Traditions of etiquette have been around for centuries. The goals of etiquette are to set standards of behaviour for social interactions to avoid conflict and convey respect. When visiting someone's home, demonstrating high standards of behaviour can ensure a pleasant visit without imposing on host. Though traditional etiquette relied on elaborate codes and rules for behaviour, modern systems for manners are more closely tied to common-sense behaviours that demonstrate a degree of empathy.
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Though humans have been developing systems to streamline social interactions since prehistoric times, modern systems of etiquette were developed in 17th century France. King Louis XIV frequently hosted guests in his palace, and serving members of the palace were often concerned about the state of the grounds after guests had left. Members of the house began to post rules such as "Do not walk on the flowers" as a way of controlling the behaviour of guest to ensure the maintenance of the household. As time went one, future royalty developed increasingly complicated rules and systems of etiquette as a means of distinguishing themselves from the lower classes. In the United States, etiquette was taught in public schools through the 1960s, when rules began to relax. Today, etiquette is based on simple compassion and common sense rather than classism.
House guest etiquette serves several purposes. It primarily protects the host from damage to property or undue stress at incorporating an additional member into the household. A guest who demonstrates proper etiquette also conveys respect for the host's time and property. Adhering the boundaries of appropriate house guest behaviour is one way of showing a host that the guest is grateful for the sacrifices that have been made to accommodate him. Most house guest etiquette is designed to make the experience as seamless and effortless as possible for all parties involved.
Standard etiquette as a house guest begins with presenting the host with an appropriate gift of thanks. Common gifts include wine, speciality food items, flowers or household items like candles or books. A guest should offer help whenever the host is cleaning, preparing a meal, or participating in an activity, but insisting on helping can make the host feel uncomfortable. Guests should always leave bathrooms and bedrooms organised and clean by putting away clothes, making the bed and folding towels. A house guest should not attempt to dictate the timing or content of meals unless there are religious or diet restrictions to consider. By the end of the stay, the guest should leave the house in the same condition that he arrived.
Peggy Post, president of the Emily Post Institute for etiquette, advises house guests to bring their own toiletries while visiting someone's home. "You're not at a hotel," she chides. She also suggests avoiding long showers because many homes have a limited supply of hot water. One of the most grievous offences a house guest can make, she says, is bringing along an uninvited pet.
While some rules of house guest etiquette are fairly universal, others may vary by culture. General tidiness is an expectation in all countries. While bringing a gift is a welcome gesture, in Peru is it considered rude to present a gift that is too large or expensive as it might embarrass the hosts. In Japan, all guests should remove their shoes after entering the house. In Brazil, it's likely that a house guest may share quarters with another family member because close proximity is common. In Japan, however, personal space is highly valued.
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