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to think that if guests stay for longer than 2 nights, they should contribute to food costs?

(93 Posts)
marfisa Mon 31-Dec-12 19:53:13

We have just had some guests stay for 3 nights, a family of 4. They are friends but not particularly close friends. My DH was cross with them (although he didn't say so) because they didn't offer to take us out for dinner while they were here, or shop for food and prepare a meal. They brought us some modest but thoughtful gifts, and also bought us some chocs. We went sightseeing with them on the 3 days (our city is a tourist city) and I noticed that when we ate lunch out each day, they didn't buy sandwiches for themselves, only for their 2 children. They then ate their children's leftovers. The only time they ate heartily was at our house in the evening, where food and wine were plentiful. They never once offered to pay for any food or wine. Our house is also not large, so having 4 extra people to stay isn't exactly comfortable IYSWIM.

We are not badly off financially but do have to watch our pennies. So do they.

My DH says that if we stayed with someone for 3 nights, we would pay for a meal. In fact, we stayed with these friends for a few nights a couple of summers ago, and while staying with them we took them out to a restaurant once and also paid for one communal food shop. Part of me thinks DH is being a little too obsessed with tit-for-tat, but another part of me thinks that he's right: if you're getting free accommodation, you should contribute to food costs.

There is also a Part 2 to this story. Our guests are still on holiday in our town, but have moved to visit another friend of theirs. She has a bigger house and they're staying with her for 5 nights. I saw our friends again today, and they are very unhappy with their new host. She keeps the heating of her house turned down so low that they are cold. She also fed them such small portions at dinner last night, apparently, that the children left the table hungry. Then for tonight's dinner (NYE!) she asked them to shop for food. Furthermore, she specified which shops they should purchase the food from: gourmet butcher, gourmet delicatessen and so on. My friends were quite irate about this. The husband said to me that they would not be buying the food "on principle", because (according to him) if you are staying with someone, it is a rule of hospitality that the hosts should pay for everything. He said that if guests stayed with him, he would not expect them to pay. At this point I couldn't help recalling that he had been happy to let us pay for 2 meals when we stayed with them. grin And we didn't mind paying at all TBH; we thought it was a normal gesture.

My DH is now evilly delighted with their discomfiture and thinks that it's a case of karma: tight people meeting tighter people. I am a little nervous though that they are going to want to return here now instead of spending the remainder of their stay with their less generous friend. Argh.

upstart68 Mon 31-Dec-12 21:15:57

I'd be surprised if a guest brought nothing - e.g. I'd think a bottle or two of wine appropriate.

But if I'd invited them to stay for three days, I'd expect to buy the food for three days.

I dont know anybody who'd invite someone for more than a day or two who wasn't close family.

Eating out these days is very expensive. I wouldn't expect a guest to take us all out.

rhetorician Mon 31-Dec-12 21:19:20

I wouldn't expect guests to pay for anything really (girls' dad and grandparents regularly stay for 2 nights), but am pleasantly surprised when they bring generous gifts and preferably plenty of drink. I wouldn't expect to pay for food when staying with others, although I would usually offer to cook a meal for my hosts and take great pleasure in doing so. Grandparents will quite often take us all out for a meal and are very generous to dds. I think this expectation is a bit odd, tbh, you might expect this if they were staying for a week or more, but not over 2 nights.

On the sandwiches front it is worth pointing out in the light of your last post that the euro/sterling exchange rate is not at all favourable at the moment! they might not be skint, but might find the UK pricey on a euro salary (I do!)

festivelyfocussed Mon 31-Dec-12 21:22:01

I feel so sad for your guests, picturing the scene of them eating their children's crusts.
They gave gifts, which i think is a lovely gesture. It was a few days, not weeks or months. I would not expect house guests to feel obligated to contribute to food. Although as i am able to i would probably take a host out for a meal or some such if i'd spent a few days with them.

