5 ways to make the best of your host family experience
Living abroad is one of the most enriching experiences a person can have. One of the best ways to have an authentic experience is to live with a host family. However, for many people living with a foreign family is unchartered territory that can be difficult to adjust to. Here are 5 ways to ensure sure you have a great host family experience:
Make a good first impression
When you arrive at your host family, you always want to make sure you start off on the right foot. One easy way to do this is to find out the local way of greeting another person. Is it handshake? A bow? Two cheek kisses? Three cheek kisses? Whatever it is, do your best to impress your host family with how in-tune you are with the local customs.
Another way to start things off right is to bring your host family a small gift. It for sure doesn’t have to be anything extravagant or expensive. Most host families would love just a local memento from your country. Something as simple as a refrigerator magnet from your town can really make your host family know that you are excited to be living in their home!
Don’t let distance get you down
So you find out that your host family is 40+ minutes away from where your program is based. End of the world, right? NOT AT ALL! The reality is in most major cities a typical commute is over an hour. If you’re living in a foreign city, it’s important to truly immerse yourself and have the authentic experience of getting around in that city. It’s all about truly finding out what life is actually like there.
If some days the commute really feels long, break it up by stopping halfway to explore a new neighborhood that is in-between where you live and where your program is based. These less traveled areas free from tourists tend to be the most authentic sections of the city. Take an hour to explore then go on your way back to your host home.
Embrace the differences
Let’s be honest, if you think the way your host family runs is going to be exactly how your home runs, you haven’t really thought out this whole study abroad thing. Things are going to be pretty different and that’s the best part! People in other parts of the world have different schedules, ways of relating, communicating, organizing and more. EMBRACE IT. You don’t necessarily have to like it but it’s important to respect it and make the most of it while you’re abroad. This is how you truly learn and grow from cultures that are different to your own.
Break your diet
We all have our favorite foods. We all have things we “don’t eat”. When you’re abroad, it’s time to put that all to the wayside. When you’re in a host family in another country you’re going to have the opportunity to eat local cuisine that you couldn’t even imagine. Just try it! You’ll probably surprise yourself with the foods that you would never eat back home that are suddenly your new favorite dish. You’ll never know until you try!
It’s also important to remember the concepts of each meal is different in every country. In some countries breakfast is just a coffee and a biscuit. In some countries breakfast is the most important meal of the day. In others, that honor goes to lunch…or dinner! It’s not bad, just different. Put in a little effort to adapt and you’ll be feeling more local than ever.
Communication is Key
So we’ve just talked about embracing new customs, communication styles, diets, etc. You’re trying your best but it’s a still struggle. That’s ok! Talk to your host family about it! Just as excited as they are about sharing their culture with you, they’re equally excited about hearing about yours. That doesn’t mean that you’re free to impose your lifestyle on them, but it’s super helpful for host families to know what you’re used to so they can make adjustments where they can.
It’s also important to remember to know that ultimately you’re still guest in their home. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a life outside of their home, but keep them in the loop of what’re you up to. If you’re not going to be home for dinner or coming back a little later in the evening, just give them a heads up so they know what’s going on in their own home.
Photo by Sharina Mae Agellon.