We love a gracious host. We all know how an accommodation away from home can make or break a trip.
Filipinos are known for our hospitality, we take being a host very seriously. In a relational culture such as ours, it is expected that when you travel to a destination where a relative lives, you should either visit or stay with them. At times, some relatives (especially the elderly) may actually feel offended if you don’t. Bakit hindi ka man lang dumaan? (Why didn’t you visit?) Sana dito ka na lang tumuloy. (You should have stayed here.) And believe me, the lengths of how far the family will go just to accommodate you can be amazing.
I have had many of these opportunities. Aside from (let’s be honest!) saving money on accommodation, it does allow you to know your friend and his or her family in a deeper sense. This is an opportunity and a gift of trust. Therefore, it should be valued.
This post hopes to remind us of the things that we already know but can easily forget. We all want to find a gracious host but are we a gracious guest? Here are some reminders on how to be one:
- Limit your consumption. Make a conscious effort to limit your usage. Usually, the host family will not want to charge you anything. They think that they may come off as rude if they do. You are free to use utilities and most facilities because you are treated as an extension of their family. A family’s friend is family. Do not abuse it. There is no need to charge all your gadgets for hours. There is no reason to watch TV the whole night. Why take a long, long shower? Tip: Fully charge your power bank prior to the trip. If you are set to go somewhere like a resort or a paid accommodation, charge your gadgets there instead. Consume utilities only when it’s really necessary. And when you do, be mindful of how much it will cost your host. If you are staying long, offer to share cost because most won’t tell you the need outright.
2. Manage your waste & clean up. I know! This is a basic act of decency, expected whether you are paying or staying for free. But I just need to put it here because I noticed that (sad to say) not everyone puts it into practice when traveling. Always clean up after use – fold blankets, tidy up bed covers, wash the mug you used for coffee, wrap that used sanitary napkin before you dispose (for crying it loud!), wipe that toothpaste residue on the kitchen sink, leave the toilet seat dry, wash the dishes you used. Small things like candy wrappers, receipts, can be easily ignored but shouldn’t. Tip: I usually keep a small bag I can easily hang or place at the corner of the room. This is where we can place all our dry trash ready for disposal. Do the same when you are at the beach or a public tourist spot.
3. Control noise. Be mindful of the house’s daily operating rhythm. If they sleep or wake up early, make sure you are making it as pleasant as possible for them. Tip: If possible, pattern your schedule after them. Drink, have fun, chat, rest at the same time as they do. Some may not tell you outright. If so, ask or be observant.
4. Manage your time and set proper expectations. Be mindful of the house’s regular day. Set expectations – headcount, your daily itineraries especially arrivals and departures. Although this might be the task of the relative, it’s good to keep it in mind. When using the shower, be mindful of who else needs to use it. Someone from the house may need to go to work at a certain time and couldn’t because you are taking your sweet time in the shower. Tip: I like waking up really early (except after late nights, of course!). Aside from catching the sun and the place coming to life, I get to take a bath ahead of everyone and enjoy my breakfast.
5. If possible, cover costs associated with the travel. Most of the time, the family will want to tour you to places. Always try to cover the cost for things like gas, trip, or food expenses. Some hosts may insist. If so, try to meet halfway. This is especially when you know the family is obviously just living within their means. Covering for your tour expenses, or worse, everyone else’s will cost them a lot. Tip: If you are a group, split the cost.
6. Respect. Respect the natural order of things – time, belief, dailies, religion. There is no other way to explain this. No tips. Respect. Period.
7. Show appreciation. Filipinos like bringing ‘pasalubong‘ or anything to bring for those waiting at home. It would be nice to give a simple present as you are welcomed to your home away from home. But even without it, express your gratitude in words. A simple, sincere Thank You can make your host feel good and well accomplished.
8. Support their endeavors, if any. When the host family has a sari-sari store (where Filipinos buy things or food in smaller portions) buy from it. If they have a business you can help promote, do it. If they are working on a cause, support in any way you can. It is one of the many ways to show appreciation.
9. Contribute and distribute task. I don’t cook. Well, am not good at it. When am with friends, I usually leave the cooking to them. I usually take charge of itinerary or budget. But that doesn’t excuse me from helping out. Find things to do. Wash dishes, clean, run errands, especially when you are a huge group. Tip: It works well when you already have assigned tasks even before you travel. Each just does what is supposed to be done without argument. Always works for us.
10. Remember.When possible, keep in touch. Never forget that you had not just been allowed to eat and sleep in their homes, you were also treated as family. And that’s something else!
There are no rules to being a gracious guest. It all boils down to being a gracious, decent human being. Traveling is more fun and way more meaningful when we don’t just receive but contribute as well.