TheAccidentalExhibitionist Mon 31-Dec-12 21:22:44

I live in a foreign holiday destination too and we've had 13 sets of guests in 2012, most staying for more than a week. I can't think of a single one that has taken us out for a meal. The only family who stayed one night bought us a €60 bottle of whisky.
It seems to me that guests expect to be treated while they are with us. To a certain extent that's fine, I am happy if they want to contribute to the shopping costs though.
The main thing is Marfisa that I can't get any work done either while we have guests. It's a full time occupation when guests are staying, it creates extra work, extra expense and takes away from normal life if it happens too often.

WeAreEternal Mon 31-Dec-12 21:32:10

I would never expect a guest to contribute towards food (or anything else) no matter how long they were staying for.

It is nice to be taken out for a meal and I would always appreciate the odd bottle of wine but would not expect it.

complexnumber Mon 31-Dec-12 21:33:23

If you have already visited them in their country why did they have to invite themselves? Why didn't you reciprocate the invitation?

Gryffindor Mon 31-Dec-12 21:45:15

I always take hosts out for dinner, even if I only stay for one night. Plus I always arrive with a present and/or a couple of bottles of wine.

Imaginethat Mon 31-Dec-12 21:47:31

It depends. I've had friends fly from overseas specifically to visit which of course is very costly for them so of course I want to host their stay. But when friends and acquaintances stay because they need a bed while in town for business/concert/sightseeing then it's a bit on the nose to be expected to fund their keep. A bottle of wine or some other contribution smooths it nicely. Personally I think it's better to err on the side of generosity when you are the guest and if you can't afford to then maybe don't go.

marfisa Mon 31-Dec-12 21:55:06

festively: OK, I feel so guilty now! They were so casual about it that I didn't really believe they were hungry, but maybe they were. sad In any case we did load them up with food and we never gave any indication of thinking they were tight, so we didn't behave badly.

accidental: OMG, 13 sets of guests! you are a saint. I agree that guests are a full-time occupation. I think it's partly because we do treat them well that we get worn out more quickly. I love my solitude and get grumpy after a couple of days. blush

complex: they have already visited us once since we visited them.

My DH has now read this thread and says he is glad he has read it. However, he wants to let everyone know that he is not actually tight. grin He is just tighter than me.

marfisa Mon 31-Dec-12 22:01:44

Gryffindor, my DH would like to invite you to stay. wink

Cutiecat Mon 31-Dec-12 22:13:32

My mum expects this when we stay with her! She lives abroad and so we have to fly to see her with 3 DCS and then when we get there we usually stay a maximum of a week. I usually get a supermarket shop, we pay for a meal and she makes comments if I don't cook an evening meal (I do the children's evening meal seperately every night as I would at home). I think she IBU but I am not going to change her. I would not expect it of our guests, my guests are just that. Do you as you would like to be done by.

Iggly Mon 31-Dec-12 22:14:48


they're guests.

Don't invite people to stay if you expect payment.

Alibabaandthe40nappies Mon 31-Dec-12 22:15:46

Gryffindor - if my guests did that I would be offended and think that they didn't like our cooking... wink

yousmell Mon 31-Dec-12 22:18:04

I'll usually ask what I should bring food wise to help out - then bring food (often pudding each day) plus wine/flowers etc.

shesariver Mon 31-Dec-12 22:34:43

They invited themselves? You could have said no...

ThePathanKhansWitch Mon 31-Dec-12 22:34:53

I do know someone who asked guests to bring their own sheets and towels as it would create too much washing after they'd left if they used hers.

MudCity Mon 31-Dec-12 22:58:54

Marfisa, please don't feel guilty. People just have different values and ideas about hospitality. You have indicated they are from another country which implies possible cultural differences as well. I know people who come round for a cup of coffee and always bring biscuits with them because they feel they should. I don't understand it myself...if I invite someone for coffee, I don't expect them to bring food unless of course they are desperate for something to eat!

It sounds as though you ensured they had plenty of food when they stayed with you and I am sure they are grateful for your hospitality and generosity. I know I would be. At least you know now that if you stay with them again, there is no expectation that you should take them out for a meal or contribute to the food shop given that they have clearly said this is not the way they do things.

