You’ve been invited to spend a week-end /holiday in a relative’s/friend’s second home in France with your spouse/ children/ grandchildren.
Be sensible - if they are only a couple and you turn up as a family of six you’re going to outnumber them and the stay will be fraught with dangers. Don’t push it! If they’ve in so many words said six is enough don’t try and get an invite for Deidre and Jan and their family to join you as well. Especially don’t spring Deidre and Jan on them either even if they have a 17-room castle.
Rule number 1
Bring a gift for the hostess/host. Even if they feign indifference, a bottle of champagne/bouquet of flowers will always go down well and will prevent the host/hostess passing you off as a skinflint to other relatives/friends – or worse still - will never get you invited again.
Rule number 2
Has Jasper/Marmeduke/ Beatrice got a food allergy? If so, supply your host/hostess with an exhaustive list of everything the brat can’t eat at least three days before your arrival so that the shopping doesn’t go wasted.
If the child has a food allergy/ food fad you will have to cater for your child/children for the whole of your stay. With so many of you sponging of the poor host/hostess you can’t expect them to cater for your offspring.
Rule number 3
Tell the host/hostess exactly when you intend to arrive and keep them informed if you are delayed. To do anything else is bad manners, and... you will never get invited again.
Rule number 4
French families have different rules governing greetings. Nevertheless a peck on each cheek for each female member of the family by the hosts is normal. Male family members over the age of 30 may only get a handshake from the host. This may be repeated every morning so brush your teeth first thing. Warn your children that this is the done thing and they must not recoil or show any distaste.
Rule number 5
If your hosts invite other friends round for drinks and dinner, accept graciously to help with the dinner/ clearing up / washing up. Remember this is a free holiday so a little bit of housework won’t hurt you. Think of it as an occasion to broaden your experience. Remember many people pay good money to be ‘paying’ guests, so muck in.
Rule number 6
Before you leave, invite the host/hostess to dinner in a restaurant of their choice. If you haven’t got much money, cook for them at home and provide the wine.
Rule number 7
There is no reason for the host/hostess to provide you with food and alcohol if you stay more than twenty-four hours. If you stay longer than a weekend, replace all the alcohol you have drunk and leave half as much again.
Rule number 8
If you go to a café or bar invite the host/hostess or at least pay half. Wait until you know how much the bill is before throwing your money down, it might be more expensive than you think.
Rule number 9
If you are staying with children ask your host/hostess what the house rules are. Can the children walk on the parquet flooring with wet feet? Can they swim in the pool from dawn to dusk? Is there a moment during the day when the lounge/ swimming pool is reserved for adults? If there is no main drainage, what can’t you put down the loo? How does the recycling work?
Rule number 10
Try and find out how to make your own breakfast without disturbing your host/hostess. How does the coffee machine work? Where is the toaster? Keep your children quiet until the host/hostess appears in the morning. Pay particular attention to noise levels in the morning or late at night. In the morning don’t blow dry your hair in the bathroom adjacent to your hosts’ bedroom if they are still in bed.
Rule number 11
When you are packed up and ready to leave, strip your bed and take your sheets/towels/pillow slips to the utility room. The host/hostess made your bed for you before you arrived, they don’t want to be witness to anything you’ve done in it since, you’re not staying in a hotel. If you’ve stayed more than a week, hoover your bedroom and empty the bins.
Rule number 12
If you’ve broken or lost anything, admit it and replace it.
All this might seem a lot but you’re not paying for your free accommodation. With a bit of luck you might be invited again!