From a very young age, my mother used to teach me that entering someone’s home was an honour. A privilege that should not be taken lightly. And that as a guest, one should not overstep one’s boundaries.
I was taught therefore, that one should always remain in the “public spaces”, when visiting someone else’s home. That you should never enter a person’s bedroom – that person’s inner sanctum – unless you had permission. Beyond the living room, and common toilets, everything was OFF LIMITS, until your host invited you into that space.
(If the only toilet available WAS in the homeowners room – I would usually hold it in. Lol. Or of course, when I was busting to pee, ask the owner for permission to use the facilities.)
One should always respect the homeowner and their house rules.
I honestly have grown up thinking that all of this was just plain ole’ common sense.
But as we are constantly learning in this day and age, common sense, isn’t always common any more.
So, in light of many open houses during CNY. House parties etc., here are some ground rules for you to be the perfect guest in anyone’s home.
Because honey, even the devil needs an invitation to enter. And if you have manners worse than Satan, you know there is something wrong with that sitch.
- Take off your shoes
We Asian. ‘Nuff said. If I need to elaborate. You need a tight slap.
2. Do not let your kids run amok
An invitation to you, doesn’t always include your bubs. And if the hosts have specifically invited you and your children, try to make sure they are on their best behavior.
Don’t let your kids go “off-leash” and run upstairs/inside rooms. Or take stuff without permission.
Don’t let your kids terrorise other children.
Don’t let your kids terrorise house pets! (My dog is for the most part, is actually good around kids. He actually likes them. But, if a kid yells and screams in his face, or yells boo. He will bark right back at the kids face. If your kid keeps screaming because he is scared, be aware that this also causes the house pet confusion, and scares the cat/dog/lizard/snake too. This might land up in someone getting hurt.)
I had a friend who had the gentlest cat ever, and held a house party where another friend’s child basically kicked her cat. It was the first time I’ve ever seen that cat swipe at anything. But I can’t say that I didn’t think, “You go pussy!”
And try to at least make sure that the kid isn’t breaking/spoiling/spilling stuff. Thankfully, I have scotchguarded my house, in expectation of spillage etc. So I shrug it off. But, not everyone is swiss-army-knife-armed up like me.
I might love children – but naughty, misbehaving, spoiled children are not quite on that list. FOR ANYONE.
If you’re the parent – be the parent. If you’re not confident your kids can behave well in someone else’s home, don’t bring them because it reflects badly on you any way.
The homeowner isn’t running a crèche and isn’t obligated to look after your children for you once you are in their house.
Not all people are cool with kids jumping around on their furniture. (I’m ok with it for the most part, but it’s a common complaint I’ve heard from friends, even those with kids. One of whom had a beautiful white fluffy carpet ruined by Ribena, and found crushed cereal all over her beautiful white leather sofa up to months after the kids visit, thanks to ants that took up residence in her couch after the smooshed-in food source.)
And try to leave the house as mess-free/ how it was when you and your brood arrived. Or better/cleaner, if you are aiming to be guests of the year.
I recently had the pleasure of hosting a family with two boys, who not only played well with other children, but the parents made sure that they left the place cleared up of any mess the kids made (hardly, because their children were so well-behaved) and, the mess some other kids created as well. “We wanted to leave the place as nice as it was when we came,” they said when I saw them tidying up.
I was honestly really touched by the gesture. And I made a mental note to spend more time with them in the near future.
3. House tour rules – THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT SECTION. WITH MANY SUB-SECTIONS
I know that for some strange reason, Asians have this auntie thing in them, that basically wants to poke, prod and look into other people’s lives, and see how they live.
But it is bad manners to pry. Or did your momma never teach you that? So, as much as that vein on your forehead is throbbing and about to explode with curiosity to see what kind of décor someone has in their bedroom… or what they’ve done with the place…. unless you’ve been offered a tour… curb your impulses.
LET ME REPEAT – if the host has not invited you on a house tour. DON’T.
If you’ve asked, and they bring you on one, yeah, you’ve lucked out. Go right ahead.
Just… try to not fiddle and touch stuff while on the tour maybe? Like… not open drawers and cupboards? O_O
You might not necessarily want to discover your friend secretly harbours Christian Grey tendencies. (But even if you do want to discover those things.. it isn’t really your place to find out while snooping around.)
