By: Kellie Bland
Living abroad can be a great learning experience in so many ways. You are able to learn so much about yourself, how others perceive you, and how you perceive others and their culture. Oftentimes living abroad means living with a host family. I have lived with 3 different host families during my time abroad. Each experience was different but I think there are a few universal tips that can help someone who is about to embark on the wonderful adventure that is living with a host family.
1. Give yourself time to feel comfortable.
When I moved in with my host families, I thought to myself “Okay, I’m a nice person. I’m friendly. They’ll love me!” But just as it’s an uncomfortable situation for you to be living with strangers, it’s just as strange for them to have you in their home. Be patient and know that just like any relationship, becoming close with your host family takes time. It will happen eventually; just give it time.
Sidenote: Other times when you’ve tried everything you can, you’ve been patient and nothing has changed, know that there are actually unfit host families. There are just some families who don’t actually want to have a guest in their home and it has nothing to do with you.
2. When invited to do activities, go!
While living with a host family, there is a ton of social time and it can be hard to find a moment to yourself. But when a member of your host family invites you to a meal, to the market or to take a walk around the neighborhood, you should take them up on their offer. They may expect you to taste strange food, do activities that make you a little nervous, and you may not understand a word they’re saying, but the fact that you are willing to go along for the ride is important to your host family.
3. Sharing is caring.
One of the best ways to get comfortable with your host family is to share things about yourself. Bring pictures of family and friends from home, or items that are important to you. Sharing things about yourself can open up the doors for them to become more comfortable with you and build up the trust level. Hopefully, they’ll start sharing more of their lives and culture with you too.
4. Respect your host families’ space, but try to make it your own.
One of the hardest things to deal with as a guest in someone’s home is the fact that you are a guest in someone else’s home. In my experience, being an observer at first to see how things are done in the home can be helpful. That way you can make sure that you aren’t crossing any boundaries. You’ll become more comfortable and figure out what your role is in the house. Along these lines, it’s very important to make sure you have a space in the house that’s just yours. Put up some pictures, put away your clothes, and get comfortable so you have a place to come home to.
5. Play with the kids!
The kids are the gateway into the hearts of your host family. If you “get in” with the kids then you’re good to go! Play games, laugh and act silly with them, and trust me…you’re in.
Of course these aren’t the only things you can do to fit in with your host family, but a few lessons that I’ve learned while living abroad. It can be difficult in the beginning but if you stick it out, you could leave the country with a second family. Happy Travels!