When you are living in someone’s house, in a foreign country, most likely you will encounter many things that are much different than you are used to at home.
If you take some extra time in advance to prepare and talk to your host family, and are willing to cooperate with them, your time together can go smoothly and be an enjoyable experience for everyone.
The following are some tips for students that are about to spend an extended amount of time living with a host family –
1~ Fully Fill out Forms. When filling out the application forms for the exchange program that you are signing up with, be sure to make all of your special requirements known. Write down your food allergies, special medical requirements, and other details that need to be known, like, if you are afraid of dogs. This will help you to be matched with a well suited family.
2~ Bring a Gift. Bring the family a gift that represents your home culture as a way of thanking them for opening up their home. This is a wonderful way to start up a relationship with the people that you will be living with.
3~ Talk About Rules. Make sure right away that everyone involved knows the expectations of living together. Ask if you will have a curfew, if they would like you to help with chores, and even what foods and dishes you are allowed to use. Opening the lines of communication at first will help so that there will be no confusion later.
4~ Join Them for Meals. Dining together brings people closer. Even if your schedule is busy, try to join your host family as much as possible for a sit down meal, where everyone can connect.
5~ Learn About Local Customs. Every country is filled with different rules and customs. Learn about the customs in the country that you are traveling to, and respect them, no matter how unusual they seem to you.
6~ Be Clean. No matter how you kept your room at home, while staying with a host family, you need to always pick up after yourself. This not only goes for making sure that your clothes are not piled up on the bedroom floor, but also for other areas in the house. Clean up dirty dishes after eating, and never leave a mess for other family members to have to deal with.
7~ Communicate with the Organization. If you are very unhappy with the family that you have been placed with, and they don’t seem to be doing anything to help, reach out to the company or organization that brought you there. Usually the group will step in and try to help out, possibly even offering to place you in a different home. Also talk to the company if you love your host family – giving them the praise that they deserve.
8~ Make Outside Friends. It’s always nice if your host family is large and has many children around your age to socialize with. It is also okay, and important, for you to make other friends outside of the family too. Meeting as many people during your stay is the best way to learn the language and find out more about the country where you are staying.
9~ Stay Positive. Never talk bad about anyone in your host family, even if you are going through trying times. Remember that they have opened up their home to you, so respect that by being kind in return.
10~ Learn the Language. Don’t be embarrassed about the language difference with your family at first. The best way to learn and better understand the language is by speaking and hearing it. Talk together and know that you will make mistakes – but laugh at them. They will understand that you’re just learning.
11~ Don’t Complain. If your bedroom is smaller than you are used to, or you have to share a bathroom with several other family members – don’t complain. Be happy that you were given this opportunity to spend time in a new place and be grateful at this chance.
12~ Respect the Rules. Always let your host family know where you are going, and respect their house rules and curfew hours. Don’t think that because you are away from your parents, this would be the time to live it up. Treat your host family as you do your parents, and mind the rules that are given – no matter how you feel about them.
13~ Offer to Help. Always offer to help clear the table after a meal or assist with any household chores that you see others doing, like the laundry or cleaning.
14~ Teach Them About Your Home. Bring pictures of your home, family and country with you to show your host family. Talk to them about the differences from where you are from. Chances are they are curious to learn more about your culture too.
15~ Ask to Cook. Ask permission to cook, or help cook a favorite meal or recipe from home. Your host family may appreciate sampling a different type of cuisine for one night. Be sure to make the meal be something that represents a favorite in your home culture.
16~ No Romantic Encounters. Even if you are the same age as some of the siblings in the host family, and find yourself attracted to one, never begin a romantic relationship together. Becoming involved with someone in the home will only lead to conflict. This will make your host parents worried about safe sleeping arrangements, and if the two of you were to break up, it would cause uncomfortable feelings for the remainder of your stay.
17~ Respect the Family’s Things. If you borrow a DVD to watch or an article of clothing from a member of the host family, remember to always return it promptly. Never leave someone’s items lying on the floor, showing lack of respect.
18~ Be Honest. If you break something in the home or misbehave at school and are reprimanded for it, always be honest with your host family. Coming to them and admitting your wrong doing is always the best way to communicate.
19~ Try New Things. Use the opportunity that you have been given, visiting a new country, as a chance to try new things. Take in as many sites as your host family offers, and possibly try new foods and activities. Because your time is limited, see every day as a chance to explore the new culture and try everything that you can.
20~ Write a Note. After returning home, be sure to hand write a letter to your host family, thanking them for their hospitality. These people not only opened their home, but made you a part of the family, and deserve praise and thanks for their dedication and time.
Staying for a long period of time with a new family will always have some trying moments, but with communication and respect, the visit can be a great experience for everyone involved.