The holidays are drawing near and people have started to plan how and where they will spend the summer break. Some will visit family and tourist destinations in Nigeria while some will travel to a neighboring country, with Ghana being one of the firm favourites.
Those have managed not to offend Donald Trump by being black and/or Muslim will venture to the US, although they may do well to go to Dubai or other friendlier countries until The Donald calms down or his people stop obeying him. Some will come to good old England and one or two will land at my door.
It is always a pleasure to have our house full of people. There are always so many things to talk about. My husband delves into Nigerian politics like one starved and is always happy to discuss with our house guests for hours on end. While I enjoy entertaining guests and always try to be a good hostess, I believe there some basic rules all houseguests should try adhere to. These rules apply to all houseguests, be it in Nigeria or abroad.
The first rule is that you must get invited or ask to be invited. There are some situations where staying with someone is expected. If you’ve arranged a visit abroad to spend time with your best friend /sister/relative at their invitation, chances are that you are expected to stay with them in their house and they might be insulted if you plan to stay elsewhere.
There are other times when it’s not safe to assume you can stay with someone. At these times you really need to ask. Many Nigerians are guilty of assuming that because you were friends in primary school, your house is their house. Please, who is paying the mortgage? Yes, it is part of our culture to be hospitable but that doesn’t mean friends don’t need to ask before turning up at your doorstep, expecting to spend 3 weeks of their summer holidays with you.
It is also better to make the request by email. Asking a friend if you can spend time in their home over the phone can put that friend on the spot, while asking by email/ text/ WhatsApp gives them time to consider your request before responding. They can also check with their spouse and others who could be affected by your visit. If you force or manipulate your host into saying yes, they may resent your presence and make your visit unpleasant.
When you arrive, remember to bring gifts for your host(s). If visiting people abroad, don’t under-estimate how well-received gifts of hair-extensions, gala sausage rolls and pre-sewn ankara outfits can be. Don’t arrive empty-handed, claiming that you knew that everything you could have brought was available and of better quality in your host’s town/country. That may be true but arriving empty-handed shows that you are cheap. It is the thought that matters so put some effort into bringing something nice for your hosts. If you bring foodstuff, don’t eat it all by yourself within the first few days of arrival by claiming you are not used to eating rice and peas for dinner.
Bring your own toiletries, if possible. If not, be happy with whatever your hosts provide. Don’t insist on some expensive body lotion when you know quite well that you have only ever used Vaseline petroleum jelly and Robb. If you are lucky to have a room, keep as tidy as possible, and keep the bathroom clean and toilet seat in the downward position.
If there is carpet on the bathroom floor, try as much as possible not to splash out like you are trying to swim the Atlantic when you take a bath. Refrain from any water-splashing habits you may practice after using the toilet. These are varied and equally disgusting and I won’t describe them. Those who do these things know them. Also use air fresheners provided or use your own body spray or perfume to freshen the air after using the toilet. You may like your own after-toilet odour. Don’t assume others will.
It is good to help your hosts whenever possible, but don’t make a declaration of your intentions or your hosts may ask you not to bother. This isn’t because they don’t need your help but they may not want to be seen giving you chores. Just wash the dishes, vacuum and do anything that is non-intrusive. Don’t use this as an opportunity to organize their closets and snoop through their things or make their beds in the morning. Even little things like keeping your hosts’ younger kids busy while your hosts make a meal is usually much appreciated. Remember that if you are visiting family or friends abroad, they are unlikely to have maids and housekeepers so any help you render is always appreciated.
Your hosts are also very unlikely to have a driver/chauffeur so try to be independent and arrange your own means of transportation and sightseeing itinerary, especially if your hosts are in full time employment. If visiting people abroad, use the bus, train and tube. Don’t get all uppity and declare that you do not use public transportation back home in Nigeria. Well, hello! Everybody gets on the train abroad, even government ministers. If you feel strongly about getting on the bus or train with us commoners, take a taxi and spend a fortune travelling short distances but don’t expect your hosts to take days off work to drive you everywhere.
Be considerate of your host’s daily routines and allow them space to take care of their daily chores. Try not to come home late or demand a key to their front door so you can return from your outings at odd hours and wake the whole house up with your constant telephone conversations and loud ringtone. Don’t bring strange people into your host’s house without their permission. You might be happy catching up with your old friend who just got released from prison for paedophilia (a charge he strenuously denies) but it doesn’t mean your host wants that person in his house, talking to his teenage daughters.
After you leave, take a moment to send a thank you email and extend an invitation to your host to visit you at some future date. If you were a good houseguest they will invite you to come again soon and they will also feel comfortable to visit and spend time at your home.
Finally, if after all the advice above you remain unwilling to be a good houseguest in people’s houses, you can always book a hotel.
Writer – Abi Adeboyejo lives in Birmingham, UK, with her two children and her fabulous man, who by the way, prefers that his wife writes down her thoughts than listening to her musings on everything.