I’ve actually had someone open my chest of drawers, and then proceed to touch my underwear and comment, “so pretty.”
But even though aforementioned pal was female, I felt violated. And she never got an invite back into my house.
- If you see someone going on a house tour, don’t automatically assume that you can go on one too. Whether by yourself, or with the host.
- If a home owner does not offer you a tour of the house… they might not want you to tour the house. Maybe they’ve got stuff they haven’t cleaned up and they don’t want people to see. Maybe sections of the house are still being renovated, and are still unsafe for visitors. Maybe they have not fully unpacked, and might invite you back when the house is all done. Maybe they have expensive stuff around the house, and have experienced house guests stealing stuff before, and don’t want to ruin the day by having to check everyone’s bag after.
Whatever the reason, they’ve already invited you over – extending their friendship, an indication of them wanting to get to know you better.
Don’t trample on their hospitality with a sense of entitled, over-familiarity that might not be mutual.
And just because you are close friends, doesn’t automatically grant you that access into their inner sanctum either.
If your host asks if you want to go on a house tour, graciously accept if you have been dying to check out the house. (Unless you are alone and think it might lead to a #metoo situation.) But, if they don’t… Bear in mind prying guests are basically like those Asian aunties that serve you a “slice of shade” while supposedly being well-meaning.
You know the ones who go, “oh, you are so skinny now.” “Oh, you are so fat now.” – when you’ve never asked for an opinion, and yet they foist it on you any way.
Same thing. Different form. It is a invasion of privacy.
An act of aggression, no matter how passive or harmless you think it may be.
Some other common-sense house tour rules :
- If there are other guests around, try not to ask for house tours if they aren’t offered. For one, the home owners might be busy entertaining other people. Be considerate. Two, they may be comfortable showing you around, but not as comfortable showing other people too, but leaving them just sitting there would be awkward and impolite. Three, an invitation into their home, might not be an invitation to see/inspect every inch of their house.
- And if they are too busy to bring you around, and have told you, “sure, just go check it out” – probably best not to bring a whole entourage with you.
- If no house tours are offered, don’t go on one yourself. Again, just because they’ve invited you to their home, doesn’t mean they’ve invited you to see all of it. Give them their privacy too. It is after all, their own personal space.
- Doors are locked/closed? Don’t open them! (I don’t even know why this needs to be said.) It should be common sense that if a door is closed, it is closed for a reason. Leave it as such. Unless the homeowner tells you – “oh, please use this room at the top of the stairs so you can nurse your baby in peace.” I don’t want you taking a tour by yourself, that might mean you land up walking in on a friend I gave permission to use the room, who might possibly be nursing her baby in peace. Capiche?
- If you have nothing nice to say about the person’s space. Don’t say anything. You don’t have to express your opinion about EVERY THING. It’s damn auntie. Nothing nice to say. Don’t feel the need to tell me what you didn’t like about the house. What you would have done different. Because maybe – we don’t have the same taste. We couldn’t afford it. Or it didn’t make sense to at the time.
- *** UPDATE: This edit has been included on behalf of a friend, Daphne Maia Loo. TRY NOT TO ASK HOW MUCH EVERYTHING IS. I know it’s a very Asian thing. How much did you pay for the place? How much are you renting the place for? How much is the sofa? How much did you spend on your bed? Well… I don’t really take offence to it anymore (I used to, a lot.. cos I didn’t understand why people were asking me things I would never ask them. Like I never would ask someone how much they earned.. or how much they were paying for a place. If I really wanted to find out, there is always property guru for the truly curious to make comparisons.) But, yup, a lot of people still do find it rude. So refrain from asking. The people who on the opposite ends of the spectrum.. I.e: they either got a super good deal, or, they really want to show off how much they spent – will tell you any way. =D
4. Don’t sit on my bed with outside clothes
Seriously. I did not invite you into my bedroom to begin with. And I don’t know where you’ve been before this.
I sleep there. Maybe/ possibly, naked at times. I don’t want your germsies on my bed.
5. Come at times you have been invited
Always check in with the home owner if you can swing by. Don’t assume you can just pop in because you are friends.
Thankfully all my friends, even the ones living literally across the road, always check in on whether or not it’s ok for them to drop by. And if they can do it, when they are a stones throw away… you can too!
Afterall, you might not want to catch me looking like this…
Oh. If you are invited for a party and the homeowner gives you a certain time slot, there may be a reason for it.
