Update: Unfortunately, some travelers have been defrauded during their homestay experience. RoamRight travel insurance plans do NOT cover such events. We encourage travelers to be fully informed about the reservations they make and to use reputable resources to research their options. RoamRight plans do cover trip cancellation and interruption for covered reasons such as accident, illness or death of you or a family member, as well as medical and evacuation protection during your trip.
When traveling, opting for a homestay instead of staying in a hotel or hostel can be a great way to immerse yourself in local culture. That being said, there are a few dos and don’t to take note of in order to have a successful homestay experience. To help you make the most of your homestay, here are some suggestions.
No matter where you’re staying you should research the local culture before you arrive; however, this becomes especially important when doing a homestay as you’ll be living under the same roof as locals. Since your goal should be to act as a gracious houseguest, you’ll want to be sure not to offend anyone by doing something culturally offensive. Don’t assume that just because an action isn’t offensive in your own culture it isn’t in another. For example, did you know that in Thailand it’s insulting to touch a person’s head or show the soles of your feet? Or that in many Middle Eastern cultures it’s disrespectful to hand someone something – especially food – with your left hand, which is supposed to be used for the toilet only? Know these etiquette rules before you go.
Your host family is opening their home to you as a guest, providing you meals and giving you a place to sleep. It’s a nice gesture to return the favor by bringing a gift, typically something that represents your home country. Some gift ideas include local foods or candies, a book of pictures of where you come from, ceramics, a local handicraft or artisanal item, or a selection of music (make sure the host family has a music player).
As you’re staying at someone’s home and not a hotel you should offer to pitch in with the chores. Help your host family cook and clean, or offer to take care of any younger siblings or pick up cooking ingredients from the local market. Not only will your host be appreciative, but you’ll get to experience firsthand what it’s like to live the everyday life of a local.
Not only are you excited to learn about your host family’s culture, but they’re excited to learn about where you come from, as well. Bring photos of family and friends as well as images that illustrate your everyday life. You may want to also bring some special trinkets or products with you, a favorite candy from home or a friendship bracelet made by your best pal to further give your host insight into your life back home.
Think of your homestay as a once in a lifetime experience and try to get as much out of it as you can. Spend time with your host family cooking, visiting friends, attending church services, going to the park or any other regular activities they take part in to better understand the local culture. Don’t be afraid to ask questions (as long as they’re appropriate), and be prepared to answer queries in return. Become the type of person who says, “yes” to every opportunity presented; even if it’s not something you would normally enjoy doing. Many times certain activities – for example, going to a religious service or wedding – are much different in another country than they are at home.
Please tell us about your homestay experience? Do you have any additional tips?
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Jessica Festa is a full-time travel writer who is always up for an adventure. She enjoys getting lost in new cities and having experiences you don’t read about in guidebooks. Some of her favorite travel experiences have been teaching English in Thailand, trekking her way through South America, backpacking Europe solo, road tripping through Australia and doing orphanage work in Ghana. You can follow her adventures on her travel websites, Epicure & Culture and Jessie On A Journey. You can also connect with Jessica directly on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus, or follow her epicurean adventures on Facebook and Twitter.
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