” (leaving you free to invite or share hotel recs)?

      • Ask or guess, they’re still trying to get something you never wanted to give them, in the first place. If you want them, you’ll invite them. If you don’t want them, you won’t, and you are under no obligation to have people in your house, even for dinner, if you don’t actually want them there. I’ve had some truly annoying dinner guests I regretted having in my home.

        And frankly, after years of having relatives show up on our doorstep, announcing that they were staying for X-days, and we were expected to drop all our plans, use up our own time off work and our money to entertain them, yeah, I’m a bit harsh. Because if you don’t enforce the boundary with everyone, then everyone will think they are the exception, who can push the boundary.

        But don’t worry. I still invite people over for visits. People I actually want there. And I never regret those visits.

        Also, if you say, “I’ll be there in August. Any way I could possibly stay with you?” or “Looking for a place to stay” is angling (or asking). But “I’ll be there in August.” or “Any recommendations for a hotel?” is not angling, and I’ll be happy to make recommendations, and if I really like you, I’ll invite you to stay. Of course, right now, you’d be sleeping on the couch, as I have no guest room, but had I a guest room, you’d sleep there. The invitation would be the same – because *I* want you in my home.

        Yep, I’m super-selfish, and getting even more selfish the older I get, putting my own needs closer to the beginning of the queue. I haven’t quite reached first in line, because I live with family I love, but it’s closer than it used to be. And sometimes, I have to be harsh to get there.

        • I’m going to chime in and agree that this is an uncommon boundary. That doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s an okay boundary to have and enforce, but…

          Since it’s not a common boundary, I think you should potentially cut first time offenders some slack because they couldn’t really know it was there until they crossed it (unless you tell all your friends who move away that you have it/post about it on Facebook.) As in, the first time Out Of Town friend says “I was thinking of coming your way in August, any chance I could stay with you?” The response isn’t “no” + internal blacklist, but “I love to hear when people are coming to my city but really hate it when people ask me to stay with me. The answer for this trip is no, but I’d like to hear about future trips [if true] and will let you know if I’d like to give you a place to stay, but it will always rub me the wrong way if you ask.” Because most people that I know would definitely think it was fine and normal to ask about a place to stay.

          In fact, there are a lot of friends of mine who live in rural areas that I will ask to go visit during [x] time “if they’d like to have me visit and that would be a good time to stay.” I’m not interested in hanging out where they live at all outside of visiting them and while I want to see them cost of a plane ticket, I don’t want to see them cost of a plane ticket plus staying in a hotel in a boring place (and if they wouldn’t have 2 or 3 free days to spend largely hanging with me, it’s not a good time to visit!). While I obviously don’t expect them to pay for me and chauffer me around when I visit, I also often won’t visit if I can’t stay with them because I want 90% of my time to be time *with them*. So unless these friends specifically said that it bothered them that I ask to stay with them, I wouldn’t not ask to visit because not asking to visit would be a pretty passive aggressive approach to hoping to stay–i know I personally would be confused, annoyed, and blindsided if a friend sent me a message “hey I am hoping to be near you around x” and when I said “great let me know when a good time to hang out would be,” assuming from the form of that request that they had an itinerary mostly planned and didn’t need a place to stay, they replied “actually I probably won’t visit since I sounds like I need to stay in a hotel.”

          Tldr; this is a fine boundary the have and maintain, but since it’s pretty nonstandard you might want to treat first time offenses by otherwise reasonable people as a time to explain the boundary as something they shouldn’t cross in the future (and still enforcing the boundary for that ask) rather than silently enforcing it and expecting them not to do it again.

          • I think Michelle should run their life however they want to. They’re a stranger on the internet, you’re not affected by how they run their life so I don’t get this investment that a few commentors seem to have in telling them how they should run their life. I’m pretty sure they’re aware that boundary is unusual and choose to have it anyway, too.

            I see it as Michelle only wanting people who are compatible with them in their home, which seems pretty reasonable to me. For me, almost all extroverts are incompatible in terms of staying in my home. I’m sure many people would think that’s overly harsh and #notallextroverts etc etc, but having extroverts stay in my home overnight just does not work for me.

          • @Mel that’s fair–Michelle gets to do what works for Michelle and that’s great. But it seemed to me that in aggregate Michelle is commenting a lot on other people’s stuff with statements that seem like she thinks that this is objectively the best rule and that it is a rule that would work for most people and that it’s kindof a common rule, and that made me think that maybe Michelle doesn’t realize “if you ask to stay at my place even politely you will never be invited over, ever” is not the an expected boundary.

          • @mel and also the comment was based on what I think is the reasonable assumption that those haunting an advice column may be open to, well, advice?

          • @Mel so sorry for the obnoxious triple comment, don’t reply and walk. But also I get where you’re coming from after rereading my initial wording that my use of “should” was probably not the best and conveys the message that I think Michelle ought to change her behavior, period, rather than my intended message of “have you considered this?”

          • AllanV said:

            Michelle pretty clearly said not “this is how I do things” but “this is how I suggest you do things.” Since she positioned herself as actively giving advice, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to point out in what ways her advice might be usefully modified.

          • Well, yeah. I don’t expect people to be mind-readers. It’s not fair to expect them to know my boundaries without expressing them, first.

            But anyone who knows and then pushes it does not get to push me around in my own home, even for dinner, because I just can’t be putting up with that, anymore. Been there, done that, not doing it again.

            Bear in mind, this is advice to a person living in a tourist city who is already feeling like a hotel, so has already been put upon. It’s time to make a rule (whatever rule works for LW) and let people know that rule, and let them respect it or push it, and find out what kind of friends LW actually has.

          • Also, I get considerably more cranky when my pain level for the day is high, and it was pretty high when I made the initial comment, so I’m sure it came across as harsher than my reality. Of course I would warn people, first, before doing any sort of cut-off.

      • Not That Kat said:

        There are indeed people who show up at someone’s door without making sure they are welcome. Keeping those people out of your home is not rude, it’s setting a boundary. Rude is knocking on someone’s door without any communication whatsoever and then expecting to stay for days or even weeks for free. (If you look through the archive, there were some letters about similar situations, e.g. parents just showing up at the home of their adult children. Not exactly the same situation as someone using your home as a free hotel, but the point is – yes, sometimes people WILL just show up.)

      • aebhel said:

        Agreed. Maybe this is an Ask Culture thing, but treating a request as an imposition seems… really weird to me. I mean, if they respond to “No, sorry, I can’t host this time, here’s some hotel recommendations” with hostility or pressure, then yeah, to hell with them. But if someone responds to “Can I crash on your couch” with “No, and also the fact that you asked means you’re no longer welcome in my home,” that seems… excessive.

        It’s one thing if you’re dealing with a person who has a history of pushing boundaries, but as an across the board rule, this seems excessively harsh.

        • Parenthetically said:

          ‘if someone responds to “Can I crash on your couch” with “No, and also the fact that you asked means you’re no longer welcome in my home,” that seems… excessive.’

          Yep, absolutely. The reason we have an interrogative in English is so people can discover information they did not already know. People shouldn’t be BANHAMMERED for life for asking a question. But to preempt some of the potential awkwardness I ALSO try to be a person who says, “Hey, if you’re ever passing through MyCity and need a place to crash for a night, let me know! I’d hate for you to spend money on a hotel when you could just use our guest room!” Call that an invitation I guess?

      • Jack V said:

        I infer Michelle has a lot of people taking advantage. I’m used to people saying, “we might be around x dates, would you like to see us, if so would you be able to put us up”. And I’ll easily respond yes or no if I can and want to, or not. But when people presume, it can sometimes slip past my boundaries — when they say they’re visiting and never ask if they can stay, just assume they can because they did 10 years ago and if something changed I would have told them in good time, and never ask me to cancel plans, but plan their itinerary based on me being free all of the time, etc, etc, it’s easy for me to realise my brain has tricked me into feeling like I’ve agreed when I haven’t actually thought about it.

        I get the impression Michelle is not so much, banning people she would otherwise have loved to see, as setting herself a firm boundary that just because people expect to be hosted, doesn’t mean she has to agree.

      • hummingbear said:

        I agree that seems very strange – how could I magically intuit that someone will be visiting my city if they don’t tell me? How will they know someone is “closed to houseguests” if they don’t ask?

  12. Kitnkabutle said:

    Talking about expectations ahead of time is so critical. Especially about $$. My relative was invited on a trip overseas by their child’s inlaws. Imagine the inlaws’ surprise when my relative had assumed that the inlaws would be paying for everything b/c they had “invited” my relative to go along….apparently that was not what the inlaws thought they had agreed to.

  13. Sarah said:

    My dad used to have this problem with his relatives. They expected him to drop everything when they visited and drive them around. It was really irritating and stressful. One of them kept on asking why there was no universal museum for the city and didn’t want to visit the ones that were there. Don’t do this level of stress, OP.

    • My Dad loved his brother, and the guy was certainly charismatic, and we loved him, too. But it was really annoying all the family vacation plans WE had to drop because HE showed up, expecting us to spend our time and money on him. “Sorry, kids. We can’t go on that trip, because I used up all my time off work when your uncle showed up at the doorstep, completely unannounced, and decided we were going to Disney World.”

      Mind you, we had fun on the visits. At least he didn’t force us to do stuff we hated. But, our plans went completely by the wayside, at literally a moment’s notice.

      One time, he actually called from a gas station and gave us fifteen minutes’ notice! One time! It was *ahem* “great.” Because that was the best it ever was with him.

      Did I mention he was charismatic, so we all loved him, anyway? Yeah, in the moment. The guy actually charmed his way out of a mob hit. For reals. But looking back, I just think, “ARGLEBARGLERUUUUUDEEEE!” It actually took a few years after his death before I could hear his (very common) name and not look around, thinking, “OH! I have to drop everything and change my plans to entertain him!” Three years.

      If it’s just you in the house, and you decide to let someone barge in and take over for a week, that’s fine. But if you have kids, you are teaching them NOT TO VALUE THEMSELVES when you do that.

      Don’t teach your kids not to value themselves, please. Teach them that they have enough worth to maintain their own boundaries and be safe in their own homes.

      • the815 said:

        You sound like a boundary-making and enforcing role model to me! Especially if the unexpected pop-in happens all the time. I think the person upthread took your comment as, “I don’t care that you just got food poisoning! You cannot use my bathroom! Ever!
        Unwelcome!” As opposed to just…making plans that don’t involved your home.

        Ugh, my boyfriend likes to do the unexpected pop-in – just for dinner or something, not to actually crash with people! But still, I’m like, “WTF, why didn’t you just talk this out beforehand?”

        • Yeah, I don’t like unexpected dinner guests (except for my brother, sister-in-law, and their kids – for whom I will ALWAYS make time), but yeah, I’ll let people in to use my bathroom, for sure.

          However, I have recently read that the “Can I use your bathroom and get a drink of water?” thing is a ploy that Pick-up artists use to push for sex, after their date tells them goodbye at her door. Which probably explains the couple of times I got nervous and put a paring knife in my pocket when a certain person went to the bathroom. I didn’t need it, but I was prepared.

          I was not always such a boundary-enforcing person. I used to be such a push-over. But now, I’m in chronic pain, and I just CANNOT DEAL, and I found that once I got over the learning curve for figuring out how to enforce my boundaries, it’s actually much easier on me to just enforce the boundaries. Being chronically ill has really changed my people-ing skills, alright. Also, I have learned how to say to myself “I don’t need this person in my life. Oh, well. Bye, Felicia!” and walk away from a relationship that does not work for me.

          Silver lining! Yay! However, not something I would recommend for people learning how to enforce boundaries. Find your own motivation. Don’t get hit by a truck, just so you can learn to say “No.”

      • Alexia said:

        Yes this. My husband always loses at least 1/3 to 1/2 of all his vacation days every year because his family decides to visit us and one particular family member expects him to drop everything, ferry them everywhere, and stay with them 24/7. Including being walked to and from their hotel. Including staying at the hotel far beyond midnight. Including when WE JUST HAD A NEWBORN. Oh and they never have anywhere they actually want to go.