For instance – for me, during CNY, I catered halal food at a certain time slot, knowing I had Muslim friends that would visit at the time. So I was glad that my friends let me know what time they were coming, in the time slot that I had suggested. It made catering so much easier for me, and I was grateful that I didn’t have to stress more about what food they ate when they arrived.
Don’t question the timings I have invited you at – maybe it is because I want to spend time catching up with you one on one. Maybe because I know who I have invited, and I want you to be comfortable with the other guests invited at the same time. Maybe I know that there are other guests at another time slot, that you might have beef with/or don’t get along with you, and there is nothing more painful and exhausting than having to host a party, and be a mediator at the same time.
Just because I like you. Doesn’t mean all my friends will or have to.
Maybe I don’t want to be overwhelmed. Or maybe, I am pregnant and I am afraid I will be tired by a certain time, when my makeup has slid off my face.
I once invited a couple I was previously close to, to a CNY open house party in the afternoon, for lunch, at my in-laws place at 1pm. They turned up, not for lunch, but hungry and expecting dinner at 8pm, dressed outlandishly, when all the other guests were relatives of my mother-in-law. I had to then proceed to entertain them, feed them, and was perceived of as being rude to my mother-in-law’s guests, while at her house.
This is why I give people time slots.
6. Don’t touch people’s computers
These days, computers are private. Don’t just sit at someone’s laptop or pc and start tapping away. They might store private, sensitive information on it.
Oh, and I’m guilty of this by proxy, because I was there and didn’t stop it from happening once… but try not to look through someone’s cache/browser history when at their place.
Again, it is an invasion of privacy. A juvenile one. But, still. If you don’t want people doing it to you, don’t do it to someone else.
7. Don’t help yourself
Unless the host says, help yourself to anything in the fridge, don’t just assume that mi casa, su casa. Don’t go to fridge, finish all the food. Help yourself to snacks.
And worse – and this has happened before, help yourself to any thing you want in the wine fridge, including a vintage bottle of wine the host was saving for a special occasion.
Might not be a big deal to you because maybe you drink Petrus on the regular. But, some people save that stuff for special occasions.
8. OFFER HELP
If you have gone for a party with anything between 1 – 50 guests – offer to help the host clean up. I know you had fun. And just want to go home and crash. But, your host was gracious enough to just give you food and drink. The least you can do is offer help to clean up a mess that you’ve helped create.
Often times I’ve realized that friends who offer help, or those who don’t offer at all, but just help any way – those are the most sincere, loyal friends I have had in my life.
But, when aforementioned friends say, hey.. don’t worry about it, just leave it in the sink, I’ll wash it later. Graciously thank them for the lovely time you’ve had, especially if they’ve told you 5 times to just relax and enjoy yourself.
9. Try not to go empty-handed
I am extremely grateful that almost all of my friends never do this. Not that I expect gifts at all. Really. But I have seen many people just show up, expect to be entertained. And leave.
To them I ask – what value add do you bring to your friend’s life?
You don’t need to bring something expensive. It honestly is just the thought that counts. And – if you forgot because you were in a rush, offer help to clean up before you leave.
Really, your friend will appreciate it.
(And really though, most Asian mom’s will tell you NEVER visit a friends house empty-handed.)
10. Don’t overstay your welcome
It can be hard some times to determine when you are overstaying your welcome when your hosts are welcoming and warm.
BUT, if the host disappears for a long time, changes into something “more comfortable” that might possibly be a clue.
I’ve never really had friends who have overstayed their welcome. Thank goodness!
Most of them know when to make a graceful exit.
But one of the reasons I am sneaking this is in as well, is possibly also because I will be giving birth soon, and will have a newborn around the house.
I’ve had many mom’s of newborns tell me that everyone feels the right to come and visit you and your new precious bundle because they are so excited for you. And, that is a blessing of course. But many of my new mom pals tell me that the first few days/months of the baby’s arrival are a tough time for the new parents, who usually, are feeling worse for wear. Some times even relatives and immediate family aren’t aware they are wearing their welcome mat out pretty thin.
Here are some lists that are VERY helpful for that. I highly recommend you check them out:
But maybe this requires a whole different post of its own.
Meanwhile, thank you everyone for reading. May you always be welcome in our house, hearts and our home.
Vernon and Sara.
(Yes, some of the list came from #thevman too.)