seriously, tips for house guests

You might be thinking, “Why re-invent the wheel? Surely the google can bring up lots of lists!”

And you might even be thinking, “Surely the Talmud or somewhere in the Jewish world of books there must be advice. After all, being a host and being a guest goes back to the beginning of time!”

And you’re right about both, of course.

There is a wonderful aphorism about that in Midrash Tehillim translated here:

The meaning is that a guest should not impose on their host or extend their visit longer than three days. In Midrash Tehillim it states, “On the day a guest arrives, a calf is slaughtered in his honor; the next day, a sheep, the third day, a fowl, and on the fourth day, he is served just beans” (23:3).

I am happy to have taken the opportunity to look into this saying. Fascinatingly enough, it’s based on the verse in Psalms that’s probably more well-known than any other, if I took a guess–Psalm 23. And it’s on the first verse–“I shall not want”. Better translation: I will not lack.

I still might want, but I won’t really need anything. The midrash builds on the idea that G-d provided for the Children of Israel in the desert for 40 years at the same level each day, not like a flesh-and-blood host who will realistically tap down on provisions.

But isn’t that the difference between providing for your family and outside guests?

It’s also learned from the lessening of the daily sacrifices from the holiday of Sukkot, interestingly enough (Numbers Rabbah 21:25).

So again, do we learn anything different from today’s lists, other than maybe we should know that human nature is not to keep up the good work?

Here’s a  list from Apartment Therapy:

These are some of the tips from WikiHow:
Arrive when you say you will arrive. (WikiHow breaks this into 3 points; the first is a crucial part: Be specific with dates of arrival and departure.)
Don’t overstay your visit.
Bring a gift to say thank you at the outset.
Keep your guest area neat.
Be reasonable about sharing a household bathroom.
Don’t keep the hosts up late.
Offer to make contributions.
Entertain yourself.
Leave a thank you gift on your departure.

Yes, agreed. A nice start. But sooo many details need to be addressed that are left off here. You should look at the WikiHow list–she did a good job at providing details.

And communication is the key to all human interactions.

I’ll just include a few that weren’t included that I think are particularly important. My comments are in parentheses.

  1. Be reasonable about sharing a household bathroom.
    • Guys: It’s most hygienic to just sit down to urinate. But if you want to urinate standing up, lift the seat first and wipe the rim afterward and replace the seat when you are done. (I just had to put that in:) )
  2. Be clean yourself and try to make sure that you do not pass anything to your hosts. If you have anything contagious, you should take care with hygiene. If you are traveling with children, and they get something contagious, cancel your trip unless you absolutely have to go. Nothing is as cheerless as a family struck down by a stomach flu because a guest brought it.
  3. When getting up in the night or very early in the morning, remember to be careful not to disturb your hosts.
  4. If you’re sharing a bathroom, be considerate. (Especially with the use of hot water–don’t be a pig!)
  5. Take some time out to be on your own, to allow your hosts to have some time to themselves without having to “entertain” you.
  6. Don’t keep the hosts up late.
  7. Always offer to help at mealtimes.
  8. Don’t make assumptions.
  9. Be aware of cultural/personal/family differences.
  10. Be appreciative.
  11. Be careful about Internet and phone usage. (That means don’t pick up the home phone line without checking if it’s needed, and do let the hosts know if there’s a beep while you’re speaking!!!)
  12. Don’t outstay your welcome. A short stay is a pleasant stay and leaves everyone feeling good about each other. As Ben Franklin once said, “Fish and visitors stink after three days.”  (Actually, he did say it, but others said it before him. And I think they’re using the above midrash as a guide.Cf. [Plautus Miles Gloriosus l. 741] nam hospes nullus tam in amici hospitium devorti potestquinubi triduom continuom fueritiam odiosus siet, no host can be hospitable enough to prevent a friend who has descended on him from becoming tiresome after three days.

    As we say in Athens, fishe and gestes in three dayes are stale.
    [1580 Lyly Euphues & his England II. 81]

    Two dayes y’ave larded here; a third yee know, Makes guests and fish smell strong; pray go.
    [1648 Herrick Hesperides 169]

    Fish and visitors smell in three days.
    [1736 B. Franklin Poor Richard’s Almanack (Jan.)])

And then there are the ones not mentioned.

  1. If you have children, don’t assume that your hosts will have children’s medicine. Don’t assume that your child will not be sick. Be like a boy scout and Be Prepared, especially when it comes to your children!!!
  2. Don’t eat food in your room unless your host says that’s fine. And that goes along for baby food, too.
  3. Please check all your batteries in advance to make sure that they won’t need changing in the middle of the night.
  4. Please let your hosts know if you have food, pet, plant, mold allergies and if you need anything particular for them.
  5. Please don’t assume you will have privacy. You know what I mean.
  6. Make a concerted effort to check for all your things. The gift that you may or may not give should be one that you mean to leave. Don’t make your hosts have to hunt you down. (I still don’t know who these earrings belong to…)
  7. Do return all house keys. Still missing 2…

And this is a list for people who ask you to host their guests:

  1. Please inform your hosts when exactly their guests will be arriving.
  2. Actually, please inform your hosts who your guests will be. Their names. A little personal info.
  3. Please let them know if your guests have particular needs. Or allergies. Or serious health issues.
  4. If you have been told they can take 6, ask if that’s really too many and make other arrangements.
  5. If some of the guests are not coming, for whatever reason, please let the hosts know ASAP so they won’t be left wondering if they should leave the door open while waiting for them or take a shower before Shabbat!

I still have the chocolates. Any takers?


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