        We’re talking about a grown adult who owns a smartphone and who makes more than my husband does. Hubby doesn’t get why talks about this person makes me go into hives. Why I don’t want this person around our child – maybe because *you keep violating our boundaries* because you don’t want to displease faaaaaaaamily? And maybe because it’s not a lesson I want to teach our child?

        Does this family member do the same when we visit them? Of course not! The hypocrisy is astounding.

        • Hypocrites are Olympic level mental gymnasts.

          Oddly enough, I really did (and do) love my uncle, but I have discovered that I don’t really MISS him that much, now that he’s dead.

          I miss my father a whole lot, but not my uncle. From a decade’s distance, I can see the boundary stomping for what it is, and nothing eases a mourning person’s grief quite like seeing the dead person as a selfish boundary-stomper.

  14. Yolanda B. Cool said:

    Lisa, this is great advice. Might I also suggest that if people mention that they are headed to your city, and you sense a request to stay with you is imminent, you can politely Heisman them with something like “How lovely! Let’s get together for dinner on a night that you’re in town!”

    This won’t stop determined boundary-pushers, but it may head off the less pushy at the pass.

    • JenniferP said:

      Perfect!

    • This would be awesome together with a less subtle follow-up of “and when I get a minute I’ll send you some sites I’ve bookmarked of some really nice hotels and/or short term apartment rentals nearby!” Then for the *really* serious boundary pushers who keep going with “oh we were hoping we could stay with you!” you do that universal, awkward “Ooooo” sound that sounds like “oh gee, we’d *really* like to have you, if only everything in the universe wasn’t conspiring to make it not possible for us!” but really means “ha ha, but seriously, no way in hell.” (That *is* universal, right?)

      • Yolanda B. Cool said:

        This is a fantastic follow-up, and, yes, I believe the “ooooo” is universal, especially if immediately followed by a slight wincing gesture, as if you are experiencing the pain of watching this clueless person impaling themselves on the ramparts of decency and common sense.

        • “impaling themselves on the ramparts of decency and common sense”

          Do you mind if I shamelessly steal this phrase and use it wherever I can get away with it?

          • Yolanda B. Cool said:

            Not at all. I rather impressed myself with it, actually. 🙂

    • CMart said:

      This is a perfect response that speaks the language of the “I don’t want to be an imposition/I don’t want to be rude BUT” dance.

      When the ‘request’ looks like “Hey there! I’m going to be in YourCity over Date to Date and would love to see you!” responding with “Cool! Let’s grab dinner!” is an extremely clear signal that your home is not going to be where they stay.

      It’s honestly exactly how I go about my coded-asks when travelling. I never want to be so rude as to just up and ask to stay at someone’s home and always plan to get a hotel, buuuuuut if they want to offer… And they don’t have to feel like a jerk for being like “eh, I don’t want you to stay with me” because they aren’t turning anything down because there wasn’t anything asked. It’s affirmative language all around.

  15. Mir said:

    I live in a large and touristy city, and when someone is coming primarily to see me, we plan the activities together. If someone is coming to visit my city and wants to stay here, that’s totally cool with me provided I like them, but it’s a different thing entirely and the most important guideline is they should be low key and not get in the way of my normal life.

    For these here-for-the-city visitors, I have a list of resources* for my city that I made once for a friend who was visiting – when people say they want to crash here to see the city, I email it to them with a standard form letter blurb about household norms (no smoking, don’t shower between 7 and 7:45, no noise after 11, clean up after yourself, etc.) and I outline which days during their visit I’m available to hang out and wish them luck with planning their trip otherwise.

    The list/blurb makes it clear that transport while they’re here is 100% their responsibility, except that if it’s family or a close friend I’ll get them to/from the airport myself if it’s workable with my schedule. I can afford to absorb the grocery cost, but if I couldn’t I would add a request that they chip in $5-10 per person per day if they eat my food.

    The blurb functions really well in laying out my expectations. The response to this has been almost overwhelmingly positive. People are relieved to know what’s expected, and not worry about making a faux pas.

    *My list includes a list of major attractions with website links and addresses, a link to a good tourist map, a list of transport-relevant links (the local subway/bus system, the airport shuttle, a mention of lyft/uber), a list of restaurants at different price ranges I think are good, reminders that they should have travel insurance for any injuries that might happen, etc.

    • Love this! I’m going to make my own list but you’ve given great ideas.

    • Buni said:

      I’m in London, my oldest friend is not. A few years ago SHE put together a spreadsheet of free stuff to do in London (I think at this point some under-a-tenner things have crept onto page 3/4). Now whenever she comes up she’ll send me a shortlist of 5-6 things from the list she’d like to do and let’s me, with my local knowledge, whittle it down to 2-3 achievable trips. And luckily she actively loves the inner city Youth Hostels. We have a fun day or two out, we both retire to our separate pits in the evening. Net result: I ALWAYS look forward to seeing her.

      Her list is awesome. I will happily spread it about.

    • Ixolite said:

      That is such an amazing idea. Being in a similar geographic situation I think I’ll make one of these too. I especially love that the most important guideline is that it shouldn’t get in the way of your normal life. I need to make that clear with my own guests!

  16. Ixolite said:

    A good friend of mine is soooo guilty of the “whatever you want to do” thing. We come from the same smallish town and I’m currently living in the nearest metropolis, where I completed my studies and now work, so he frequently comes to visit and sleeps on my sofa bed when he’s there.

    He’s great company so I’m always happy to see him, but yeah, sometimes I wish he had a bit of a more…mature I guess? houseguest etiquette. Usually when he comes he refuses to clearly tell me how long he’ll be staying (“oh, I’ll come on monday, and then stay a while I guess”), so it’s hard for me to budget my energy. And while he absolutely doesn’t expect me to pay stuff for him or feed him, which is good, he does kinda expect that I’ll spend all my free time with him, and entertain him/show him the cool bars and hangouts (because I’m the cool city kid now, y’see, even though I work full time and don’t have that much time to go out…that’s a lot of pressure/mental charge actually, which I could do without).

    I think the issue is mostly that I’m on the work market now, while he went on to become a PHD student. Crashing on each other’s couches for indefinite periods of time just to hang out was something everyone did when I was a student, because we were all broke with flexible schedules and everything was way more relaxed. Things changed for me though, but not for him it seems. I can’t go with the flow like that anymore, not when I know the next day I have to be up at sunrise to march my ass to work, not when I need optimal concentration to deliver the quality of work I’m expected to provide.

    His last visit lasted one week and was the first ever since I got my job, and it was draining. I felt the effects for weeks afterwards. Next time I’ll tell him he can stay for 3 or 4 days max and that I can take him out to ONE cool bar/hangout that I’ll have picked. If he ain’t happy with that he can stay with one of the other friends he has in town, and I’ll join him for dinner at some point or something. It would make me sad to lose these visits but if we’re not at the same stage of life anymore, there ain’t much I can do about it except let him enjoy his freedom with other people and wait until he’s also stuck in an office so we can commiserate.

    Sorry for the rambley comment I guess I needed to process that biz!

    • Anon, Goodnight said:

      The only time I do the “whatever you want” thing as a guest is when I’m saying, “I’m coming to see YOU, not your city.” But I make that super clear, and I actually MEAN the part about not caring what the activities were. I recently visited a friend in Baltimore and basically said, “I want to catch up with you. I’m happy to sit in a cafe all day and gab. Is there anything in your town you particularly want to share with me?” We tooled around the waterfront and the Hopkins campus and his neighborhood and ate in his favorite restaurants. It was lovely.

      • Saturnalia said:

        yeah, there are some people in my life that when they say “oh whatever you want to do”… Well, I trust them. We go to the places I like, and do whatever I feel like doing, on whatever schedule suits me. BUT I trust them because when we do the random stuff I’m in the mood for, they seem genuinely happy just to be with me. And there’s the reciprocity of me being able to say “shoot I’m uninspired” and them chiming in with either an activity or a desire to do nothing for a while (such a win, doing nothing).

        • Anon, Goodnight said:

          Oh yeah. Nothing is great! We had a fabulous morning hanging out at his place breakfasting on leftovers from a Afghani restaurant and just gossipping about our lives.

        • Ixolite said:

          An honest “whatever you want to do” sounds like a very good time! I guess my problem comes from the fact that my friend’s “whatever you want to do” kinda comes bundled with the expectation that I’ll come up with an amazing program. Which then amounts to me having to do all the work of planning a trip for my guest.

          But these comments made me realize that part of the problem is that I want my friend to think I’m cool and hip and know what’s happening, so I feel compelled to fulfill his expectations even though it’s not “natural” for me and requires work. If I really was cool and hip and knew what’s happening I wouldn’t have to research activities beforehand… I feel like I became boring when I graduated and got a job and I guess I’m scared that if he finds out he won’t want to be my friend anymore?

          This is making me consider that maybe I should just level with my buddy as part of the plan I outlined in my initial comment, and tell him that actually if we really did whatever I wanted to do when he came up here, we would stay in my apartment and play Mario Kart like we did in the old days, take a walk in the park and sit in a coffee shop to talk over some chai lattés.

        • Ixolite said:

          These comments are making me realize that part of my problem is really that my friend’s “whatever you want to do” seems to come with an expectation that I’ll show him a grand ol’ time because I’m supposed to be hip and know what’s happening. And I buckle up and do it every time, even though it’s not “natural” for me – If I really was hip, I wouldn’t need to do a bunch of research to find out what’s happening…

          I think I got sucked into doing this because I feel uncool and boring in general, especially since I got my job and became single a few months later. I’ve been friends with that guy for years but I guess I never felt like I was cool enough for him, since he’s a well-adjusted social butterfly and I’m an awkward nerd. Plus now I’m really scared of being alone so I really want him to keep being my friend – cue the bending over backwards.

          I think as part of my plan I should level with him and tell him that “whatever I want to do” is usually much more along the lines of having a movie night, taking a walk in the park or talking in a coffee shop over chai lattés. And if he’s open to a feelsconversation maybe mention some of those “I’m boring” anxieties.

          • Ixolite said:

            Yikes I thought the posting didn’t work so I ended up writing basically the same comment twice. Sorry about that. Pick your favourite of the two!

          • Saturnalia said:

            Ohhhhhh I feel this too. I think your approach sounds great though – if someone told me that they wanted to play Mario Kart (!!!), get chai lattes (!!!), and walk in the park (!!!) like old times (heart eyes) I would be giddy both because of the nostalgia and the activities themselves. Maybe he likes your shared past and different style as a much-needed counterpoint to his usual “hip social butterfly” life!! Regardless, talking about this will probably help you let go of some of the anxiety – even if he’s craving hip social timez all of the timez, then you would *know* and could plan for that level of interaction. However, I’m rooting for him being a balanced, complex individual with a variety of interests including quiet quality time a dear old friend 🙂

          • Saturnalia said:

            Either my reply got et or I’ll end up double posting too, but it sounds like you are totally on the right track and I hope the discussion goes great! The activities you mention would 100% be my jam, fwiw 🙂

      • Ixolite said:

        That does sound lovely. You’re totally right that there’s a big difference between visiting someone and visiting someone AND their city.

    • Oooh, that “refuses to clearly tell me how long he’ll be staying” bit reminds me very much of my worst houseguest experience. Never again will I open the door for a houseguest who hasn’t told me *exactly* when they are leaving. I’m not giving anyone my keys ever again either. If you want to stay in my house, you will work your schedule around mine. If that’s a problem for you, there are plenty of hotels in my city.

      …I guess I’ve got some feelings about this too 🙂

      Anyway, it’s 100% reasonable to need to know when guests are leaving and to be extra drained by indefinite visits. I can put up with a lot if I know when it will end, but if I don’t have that light at the end of the tunnel then things just get ugly.

      • Ixolite said:

        Exactly! I totally feel you on this. When you start to feel a bit frazzled it’s great to be able to think “Saturday, they’ll be gone, and I can sleep/workout/do whatever I need to do to relax”. With no specific end date it starts looking like an endurance marathon.

      • Willow said:

        My parents did this to me when I was newly on my own. Two people sharing a house, two beds, one sofa, old parents not suited for the ground or the same room due to snoring, would not say how long they were going to stay, plus would not speak to roommate. I had to ask them to leave. Never did that again.

