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Becoming the Perfect Homestay Guest

Posted: 21st October 2015 08:22

On your volunteering journeys you may have the opportunity to live with a host family. Host families, which can also be described as homestays, are designed to give volunteers a greater understanding of local culture, history and traditions. By living within the home of a local family you get a valuable insight into the everyday life, and challenges, of people in your adopted community. Through simple activities such as eating together, sharing pastimes and communal gatherings, you will be welcomed into a new family and enrich your volunteering programme. To make the most of your experience and forge strong relations, try these handy tips.

Don’t Push it!

Generally, your new family will have a certain number of rules that they will expect you to adhere too. Such rules will commonly involve what time you should return to the home on an evening, shower rota or noise levels. Do not push your new hosts and flaunt these expectations as you will only cause problems for yourself. If in doubt regarding correct etiquette, just ask, it will also demonstrate your respect. But, if you think you may accidently break a rule, like returning home late, let them know in advance and your reasons.

Do not Embarrass Their Culture

During your journeys you will encounter surprising and sometimes hair-raising cultural traditions that will be strikingly different to your own. Whether within your adopted household or out and about, do not insult your host’s culture. This may seem obvious however, some customs may catch you off guard. If you are presented with fried Guinea Pig in Peru for example, you may find yourself spurting out an insulting remark. If you describe a practice in your new country as ‘wrong’ or ‘disgusting’ you will lose favour. When presented with something challenging, take a deep breath and think before you speak; you do not have to partake, but be tactful.

Respect their Lifestyle Choices

It is not uncommon to be placed with a family that have a different lifestyle to your own. Aside from cultural differences, there may be factors such as religion, gender differences or political views. If your family’s lifestyle is particularly different to your own, you may feel out of your comfort zone. For instance, you may struggle adjusting to church services or disagree with their political views. To avoid offending your hosts, you need to see every opportunity as a chance to learn and grow; this will quickly put these elements into perspective. 

Learn Some Basic Phrases

Depending upon your voluntary programme, you may not need to understand your host’s native language to partake. However, it is common courtesy to master a few basic phrases; especially the words for ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. This will prove to your adopted family that you are willing to go the extra mile just for them; you will quickly gain brownie points. The longer you live with your family, your language skills will naturally advance and you will be able to converse more confidently. But, having a basic foundation will mean you can dive into local life straight away.      

Say Yes to Every Opportunity

‘Do you want to come to the market?’ ‘Would you like to help me cook?’ When you are living with hosts you will be expected to become part of the family and contribute. As a result, you will have plenty of opportunities to partake in new experiences. To get the most out of your journey and truly learn about the nation’s culture and everyday life, say yes to everything! Even after a long day teaching or building, if your host family invites you to an activity, freshen up and give it a go; you may only get one chance. 

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