8 Tips for a Successful Host Family Experience
Born and raised in Morocco speaking Arabic and French, Fatima moved to Canada for university, where she perfected her English and immersed herself in the Canadian culture. She’s now traveling the world as a digital nomad while sharing her passion for travel and language learning through writing and photography.
There is no better way to quickly learn a new language than by being fully immersed in it, and staying with a host family will definitely help!
Our host families are very friendly and have a lot of experience in welcoming students from all over the world. They know you are learning the language and are there to support you and make you feel comfortable in this new environment. Nevertheless, we want to provide you with 8 tips that will make your host family experience even more successful!
Be clear about your preferences
Typically, the organization setting up your Homestay will ask you for more information. At Tico Lingo, it’s a simple online form, but at other institutions, it could be a phone call or an in-person meeting. It’s key to be honest with them to ensure a great experience. Do you have any food restrictions (ex: vegetarian)? Any allergies? Do you like pets? How about living with kids? Are you a morning person or a night owl? Being clear and transparent about your preferences will be key to ensure you’ll have a great homestay experience.
Bring a gift
This is absolutely not a requirement and your host family will not expect a gift from you. However, who doesn’t like gifts? It’s the best way to break the ice when you arrive at their house. A little bouquet of flowers, or even better: a small souvenir from your home country will be very much appreciated and will also have the added benefit of introducing them to your own culture. Cultural exchange power two!
Communication is key
Learn a few Spanish words before arriving at your homestay. Knowing how to say hi, how are you and thank you will take you a long way! If after you arrive there are some foods that you don’t like, or any situation that you are uncomfortable with, It’s always good to speak with staff who can help you better communicate with homestays if necessary.
Show interest towards them and their culture
One thing we all have in common is that we love talking about ourselves and take pride in our respective cultures. Ask your host family questions about their home country, their customs, the food they eat for special holidays, etc. (and of course, don’t forget to listen to their answers with attention!) You will be surprised at how many similarities both your cultures have in common and you might find some of the differences interesting. Also, if you want to go on weekend getaways, don’t hesitate to ask them what their favorite spots are and if they have any tips for you.
Attend the family meals
What’s better than trying new food? Meals are a great way to not only practice your new language but try all sorts of new foods, see and learn how they’re made, and see what the local dinner table traditions are. Try to attend the family meals as much as you can. If you are staying out late or have plans with other students, make sure your host family knows so that they don’t wait up for you. Family meals are important to build a relationship with your Tica family.
Respecting their personal space is also important
It’s a fine line! Your host family will be happy to spend time with but you should also learn to respect their personal space. If they receive other family members or friends for an afternoon tea for example, don’t invite yourself unless they do. If you feel like all they want to do is relax in front of the TV, don’t ask them questions while they are watching their favorite show. Safe awareness is key :)!
Help them keep the house clean
This isn’t a hotel stay and your host family isn’t working for you. They won’t probably ask you to clean after yourself but you should be courteous and take care of their house as well as you would your own. Help take the dishes to the sink after you are done eating, make sure not to leave the bathroom floor wet after you take the shower (speaking of the shower: don’t use all the hot water and block the bathroom from 7-8am every morning!). Show respect to their home and they will show it back to you ten-fold 🙂
Remember that it’s all temporary!
You might not like all the meals they cook for you. You might miss the comfort of your own bed and the warmth of your own blanket. But remember: this is all temporary! And this is an experience you’ll never forget! Try to take advantage of the opportunity to practice your new language and make a life long friend who was born and raised in a very different world than you were. You will be back home quicker than you might expect and you will be glad you got to experience living with a local family. Also, once you go back home, think of sending them a little whatsapp text (why not a postcard?) to let them know you arrived well and thank them again for welcoming you to their home!