    • A good friend of mine is soooo guilty of the “whatever you want to do” thing

      A friend who lives in London told me that I am always welcome to stay with them because I do not expect to be entertained – that my husband and I figure out how to take the train and what we want to do, all without involving her.

      We could stay in a hotel in town, but I love seeing my friend, her husband, and her kids. It’s lovely to be able to take the train into town for the day, do our stuff, and then have dinner with them in the evening. (We try to cook for them at least once. I used to be able to show up with a bag of US goodies for her, as well, but it’s not so hard to find canned jalapenos in England these days.)

  17. Argablarg said:

    Related question: I have a friend and we visit each other sometimes. He ALWAYS insists on paying for anything. I always offer, and sometimes insists, but he always strenuously refuses to let me pay for anything, and his pride seems hurt if I ever do pay. I’m happy for him to pay for stuff for me, but I would feel really guilty if I were taking advantage of him. What do I do? (The place he lives is not a tourist destination, and even if I spent the whole trip helping him fix his car or deal with a burst pipe or something, I’d still have a good time, if the context helps.)

    • Anon said:

      I would suggest just taking it at face value? If he insists and then gets irritated about it that’s his faux pas, not yours. (Then again, I’m notorious for taking everything at face value, and also I love buying things for people whenever I have a little extra spending money. YMMV.)

    • Manattee said:

      I’m sure the fact that you always offer hasn’t gone unnoticed. 🙂

    • I mean, as long as you’re making a genuine offer, I think it’s fine to just accept when he insists on paying anyway. Some people genuinely enjoy paying for a guest. If he’s one of those people, just let him. Keep offering in case times change and he’s not really in a great place to keep paying, but if he really wants to pay, there’s no reason to feel guilty for accepting the gift.

    • Emma9 said:

      I’d go by the same rule of thumb I use on a date: Go in expecting to pay, make a genuine good-faith offer/effort to pay, if they demur do the ‘oh, are you sure? I can chip in X at least’ dance for a round or two, but if it seems important to them let it go. Maybe a really nice host gift would help assuage your conscience?

  18. goddessoftransitory said:

    I’ve told my PARENTS that they need to stay in a hotel for both their comfort and ours–we have a small one bedroom, a very short couch, and two rambunctious cats. Plus, it’s just too hard to relax with people in our space 24-7.

    • Rache11e said:

      You are my hero, goddess!!!

      • goddessoftransitory said:

        OMG, I read your comment below and am REELING. That was above and beyond.

  19. Rache11e said:

    My extended family is HUGE & no one believes in hotels. People take cross-country trips and couch-floor-guest room surf the whole way. No one ever ASKS if they can stay with you, they just tell you when they’ll be there. It’s understood that you’ll clear your schedule and be at their beck and call for the duration of their unsolicited occupation. And, if that were not egregious enough, you are never permitted to have someone older than you sleeping on the floor or on a couch. It’s just not done.

    So, guess who slept on a leaky air mattress on the nursery floor while 7 months pregnant when her grandparents decided to come visit for a month? I had offered them my ownbedroom (as was expected) and they actually took me up on it. My husband was FURIOUS. Apparently not all families function this way. Who knew?

    • Cassandra said:

      For a MONTH??

      • Emmers said:

        While PREGNANT?

        • Emmers said:

          Like, those are BAD ELDERS. Noblesse oblige, y’all.

    • Ouch, Rache11e, I feel for you. I come from ‘you do not expect the elders to sleep on the floor’ people too, and also married into them.

      I live in a beautiful but remote part of the country but am a cranky misanthrope who would basically sooner stay home with the cats than do anything. These days I invite friends and chosen relatives on the basis of ‘there is an air bed in the loft conversion or here is a list of nearby B&Bs, and know that I truly love you because I’m illing to grunt hello to you before I have coffee in the morning’, and everyone else just gets the list of B&Bs when they mention that they’re planning to visit.

    • zeph said:

      The problems with hosting an older generation is that the situation can create “adult (them)/”kids” (you) feelings and ensuing dynamics (i.e., pregnant adult sleeps on floor so gran and gramps can have nice bed.). After all, that’s what the dynamics have been for decades, so it’s too easy to slip into them again, even though you’re an adult, doing adult things, etc. One of the issues this always seems to bring up is the fear of displeasing the older generation, because then they’ll be “mad at you and not like you”! Seriously, lots of times in these situations, the younger generation starts to feel WAY younger than they really are! (Hence, the need for the Captain’s advice and scripts.)

      I think it’s useful in this sort of situation to ask oneself if this is happening, that is, “am I giving in to (older visiting relatives) because I’ve kinda regressed and feeling like a little kid again and not wanting to go against their wishes”?

      Because we’ve all been there! (Also, they themselves are frequently stuck in the same, olde-tyme “we’re the adults” dynamics, so that’s a lot of old baggage to slog through!

      • Rache11e said:

        You hit the nail on the head, zeph! Totally an issue of adult-child power dynamics at play. To be clear, my grandparents are very dear, sweet people but they are definitely of a diffetent generation where your children are always children and your elders are always your elders.

        My husband’s anger was my first clue that any of this was inappropriate as it’s what my own parents had done for years. Come to find out my own father absolutely HATED this arrangement (this is all my mom’s family). He had been guilted into putting up with it for years and grew to resent his inlaws. In retrospect, I’m sure it was a factor in my folks’ divorce-after 30 years he realized my mom was never going to cut the cord with her family.

      • My husband’s parents not only stayed with us for nine days when we got married (do not do this – do not let people stay in your house for your wedding), they slept in our bedroom. It wasn’t an elders thing – it’s because they couldn’t take stairs.

        But still – they were demanding and rude and I am glad they will never visit again.

    • AndyL said:

      I feel you! My husbands family never asks if they can stay. They always call and announce when they’re arriving, how long they’re staying (and they feel free to change those parameters with no notice, showing up a day earlier or later, whatever), and which days we’re going to be spending doing whatever they’ve planned for us. And they don’t feel any need to give advance notice either. Once or twice we’ve had less than 24 hours notice. The best part, is they’re not coming out to visit us, they’re coming out for other things and since we live in a convenient Large Tourist Destination City, they may descend on us several times a year. And, in the case of DH’s Mom, spend the entire dinner you make them (which you had to take off work to make the time for) complaining about how they never get to spend any time with you when they’re here. For DH, it’s perfectly normal. For me, it’s mind boggling. (DH doesn’t give up the bed, though…)

      In my family, they call MONTHS ahead, and find out when, exactly, is convenient. And then call a couple of times in between, to make sure it’s still convenient. And then check in with us the week of, and make sure it’s still ok. And then only stay one night, and offer to take us out to dinner, and don’t expect us to make them breakfasts or even get up early to see them out. (We work nights.) I think this is perfectly normal, and civilized, but DH just can’t understand why family needs to wait for an invite.

      “Normal” is probably somewhere between the two. I’m, just glad I persuaded DH that we should spring for hotels when we visit his family. It has cut down on the LOUD LOUD LOUD conversations outside the bedroom door at 7:30 and 8:30 and 9:00am of, “She’s still sleeping? Is she going to stay in bed all day?” MAYBE A AM. YOU DO KNOW I WORK NIGHTS, RIGHT? Sigh. Luckily for us, they live someplace punishingly hot, and DH won’t even consider visiting between April and October.

      I have no advice for the LW, just ALL THE SYMPATHY.

      My main rule that has taken a lot of the pressure off me is that, whoever’s guest it is is responsible for cleaning. And that fact is announced to the relative-cum-guest. “Sorry for the state of the house! DH cleans for his guests, and I clean for mine, and since he didn’t have much notice that you were coming, he couldn’t get to as much of the cleaning as he wanted.” That completely nipped 100% of the “jokes” about the state of the house in the bud. Me? They’d insult the housekeeping with glee. Him? Not a chance.

      • CommanderBanana said:

        I’d be seriously tempted to check myself into a luxury hotel on my husband’s dime if this was happening on the regular.

        Re: the whole “them announcing when they’re going to come,” I know you have to get your husband on the same page, but the next time they do it I’d just turn them down. Tell them you’re out of town or just flat-out refuse. I think it would only take a few times for them to realize they need to plan their visits WITH you, not AT you.

      • I don’t have any helpful advice here, I just want to offer All The Sympathy for having to deal with people who willfully refuse to understand the bizarre and outlandish (actually very simple) concept of Working At Night. I haven’t worked nights in well over 10 years and I still vividly remember how infuriating it was to try to explain to people that no, actually, I can’t wait for your package, I need to be asleep because I go to work at 11pm. And no, actually, I can’t go run errands in the afternoon, I need to be asleep because I go to work at 11pm. And no, actually, I can’t have a driving lesson with you late in the morning, I’m tired and not safe to drive because I went to work at 11pm and got off at 7 this morning.

        • Emma9 said:

          Graveyard shift solidarity. I think some of the obtuseness comes about because if need be, I *can* play musical sleep schedules – I prefer to be in bed from 8-8:30am to mid-afternoon, but if there’s a family party or whatnot on the weekend, I make do, or if the easiest time to make a doctor’s appointment is 10am…etc.

          But the thing is, once you do that, it takes *work* to put yourself back on your normal preferred sleep schedule, so it’s a last-resort only option. And it’s hard for lots of diurnal folks to picture that what they’re asking is as big an imposition for us as ‘Hey, why don’t we get together at 3am on my night off!’ would be for them.

          • AndyL said:

            I have had to do the math for them SOOOOOOO many times. “If I get off work at 4 or 4:30 am, and I get home and to sleep by 6 am, then 2 pm is only 8 hours sleep. It’s not like I’m having a huge, lazy lie in. So getting up to have brunch with you at 9:30 am would be less than 4 hours sleep – and that’s only if I can get to sleep right away, and don’t get woken up a half dozen times with all the morning people banging around in the kitchen and the bathroom. Four hours sleep is just not enough if you all want me coherent and civil for the whole, entire day.”

            Every time they’d act like I’d slapped them. And then next time, the “jokes” start up again.

            Sigh. DH loves his Mom, and other than her adamant morning-person-ness and random inviting-themselves-over, she is otherwise delightful. I’m just not good at the 9am thing. At least they’ve gotten over expecting us to get up to see them off in the am. Little victories!

      • robotneedslove said:

        I mean, a more extreme normal would be both of our families, who would never dream of staying with us. One time my MIL stayed for one night, when we had a guest room.

        I was a tiny bit hurt at first because I thought hosting was a way to play happy families, which I was very invested in, but now I realize that this way we can actually BE happy families. With distance, and decent beds.

  20. SamSuffit said:

    I feel for you, Lisa. I used to be (or still am?) in a very similar situation. I live in a remote yet highly sought after area and family, friends, vague acquaintances or even complete strangers always expect free board and lodging at my place whenever they see fit.

    Last year, a Very Distant Relative (someone I met only once in my life for about 5 minutes when I was 10 yo) called me to tell me his family (him + his wife + his 3 kids under 8 yo) will be arriving at my place on Date and stay for 4 weeks. They were expecting free room, food and transportation for the entire stay, just because.
    Hu… I’m sorry, what?! Who are you?
    I was flabbergasted but managed to flatly tell him that that would not work for me, especially since I had a planned trip myself to Another City in the same period.
    Very Distant Relative was very happy about that and told me “It’s even better, we’ll have your place for ourselves!”
    … Yeah, no way.
    That was the last time I let rude and entitled people invite themselves over and take advantage of my living in that City. I put an end to that entirely for a while, then resumed hosting only people I had invited, or people interesting in seeing me and reciprocally. It was a year ago and one of the best decisions I made.
    The spare bed is still available for emergencies and friends or family members in real need of a place to stay, but I no longer subject myself to entitled travellers or potential guests’ expectations.

    People keep asking, for sure. Well, no, they keep TELLING me they will stay at my place. With time, I became very good at responding that that doesn’t work for me and that I can provide recommendations for hotels and restaurants. A huge majority of them can’t take no for an answer and I get a lot of “What do you mean, we can’t stay at your place?” and push-back. I just repeat myself once and end the conversation, then I go outside and enjoy the beautiful area I live in!

    Good luck, Lisa!

    • Mir said:

      A barrage of high fives coming at you through the Interspace.

