Overstaying your welcome
Knowing when it’s time to leave
Staying with people while traveling is a great way to experience local culture on a personal level. A person gets to experience what everyday life is like for people in the area and can be shown some of the better things in town by those who know it best. Furthermore, staying with friends while traveling is nice because it saves you money and you don’t have to worry about those pesky check-out times or other guests in the hotel.
There is a time in every stay when you, as a guest, make the transition from being a welcomed guest to being burdensome. Knowing when that time occurs is really important for travelers who wish to utilize home-stays when on the road. Whether you are going the Couchsurfing route, good friends, or just staying with people who you met in the past, I think there are a few good things to know about staying with others. I have compiled a few things based off of my experiences traveling to help you know when you might be staying too long.
Listen for select keywords or phrases
Let’s say that you were invited last-minute to stay with a friend in some city. When you arrive you are welcomed and allowed to sleep the night. You and your friend are talking and you hear them say things like “I’ve got a lot of things to do this week” or “I am really busy these days”. Pay attention to these statements. They may be trying to let you know nicely that you can’t hang out on the couch for too long. Unless they say, “I’m really busy right now, but you are more than welcomed to stay for a while,” or something along those lines, then it may be your cue.
Tones and body language
Tones can be another way that your host will let you know when it is time to get back on the road or find somewhere else to crash. We often use body language to express our innermost feelings on a specific situation. People are no different when engaging with one another at home. If you recognize a change in your host’s enthusiasm or tone, then perhaps they are no longer able to host you.
I always use the rule of thumb, stick to your first agreement when staying with friends. If they have previously indicated a specified period, like three days, a week, or ‘you can stay the weekend’, then only plan on staying for those specific days. Don’t overstay your welcome, unless offered. Realize also, that people may seek the polite route and not specifically ask you to leave, although they wish you would.
How draining you have been
As a guest, ask yourself honestly, how much your hosts have done for you. They are already doing you a huge favor by allowing you to stay, but are they also skipping work or meetings, postponing their plans to do things for you? Have they been cooking elaborate meals that aren’t part of their normal routine? Spending extra money on gas? If your host has been ‘put out’ by you in any way, be sure to minimize your stay or dependency.
Their upcoming plans
What are their future plans? I was once staying with a friend in Paris for several weeks. I was told it was fine, and it was, but then there were more guests set to arrive. I knew that the guests would be coming in a few days and the house would be getting more crowded. Therefore, I moved on. You need to be aware of upcoming plans and events and know when your time is up, without being asked.
There are a few things that may help with respect to this topic:
- Offer to help out around the house. Show your host that you care, and lend them something you can specialize in. For example, are you good at fixing something? If so, see if they need any help. Yard work? Et cetera…
- Always come bearing gifts. I included this topic in my article 5 point diplomacy. Bring gifts to your host, to show that you appreciate their hospitality.
- Cook for them. If you are staying with someone, one way to keep them happy is to feed them good food.
- Never complain!
- Reparations!!! If someone drives you around a lot or spends money on food, offer them some money to help out. If they don’t take it, fine, but at least you offered.
- Stick to your plan. If you say you are only going to stay for 5 days, then do so.
- Leave no trace. Clean up after yourself. Failing to do this is almost a sure cause for tension. Fold any bed sheets or linens that you use, clean the dishes, clean up after you eat.
- Verbally tell them that you appreciate their hospitality. Mirror with your actions.
It was actually good timing that I wrote this article because I experienced a similar situation to this post recently. The exact opposite of my suggestions (a.k.a. an ungrateful guest) stayed with one of my friends a few weeks ago. As my friend was telling me about it, she described the epitome of a bad guest: complaining, draining, and ungrateful.
What are your thoughts?
Do you have any bad experiences overstaying your welcome? What do you do to make sure that you are welcomed again?
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