It's highly likely that as you read this, you're doing it from somebody else's house.

It's the holiday period, which means Kiwis are staying at their parents', relatives', and friends' places for the next couple of weeks. You might have even been invited to stay in the house of somebody you only met when you arrived at their door with your suitcase.

Hospitality (and probably a lot of stressful preparation) is being bestowed on us. How do we repay our hosts? You must sing for your supper, that's how.

The notion of singing for one's supper means to provide some sort of service in return for benefitting from another. In this case, we're talking hospitality: a bed to sleep on, meals made for you to eat, and a complete absence of usual household chores.


It's not acceptable to turn up for the holiday season and be waited on hand and foot. When you're somebody else's guest, you have a job to do too.

Arrive with booze

One of the hardest things to guestimate when you're hosting people for several days over the holidays is how much alcohol you need to stock up on. Will you have a one-bottle-a-night kind of crowd, or do you need to order Lindauer by the case?

This is why, as part of singing for your supper, you must BYO some of your favourite beverage. Even if your host is a complete lush and you know they'll be stocked up. In true Kiwi style, this is your koha: your gift to the household. Never be tempted to take what goes unconsumed with you when you leave. Your hosts will probably need it when they're rid of you.

Do the dishes

If you're staying at another person's house, it's an abomination to let them clean up after you. They've already spent their time and money looking after you, they should be able to relax after every meal. Never let the cook clean up and always be sure you get to all pots, pans, plates, and cutlery before they do.

Most people have dishwashers these days and it's always a great idea to empty them after a cycle, without being asked. Sure, you don't know where everything goes in your host's cupboards. It doesn't matter. Navigate their kitchen drawers and shelves as best you can, and stack items you can't find a home for neatly on the counter.

Give your hosts privacy

Your hosts probably said "make yourself at home" when you arrived, but that's just being polite. You can't wander around somebody else's home like it's your own. Their casa is not really your casa.

Having other people staying in your personal space is exhausting. As a host, you spend so much of the time worried your guests aren't having fun, and thinking they need to be entertained.

Being a good houseguest means leaving the house every day, even just for a little while. Go for a walk or a run. Go shopping in town. Go to the beach by yourself. Whatever it is, give your hosts some privacy and space to decompress every day. This includes not asking them for a ride to/from their house. Work out the local public transport if you don't have your car.


Be the entertainment

Every night at dinner, it's your duty to make the hosts laugh, cry, think, and have a good time. You should come equipped with anecdotes, stories, and be read-up on topical issues from the news.

Don't let it become the host's responsibility to worry about awkward silences at the dinner table or to constantly be throwing out talking points. This moment is, perhaps quite literally, when you must sing for your supper.

Avoid politics and religion unless you really know your crowd, though. Also, any long storytelling should be done earlier in the night before you've had too much to drink and a five minute tale takes 45 minutes to tell.

Take out the rubbish and clean up after yourself

When it's time to leave your holiday and return to the real world, leave no traces of being in someone else's home. Take out all rubbish and recycling for the entire household. Put all sheets, towels, and anything else you've used for the duration of your stay in the washing machine (or at least ask what you should do with them).

Never leave a messy bed, a dirty toilet, or a full waste basket in your room. You haven't been staying in a hotel. If you want to be invited back, you need to leave the best possible impression on the final day of your stay.