    • Indie said:

      “Even better we’ll have the place to ourselves”!!!! So he did not even have the grace to pretend it was an affectionate family visit rather than a parasite landing.

      • Thanksforallthefish said:

        ahahah “parasite landing” I love it!
        Seriously that whole scenario is terrifyingly awful. Who does that?!

  21. Lily said:

    A friend of mine run into something similar. At that time living in an important city, people she once knew but not so well (e.g. old classmates she was never close with) assumed she could use her as a hostel when they had meetings/courses/etc in that city. She managed to sound very bewildered by their requests, but thats didn’t work until she told them directly that no, we are not close enough for you to sleep in my room, no, I don’t want you to stay with me, and then they got HURT. Didn’t matter, because entitled people who think they can use any old acquaintance of course will be “hurt”, if they weren’t that entitled they wouldn’t have assumed they could stay with her.

    • Lily said:

      argh, assumed they could use her as a hostel, of course…

  22. Lily said:

    Another point: if you are confronted with prospective houseguests that you feel you literally can’t send away, I have an example how I handled things. Not sure if you run into this scenario, but anyway:

    My 18y old brother asked if he could stay a week with me (me, living in a city with specialized hospitals) because he had a one-week treatment at a specialized faculty here. I didn’t feel like I could say no (and after talking to my parents, I realized they had already explored literally every other option under 200 € per night and everything was booked out) but thinking how he acts in my parents’ house, I quickly made some rules clear, and pretty non-diplomatically. “okay, just to be clear, you can have the couch and use bath and kitchen, but this is not a “I host you” situation. I get up every day at half past five, I’m a med student in my residency, so I don’t have time to do anything for you. You’ll cook your own food, you’ll buy your own food, you’ll take you own trash out and you’ll do your own dishes without reminder. You’ll bring anything you need and keep your stuff at exactly one point. You won’t eat my chocolate. If we end up offering you food, there are exactly two options: thank you and eating it or no thank you and not eating it. Nothing else, especially no commentary.”
    I wouldn’t have minded cooking for him as I cook for me anyway, but he had been rude to my mum when she cooked and he didn’t like it, so I was extremely cautious.
    Fun fact: It worked greatly. In the end, I and my roommate cooked for all (as we had probably done anyway), he didn’t complain, he looked if there were dishes to do and did them without asking, kept the appartment clean, went with me to buy groceries, etc. We were all pretty happy. And my parents offered to pay something (for water/electricity/randomly eaten stuff), “just tell us what his visit costs you and we’ll pay it.”

    • goddessoftransitory said:

      It’s amazing how much spoiled behavior evaporates under expectations. People do what they’re used to and what they’ve been getting away with; often (not always) just saying “NOW WE DO IT THIS WAY” puts them onto the correct track because it’s simply never occurred to them that such a track existed.

      • Rache11e said:

        So true!!!

      • Lily said:

        To be honest about it, after realizing he *could* but *didn’t want to* towards my mom, I even got more unhappy about his behaviour at home.

        • horse said:

          Is this, like, a brother thing? My brother and I each have had to store some belongings in our mother’s garage in our adult lives, and I’ve always been grateful and gone out of my way to pay her back – if she won’t accept money, I help her around the house, visit with her, etc. But my brother acts like a request to come over after work and help her move a desk is THE BIGGEST IMPOSITION EVER, AND HE’S AN ADULT AND DOESN’T HAVE TO BE AT HER BECK AND CALL, and I’m like, while your furniture is where her car should be? Yeah, you do have to be at her beck and call. Jeez. Why wouldn’t you be respectful and thankful to a mother who’s done nothing but care for you?

    • segertsch said:

      “You won’t eat my chocolate.”

      Amen!

    • Alexia said:

      Sometimes you have to put those parameters into place and enforce them. A few years ago, my SIL came over to visit. I made it extremely explicit to her that since she was coming smack dab in the middle of exam week, I would not be spending time entertaining her since I would be studying the entire time.

      Well after 2-3 night of her talking at me for 4+ hours straight while I’m trying to work, I finally turned around and said “Look. I need to study. I told you it would be like this 3 times before you came over. I’m going to leave for a few hours. You can do what you want. I’ll be back at X.”

      When my husband came back, I told him what I said to his sister. In turn, her response was to tell my husband that I “hate her”.

      The next time she started talking at me when I was studying, my husband happened to be there. I looked at the both of them and said “I’m sorry to be so rude, but you guys need to go somewhere for a few hours. I need to study.” Again, she was highly upset, but husband reminded her that I had been very explicit about this and took her to a local coffee shop. She still thinks I “hate her”, but she has never invited herself to our place during exam time again.

  23. Not Australian said:

    I make a distinction between ‘putting people up’ and ‘having them to stay’. I’ll sometimes make a bed available for people I know who have reasons to visit the area – either for business reasons, or to visit another friend of mine who lives locally and doesn’t have a guest room. [They only get to come if it’s convenient to me, however.] In that case they usually eat most of their meals with my friend; I provide tea and coffee and a place to sleep, lend them a key, and that’s all. People who come ‘to stay’ are usually visiting me, and we do stuff together; we’ll sometimes eat out (they pay) or order in takeaway (we pay), and the rest of the time we cook but it’s nothing special. Since I don’t have a car, any trips we do have to be on public transport unless they bring a car with them. I think we’ve struck a healthy balance, but then again I don’t live in a tourist hotspot … and most of the people I know wait for an invitation!

  24. Toomanyanimals said:

    Ahhh, the joys of house guests! I am from New Zealand and there is definitely a culture of sharing and hospitality. Which is awesome for most guests. The worst we’ve had stayed for a week and didn’t contribute at all – I was younger then, now I’d just say something! But we’ve had some amazing guests (like my husband’s step brother’s wife’s sister & her boyfriend – those two were amazing). And we’ve been lucky enough to stay in some fantastic places.

    Slightly different situation but pretty relevant – my parents have a beach house in a beautiful spot and wow, it’s amazing how entitled people just pop out of the woodwork. My parents love to host but even they have toned it back.

    Once or twice a year we’ll have it to ourselves and invite some friends. I’ve learnt to be super specific about it after a few irritating weekends where people did expect us to provide everything. I usually do an email invite and it includes: bring all sheets, towels & beach towels. BYO breakfast, other meals are split up & allocated out. (For example I’ll ask two people if they can do lunch on Saturday, three to do dinner etc etc.) They are responsible for bringing all the food, prep, cooking and clean up – though usually everyone chips in to help. That way I don’t have to plan/purchase/organise/cook/clean etc the entire freaking weekend, or spend a fortune going out for meals. And the fridge isn’t full of masses of cheese & alcohol but little in the way of anything else (which isn’t entirely a bad thing).

    We let them know all the awesome things to do in the area and then everyone is free to do as they like – it’s a weekend at the beach, after all! We’re very encouraging of activities but we feel no obligation to do them unless we want to.

    It’s worked really, really well. I felt a bit awkward at first, but our friends all seem very happy to know exactly what is expected.

    My next step is to inform everyone that they must help clean up on Sun afternoon too . . .

  25. Rhoda said:

    Am I the only one who actually doesn’t like staying with people as a houseguest? I much prefer a nice anonymous hotel room. I don’t even like B&Bs any more for that reason.

    • Vicki said:

      I think that’s another case of, Nobody writes to an advice column to say “hey, my marriage is basically good, and I have no significant health problems,” and if they did, it wouldn’t get printed.

      I like staying with people if and only if I want to spend time with them, and they have something in the way of appropriate space (which at my age means an actual bed, a shower I can use, a working tea kettle, and a refrigerator with room for my breakfast yogurt). If we want to spend time together, I’ll do your dishes if I’m the first person to wake up after a party, go to a festival with you, or plant a rosebush if you’re trying to set up a garden while several months pregnant. But I’m at your house, and staying over after a party, because we want to hang out together, not primarily because I need a bed for the night.

    • Nanani said:

      I hate staying in people’s spaces! but I didn’t actually figure that out for a while because I was raised in a family that didn’t really believe in hotels – see my longer comment below.

      • Rhoda said:

        My family was poor, so all vacations when I was a kid were either camping or staying at someone’s house. The first time I ever stayed at a hotel was in high school on a band trip. What a revelation that was!

        • Rache11e said:

          My children are teenagers and we are taking our first family vacation this summer that does not involve extended family or couch surfing. I am equal parts embarrassed that it’s taken so long & proud that we’re finally using our vacation to VACATION in a way that is enjoyable to US!!!

        • We didn’t stay at a hotel until I was in high school. We always stayed with family and friends. One time, my mom stopped to make us sandwiches to eat before we got to the friends’ house. When we arrived, friends were eating dinner – pizza they had ordered out.

          We never had restaurant food! We never ordered pizza!

          Friends offered us some so my siblings and I ate it.

          My mom was really mad at us later. She had made sandwiches for us so we wouldn’t be imposing on the friends for dinner.

    • Jane said:

      Depends on how much emotional energy I have to spare at the minute. If I’m feeling pretty good, I love staying with other people. If I’m depressed or exhausted, I want my private corner where no one is allowed to talk to me.

    • AndyL said:

      Me! I love hotels. I order room service, and we take our time getting ready.

      It’s amazing how much more idle-chit-chat-about-people-I’ve-never-met I can handle when I get to first wake up slowly, in silence, and can shower-and-caffeinate without having to deal with morning people whose idea of happy morning banter is heckling me about what time I wake up.

      • Rhoda said:

        My first thought, on that first hotel room stay was “Wow, I don’t have to stumble through the woods with a flashlight searching for a smelly outhouse! Or share a bathroom with someone else! Or wake up shivering in an inadequate sleeping bag!”

      • Thanksforallthefish said:

        I hate hate hate those stupid “funny” comments about when I wake up. Unfortunately I have trained myself to get up earlier when around those people which makes me tired and cranky and not well-rested as a result. I go home not feeling exhausted because I just “partied soo hard” but because I legit never got good sleep.

        • Saturnalia said:

          My parents are getting better, but they have alcohol tolerance that I lack and keep a roughly 8pm-4am sleep schedule (I’m more like midnight-8am right now since partner works from home until midnight)… But hot damn all the crap from my teenage years starts oozing from the seams of our relationship when I wake up grumpy and antisocial after an evening of turning down booze (yet still hungover) and being left to silently twiddle my thumbs on the couch after they go to the two beds of the house super early.

          Like you I grit my teeth, pull out my best fake-it-til-you-make-it politeness, and then go home for napz4dayz

      • Willow said:

        Because, of course, if you sleep late, you’re lazy and have other moral failings. /sarc off

        • AndyL said:

          It’s hilarious to me, because I probably end up trying to function on 5 hours sleep or less waaaaay more often than any of them do because of working and commuting so many hours.

          I would love a chance to be really, truly lazy! :::bliss:::

    • Not even a little bit! Nice anonymous hotel rooms are so great. I love getting up on my own schedule, going to bed on my own schedule, being able to hog the shower to my heart’s content without feeling like a jerk, and being able to pick a restaurant that works with my food allergies and preferences.

    • emily said:

      I’m with you on that one. There are only a few people I actually truly enjoy being a houseguest for and they include my parents, my sister, and my best friend/former college roommate. Basically all people I’ve lived with before, who actually have space/guest rooms, and who’s houses I’ve been to often enough to know where things/how they like do things at their house.

  26. What a great idea to proactively set one’s rules and expectations of guests.
    After Katrina, I had 10 people and 9 dogs for a month, with no electricity or running water! for 2 weeks (the only time I sneaked over and used the neighbor’s pool, and we set up a bench with buckets of water from the pond for the toilet) at my introvert-owned homestead, which had it’s own devastation from wind damage. When they all left, my cupboards were bare, all of them, the laundry soap and household supplies long gone, the washing machine broken from non-stop use. We ate my freezer full of salmon and steak. No one so much as took me out to dinner, sent me a thank you note or remembered me over that year’s holidays. I know there was a lot going on, and the focus was on the displaced people but… Never Again.

