Are Americans Less Hospitable, Or Is It Just Us?

We’ve just finished spending the night over a relative’s house during a road trip and it occurred to me that in the seventeen years we’ve owned our house, we’ve only had one person who wasn’t family spend the night. Counting family members, that number goes up to three.

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We don’t mean to be inhospitable, but we think of our home as our private domain. Our sanctuary. In order to let someone into that space, we have to be really comfortable with you entering our area. Even when we had the couple we found on Trusted Housesitters stay at our house, we only let them stay in the guest bedroom and we went through emails and Skype interviews before we even considered to allow anybody to do that.

Our level of privacy doesn’t feel strange to us. Heck, you have to be a pretty good friend before you even get invited past our front door.

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However, I’ve realized that this might not be normal behavior. When traveling overseas, we’ve been asked several times by friends to stay over their house while in town (we’ve always declined the invitation). When traveling in the U.S., we only stay at someone’s house when if we’re staying with family or a close friend. Even then, we’d never make the initial offer and always wait until asked, “Do you want to stay over our house?” before accepting an invitation. I guess that’s why we’re not big fans of Airbnb; if we won’t stay at a friends house, how comfortable will be in a stranger’s home?

The mere question seems strange to us Americans. Why are people asking us to stay at their house? We hardly know them. How odd they would ask mere acquaintances to stay in their home. What are they thinking?

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It never occurs to us that maybe people are just nice and have no other motive than wanting to welcome someone into their home. Why would they do that? Aren’t there any hotels in the area we could stay at? How well do we know these people and would we want to stay at their home?

I’ve come to appreciate that it’s probably us.

Our generation in America has been trained to protect our privacy and our home as the last bastion of freedom. What happens within our walls is our own business and no one else’s. Letting someone into that sanctuary is the ultimate trust and is not to be taken lightly.

In other areas of the world, a home is to be shared. If someone needs a place to rest, it’s the ultimate honor to open your home and treat guests with respect. Sharon and I have both been invited to friends homes in foreign countries and we viewed it as a huge privilege. While there, our hosts treated us as guests of honor and we were immensely grateful.

I’m still curious though. Is our perception about the rest of the world being more open to allowing guests into their homes accurate or is everyone else just as protective of their privacy as we are? I’m worried that it’s not just an American thing but just a Joe and Sharon thing and we’re way too guarded about who we let into our home.

What are your experiences with having guests stay at your house or staying at someone else’s home? Are you selective or will you let any friend stay over?

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13 thoughts on “Are Americans Less Hospitable, Or Is It Just Us?”

  1. Love you both but it is just you. Inviting people into your home is a sign of love and caring. I was raised in Orlando where we kept our doors unlocked and welcomed guest into our very modest home. When you invite someone into your sanctuary you have a real opportunity to exchange things in a much more personal nature that allows you to really get to know someone, be it family or friends. You both are missing a great opportunity to enjoy the blessings of intimate friendship.

  2. I am from the islands, and I would feel insulted if someone came to my area and didn’t ask to stay with us. I also reach out to family when we travel if we will be in their area and expect them to accommodate us.

  3. I think it’s you too ! If I have the space then why not …..and if I don’t have the space and they don’t mind the couch, that’s fine too. I’ve stayed with friends and family in the US, Australia, Austria . It’s just …well…..normal.
    Just think, if everyone thought like you……..Airbnb wouldn’t exist !! 😉

  4. I’ve wondered the same thing. My husband and I are full-time, international house sitters. We have been amazed at how wonderful and welcoming our hosts have been… especially in contrast to how our friends and family have been reacting to the news of us staying in the homes of strangers. haha!

  5. I have friends that ALWAYS stay with us when in town. We ❤️Them and we have a ton of fun. And we have friends in Traverse City that invite us to stay every time we visit (which is often) and we take them up on it 1/3 of the time. They are excellent hosts!

  6. I’m sorry to say that while you may feel this way, I and many others do not. We have tons of friends from the USA and abroad who have stayed with us in our home—many times. You are entitled to your preferences and illusions of American privacy being somehow exclusionary, but that is more about you and hasn’t much to do with being American, I’m afraid.

  7. I’m curious though — when you grew you up in your parents’ house, did they let your friends sleepover or did friends/family who live far away come stay with you? I grew up in NYC area and we were the only ones in my immediate family to live here (most are in Chicago) so when family or my parents’ college/childhood friends visit, they always come stay at our house.
    I now live in NYC and if friends from around the world come visit NYC, I always offer to have them stay with me even though I only have a 1BR apt (but I do have an air mattress.)

    1. When I was growing up, I had many sleepovers at my house as well as spending the night over my friends houses. At my house, that usually meant we slept in the basement in sleeping bags. When it came to family, most of them were local and we didn’t have room for a proper visit (living in a 650 sf 1 bathroom apartment, there was hardly room for the 3 of us)

  8. Just you. Maybe you should get therapy. 😁
    Most places I’ve visited there seems to be this open door policy. I’ve taken people up on it for the experience. I once slept on the floor with a whole family in their small one room bamboo home. Somehow they made it not seem weird though. Just a little uncomfortable getting up for that early morning pee.

  9. I think it is a very relative thing. Coming from India, inviting someone or having guests stay at our place is a very very common thing. To be honest, if someone prefers not to stay at your place there is a feeling of suspicion if we mistreated them. But for the most part in the US, it is polar opposite IME. In a nutshell I feel American are very polite but do not consider them very inviting in to their personal space.

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