A Portuguese saying goes: “Visitors always bring joy – if not upon their arrival, then surely on their departure.”
Whether you’ll be hosting someone for one night or an entire weekend, long-time friends, or a co-worker, the same principles of hospitality apply regardless. Your main goal is to make your guests feel at home. Although you need to take care to provide an abundance of good food and drink, clean up and prepare a program, never let the duties overwhelm you to the extent that you no longer have space to enjoy a great time with your guests.
INVITATION AND ARRANGEMENT OF DATES
As long as the entire visit does not take place spontaneously or, so to speak, on the spur of the moment, and you have space for organization and preparation, then first firmly set the date of arrival and expected date of departure with your guests. Establish the exact dates and times right at the start, so that both parties clearly know what to expect. Once you agree on these specifics, you should confirm them by e-mail or text message.
We probably all want our guests to remember the beautiful moments they spent with us for months to come after their visit. For this to be so, it would be good to tactfully find out some information about your guests in advance. This, of course, will probably not be necessary for family members and close friends whom you already know well, but if, for example, you are hosting a foreign business partner and his or her family members, you are probably do not know them that well. To shine as a host and set the appropriate standard of service, you should know, for example, your guests’ interests, favorite drinks, fragrances, flowers, wines or other alcoholic beverages, culinary preferences, dietary restrictions, and also cultural traditions, religious preferences (including important holidays) and, last but not least, the needs of their pets. If your children are around the same age as the children of the guests, it would be nice to invite the guests’ children too. Just don’t forget to plan some suitable activities for them as well.
Planning and Preparation
We’ll probably agree that the most important things are to have a room ready for your guests, enough good food, drinks and to prepare a memorable program.
Did you know that sleeping in a guest bedroom for one or two nights is the best way to notice small details that can be improved? The comfort and style of the guest room is part of the overall experience of the visit, and so, it too should reflect the taste and atmosphere of the rest of the house or apartment.
What the room should definitely have:
- Extra blankets and pillows
- At least one electrical socket for charging a phone or computer
- An alarm
- Paper, pen and sharpened pencils in an appropriate location in the room
- Internet access
- A good reading light next to the bed
- Radio and/or television• Something to read (magazines or favorite books)
- Curtains or blinds on the windows
- Carafe with water and glasses on the bedside table
- Empty waste bins
- Plenty of hangers in the closet or wardrobe
Don’t forget the bathroom:
- Clean towels and washcloths
- New bar of soap
- Glass for drinking water and brushing teeth
- New roll of toilet paper in the dispenser and spare in a visible place
- Shampoo and hand cream
- New toothbrush (just in case) and toothpaste
- Medicines for headaches and stomach pains
- Feminine hygiene products
- Hair dryer
ARRIVAL AND THE FIRST MOMENTS IN THE HOUSE
If your guests are arriving by car, provide them with your exact address in advance, or preferably a link to GPS coordinates. If they will arrive by train, bus or plane, advise them on how to get to you, or—even better—pick them up yourself, or arrange for a ride. When your guests arrive, escort them to their room. If they are visiting you for the first time, give them a short tour of the house. Then give them a chance to unpack and relax a bit and offer a small snack. Once they’ve rested, don’t forget to show them how to control the air conditioning or heating, control the TV, log in to Wi-Fi, operate the security alarm, etc.
As a host, you are a source of information about the activities and attractions that are available in your area. Before your guests arrive, you should have a few ideas on hand regarding where to go and what to see. Create a plan or a schedule together that includes both joint and solo activities. In addition to these, of course, discuss food and times of relaxation. Show guests websites or brochures where they can find information regarding local sights, restaurants, museums, shops, children’s activities, etc. If you intend to cook, prepare as much food as you can in advance so that you have more time for fun. If your guests are arriving on weekdays, it is important that you share your regular schedule with them so that they can plan their program accordingly. You’d better discuss wake-up time on the weekend as well. Don’t forget about home entertainment in case the weather doesn’t work out, such as board games, puzzles, movie nights, etc. If guests offer you any help, accept it. Mostly they mean it sincerely and probably they don’t feel completely comfortable just being waited on.
The polite host not only tells their guests how much they’ve enjoyed the time with them, but also escorts them to the door and stays there until they are out of sight. By leaving quickly, you might give the impression that you are already looking forward to your normal life without them. If your guests have to get up at three in the morning to catch a morning flight, and you decide not to get up with them, then at least arrange a transfer to the airport in advance.
Keeping a guest book is a beautiful tradition, which is not all that common here in the Czech Republic. You often see guest books at castles, in palaces, official government residences, majestic homes and at large country homesteads. It is very nice to look through it occasionally and recall all the people that have visited you over the years. And even guests feel honored to be asked to sign a guestbook or even add a short comment relating to their stay.
- Buy precisely the one that fits your style.
- On the upper part of the page, write the name of the occasion and the date.
- Ask guests to sign the book upon their departure.
- Provide them with a good quality pen.
Remember as much as you can about each visit. It always makes impression when you ask guests, maybe five years later, if they still prefer a specific breakfast or a certain type of wine.
And what if I don’t have a guest room?
Then warn guests in advance that they will not have a separate room, so that they are not surprised and can choose whether it is acceptable for them to spend the night, for example on a sofa bed in the living room, or rather go to a hotel or guesthouse.
As a host, am I responsible for providing food even for guests’ pets?
That is up to you. If you want to be the perfect host, then you can ask the guests in advance what to prepare for their pet, and buy just a small package for a few days and give them the rest to take along with them on departure. Otherwise, it is generally assumed that pet food is arranged by the guests.
If I am visiting someone, who pays for the meals at home or in a restaurant?
If you are an overnight guest or at most a weekend guest, then the host is the one who pays for all the food. If you stay longer, you should offer a contribution or split the food bill fairly and agree with the host. When you’re invited to a restaurant, clearly agree in advance who will pay the bill. If the host suggests paying the bill, you can accept it or offer payment of the bill as some compensation and thanks for the accommodation and meals at home. The host should also clearly state when he wishes to split the bill so that everyone pays their own expenses.
What if guests unexpectedly stay longer than originally planned?
If guests stay longer due to a flight cancellation or other unexpected problems, please try to be helpful to them. The situation is probably as difficult for them as it is for you.But what about those who just decide to stay on their own and whom you were no longer counting on having around? In such case, do not be ashamed to plainly say to them: “We’ve really enjoyed having you, but from tomorrow you will have to find alternative accommodations. We will be happy to suggest and help you choose from several hotels or guesthouses in the area, and we are very much looking forward to your next visit.”