    • B. said:

      I’m so sorry, bydabayou, that sounds awful :((

  27. policychick said:

    I’m unclear on why it is rude to say, “I’d like to do whatever you want to do”? I suppose it sounds frustratingly like I’m making you the cruise director? I say something similar. When I’m visiting a friend in a new city (and to be clear, I’m there to see them first and their city second) I usually say, “I want to do whatever YOU like to do in YOUR city.” Like, I want to go to your favorite bar, or favorite happy hour, or favorite little museum no one else knows about. That way I spend time with friend, see a bit of the city, and get to know the places they like to haunt.
    If that makes sense!

    • winter said:

      Well, it sounds like you are accommodating your friend, but now they have to do all the planning, coming up with ideas, places to go etc. The more details you can give, the less mental work they have to do – which is a kind thing to do as they already have to plan how they are going to prepare their home for hosting you.
      “Let’s do whatever you want to do” would make sense if your friend already has planned out “The perfect week when someone visits me”. I don’t know if anyone like this exists though.

      • azurille said:

        Oh, that’s me! I’m living abroad and my parents come visit me and my boyfriend yearlyish. We don’t have room to host them and they never let us pay a cent for anything, so our gift to them is to plan the perfect week together. I know all the types of things they like to do, and my boyfriend grew up in this area and knows the best places to go. Together we are a perfect travel agency, or so my parents say 🙂 At this point, they outright request for us to plan their whole trip again. Luckily we enjoy putting together the trip plan, and it’s only once a year anyway.

        • Same here. When I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Chile, my friend L visited me twice. She paid for everything, over my protests.

          “You have done all the planning and all the work,” she said. “You figured out where we should go and what we should do and made all the arrangements. If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t even get to do these things.”

    • Katie said:

      I think there’s also the assumption that the friend isn’t sitting around watching Netflix but doing interesting things around the city. If they’re just having a more sedentary week it still means planning more activities than they’d bargained for. I live in DC and rarely go to museums/bars/shows, nor do I want to, but most of my visitors are hoping for that kind of experience when they visit. It would be so refreshing if a guest had looked over guidebooks/tourist websites/etc. and planned out their time already – making decisions and being more social than when alone is quite fatiguing for me personally, though I can’t speak for your friends of course.

      • Right on. We love D.C. and it is wonderfullly accommodating to tourists with the transit system and awesome bike share program. I’d direct my guests to the nearest pick up point if I lived there! There are so many articles and websites suggesting activities and events, people are really foolish if they don’t study up beforehand. This column today has a lot of good ideas for preparing lists and links for visitors! Maybe you should have a “hand-out” or a .pdf ready…

      • Kate 2 said:

        Yeah, I had family come visit, and they had no real idea of what they wanted to do. They thought it would be a great idea if they took public transportation instead of using the car another relative had offered.

        I take public transportation all the time and I was volunteered to spend the day leading them around to where every they wanted to go with no notice. I tried explaining to them that public transportation takes at least twice as long as going by car in my city, and requires a lot more planning to make connections and so on, but they didn’t listen.

        We made it to the heart of the city when my relatives finally started to realize that wandering around a big city with no idea where you wanted to go or what you wanted to do, when the entertainments (zoo, gardens, aquarium, etc) had definite opening and closing times, was a really bad idea. As it turns out one person really wanted to see the fun statues our city has, they had not realized (and my relative in the city hadn’t told them) they are scattered all over the city! They were really upset, but luckily we found a couple. All in all it was a miserable time.

    • ReanaZ said:

      I think it’s the degree of “whatever”-ness. I like to host and plan, and “idk, whatever you want???” gets my shoulders up around my ears. (ie “I’ve put not thought into this or I am too nervous to have an opinion, do all the work for me.”)

      But: “What is your fav restaurant/coffee place?” “What is your fav place to hang out or best thing to do?” “I am open to whatever–do you have suggestion or should I pick a few things?” “I want bbq, a good margarita, and some people watching–hook a sister up?” All totally fine! But you need to put some suggestions/caveats around “whatever” or it’s hella irritating.

    • My dad does the “oh whatever you want to do!” when he visits me, and it’s just a lot of mental/emotional work to plan stuff. I’d even be okay with “let’s go to your favorite museum/park/bar/restaurant” because that would at least give some idea of what the visitor is interested in. But with zero input? I’m left trying to figure out things that will be entertaining for me and my brother (both nerdy millenials) and my dad and stepmom (boomers whose main hobbies are wine tasting and HGTV). My dad and brother have numerous dietary restrictions too. So it’s a ton of work to find places to go and places to eat that will work for all of us, and when the other person contributes *nothing* it feels a lot like they’re not terribly interested in the visit.

      tl;dr giving ideas for what you’d like to do and where you’d like to go takes some of the work off your host, instead of leaving every single detail on their shoulders

      • oregonbird said:

        After ten years and four 2-3 week visits, I finally gave up on hosting my dad. I could come up with marvelous plans based on his interests, and he’d go along enthusiastically until it was time to leave — and then I’d find myself being driven aimlessly in any direction that wasn’t the one I was pointing by a guy in his 80’s who definitely shouldn’t have been behind a wheel (last visit I restricted travel to metro services) and fending off attempt after attempt to abandon me at the side of the road. Welcome to my childhood! Naturally the entire family thought I was awful, and I was totally okay with that.

        • Thanksforallthefish said:

          Woah! That sounds awful! Was it that he would take you hostage while driving aimlessly and be mad at you because he “didn’t have enough fun” so he was trying to kick you out of the car?

    • B. said:

      To follow what ReanaZ said, maybe you could change the script if you perceive that you’re getting on your host’s nerves. I’m very much of a “happy doing whatever as long as it’s in your company” person, but that includes activities from hanging around reading in silence to folding laundry. I think the key is not asking any more effort from your host, including the mental effort to pick an option and plan accordingly.

      So, when my host asks me what I want to eat/do, and I have no preference, I’ve found some scripts that tend to work better than “whatever you want!”:
      – “What I want is to spend time with you. So, since I’m already getting that, what are you in the mood for? Netflix? Going out?”
      – “Do you have a preference, or do you want me to make the decision quickly?”
      – “Are there any errands you need to run? Wanna do those together?”
      – “Since we both like both/all options equally, how about tossing a coin/drawing straws?”

      And, if you do have a preference or even the idea of a preference, it usually helps to state it when asked.

    • The problem for me would be something like, “Well, what I want to do this weekend is hit up Lush, the comics shop and the local hipster liquor store so I can lounge in the bathtub reading on Friday night, then have a run and go to my weekly Call of Cthulhu game on Saturday. Sunday is usually catch up on housework/studying day with an option for afternoon coffee with a friend.” Most of that is either stuff I very much prefer to do alone, or something I wouldn’t consider amusing for a guest. As others have said, give me at least a guideline – do you want to go out and eat, chill around my place, cook something together, go shopping, what? If it truly is, “I’ll just follow you around while you do whatever you’d be doing without me” – were you planning to come to the dry cleaner’s and my therapy session?

    • Friendly Hipposcriff said:

      When I have a visitor, I don’t want to stick to my normal routine – the things I want to do (or I-and-partner want to do) are targeted to OUR enjoyment. Most weekends include a day of shopping/chores, for instance, and I will go to places where I can indulge in the things *I* like best. You won’t want to join me on my bike ride (I only have one bike) and you might not want to pay the steep entrance fees to places I have a season ticket to. My £3 day out is your £20 day out.

      And while I’m very much on the spontaneous end of planning – I have gone on overseas holidays with no more than a vague plan of which cities to touch – I think I don’t like the ’emotional labour’ aspect of ‘whatever’: now I need to play twenty questions with my guest to confirm that their idea of a perfect day isn’t being in [world city], taking cardboard to the local dump but does involve some of the sights, and most people DO have an idea of what they want to do.

      The ideal visitor is someone who has done a little research and has a ‘must see’ or ‘would be nice’ list, and who can say what they do and don’t like: do you hate crowds? How far can you walk when it’s hot/cold/a bad day for you? Is this a once-in-a-lifetime visit (so you want the standard sights) or a once every couple of years? Any special interests?

      My favourite methods of planning are – when available – looking at the leaflets in Tourist Information centres (there’s usually something I wouldn’t have considered) and putting the place I’ll visit into Flickr search: that gives me a fair idea of ‘what I want to see’ and works much better for me than trawling through ‘x things to do in y’ websites. I spent a whole day getting to, finding, and walking around the ninja museum in Iga-Ueno, based on a couple of pictures I’d seen, and it was one of the best days of my life.

      • aebhel said:

        Huh, I guess I tend to take “Whatever you want to do” at face value (my spouse hates planning). If you’re not going to come up with or contribute to a plan, you’re going to do what I want to do and not complain about it; I won’t play twenty questions to figure out what you’re really in the mood for.

        I find that it usually sorts nice people into two groups: either the ones who will rally and come up with something on their own so they don’t have to watch Guardians of the Galaxy for the third time this week, or the ones who will happily go along with whatever I have in mind. Then you also get the jerks who just want to complain and have someone read their mind. Those people I just don’t hang out with again.

        I have next to no energy for the emotional labor of social planning, so it works out.

    • CommanderBanana said:

      Because it’s work? I’m an event planner by profession and planning someone else’s trip is work!

      I actually do do a lot of the trip planning for my friend group, because I am by nature a planner, I’m good at it, and if I don’t plan stuff it never happens, but that means that we’re doing whatever I find interesting (museums, vintage shopping, lots of stops for cake) and if someone has an issue with it, they’re more than welcome to plan the next trip.

    • emily said:

      I think the level of rudeness/annoyance is totally dependent on who’s asking it, and also how long they’re asking me to entertain them for. With friends of mine and siblings it’s a pretty low stakes question that doesn’t require much thought (well do you want either chill at my place or go out? chill, okay you pick what were watching I’ll order the delivery, going out? okay were going to this brewery) but with someone else, or for a longer time period it can be the most exhausting statement you’ve ever heard.

      My husband’s family was visiting recently and we got a lot of “whatever you want to do” or “we’re just here to spend time with you, we don’t care what were doing.” Since we didn’t actually think his family want to wake up at the crack of dawn and climb a mountain or spend the day playing video games we took the time to come up with a list of family appropriate suggestions and the response was “all of those sound great” or “which do you want to do?” which are fundamentally the same as “whatever you want to do” (with the added bonus of having to hold back the honest answers because WANT is not the word I would use to describe visiting family friendly tourist spots on my days off). Long story short we spent a week doing all of the mental work involved in planning daily excursions for 6 people and most of that involved a fair amount of guessing and seconding guessing what everyone else would like or be up to doing. Let’s just say that by the end of the visit we were not all disappointed that the had to cut they’re trip a day short.

    • Raptor said:

      Honestly, even if you are talking to a paid professional rather than a friend, it’s way more effective to ask by category than to say “What’s the best thing to do here?”

      The concierge/ tourist center person will start asking “What do you normally like to do on vacation? Do you like to see museums, do you like old historical buildings, do you like to hike, do you like to find a pool and relax, do you have access to a car, would you like to rent one, are you interested in a guided tour, how much time do you have?”

      If you know all the answers to those questions, it’s not so bad, but many people continue to just answer “Uh I’m not sure?” and I know they didn’t get the best vacation advice. “Do you like museums?” “Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh”

      There’s always going to be things you don’t know that you don’t know, like the Denver Mint does cool tours, or there’s a fabulous ghost town south of Lake Tahoe and Reno, but you have to talk enough for a tourism person to know what you like/ don’t like. If you like small local bookstores and tea, say you like those things!

      I know it’s not quite the same as when you’re trying you get your friend to do unpaid concierge work for you, but regardless of who you are asking, you really will get the most out of your trip if you just say what you like.

      And maybe it’s like the non-spammy AirBnB post. If you know your bedroom is worth $100, you can treat it like it’s worth $100 when people ask. If you know trip planning is a paid profession, you know it’s flipping work.

    • Mahkara said:

      My challenge when guests say this is that I then fold myself into knots trying to figure out what they might like to do. (And frustratingly, the people who say this also tend to not be at all helpful with answers to questions (i.e. I might say, “So something athletic or cultural?” “Either.” “Um…nightlife?” “Sure.”) then are inevitably disappointed when I somehow didn’t mind read them and suggest the mystery thing they clearly wanted to do but wouldn’t articulate.)

