How to Be a Good Houseguest, and Other Reader Questions

We’ve featured nine reader questions in the past, and we’d love to do it again! This week, we’re talking about how to be a banner houseguest and how not to embarrass yourself at work…

Q. My girlfriend and I will be staying with friends in their tiny apartment this weekend. Any tips on how we can be good guests? — Amanda
A. I’m sure they’ll just be excited to see you! But these four things would add a special touch: Bring a nice edible host gift, such as homemade brownies, a few bottles of rosé, or this fancy olive oil. Give some breaks to your hosts now and again by reading in your room for a while or taking a walk around the neighborhood. At the end of your stay, strip the bed and put all your sheets into one of the pillowcases (it creates a neat little bundle, which we learned from these guys). And afterward, snail mail a thank-you note, telling them your favorite parts of your stay. I would love if someone did those things while staying with us!

Q. My office is planning a karaoke night, but I’m the world’s worst singer. HELP. What’s an easy song? — Naudia
A. We took an informal poll around our shared workspace, and here’s the deal: Build Me Up Buttercup and Sweet Caroline are big crowd pleasers that don’t need a big vocal range. And for 500 Miles, you basically just talk. You could also go for a duet like I Got You Babe, if you want to share the spotlight. (Any other ideas from readers? Curious to hear.)

Q. I’m coming to New York next month. My burning question is, where can I get a great burger? — Rachael
A. Fun question! Which kind of burger do you like — tavern-style (plump and juicy) or griddled (thinner and crisp at the edges)? If you prefer thick, try The Spotted Pig in the West Village or The NoMad Bar inside the NoMad Hotel off Madison Square Park. Or go for the buzziest burger of the year at Pizza Loves Emily, in the West Village and Brooklyn — it comes on a pretzel bun with special sauce. If you prefer thinner burgers, Shake Shack, The Corner Bistro and Burger Joint are all casual spots that serve burgers compact enough to eat with one hand. Also, if the weather is good, we like Mister Dips, the new burger truck parked on the grassy rooftop of the William Vale hotel. You can take in sweeping views of Brooklyn and Manhattan while filling up on one of the best new burgers in the city. Have a great trip!

Q. I don’t have kids, but many of my friends do, and more often than not I feel awkward and stiff around them. This might sound dumb, but how do I talk to little kids? —Zoe
A. From my experience with two little dudes, the one thing to know is that kids LOVE the details of their cute lives. No question is too specific: What did you have for breakfast? What kind of pancakes? How did you get that knee scrape? Do you have any pets? Just listen, smile and you’re good.

If in doubt, this three-part conversation never fails:
1. How old are you?
2. Oooh, [their age]! When’s your birthday?
3. What kind of cake are you going to have? (THEY ALWAYS KNOW.)

Maybe just avoid focusing on their clothes or asking about school, since it can be overwhelming. “A school day is an eternity when you’re nine,” wrote Emma Jane Unsworth wrote in this great piece, “so [asking how their day was] is basically like asking an adult what they did in 2014.” Haha.

Thoughts? Do you agree with these? Any different answers? And are there other questions you’re mulling over these days? We’d love to hear…

P.S. 10 things I’ve learned in my career, and more reader questions.

(Photo of Audrey Gelman’s home by Mark Lund.)