The Rules of Being a Guest
I struggled to write an eloquent introduction on what a privilege it is to be a guest in someone’s home. If someone has made you a guest in their home then it’s something that should be appreciated. Personally, I do enjoy hosting people but think sometimes there is a lack of consideration and appreciation of the effort that goes into having someone over and honouring them.
As much as I love to welcome people into my home (Arab hospitality and that), what people should never forget is that my home is my sacred space. My home is a source of peace and protection and it’s up to me who I let into that. I don’t mean to be a negative nancy but certain people come in with negative or entitled energy that just isn’t pleasant. Some people are just straight up ungrateful.
Over time there are certain guest habits that I’ve seen (or done myself) that I really dislike. When people exhibit these traits I usually remove them from the invite list to my home and demote them to external group social settings.
Before anyone comes at me with a fisabilillah approach and being selfless, akhlaq (character) is also very important. There is a certain etiquette to being a guest that you don’t get to ignore. And if you choose to be a bagra, then you may end up being cancelled.
So here are the rules on being a guest in someone’s home.
1. Never Invite Yourself to Someone's Home
I actually hate this with a passion. Some people try to force themselves over by awkwardly dropping comments like:
“Hey I think it’s time I meet your family el oh el”
“Hey why don’t I come over this weekend?”
“Hey its been so long since I saw you, let me know when I can come to visit.”
If you want to see me, then you should invite me somewhere, not invite me to cook for you and clean up after you because you missed me.
Never invite yourself to someone’s house. It borders on haywaan behaviour. If I wanted you in my house, trust me, I would invite you. Now I have to look in my drawer of excuses for polite ways to tell you I’m unavailable. Sometimes you need to figure out if this person is a profiteur who is looking for free food and free wifi.
An addendum to this rule is if you are invited to someone’s home, do not bring a plus one unless the host has specified that you can or you’re in a sticky situation for example family has come from abroad and you can’t leave them alone etc.
In a recent situation my friend invited a girl over, and that girl asked to bring a plus one. The plus one was someone that they both knew but plus one had not spoken to my friend in my months. Plus one hadn’t checked up on her when she had a baby, hadn’t sent a text, absolutely nothing. And now she was silently trying to be a get an invite to my friend’s house and it was so uncomfortable. It’s bagra behaviour. If you’ve made no effort to maintain a friendship with someone then why would you want to scrape along as a plus one to that persons home?
2. Don't Try to Turn Someone's House into Your Second Home
An even worse thing to do is attempt to turn someone’s house into your second home. Am I a mug? Even a masjid isn’t open 24 hours, what makes you think my home is?
After coming over once some people say things like:
“I’ll be here all the time.”
“You’ll be seeing much more of me.”
“Is it alright if I just come over any time when If feel like it?” (No it isn’t.)
I cannot understand this for the life of me. How does one become so delusional that they think them coming over is a favour to me?
You need my mum’s approval if you want to be a regular guest at my house and it has happened. There are certain friends who are really amazing and easy going that after a few months they feel like part of the family and they’re appreciative. But that relationship has been built over time through mutual gestures of appreciation and care. To some degree I can understand people feeling lonely and really enjoying the family warmth at a persons house that they would like to come over again but it’s not appropriate to try to turns someone’s house into your second home.
The last thing I’ll add to this is if you’re travelling to another country for a holiday, never ask someone if you can stay over at their place, regardless of how close you are. Let me explain why.
This can be with the best of intentions but sometimes it’s not appropriate. You can drop a hint and say “Hey I’ll be in London at this time, I’m just currently looking for accommodation.” If it’s feasible and your friend wants you at their place, they will pick up on the hint and invite you. If not, then don’t insist. and don’t outrightly say “hey can I stay with you?”.
The reason is you never know what goes on behind closed doors, whether there’s family issues, mental health issues or anything else. Staying with someone for days means being exposed to the flaws within that family also. That person could really want to offer you their home but because of a situation going on they’re unable to, and then they’ll feel awkward having to say no.
3. Don't Show Up Empty Handed
This should be a universal custom.
It’s a simple show of appreciation and kindness. Someone has invited you over and prepared a meal for you, so you ought to bring a small gift with you. Flowers in Tesco are £3. You can get a box of chocolates for £3. You can even get a Tesco finest cake for £2. There are options to accommodate every level of financial situation.
4. Know When to Leave
OH MY GOD PLEASE.
The respectable amount to stay at someone’s home is 1.5-3 hours and then you make moves to leave unless the host insists that you stay. On average I usually get up to leave after around 2 hours. That’s enough for food and chilling.
Part of this depends on the timings. If I’ve invited you for 2pm for tea, and then you chill until 7, now I have to include you for dinner. If we agree for you to come at 10 for a breakfast/brunch kinda thing, but you stay and chill at my house, now I have to include you for lunch. It just isn’t cool.
Also, there’s only so much hosting I can do. I don’t understand it when the conversation has clearly dried up, and the guest just stays there chilling enjoying the awkward silences or waiting for me to provide entertainment.
I cannot kick you out of my home, but the fun has clearly dried up, so why are you here 5 hours later???
Knowing when to leave is really important guest etiquette.
5. Don't Ask for Seconds
People may disagree here but I find this particularly jarring.
When I have extra food and I see an empty plate I will naturally offer up more food IF there is more food. When I cook for guests I am also cooking for my family too and so I allocate portions for people. There’s still tea and dessert to come anyway so you won’t leave hungry. It’s good manners to wait for a host to offer up more food because it’s too awkward to say no so a host might have to take from someone else’s meal to feed you.
This may sound stingy, but there’s an example that sticks out to me. Lamb. I feel like universally people know that lamb costs money, so I’m not frivolous when I cook with it, nor am I stingy. I just allocate according to how many people I’m cooking for. I’ve had guests in the past ask for seconds and specifically request more lamb? Maybe the thing that irritates me is it’s that people who have asked for seconds are usually profiteurs as well and so it gets on my nerves.
Bottom line. Wait to be offered seconds.
In my next post I’ll talk about the rules of hosting. Hope you found this useful
Remember, don’t be a bagra.