      (Also, what I normally do in my city is…probably not what most people want to do. Think along the lines of a 15 mile hike up a mountain – it’s actually a really popular thing to do where I am, but also something a lot of people HATE (or just flat out can’t do). I really *enjoy* checking out a fun new happy hour or going to a special museum exhibit or taking a friend sailing or whatever…but I have to know that this is what they want to do vs. “Oh, whatever!”)

    • Emmers said:

      In short, it’s because lots of people use “whatever you want to do” as “please do unpaid emotional labor as my personal travel agent.”

    • horse said:

      Once had a friend to stay for a week. She said, “Whatever you wanna do!” which meant, literally, just staring at me expectantly, waiting for me to come up with An Activity. At mealtimes, she’d say, “Man, I’m hungry!” and then look at me. It’s like hosting an eleven-year-old. Go into every hosting situation assuming you’ll be fending for yourself – that way, if they do end up taking you places and taking you out to eat, it’s a pleasant surprise! And if they have to work or just want to watch a movie in their PJs, you’re good.

  28. Jess said:

    Oh wow – when it comes to your own house you can’t belong to Guess Culture. Pick any one of these below based on what YOU want, can handle and want reciprocally; they’re all perfectly polite and a bad reaction isn’t your fault or problem. An unwanted houseguest, however, is. They’re like vampires; can only come in if they’re asked.

    1. Yes, stay.

    2. Let me rent you a nearby room

    3. Here’s the info for a nearby room

    4. Great, meet you for coffee/dinner/whatever on -.

    If someone who you used 1 or 2 with turns out to be a sponge, fine; the time and money wasted is the fee you pay for learning the limitations of that relationship.

    • Indie said:

      “They’re like vampires; can only come in if they’re asked” Stealing. Also useful for pouting uninvited wedding guests.

      • Christine said:

        Uninvited wedding guests? Good grief, the nerve!

    • Willow said:

      I’m stealing the vampires bit, too.

    • Jack V said:

      The way of I think of guess culture working more healthily is that it’s totally fine to be understated, but if someone blows past your boundary, it’s wise to assume that they’re not hearing what you’re saying (either because they’re an asshole who doesn’t care you didn’t want to see them, or because they genuinely didn’t realise your default politeness was to say “we’d really love to see you” to mean “no” and “we’d really really love to see you” to mean yes) and not assume they have a good reason you need to silently respect. That works for lots of things: you can be polite WHEN IT WORKS, but when someone FORCES you to be blunt and then gets pissy about it, it’s their fault, not yours.

      • Jess said:

        I love and rely on Guess Culture for many, many things, but not for letting anyone who is unwelcome in my house imagine for a moment that they are welcome in my house. This is a case where truths shouldn’t be hard and shouldn’t feel like an excuse: my place isn’t set up for you, I’m not comfortable with you seeing how messy I am and I don’t have the time to clean, it would be too hard to have you over because of my kids, my schedule is too demanding to host you right now, etc. None of those things should be hard to say.

  29. Biancasnoozes said:

    For me, there is only one person in the whole world who is allowed to stay in my (very small) apartment. It is because our friendship is steeped in reciprocity and balance, she doesn’t make my shoulders go up around my ears when she is in my proximity for days, and also I know that if for some reason I couldn’t or didn’t want to host her, a simple, “Oof, sorry friend, I just can’t do it this time,” would get absolutely no pushback or bad feelings.

    For every other person–friend, family, or foe–they get this script: “Sorry, that isn’t going to work for me. Hope [you enjoy your stay in MyTown] [I can meet up with you for a drink on either X or Y night] [to see you at Thanksgiving].”

  30. Nanani said:

    Oh there are definitely cultural variables here!

    My extended family largely live in very rural places, where “stay at a hotel” is legitimately not an option because the nearest hotel is hours away. If you are in town, you are staying with family or maybe camping.
    That works fine when those of us who now live in more urban places travel back to Ruralia*, but – the Ruralians (especially but not exclusively the older generation thereof) very much still expect to stay with family when they are visiting a city where any relative now lives. More than that, it’s seen as rude NOT to stay with family, like “I’d prefer a hotel to your company” or even “I’ll drop in to visit but won’t stay over” is, itself, the very height of rudeness. You can’t pass through Town with Cousins in It and not extend your trip to stay with them a night!! (Except you can and some of us do but there will be TALK ABOUT HOW RUDE THAT IS)

    Having grown up this way, it was quite the realisation when, in my 20s, I found out other people didn’t necessarily work this way and crashing with a friend in Destination Town should NOT be plan A! I don’t recall any one friend pointing it out but there were a few failed visits/awkward stays that come together before I figured it out.

    So, LW knows their family best and maybe no such dynamic is in play, but the point of this is to say that introducing a popular tourist destination into even a lower key version of the above, would very quickly lead to LWs situation. So, maybe also look around the archives for boundary resetting advice and breaking with one’s upbringing advice in addition to the hosting and guesting advice here?

    • attica said:

      The upside of The Rudeness of Not Imposing is that you’re not around to hear them talk about how rude you are! 🙂

    • aebhel said:

      My family is also like this, and when I was a kid, we hosted all the time; there simply wasn’t another option. Hotels were not a thing, at all; the nearest one was hours away. It can be a bit of an awkward adjustment to move out of that mindset, especially when someone lives in a popular tourist area.

    • LA said:

      “You can’t pass through Town with Cousins in It and not extend your trip to stay with them a night!! (Except you can and some of us do but there will be TALK ABOUT HOW RUDE THAT IS)”

      OMG, my brother and I got into a fight about my spouse and I not stopping to see him when we were literally just driving through his town on our way home after visiting in-laws. Because we were tired and just wanted to be home. When I found out he was angry about that, I was like DUDE, I will see you next week! Chill the fuck out, you already call me almost every day as it is. Hilariously, he tried to punish me with the silent treatment, which did not work because I was enjoying not talking on the phone every day.

      Like, I love him, I love my family, but jesus christ, there are only so many hours in a day, and I need some of those to myself to recharge.

  31. gryphon said:

    I realise that “No is a complete sentence” and “reasons are for reasonable people” etc etc etc, but if a flat, explanation-free “No” makes you feel uncomfortable, you can just…be economical with the truth.

    “Sorry, we’re having work done on the house that week.”
    “Sorry, I’m going to be on holiday myself for those dates.”
    “Sorry, my landlord is really strict about house-guests.”
    “Sorry, Auntie Elsie is already booked to stay with us that week.”

    Super-unreasonable people may then start trying to “solve” your stated reasons – “Don’t worry, I’ll share a bed with Auntie Elsie!” – but in that case you can just move to broken-record “That won’t work for us.” Most reasonable people will just get a useful reminder that you’re not permanently available to host them and then make alternative plans.

    • Emma9 said:

      Someone upthread pointed out that ‘I’m going to be on holiday myself’ is actually a dangerous excuse because they will then invite themselves to stay in your home *without* you. But your other options sound good, as does ‘That week is super busy/stressful/etc’ (hey, aren’t all weeks?).

      And yes, you quickly get a feel for who takes reasons as a polite ‘Sorry, no’ and who takes them as the start of a negotiation.

  32. neverjaunty said:

    Hey, really not cool to use the OP’s issue into an excuse for a sales pitch.

    • Especially since this person kind of looks like they are just trolling for blogs talking about hotel problems so they can push an airbnb referral.

      • JenniferP said:

        I deleted it. Thanks for catching it while I was away. I think the person meant well, but it was not appropriate.

  33. BoundaryWizard said:

    My family (of 6!) visits my sister (also family of 6!) in the D.C. Area about twice a year and we use the following system:
    We go to store together and I buy groceries
    I cook dinner every night ( I love to cook)
    We make out a list of where my family is going and then she has the option to
    A. Not Go
    B. Go
    C. Send her oldest child WITH us
    She lets us know if there is a baseball game/swim meet/activity that would be fun to attend so that we can work that in.
    We made a solid itinerary on our first trip that was such an organized list of “what can you do on the same day because it is a very close walk” that she reuses that schedule for other visitors. Maybe you could make a similar list and email to people when they accidentally try to make reservations in your home instead of a hotel? That way you can feel like you are contributing something to their enjoyment of your great city without having to host/pay/chauffeur distant relatives around.

    These things make us a welcome guest instead of a burden on her that doubles her workload. They do the same when they visit us and I look forward to their visits ever time.
    OP, boundaries are such a good friend to have and someone that bucks/pushes back is not someone that you WANT to have in close quarters with you for days. Proximity only makes boundary pushers worse. Good luck!

    • I love your system!

      Also, having that local knowledge really is valuable, and should be valued. An itinerary and recommendation for a good hotel would be great!

  34. I wish I could (this was my post) but I live in a rented out home and we have an HOA, it’s against the rules to use Airbnb here. I could get kicked off the property if I tried.

    • Also I think it’s important that I note (as the OP, poster) that when I say partner, I mean I’m in the LGBT community so even if it was an option for me to rent out (it’s not, like I said, HOA rules don’t allow)… it’s not necessarily a safe idea for us. Never know who might be trying to come in and what they might believe or how they might act on those beliefs. My partner’s safety is my main priority.

      • Clarry said:

        Still, just knowing how much spaces similar to yours cost on airbnb can help.

        Non-paying guest: Hey, I’m dropping by the first week in September, okay?
        You: Well, if I were renting through airbnb, I’d could get $100/night.
        Non-paying guest: Oh, uh, gulp, gotta run.

        or:

        Non-paying guest: Guess I never thought about it that way. How about I take you out to dinner, fill your fridge with groceries, and treat you like you’re doing me the huge favor that you are?

        Really, you say folks treat you like a hotel, but I’d say it would be great if they did. At a hotel, you pay for the basics, then you pay for the extras like meals and parking and tour guides. At a hotel, you tip the maids.

      • ReanaZ said:

        This is not relevant to you (and you have to make the right safety decisions for your family either way!) but Airbnb is SUPER queer-positive and kick people off the site for homophobic behaviour. They’ve ended both hosting relationships and guests’ accounts for making homophobic comments, etc. and sided on the side of the victim in financial disputes. Anyway, it’s totally fine for anyone to not want to risk it and this post isn’t about airbnb anyway, but just always want to shout out companies doing right by queer people.

    • B. said:

      Yeah, I can see that you don’t care. Lisa asked for help and advice. Don’t hijack that for your own economic gain. The internet is great and wide, you can advertise on your own blog.

  35. Maya said:

    I had a Facebook friend–aka a friend of a friend FROM HIGH SCHOOL who I barely talked to in high school and certainly haven’t talked to since–message me and ask if she could stay while visiting my tourist-filled town. It kinda blew my mind.

    It helps that I live in a pretty unconventional setup (no living room/guest room, hello young professional in a very high COL area!), so I say a cheerful no to anyone who I literally wouldn’t share a bed with.

  36. I’m bewildered that LW is expected to pay for things like wear and tear on their guests’ cars. That’s not being a guest, that’s being a full-on dependent! Is that a cultural thing, or does LW know some people they really need to tell to take a hike?

    • KR said:

      I assumed it was wear and tear on their car from them driving the guest around or the guest borrowing their car.

    • Emmers said:

      I think the idea of letting a houseguest borrow your car (as in, drive it around) is very cultural, because people are talking about it like it’s normal, but it makes me want to run screaming off into the night. And I’m not even a big car person!

  37. Jade said:

    This comment thread has been a fascinating read, and it’s really made me re-think how I communicate when I visit people!

    See, for me, the best kind of guest is the kind who uses me as a hotel. After university, I moved to a really awesome city in a faraway country, which means that most of my visitors are fellow expats and/or people really used to travelling. I’m happy to have people I know (or even strangers vouched for by close friends) sleep on my air mattress and to provide tips for how to travel in my corner of the world, and, hey, if you’re around when I’m having dinner I’ll gladly share whatever it is I’m eating (but it might be a peanut butter sandwich at 10 PM), but other than that I’m really super-busy so you better be doing your own thing 95% of the time. Even people I’m delighted to see probably won’t get more from me than, say, a few hours on the weekend.

