Thursday, November 04, 2010

B&B Etiquette: When Is A Hug Appropriate?

This photo of Uncle Tim's Bridge was taken two days ago, before the rain. It is one of the many landmarks in Wellfleet that guests enjoy visiting. I don't always suggest the bridge as a destination, but it's so picturesque that often people find it on their own while exploring our pretty little town. Part of the fun of a B&B stay is the opportunity to discover a different region of the country and get tips from local folks on what to see and do. Sven and I treat our guests like friends to whom we extend hospitality. We try to make it clear that staying at our bed & breakfast is very different from staying at a motel. There is no maid service here, although the rooms are spotless when guests move in. We provide a comfortable bed and a wholesome breakfast, as well as lively conversation, if a guest is up for social interaction. Often our guests do become friends and return year after year.

I often ask myself when is a hug appropriate at departure? The response to this question is never cut and dried. I have learned to take a cue from the guests themselves. Recently, we had a couple from the Boston area who visited last fall as well, and plan to make their Outer Cape excursion an annual one. I was not sure whether they felt we knew each other well enough for hugs, but Toinette came towards me, arms open. I enjoyed giving her a hug.

Sometimes I will hug a first-time guest, but not often. The couple to the right, for instance, almost got hugs, and probably would have appreciated the recognition that we enjoyed their company. They were from England, in New England for a wedding. They spent a lot of time talking history with Sven. The wife is in publishing. The husband was one fourth Russian, one fourth Finnish, and actually looked as if he could have been an extra in The Last Station, last year's film about Tolstoy and wife Sonia. They left without hugs, but we have been in touch several times since then, by email.

Usually an innkeeper can tell whether a hug is appropriate. It's normal for genuine affection to develop when guests stay several days. This is another reason that we do not do one-night stays ...