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9 Things You Should Never Touch in Someone Else’s House

Follow this etiquette advice when visiting someone's house to keep your host happy.

Cropped view of collector knocking on door with hand
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A hands-off approach

Nothing like a global pandemic to critically alter your lifelong and intrinsic sanitary practices, huh? And while we know coronavirus does not spread easily from surfaces, there are still plenty of other germs and bacteria that do. And it’s not always a matter of good hygiene—sometimes it’s just a matter of good manners!

The door

Of course, you can actually touch the door, but you should never do so to let yourself into someone else’s home without them, or without being invited. Always knock or ring the bell, even if it’s been left unlocked, unless someone has expressly told you that you don’t have to. And please, don’t show up knocking earlier than expected—it could be a huge inconvenience to your host. If you’re staying for a while, check out these houseguest etiquette tips to make sure you’re invited back.

Loft bedroom with lamp turned off.
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Their bedroom

As with most of the things on this list, you should avoid this unless you’re specifically invited. Try not to stray after your trip to the bathroom for a look around—it’s definitely off-limits if you don’t have permission or are going in without your host knowing. Of course, there are exceptions, as it may not be so serious an offense if you know the person very well, or if one lives in a shared living space, a studio, or an apartment with limited space. And on that note, it’s best to wait until you’re invited to sit or relax on someone’s bed. Many people also find that a bedroom is a convenient place to store coats if there are guests coming over, but wait until they offer instead of assuming it’s OK.

The floor—with your shoes on

Depending on personal preferences or cultural norms, many households have a no-shoes-inside policy. Take the tip from your host—if they’re wearing shoes in their house, you can probably assume it’s OK for you. When in doubt, ask what they would prefer. Another place you shouldn’t be putting your feet? On the couch or coffee table.

beautiful house, interior, view of the kitchen
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The fridge and cupboards

This one might sound like it should go without saying, but some might not realize just how rude it is to help yourself to someone else’s food. If you’re hungry, let your host know, or suggest going out to eat. If you’re staying for a long time, your host will probably prepare and shop for food accordingly, but it’s a good idea to offer to bring or buy some groceries yourself. And if you came for dinner, eat what’s been prepared for you, and offer to bring a dish or wine to share. If you have a restricted diet, let your host know beforehand and prepare a dish to bring if it’s difficult to accommodate. Offer to help cook, and lend a hand with the dishes and cleanup. Countertops are absolutely one of those things you should be cleaning every day, regardless.

Two modern windows with uv protection curtain on white wall, outdoor view

The windows or thermostat

Always let your hosts set the thermostat number—it’s their house, after all, and they’re the ones paying the bill for it. If you’re really too cold, a better option might be to ask to borrow a sweater, or extra blankets if you’ll be staying overnight. Too hot? Suggest an activity to help cool off, like going to a place with air conditioning. If you have a medical condition that makes you particularly sensitive to heat or cold, you should always inform your host ahead of time so you can make plans accordingly. These are the social etiquette rules everyone should know.

Drawers and cabinets

This one is definitely invasive of your host’s privacy. Don’t go rummaging for anything that’s not in plain sight or in the rooms your host is expecting you in. You might find it tempting to snoop, but the medicine cabinet is certainly off-limits. Check out these 50 little etiquette rules you should always practice.

Two letters sticking out of a letterbox on a white door, space for copy

Workspaces, mail, or bills

To go along with the last one, it’s always best to avoid snooping. In some homes, a guest bedroom might also double as a home office, so steer clear of using these spaces to store your things. You have no idea how they might have organized their things, so try to leave it as is. Not going through someone’s mail is basic manners!

man smoking a cigarette
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Cigarettes or e-cigarettes

Unless your host is doing the same and gives you permission, you should never, ever start smoking a cigarette or e-cigarette in someone’s home. This rule is especially inflexible if there are children in the house. Not only can you expose them to the harmful ingredients and chemicals in cigarettes, but the effects—and the smell—can linger long after you’re gone. If you can’t wait, excuse yourself to go outside, and try to move away from doors and windows so it doesn’t waft into the house.


The Wi-Fi

Try to refrain from asking for the Wi-Fi password unless you’re a long-term guest or a very frequent visitor. If you’re asking at the beginning of a dinner party, it’s sending the message that you’d rather be on your phone. Try to stay off of your phone as much as possible to really have quality time when you’re visiting. And remember these cellphone etiquette rules you should always follow.