My son is travelling to California for spring break and will be staying in the home of a fraternity brother. This strikes fear in me, The Manners Teacher. He has seven long days to make me proud and win the title of “Best Guest” from his hosts. Can he do it? I hope so. Though he’s almost 21, I felt compelled to send him off with a few of Mom’s Manners ReMinders.
- Pick up a small gift for your host/hostess before you leave and have it ready to present soon after you arrive. A local cookbook, a nice smelling candle, something with your college logo, or a box of good chocolates are safe choices. Make it something respectable (as in: not from the dollar store)–another good reason to purchase something in advance before you run out of money.
- Though this is a vacation, you will be in a home, not a hotel. Take everything you will need with you–toiletries, clothes, swimwear, sleepwear and plenty of money.
- Cover yourself up in the morning. Your frat brother might be accustomed to seeing you in varying stages of undress–but his mom and dad probably won’t appreciate it.
- Say “Please” and “Thank you”, “Yes, M’am” and “No, M’am”. Ask permission before you take something.
- Pick up after yourself even if your friend doesn’t. Parents often say things like, “Oh, don’t worry about that”, but we don’t really mean it. We always appreciate a little help. Put dirty dishes, Doritos bags, leftover popcorn, soda cans and candy wrappers away. Be remembered for what you do, not what you don’t do.
- Don’t expect your hosts to provide every meal for you. Be prepared to have most of your meals out and have enough money to cover your part. Offer to pay for your frat brother’s meal at least once and put some gas in the family car. Put yourself in his place–a gesture of appreciation will ensure you as a treasured and respected friend.
- Follow the family rules. Car usage, off-limit parts of the house, curfews, alcohol and tobacco… this is a good time to be a rule follower. And let me remind you that you are not yet 21.
- S-h-h-h-h-h! Yes, I know that the point of Spring Break is to NOT sleep. Still, there are people in the house (parents, siblings, other guests) who need some shut-eye. They might even have to work while you are on vacation. If you’ve been asked to turn off the video games or music at midnight—do it. Ditto, stay out of the kitchen and other parts of the house if it might disturb someone.
- If your hosts offer to take you out to dinner, order carefully. Even when parents say “Order whatever you want”—that’s not what they mean. This is not the time to order nachos, onion rings and desert and steak. Watch what they order and follow their lead. Better to under-order than to over-order.
- Offer to take your hosts (the parents) to lunch or dinner before you leave, or at least provide the food for a cookout. The hosts may turn down your offer but it’s a nice gesture. That being said, be prepared to ante up if they do take you up on it.
- Take your own stationery with you (I know you have some because I’ve given it to you!) and leave a thank you note—it’s easier to do before you get home.
For the college student looking for the Sparknotes version, here it is: Be polite, follow the rules, clean up after yourself, take a hostess gift and write a thank you note.
Have a safe trip!