“House guests are like fish…”

“House guests are like fish; they stink after three days.” I can never forget this line both hubby and I heard from a couple we stayed with a few years ago in another country (see how vague I’m being?). No, they didn’t think we were like fish, thankfully. We stayed with them a total of three weeks in their cramped apartment. You could say it was a unique experience .

We did what we could to make our “free” stay with them as painless for them as possible. We were, after all, indebted to them for accommodating us at a very inconvenient time in their life. We helped them set the table for meals, cleaned up afterwards and made sure we kept each plate, glass and untensil in its proper place – every single day. I was also requested one time to cook our famous adobo (chicken cooked in vinegar and soy sauce) and I didn’t hesitate to do so. I also recall cooking another dish — I’m just not sure what it is.

We tried to give them as much peace as we could by leaving their house and walking around town just to talk and pass the time. We didn’t have a lot of money so we needed to save every bit of what little we had. Those were tough and lonely times for hubby and me. We would go into a grocery to buy the cheapest prepared meal we could find and share it between the two of us. We did this so that our hosts would not be burdened about feeding us every single meal. We were very aware of their circumstances — they, too, were not of the higher income bracket.

When they went to a mall one time, hubby carried their baby’s stroller up and down stairs, the whole time, while I tried to carry as many grocery bags as I could. Mind you, I do not carry grocery bags back home — hubby carries them for me because he is, after all, a gentleman. He also knows my arms are not the strongest and I often drop things. We could almost read the minds of our fellow “Pinoys” whenever we bumped into them: “OFW din ba kayo?” I guess we did look like alalays (helpers), no matter how well we thought we dressed.

Looking back now, we did learn a lot from that experience. We learned to be grateful for every bit of grace extended to us. We could not take anything for granted, especially since we were on foreign soil. Everything we are and everything we own are given to us by grace — they are not our right.

So if you ever find yourself having to stay over in somebody else’s home, here are some very helpful tips:

1. Be grateful for the hospitality and favor extended, and say it, as often as need be. The homeowners cannot read your mind and as social beings, will always look for some sign of appreciation. So learn to say “thank you” as often as is necessary, and mean it.

2. Volunteer to do some household chores. Do not assume that your hosts don’t need your help; and even if they don’t, offer anyway. But be sure to observe carefully how they do things so you will not bungle up.

3. Do not abuse their hospitality. Do not hog their couch, toilet, TV or computer (and always ask permission before using any of their appliances or gadgets). Always take the least comfortable chair and leave the soft comfy sofa to them.

4. Do pick up the tab (or at least offer to) every once in a while. Pay for a day’s grocery. Buy some fruits to add to the meal table. Offer to treat them to a cup of coffee. It need not be expensive, but the gesture is priceless.

5. Engage your hosts in meaningful conversation. Nothing comes across as more rude than you passing your hosts and ignoring them in their own home. And in today’s text generation, it is a must that you place your texting habit on hold, especially during meal times.

6. And finally, never outstay your welcome. You will actually begin to stink like rotten fish and your hosts will be only too eager to throw you out.

This story does have a happy ending, though. Before we left the country, our hosts openly told us that they appreciated our stay and what we did to help out. And then they said that too often, house guests are like fish…you know the rest. They readily told us that we were not like their other house guests and that we were, in fact, the best house guests they have ever had! We sighed in relief and thanked God for His guidance and mercy. We didn’t stink!