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How to be the perfect cottage guest

The first thing to remember is that a cottage is not a hotel. Try to make at least one meal and be willing to lend a helping hand.
The first thing to remember is that a cottage is not a hotel. Try to make at least one meal and be willing to lend a helping hand.

10 tips to help ensure you get invited back

Cottage season is well underway and if you’re lucky, you’ll score a coveted invitation to a friend’s northern retreat. But before you begin daydreaming about how you’ll savour their little piece of nature, think about being the perfect cottage guest.

“ The first thing to remember is that a cottage is not a hotel,” says Michelle Kelly, editor-in-chief of Cottage Life magazine. Most cottagers have no shortage of people to invite so if you want to stand even a chance of being invited back, be the perfect guest. Here are 10 tips

Prepare at least one meal. When you’re invited to a friend’s house for dinner, you likely take a bottle of wine but it’s a different scenario entirely when going to a cottage for a weekend, which may equate to six meals. Offer to bring at least one meal and let your host know what you plan to make. “As a guest, you should bring, make and serve the meal and clean up,” says Kelly. If your meal requires condiments, ask your hosts what they already have on hand. No one needs multiple bottles of Dijon mustard.

Take your own towels and bedding. Many cottagers will tell you there’s no need to bring your own linens but it’s a nice gesture. Because many cottagers don’t have the luxury of a washer and dryer, they’ll need to take any laundry you create to a laundromat or back home.

Lend a helping hand. “There’s always a project at a cottage, whether it’s painting the fence, fixing a deck board, building a new gazebo or fixing a screen. The best guests are keen on helping. Many people are DIYers and like to putter around,” Kelly says. If you’re invited to a cottage for a work weekend but don’t feel like you can contribute because you’re not handy, offer to bring up a case of beer and make meals.

Don’t expect to be entertained. Ever. Feeling bored? Pick up a book or magazine, pull out a board game or play a game of cards. “Guests who can entertain themselves are the best kind of guests. Don’t expect your hosts to be some sort of camp counsellors who make sure you have something to do every 10 minutes,” she says. Make yourself at home but don’t take over.

Share expenses. If you’ll be waterskiing, wakeboarding or fishing, or if your host’s cottage is on an island, money or a gift card to help cover the cost of gas for the boat will be appreciated. “Maybe your kid is really keen on waterskiing but has never done it before and it’s going to take some time to get him up on skis and zooming around the lake. Don’t ask your host to let them waterski too many times,” she says. And don’t forget to pack lifejackets for your kids.

Tell your hosts how much you love their cottage. “Even if the beds are lumpy and the bugs are bad and the fireworks being set off by someone on the lake are noisy, they love this place more than anywhere else in the world and they’re choosing to share it with you so don’t point out the things that are wrong with it,” Kelly says. Some cottages are more rustic than others and if you’re not up for that, don’t accept the invitation.

Respect cottage rules. Many cottages have rules regarding the septic system and the flushing of the toilet (‘If it’s yellow, let it mellow’ might be one), shoe removal and closing the screen door. Don’t take your dog unless you’ve received your host’s stamp of approval but if Rover barks every morning to go outside and will wake everyone up, make other arrangements for him.

Go beyond the rules. Help with the dishes and clean up after yourselves, which includes not leaving wet bathing suits and towels on the floor. Take your own booze and consider surprising your hosts with all the fixings for a cocktail to share. At the end of the weekend, help clean up and offer to take away some garbage and recycling.

Express your gratitude. Choose something special that your hosts wouldn’t normally buy for themselves, such as an indulgent bottle of wine if they’re wine lovers. Another idea: an astronomy book that can stay at the cottage for people who like gazing at the stars.

A final tip. Don’t overstay your welcome.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019

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