    That’s also basically how I travel — I’m incredibly self-sufficient and will take great pains to stay out of my hosts’ hair, but I have no problem hitting up random acquaintances who live in cool parts of the world if I want/need to travel to that part of the world. I will also directly ask if they’re amenable to a house guest rather than angling for an invite, because being direct seems waaay more polite to me. But, oh man, if people are resenting me because I act like I want to see the place rather than them? I clearly need to up my communication game to make sure expectations match all around. Thanks y’all!

    (To be clear, I’d never ask for anything other than somewhere safe to sleep, and if more than that is offered I try to be grateful, offer to contribute financially, bring gifts, etc. The situations LW and many commenters are describing are clearly not okay, and healthy boundaries are very, very good things.)

    • gryphon said:

      Me too! I love it when people visit my city for something specific and ask if I can host them, because it means I get to see my lovely friends without having to do a shit-ton of emotional labour working out how to entertain them. I even like it when it’s a friend or colleague of my partner who I don’t know well (or at all). If someone’s in your city for a conference or festival or whatever, your hosting is a bonus rather than the main event, and that takes soooooo much pressure off. They’re out of the house for most of the day so you can keep on top of housework and get lots of alone-time, and you don’t struggle for conversation topics because you just ask “How was the festival/conference/archaeological dig/photoshoot today?”

      I recently mentioned to a not-very-close friend that if he ever needs to visit my city, it would be great to see him and I’d be happy to host. He immediately got back to me with some dates and it was clear he wasn’t coming for anything else, he was just coming to see me. I freaked out and cancelled. I just didn’t want to do the work of coming up with ideas for activities and participating in the activities and trying to compensate for his total lack of enthusiasm and poor conversational skills. TOO MUCH FUCKING WORK. Last time I was lumbered with hosting someone like that, I ended up booking two tickets on a bus tour of my own city, visiting landmarks I knew better than my own hands, just so I’d get a break from talking to him and getting nothing in response.

      So, yeah, to summarise, I agree: I’d much rather be used as a free hotel than be used for free emotional labour!

      • KP said:

        Yes, count me in to the “houseguests who are using our guest room as a hotel are my favorite kind” club. People just visiting me/spouse for any length of time are exhausting (sometimes worth it, but that only applies to a few very close friends/siblings). I love when people ask if they can stay with us while they’re traveling for other reasons. Usually they buy/make us dinner one night, we get some (brief) quality catch-up time, I enjoy getting to make their stay comfortable and cheery, and then they’re off!

    • Wow! With clarity like that, I’d actually be cool with hosting you, knowing that all you’re asking is a safe place to sleep, and you have no other expectations of me. I’d actually WANT to be the one to provide you with the safe haven, and maybe spend a small amount of time hanging with you, when it’s agreeable to both.

      I like your attitude a lot, really. You’d be the exception, and if you asked for sleeping space, I’d give it to you (provided you had been vouched for by a close friend, oh stranger on the internet).

    • Indie said:

      I think it’s only offensive if the ‘I’m here to see the sights not you!’ person also expects an unpaid chef/cruise director/maid/Sherpa and generally humble worshipper-of-honoured-guests. You sound perfectly polite and reciprocal!

    • CoffeegirlKarin said:

      Jade, I actually think you are perfectly fine!

      I travel a lot and have done quite a bit of backpacking (incl. couchsurfing) around the world. The expat/backpacker mentality is a bit more relaxed with regards to crashing somewhere and I personally prefer being asked directly if someone can stay with me. Like you, if I stay somewhere, I don’t expect my host to take care of me 24/7 and plan my stay for me (I don’t want that, anyway). I know that I am invading their space and disrupting their routine, so I make sure to communicate what I would like to do and talk to them about their expectations. Additionally, I am self-sufficient as well, am perfectly happy to go sight-seeing by myself, and do chip in with housework (if they want that). Through my travels, I have met quite a few people and I would have no problems with a travel acquaintance or friend contacting me and asking for a place to crash (or even asking if a friend of theirs could crash).

      BUT (and I posted this a bit further upthread) I don’t like feeling like a hotel/hostel in the sense of “guest comes, dumps their stuff in my guest room and I don’t see them for the rest of their stay” or expects five star guest service including meals, housekeeping, and me being their vacation organizer. Same goes if somebody who I normally have zero contact with contacts me out of the blue because there’s an event going on and they couldn’t get a hotel room (e. g. old school “friends” who I’m connected with on Facebook, but I never hung with at school). If somebody stays at my place I expect respect (and not a sense of entitlement) and that we at least sit down for coffee/tea and a chat, but it sounds like that’s what you do, so I don’t think that there’s resentment.

  38. Clover said:

    I turned our former guest room into a craft room/home office. Now house guests have to sleep on the couch in the TV room and share a bathroom with teenagers. Believe me, we only get guests who really want to see US! Consider making your house less guest-friendly.

    • That works to a certain extent. But, growing up, whenever we had guests and no guest room, the kids always wound up sleeping on the couch or floor, not the guests. ALWAYS.

      One time, I remember coming to the kitchen and finding my mother in a right snit. I asked her why, and she said that her sister, who was visiting, had said something that really, REALLY ticked Mom off. Now, Mom is an easy-going person, so I thought, “Wow! This has to be bad!”

      My aunt had said that she could come and visit any time she wanted, because “You have a guest room, all ready!”

      No. That was my room, and I had to sleep curled up on a love seat for the duration of the visit. The next time she visited, Mom and Dad sprung for a fold-up bed, set up in the kitchen, because that love-seat did me no favors. That was fine the first night, but the second night, the fold-up bed spontaneously folded, with me trapped inside it, screaming for help at two o’clock in the morning and afraid to use the bed again.

      After that, it was air-mattress on the floor from then on, and fewer visits from relatives.

      I mentioned in another comment, but I do think it bears repeating – this sort of thing, allowing friends and relatives to come in and upset all your own family’s plans, teaches your children not to value themselves.

      Enforce the boundaries for your own sake, and your children’s sakes, please.

      • Wickesbi said:

        Wow! I’m so sorry! I refuse to even ask my daughter to move out of her room, regardless of how many people are staying over.
        We designed and built our home, and the designer kept pointing out that if we got rid of my upstairs laundry room and my craft room/office, we could take the kid’s bathroom and create a guest suite. Um, no! I built my house for the comfort and ease of the people who live there not the people who might visit. My daughter is not going to walk half way across the house instead of using the bathroom 5 feet from her bedroom door because some guest doesn’t want to put a bathrobe on to use the bathroom.
        That and upstairs is for family members (living in the house) only! I have a guestroom downstairs, and it has a jack and jill bathroom shared with the hall way (bathroom can be accessed by the guestroom on one side and by the hallway on the other).

        • Wow. Any designer/architect who tries to take away my craft room won’t be working for me for long. You can pry my craft room out of my cold dead hands! Wait. That doesn’t work. You can’t hold a room.

          I get pointing it out once, because some people would like that, especially if the kid is due to graduate and leave home within a year or two. Put in a doorway for the kid, and don’t invite anyone over until graduation, and then just lock the door. Viola, you have a private guest suite. But you said this person *kept* pointing it out. Over and over? Why? Why was this person so invested in you having a private guest suite, and your kids having to schlep across the house to use the bathroom every day? Something weird about that.

          Anyway, I have spent may joyful hours designing and redesigning my dream house, and it NEVER included giving up MY space on a permanent basis to more luxuriously accommodate some hypothetical temporary guests. That is just bizarre.

          Your design sounds really nice. Upstairs for family and downstairs for guests! Since family members started getting old and injured, we don’t do stairs so much, so my dream house has become single-level and sprawling, but having family on one side and guests on the other sounds ideal. I would say, “that or an elevator,” but truthfully, I’ve had recurring nightmares about elevators for years, and in fact discovered my fear of heights while riding in an elevator when I was seven (who knew gears could be so terrifying?), so single-story houses for me, now.

          PS: If you take your small child to Paris, and go to the Eiffel Tower, and you are not absolutely certain that child will not be terrified by seeing visible gears on an elevator, just take the stairs.

          Also, phobias are weird.

      • aebhel said:

        That’s just so bizarre to me. We hosted family all the time, but we kids were never ousted from our rooms, and my parents would have been flabbergasted if a guest expected that. Sometimes we had to get creative with sleeping arrangements, but it would never have occurred to anyone that someone who (a) lived there and (b) had not been involved in inviting this person should give up their bed.

        • HOORAY FOR YOUR PARENTS! I’m so happy for you!

          Seriously, that is awesome. You are blessed and lucky in your parents and in the people whom your parents chose to invite.

    • LA said:

      I like to make sure people who visit us have whatever they need, because I like hosting. But not forever. Therefore, we have a guest bed, but it’s very, VERY firm. Fine for a night, maybe two, but no one seems to want to sleep on it any more than that. It’s the perfectly subtle way of making people want to go home to their own bed.

      (For guests we don’t mind staying longer, we do have a mattress topper we can add to the guest bed.)

  39. amenable said:

    I just wanted to throw this out there. As a guest, I would way prefer someone (even someone I really wanted to see) told me “here are some hotels in the area, let’s get dinner one night” rather than telling me I could stay with them and then being pissy about it when the time comes.

    I have two married friends that live in the suburbs of a major tourist city who invited my husband and I to come visit. We are Ask people, so we asked about if we should get a hotel or rent a car. They told us no. Our host even helped us pick the exact days we’d be there. When we arrived, they wouldn’t pick us up from the airport. Surprise! They had also rented out the guest bedroom they’d offered us, and instead set up an air mattress *directly next to* their bed, with access to a single bathroom that was already being shared by 3 people. Again, we said we could get a hotel room, but they refused. Over the course of 4 days, they both worked normal hours and basically refused any activity that wasn’t “eat somewhere within a 5 mile radius of our house”. It was solidly the worst vacation I’ve ever taken.

    My point is, just letting someone use your house when you don’t want to will suck for you, but it also won’t be a fun visit for a guest who really wants to see you. Better to set aside even a small amount of time where you can actually enjoy their company.

    • Wow. Sounds like they really did not want to host you, but for some reason, felt like it was their duty, and they were going to do their duty, darn it! But nothing more than their duty.

      And that is another reason why I insist that only people you invite because you actually want them should come into your home.

  40. Noemie said:

    I used to live in Amsterdam and a friend could not understand that I could not host her, her husband and their baby in my tiny studio apartment. I was sleeping on a futon in a corner of the room, where did they expect to sleep? After I turned her down, she made a passive-aggressive Facebook post about how her planned trip was ruined because they couldn’t afford a hotel in Amsterdam (they’re a double income couple). Needless to say, the friendship has seriously cooled down since.

    Another thing I find annoying is people who don’t understand I can’t just take time off work when it suits them. Even if no-one else in my team has booked the time off, my days off are precious and I want to save them for a trip, not to host uninvited guests.

    Now I only host close family and a very small circle of lifelong friends.

    • So many times, when I was growing up, we had to drop everything to host uninvited guests. Dad gave up his paid time off work, and used whatever money we had saved up for OUR vacation plans, and used them on the uninvited guests.

      Regardless of how much fun we had with the guests, there was always that “I gave up X and Y for this,” in the background of our minds.

      Doing it when you’re all alone in the house, and you’re the only one affected by it is up to you, and fine. But doing it with a family, who had their own expectations and plans, and ripping those expectations and plans out from under them, because you can’t enforce boundaries with relatives, teaches them not to value themselves, and it’s not right.

      Good for you, Noemie, for enforcing your boundaries. If you have children, in the future, they will be very lucky, indeed.

      • Noemie said:

        I didn’t even know what boundaries were until I was well in my 20s and didn’t start enforcing them until my 30s. When you were raised in abusive home you often end up a people-pleaser and this is bad for every aspect of your life. I still have a long way to go but I remember how liberating it was the first time I said “no, I don’t want to” to a question instead of my usual excuses like being busy with something else.
        They should teach this stuff in school, it would help so many kids make sense of their home situation and hopefully become healthier adults.

        • Bartleby, the Scrivener, takes it to extremes, but boy, he sure does know how to enforce his own boundaries. He enforces them to death.

          It’s a weird story, but oddly uplifting, in that it teaches you just how to say “No.”

