I may have posted these before but here are my ten rules for guests here:-
We start with the very worst type of “popper” This is one who calls in because they “happen to be passing”, who just arrives at the front door and says “We happen to be passing and thought we would drop by and could we stay a couple of nights?” This is unforgivable and assumes that your “hosts” do nothing with their lives other than sitting around waiting for you to arrive. I know one person living over here who used to keep a suitcase by the front door so that, in the event of an unexpected arrival, they could say “sorry but we are going away today for a weeks holiday – what a pity we did not know you were coming.”
RULE ONE: Do not just arrive. Wait to be invited, even invite yourselves but be sure that your stay is expected, anticipated with pleasure, and limited in extent.
Arriving down to breakfast, late, and sitting at the table waiting to be served (as has been reported) is not the way to behave. Your hosts are not on holiday, they have lives of their own and some may even be working, so consider them. You are not staying in a hotel but with friends. Help and be involved.
RULE TWO: Fit in with your hosts lifestyle and timetable – do not expect them to change their routine for you.
Some “guests” expect to be picked up from the airport and returned there after their holiday. This not only takes your host hours of travelling (remember they have to come and collect you and get back home after dropping you off), but which can also cost a lot of money in fuel and parking.
RULE THREE: If being picked up from an airport or railway station, at least offer to pay for the parking and the fuel. Better still, why not hire a car yourselves so that your hosts are not inconvenienced and you can have independence while staying at their home.
Most people, who live here, in France, have been to the adjacent tourist sites many times and may not wish to go again. They also may not have the time. So, be independent, go out under your own steam but be clear where you are going and what time you will be back. There is nothing worse than your hosts preparing a meal and then finding that you are late back because you could not tear yourself away from the beach.
RULE FOUR: Do not expect your hosts to act as tour guides. If you have hired a car then you can do what you want when you want. It may be that you can borrow your hosts’ car but if so, be prepared to pay the insurance excess and be aware of what to do in the event of an accident.
Your holiday home is your host’s home. They may be very happy to cook meals for you; however it would be a nice gesture if you offered to cook alternative meals yourselves. Clear the table, fill the dishwasher do not leave your hosts to do it while you sit out and enjoy the weather.
RULE FIVE: you are staying in a friend’s house – not a hotel. Do not expect a hotel service.
Do not expect a free holiday. Do not be like the person who came to stay, offered nothing financially in return, did not even take their hosts out to dinner, and then demand payment for something you brought over for them from the UK. Remember that many who live here came out when the Euro was above 1.40 and now, with probably the same sterling income, your hosts are only getting 1.20 or thereabouts. One idea would be to volunteer to set up a kitty to cover the costs of your stay and keep it topped up.
RULE SIX: Offer to pay for a shopping expedition, take your hosts out for a meal at least once a week. Offer to contribute to fuel if you do get taken out for the day. A free holiday is one thing but a holiday that costs your hosts a lot of money is unlikely to be repeated.
Listen to your hosts. Life in France is very different to that in the U.K. If you wish to go to a market, remember that they start at 0800 and finish at noon. It is no good arriving down at 10:30, having a lazy breakfast and then deciding to go to a market at 1100 as it will be closing. Restaurants often are not open for new diners after 1330 so do not always expect a meal to be served if you arrive late. Restaurants are usually closed on Sunday evenings and Mondays – not a good time to plan to go out!
RULE SEVEN: Plan your days in advance, be aware of the life style here, and do not always expect your hosts to want to go with you (markets for us are for shopping not for tourism).
Your hosts live in France but this does not necessarily mean that they have gone native. However, some folks feel the need constantly to denigrate France as a country and the French as a people. Your hosts will have a different view, accepting that there are good and bad things about the French and living in France. They know, they live there, you do not.
RULE EIGHT: - Leave your anti French prejudices at home!
When staying for a few days, there will be the need to wash some clothes. It is not a good idea to put your dirty stuff in the host’s laundry basket and expect it to be done for you.
RULE NINE: - Ask your host if you may use the washing machine. They will probably offer to do your washing with their own anyway.
The kitchen can be an area of the most stress. Many people feel that the kitchen is their “zone” and dislike others trespassing in it, however, when your hosts are cooking for their guests, help with such things as vegetable preparation may well be welcomed. Offer and, if the offer is accepted, do it.
RULE TEN: - Do not invade your hosts’ space unless invited (and that includes the bathroom). Offer to help and even offer to cook a meal or two during your stay so as to give your host an evening off out of the kitchen. Offer to fill the washing up machine but not to empty it – things put back in the wrong place can be an irritant!