Perform the saikeirei bow
The moment you walk through that door, your host is judging — I mean, rating — you based on your facial symmetry, cleanliness, and courtesy. The first two factors you have no control over, so it is imperative to win over your host with obsequious courtesy. Take a sycamore out of the Japanese, who are arguably the politest people in the world. Conclude every conversation with a saikeirei bow: a deeply-reverent forty-five- to seventy-degree bow reserved only for royalty. Your hosts are the king and queens of their homes, and should be accorded a high level of respect. The bow is performed also when you have immense regret — which is what you will harbour when you realise you have been hoodwinked by photography magic, and that the derelict dump you have just set foot in will be your home for a whole week.
Effective communication is key
Misunderstandings are bound to happen when you live in a stranger’s house and unwittingly encroach on his privacy by reading his mails and rifling through his laundry basket. And misunderstandings sour relationships, which in turn lead to tainted reviews. To avoid them, always maintain an open channel of communication — keep your host informed of your whereabouts as well as comings and goings every half hour. When communicating via text messages, pepper your conversations with emojis so they know your true emotions and do not misinterpret your tone.
Change begins with you
Everyone loves surprises, and there is no better surprise in the home than finding change in the couch. After a few days of travelling, shopping and eating out, you will amass many pesky coins that you eventually need to unload — no money changer would accept them, so why not gift them to your host? It is crass to just hand over money, of course, so design a treasure hunt. Draw up a map and make your host go on a laborious mission of ripping apart their curtains, fluffing their cushions and retiling. Lord knows their homes need a makeover.
Ask not what your host can do for you…
… But what you can do for your host. Many Airbnb guests make the egregious mistake of treating their hosts as concierge, personal drivers, even errand boys. Put yourself in your host’s shoes — seriously, feel free to wear her manolo blahniks out to a fancy restaurant — would you not want a guest who takes initiative? So look out for ways you can help your host. Does he and his wife need marriage counselling? Sing a lullaby to their new-born every night. Throw out his groceries and put him on a gluten-free or whatever diet it is that you swear by. Wash all his dirty underwear or her sexy lingerie. For this to be a real surprise, do all these kind deeds in secret, preferably on the last day of your stay, and time your check-out so that you have a chance to sneak out and not bump into your host in the hallway.