          I forget who wrote it. Maybe Nathaniel Hawthorne? Sorry. I’m not feeling well right now, or I’d look it up.

          But if you want to read it, I know it’s available full-text online somewhere, because that is how I read it. Bartleby, the Scrivener. Short story that everyone should read before they even START dating.

          • Bartleby the Caregiver said:

            @Michelle C Young: It was Melville. 🙂

        • Also, I never watched the show Friends, except for the odd episode when it happened to be on when I was a) visiting someone or b) too tired to do anything but sit and stare, and couldn’t be bothered to even reach for the remote. This is how I wound up watching “The Bachelorette” as well as three other forgettable reality shows, all on the same night. It was Reality Night on channel 8, I suppose. Also, at the time, my TV only picked up Channel 8 (the time of rabbit ear antennas), and it was watch that or watch nothing, and I was completely out of spoons to even get up. Going to bed was too exhausting, because it required movement.

          Sorry about that tangent.

          Anyway, I once saw a bit of “Friends,” where the guys are planning to get together to do some chore to help out a person, and they ask the blonde woman (Phoebe?) if she wants to help out, and her response is CLASSIC. “Oh, I wish I could but I just don’t want to.” They just shrugged and moved on. I LOVE IT!

          I’ve seen two or three episodes, and come to the conclusion that although everyone else seems to think she’s an idiot, I think she’s just an absolute genius who dances to the beat of her own rhythm, instead of theirs.

  41. Tea Rocket said:

    Lisa, I’ve been in exactly the same boat as you. The city I live in is very popular with tourists, especially during one particular month of the year, when the number of people in the city grows significantly because of tourists (and I do everything I can to avoid having to cross the city center). My first year here, I had all sorts of people wanting to “come and visit” during Tourist Month. When I first moved, I thought I had to say yes to everyone, unless I wasn’t going to be around. Since then, I’ve wised up and now say no very easily. “Sorry, that won’t work for me,” and done. If people persist, I repeat the sentiment that it won’t work.

    When you say no to people, do not give in to the temptation to give reasons. If you say you’re too busy, people will insist that they’re really self-sufficient, or that they’re only staying for X amount of time, or ask you when a less busy time is so that they can reschedule for then. If you say your home is too small, they’ll insist they’d be happy to sleep on the kitchen floor, next to your dog. Either way, once they’ve “solved” your problem, it’s much harder to say no, so don’t give reasons it won’t work unless you really are willing to negotiate.

    When you do say yes to people, I find that it’s helpful to clarify the following with guests before they arrive:
    1) Arrival and departure dates and times. No one should be okayed to come and stay without submitting both of these.
    2) How much of your company they’re expecting. Some people want a crash pad while they explore the city on their own, and some expect you to plan everything and escort them all over. There is no right or wrong answer to this, unless it doesn’t match what you are expecting or willing to do.
    3) How active they plan to be. Some people will be up early and out of your house all day, making the most of their limited time in your city, and some people want to relax. Again, there’s no right or wrong answer to this, but I’ve known people who have been irritated about guests who were always underfoot and other people who were annoyed about guests who treated their home like a hostel.

  42. Indie said:

    Whenever I want to see my friend in London, I ask her if she wants to MEET up. Not if she wants to put me up! So rude. Wait to be invited!

    • You probably get a lot of invitations, too, because you are polite, and people like you and want to be with you.

    • PrairieChick said:

      What a wonderful way to frame this request! I’m keeping this for future use.

      • Indie said:

        People who live in tourist towns know how/when to offer up their space. If she says “Oh and please do stay while you’re here. My living room is a free place for us to chat about our day on the town!” Great. If she says “I’m only free for dinner Friday night”, then I know she needs a friendly ear to listen to all her life stuff and uninvited guest woes.

        Yep. Even though she has a baby and a job. They descend like locusts.

        And sometimes I don’t want to stay. Sometimes I just want afternoon tea with her before returning to the fancy hotel suite I booked with boyfriend.

  43. JenniferP said:

    Moderator Hat On:

    I deleted the AirBnB marketing comments. Glad that commenter has something that works for his/her life and I think they meant well, but we don’t need the sales pitch. Thank you.

  44. I don’t think saying ‘oh, anything is fine, whatever you want‘ is ever really ok, even if you really do just want to hang out with them while they have their usual board game nights and do their grocery shopping and take the cat to the vet. You still need to be clear what the expectations are, otherwise yeah, it’s just unfairly shifting all the effort to them.

    The times I’ve not felt too guilty about being vague have been when I’ve had a flare up of depression/anxiety but still really wanted to see the person and had non-refundable travel arrangements already in place. I’ve said something like “I’m coming because I want to catch up with you, but I won’t be up for much in the way of going out or large gatherings. Can we keep things flexible at this stage and see how I feel before we make plans? And keep anything we do fairly low key?”

    • Friendly Hipposcriff said:

      From where I’m sitting, that does not sound very vague at all: it rules out anything that needs prebooking/expensive tickets, it rules out whole swathes of locations (super-crowded) and destinations (loud, late, energetic). That’s a pretty good example of ‘use your words.’

  45. Kelsi said:

    This kind of entitlement is just baffling to me. It’s one thing when you invite someone to stay with you, with the express purpose of spending vacation time together–several years ago my Mainer friend invited me and another mutual friend to come, and did most of the touristy planning/transportation arrangement for us. Even then, we paid for our own meals/bus tickets/attraction tickets/etc!

    On the other side of things, that same mutual friend and I decided to go to DC last year, and had a friend who lived there. We contacted her to see if there was a chance we could stay with her, and also whether she had a few days to spend with us while we were there (whether or not we stayed with her!) I can’t imagine being upset if she wasn’t able to offer us lodging, OR expecting to monopolize her time/money for the entire visit just because she was kind enough to let us stay in her home! (It worked out well–she had to work the first few days we were there, so we did the touristy things she wasn’t interested in on those days, and saved the activities she wanted to join us on for her days off)

  46. Jack V said:

    I’m happy with “I want to see you” guests and with “can I please borrow a sofa I’ll stay out of your way and not talk to you in the morning” guests, but I try to be clear which. I will try and be gracious, but I can’t always host random friends for a week and look after them.

    I don’t understand “whatever you want to do”. My usual plans are generally “meeting up with people you probably won’t get on with” and “staying it and not talking to anyone”. If someone’s visiting me as a guest, I’ll have lots of suggestions ready, because it’s my city, whether that’s “here’s some good local pubs, lets go out for food” or “here’s the usual tourist stuff, I’d love to show you round” or “I don’t really do clubbing, but if you’d like to go, try X Y and Z”. But people don’t usually pretend they’re doing me a favour by asking 🙂

    • Alexia said:

      Re: “staying it and not talking to anyone” – Now that you’ve mentioned it, you’ve made me realize is why I don’t like houseguests that stay for more than one night. I spend a lot of my free time *not talking to anyone*. I can be going to a festival/museum not talking to anyone, or exploring somewhere new not talking to anyone, or going to the coffee shop not talking to anyone, or reading, or writing not talking to anyone.

      Most of our houseguests are unchosen by me (they’re my husband’s houseguests) and they want me to maintain conversation for them, not because they have anything to say that they think might interest me 80% of the time, but because they need to clear their own thoughts to themselves. Bad enough they expect us to drop everything in our lives and ferry them around, but they also don’t like silence, at all.

  47. Amelie said:

    On a general note re. “unspoken rules”, I have found if you spell them out they always turn out to be so bad you suspect they have remained unspoken purely to avoid the awkwardness of having to confront the fact you’re following them.

  48. spargle said:

    I live in a Conde Nast “best city” city, so this is my life. Here’s how I handle visitors who want to crash at my place while they tourist – I tell them Lyft comes to my house (I don’t Uber), give them a list of Things To Do in Best City, and tell them I’d love to treat them to dinner that night at Restaurant of My Choosing. If they protest, I say “I’d love to hang out with you! But I’ve done those tourist things so many times that it’s just not fun for me. But you should totally do it! Best City is a great place!” The usual upshot is they spend a day doing the tourist stuff, and the rest of the visit ACTUALLY VISITING ME and everyone’s happy. Occasionally they realize that what they really wanted was a vacation trip to Best City, and decide to get a hotel and we meet up for dinner one night – and everyone’s happy.

    This only works if it’s cleared up ahead of time. And people who say “whatever you want to do” get strong pushback – “I live here, so doing the city tour isn’t interesting for me. But if you want to do tourist things, and you absolutely should if you want to, I suggest checking out these websites. Let me know what your schedule is, and we can do something fun when you’re not checking out Best City!”

    Basically, if people want to treat my house like a free BnB, they’re welcome to – but I’m not a tour guide and I’m not paying for their tickets to the boat ride/house tour/garden tour.

  49. more shining said:

    Okay, splitting dining out or groceries, I’ve got that– but is there a way to be like, okay pals who came over to hang out and watch movies, we can cook you all dinner, but I need you to kick us 5 or 10 dollars, these were our groceries for the week.

    My partner loves to cook for people– but we’ve got a tight budget for groceries. 😦

    • B. said:

      “Well, time to feed! You can stay for dinner if you contribute X$ each to the grocery jar/funds. Otherwise, let’s pick this up some other time. It was so nice to see you! Thanks for coming!”
      Say with a nonchalant smile like it’s the most normal thing in the world, which it is. Food ain’t free.

      This worked well among our friend group of broke college students, as it left the boundaries clear and removed any benefit of the doubt from the few people wishing to mooch off someone.

      What worked even better was laying down the ground rules when inviting people over:
      “Movie night at our place! We provide a screen, a couch, and movies W through Z. Bring your own snacks/something to share, and X$ for groceries if you want to stay over for dinner!”.

  50. K Dubs said:

    I used to live near Los Angeles, and I cannot tell you how many people wanted to use me as a tourist destination because I had a pull-out sofa. I usually didn’t mind, because I genuinely liked showing people around, especially the non-touristy stuff that they might not otherwise do. But sometimes… man… The worst was one of my (now former) friends who expected me to take a week off of work to drive him all the places he wanted to go, and then got mad because my cats (four of them) bothered him while he was sleeping. I kindly told him to go to a hotel and rent a car if he was unhappy with the accommodations. He left in a huff, and I never heard from him again.

  51. vvwolfe said:

    I cannot imagine the sense of entitlement to show up at someone’s house and not only expect to stay but to have them pay for all your meals and entertainment. I am one of those people who visits people and am just like you dont need to entertain me I am here to spend time with you, if you want to go somewhere i am game but if not that is totally cool . Even then I usually treat them if i stay with them.

    I think captain is spot on if it isn’t someone you enjoy then decline and even if it is they should be treating you to dinner or at least offering dinner or to pay for gas or groceries. As far as expecting entertainment if they dont find chatting with you entertainment enough maybe they shouldnt be staying with you

  52. thereismorethanoneharriet said:

    “P.S. Edited To Add since I’m in a ranty place today and I just binged all of The Good Place in 2 days.

    “Have you ever planned a visit to someone in another city, and when they ask you what you’d like to do when you’re in town, answered with ‘oh, anything is fine, whatever you want‘?”

    …should probably go on the Do You Maybe Belong In The Bad Place questionnaire.”

    Such a great show! We are eagerly awaiting the next season.
    The comment threads of Captain Awkward suggest so many additional questions for the quiz –

  53. amt said:

    Things I have put a moratorium on lately:

    • Overnight guests (after a recent disastrous visit from my mom)

    • Being an overnight guest (personal preference fueled by many uncomfortable couches/social situations—I love hotels)

    • Accepting major help from family (multiple horrible apartment moves—this time, we have hired professionals!)

    • Accepting rides to places with no public transportation (gotta have an exit strategy if I don’t want to be stuck talking to Aunt Gladys until midnight)

    • Offering help to people I don’t even like

    This thread has made me think about all the discomfort that I’ve saved, or will save, by cheerfully saying no. I still can’t believe all the horrible family/friend entanglements I put up with in the name of saving money or saving someone else money. My mom stayed two extra nights in my house because she didn’t want to spend an extra $75 on her plane ticket. No more. It’s a very freeing feeling.

  54. Shano said:

    Fish and house guests start to smell after about 3 days.
    Plan accordingly.
    My strategy.

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