I guess in these difficult times we have to be sensitive to people's personal financial situations. A lot depends on how many people come to stay too...if it is single friend or a couple then I am happy to pay for everything...including a meal out or take-away if I suggest it (if they suggest it then that is completely different). I am not quite so thrilled if I am catering for a family that outnumbers ours especially if the children have diverse dietary that case, contributions are definitely appreciated!

MumofWombat Tue 01-Jan-13 02:11:48

We have a lot of guests. My DHs family all live in the country, and my family live on the other side of the world.
My PIL tend to buy a take away during their stay (none near them so this is a treat for them!). But it is a pleasure cooking for my FIL in particular, I choose to cook traditional English meals when he's around which reminds him of his mothers cooking. So he is very complimentary and grateful!
BIL and SiL don't tend to contribute anything. But then they are the long pockets type of people....
My parents tend to stay for a number of weeks when they come. They will insist on paying for meals/coffees out etc and will also insist on paying for alternate food shopping. They reckon we'd probably come over for a meal every week or so if we lived close so they say that the meals out are the equivalent of that! They will also come with a suitcase of gifts! (Also rare for PIL to arrive without some gifts).
We've just had a old colleague of mine stay for a week. She presented us with gifts, treated DS and myself to lunch a couple of days when out sightseeing, when we went wine tasting she got a couple of bottle for her and DH (im pregnant!) to drink and insisted on taking us out for a meal as well. We covered all food costs inside the house. We don't feel 'taken advantage' of, and she feels like she's contributed by treating us.
When we stayed with family (no room to stay with parents)in the UK, we took gifts (I got my Aunt some very expensive hand cream I knew she'd get a kick out having for example and wine I knew they'd like), and even though we were only there for breakfast really most days, we all went out for a meal with my parents. But to be honest, the highlight for them (and what would mean that they really wouldn't care about costs!) was that DS was there. They don't have grandchildren yet and my boy does seem to hold a special place in their hearts!
So, after this long post about what happens here, I think one of the factors depends on the length of stay. But tbh, I wouldn't go anywhere without wine etc for an overnight, and any longer than that and I would pay for a meal out/takeaway or some special ingredients for a meal to be cooked at home.
I think when you stay somewhere you should consider how you'd like to be treated and act accordingly - even if its not reciprocated!

festivelyfocussed Tue 01-Jan-13 02:28:06

Marfisa, don't feel guilty. I have form for feeling sorry for ppl. grin
my dh thinks I'm a bit too soft about stuff like that.

FreePeaceSweet Tue 01-Jan-13 03:16:28

I always take hosts out for dinner, even if I only stay for one night. Plus I always arrive with a present and/or a couple of bottles of wine.

That sounds very kind and generous but a bit OTT for one night surely? Be cheaper to stay in a hotel or B&B.

janji Tue 01-Jan-13 04:01:10

If I invite anyone to stay or even to join our family on days out etc I see it as etiquette to pay for their needs. Likewise however I would always offer to pay my way whilst visiting / spending days out with anyone.

expatinscotland Tue 01-Jan-13 04:15:19

Don't have them again.

If they try to invite themselves, say no.

ChasedByBees Tue 01-Jan-13 04:49:55

I think if I had invited myself then I would be paying for a meal. If they invited themselves to their new host, then I can see why she is asking them to contribute, although I probably wouldn't myself. 5 days is a long time to invite yourself though.

Definitely don't let them come back, just say we're really busy working - it's a true and very valid excuse!

kerala Tue 01-Jan-13 08:06:03

doesn't sound as if you like them at all are they friends from school or something who you wouldn't be friends with if you met now?

If staying for 2 night plus I will bring dinner for one night (chilli everyone likes easy to make in advance) then hostess gets night off. Also pay for hosts lunch/coffee when out and about plus the usual wine contribution.

CSIJanner Tue 01-Jan-13 08:15:16

My friends & I have a longstanding arrangement of if you com to visit, you bring entrance fee - a bottle of champagne. If you're funds are low, then sometimes a good bottle of cava and then eveni they don't have the funds to buy dinner or food, then everyone gets stuck in making the meals or clearing up. Only fair that way the board games, long walks or activities can start quicker.

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