12 tips for living with a host family

Learning a language abroad is full of adventures. Everything is different and exciting, including your new host family. Suddenly you are sharing everything with people you have never met before. It will take some time to get used to and there might be some bumps along the way, but that always happens when people live together in one house. Read the 12 tips below to get the most out of your time with your temporary host family, some of which you might even find useful when you are with your real family.

  1. Be open and communicate
    Are you allergic to peanuts, dislike fish and are you afraid of every dog? Tell your host family straight away. They should have been briefed on the most important things, but there are some things you cannot repeat often enough, especially when it comes to your health.
  2. Bring a present
    Gifts are always great to receive and, in this case, a great way to break the ice. You do not have to spend a fortune, as even a small souvenir from home will score bonus points.
  3. Eat with the family
    Food brings people together and acts as a kind of glue between different cultures. Try to eat at home with your host family as much as possible and help setting the table or doing the dishes. Meals are an ideal way to get to know people. Conversation at the dinner table is also a great way to learn new words and practice your conversation skills.
  4. Stick to the rules
    Although you have paid for your stay, you are still part of a family that is not yours. Therefore, stick to their schedule and rules. Be on time, for example, if dinner is at 7 o’clock in the evening. If you cannot be present at meals or activities, please let your host family know in time. If you have missed your bus and will be late, please let them know. Even though they are not your parents, they will be worried about you, so just pretend your mother is watching.
  5. Accept the differences
    You will probably have to get used to new dishes, new ways of folding laundry and house rules that are not the same as at home. But remember: ‘different’, ‘new’ and ‘different’ do not necessarily mean ‘wrong’. All over the world things are done in different ways and as long as those ways work, that is a good sign and an important part of the learning experience.
  6. Behave
    To cut a long story short, try to behave in the best possible way and always say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.
  7. Take part in activities
    Of course you can and should spend some of your free time with your new friends from school, but why not spend some quality time with your host family as well? In a foreign country, going to a strange supermarket or your host sister’s football practice can be super interesting.
  8. Learn from everyday conversations
    What is the key to learning a new language? Getting over your fear of making mistakes. Your host family is a great place to practise your speaking skills. Your housemates talk like ‘real people’ so you will hear many words, phrases and expressions that you would not learn in a textbook.
  9. Get to know your host family
    Show interest in where your flatmates work, what they like to eat or do in their free time. Ask questions, be curious and try to learn something from them. This is the best way to get to know another culture and expand your vocabulary.
  10. Remember that it is all temporary
    Chances are, your own mother does a better job of making mince and you would rather not eat rice five times a week. If you don’t like the radio station that is on in the car or the TV programmes that everyone watches, take a deep breath and don’t complain. This is just a temporary host family, a family that has its own way of doing things, even if it involves a very questionable taste in music.
  11. Be honest
    Wherever people live together, there is a chance of disagreement. It’s not fun, but it happens and it usually blows over. If you don’t get on well with your flatmates or something else really bothers you, talk to your host family first. If that is not possible, talk to the organisation that booked the host family.
  12. Keep in touch
    Friendship is not something you can force yourself, but hopefully you and your host family will get on well together and stay in touch even after you have left. You have not been part of each other’s lives for nothing. And anyone who has seen you early in the morning on a bad hairday deserves a birthday card.

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