7 characteristics of the perfect house guest from abroad

When I travel, I absolutely love to stay with people I know in various parts of the world. It’s such a different experience from being in your own accommodation. You get to really see how the locals live, and get all kinds of insider tips that no hotel concierge could ever provide.

Of course, that means I also love having people stay with me, although given that I live in one of the most isolated cities on earth, this probably happens less than the reverse. Last month, my dear friend Charlotte from Canada came to stay and we loved having her so much that we convinced her to stay longer, and her stay taught me a lot about the perfect house guest.

How to be the perfect house guest from abroad

For my own education as much as anyone else’s, I thought I’d catalogue the characteristics of the perfect house guest. These are the characteristics I’m going to strive for next time I’m the house guest staying with friends abroad!

1. Tell interesting stories

A house guest from abroad naturally is going to have some tales to tell about life beyond your own experience. In my case, the more the better, and Charlotte is extremely well-travelled. We had many an hour swapping travel tales and she has such great ones I found myself repeating the best of them to anyone who would listen!

The best part of having a fellow travel lover come to stay is that we both know we want to hear all about the other’s experiences in other countries. Neither of us would ever think the other was bragging about their travels (which is sometimes an issue) because we both want to hear more and more.

Perfect house guest visits Rottnest Island

The perfect house guest inspired us to visit Rottnest Island


2. Bring cool gifts

I actually don’t care if someone brings me a gift or not, and especially if they are on a long-term trip (Charlotte had spent some weeks in Borneo en route), I absolutely don’t expect it. But she brought us the most gorgeous and thoughtful things!

For example: a noisy gibbon and her baby. Charlotte has been sending animal postcards to my son from various places around the world all his life, and she knew that he had a particular liking for gibbons. She managed to find gorgeous gibbon toys in Malaysia (home to gibbons – what better place to get them) and my son was in love. And the noise, while noisy, is authentic, making it much more tolerable to a parent.

3. Self-cater sometimes and generally fit in

Sometimes when I have house guests it seems a stress to make sure they have enough to eat of stuff they like and at the right time of day. (For example: I usually eat dinner around half past five with my son – many adults, understandably, don’t want to eat then.)

The perfect house guest figures out and fits in to your regular schedule, more or less, I think – or at least isn’t put out if your routine isn’t quite like theirs. Our recent guest took this one step further and prepared most of her meals herself to suit her vegan diet and would often do so at the time she could sit down and eat with us, which was so lovely.

I also loved that Charlotte was keen (as I would be) to see everyday life – she’d do the school walk with us, and want to explore the supermarket. It’s nice to have someone to stay and not feel you have to spend all the time showing them the top ten tourist attractions.

4. Find folding washing therapeutic

Let me say this clearly, for potential people I stay with in the future: I do NOT find folding washing therapeutic. But I am so glad that my guest did and I must say that since she has left, my reluctance to bring dry washing in has increased because I had a spell where I didn’t need to do it! The positive side of this is that I’m quite sure that every time I fold washing in the next few years (and that is a lot of times), I will think of the happy times we had when Charlotte came to stay!

The flipside of a house guest who likes helping out with housework might mean that they prefer a tidy house. Fortunately in this case my guest both happily pitched in (the dishwasher was frequently magically emptied) but could easily overlook the piles of papers and books cluttering up most of our bench tops. Perfect!

Farewell to the perfect house guest

A sad farewell to our wonderful house guest (and washing folder!)

5. Don’t get lost

I once had a house guest, an elderly man, who was sure he could walk to the ocean and back, but he got lost. (And hadn’t told me where he was going.) He came back, eventually, utterly exhausted. When Charlotte took herself off for a walk to the ocean, I felt no concerns at all: she was well-equipped (map, phone and water – oh, and a sense of direction, too!), and would ask for help if required.

That’s just a small thing, but in general, a perfect house guest respects the local area and the opinion of the host, I guess, and figures out plans from there.

6. Be highly regarded by any children and animals in the house

Actually, I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing. Both my son and my two cats were rather devastated when Charlotte left – my son required several bribes to cheer up, and the cats have been asking for far more attention than usual ever since – they had been accustomed to a lot more scratches behind the ears while our guest was here.

Postcard from the perfect house guest

These kinds of postcards have arrived from Charlotte for my son ever since his birth!

It’s not usual for my son to be happy to stay with anyone other than his parents or grandparents, but from the very beginning of her stay, he was quite enamoured, and this had numerous benefits, from sharing the playtime around and even to being able to go out when Charlotte offered to babysit.

7. Laugh at the same stuff

A happy household is one that’s filled with laughter. I think the perfect house guest makes you laugh! Charlotte and I were doubled over with laughter multiple times. These instances will probably fall into the category of “you had to be there”, but anyway … we fell about on the floor laughing when, just after I’d told her all about our mild weather and record-breaking sunshine hours, she rang the Rottnest campground to book a tent spot and was warned of a pending cyclone and advised to book a few days later … and when she was booking her transport across Australia (no mean feat it turns out if you actually want to see the country rather than fly over it), she discovered a very niche bus company called “Buses R Us” and we both just cracked up. (FYI: it travels only between Adelaide and Broken Hill. Twice a week. That’s all.)

What makes your perfect house guest?

Clearly, these characteristics of the perfect house guest are very much biased towards me. What characteristics are important for you? If you mention extreme tidiness I promise to never ask to stay with you! Let me know what you think makes the perfect house guest in the comments.



  1. I love your tips Amanda, they are so true and it’s good to be reminded about these things every now and then!

  2. I agree with all these things Amanda, it’s a great list! I always hope I’m a good guest when I stay with people, but it’s not always easy to know when you’re being annoying haha. I tend to see the main benefits of staying with people as more about spending some quality time with them (if I know them well) and experiencing local life, rather than merely to save money. Often it would actually end up cheaper (once you’ve bought a nice gift or ingredients for a meal or whatever) to stay in a dorm or something, and usually more convenient too. It’s very important to blend into their life, and although they might be inspired to do some touristy stuff with you, not put any pressure on them to change their usual routines – and even be enthusiastic about joining in with the day-to-day stuff and noticing the little things.

  3. I bet you loved having her visit.

  4. Charlotte Bowie says

    Oh my, Amanda – I feel very humbled. ( I’ve only just seen this.)
    I do so very much remember our rolling on the floor with laughter and so I think the secret ingredient to being a good house guest is to be staying with a super good host(ess). And it proves that friendships can be sustained across continents, across decades of time and across generations in age. I miss you guys but love following your journeys in Iceland, thermal underwear not withstanding). Do keep warm!

    • Oh thank you Charlotte!!! I should have emailed you this – I think you were in the middle of nowhere when I published it. We still miss you too! (And yes what kind of country needs thermal underwear in summer?!!)

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.