A homestay is whereby a host family offers a guest, a private room or space at an affordable cost for a period of time. Most of the guests at homestays are international students, foreign exchange students, and internships relocations, international scholars, landed immigrants, international volunteers, gap year individuals, and cultural tourists. The main purpose of a homestay is to provide a home away from home to the guest. Homestay costs are a fraction of the cost as opposed to hotels and hostels. Homestays are a great way to experience the culture. As a volunteer you will get a new family to live with, in that you will have host parents, host brothers, host siblings and sometimes host nephews and nieces. In the home you will be living in you can choose the amount of work or responsibility that you want to be given in the home. You can do as much or as little as you want. The activities that are normally included are cooking, washing dishes, clothes, and cleaning. In most occasions you will have a private room to yourself, but sometimes you will share the room with another international volunteer. Most international volunteers remember their experience in the homestay other than their visits to tourist sites. To help you with your homestay, here are a couple of tips:
A homestay at first is somebody’s home, although you would be paying for accommodation and food, it is still a home. In the home you will find a family who are willing to give you a room and much more to what you are expecting to pay for. As a token of kindness and to help break the ice, carry a small gift to the family members. Before you leave for the homestay find out how many family members are there and who you will be living with. While you are at home, look for cheap and inexpensive gifts which can only be found in your home country. The gifts could be sweets for the kids, cheap jewelry for the girls and a bottle of alcohol or liquor for the men in the home. Try to find out what is appropriate for them. Giving gifts will make you look like a generous person and they will try and accommodate you longer. We are all glad to be given gifts.
As you will be living in a new home and culture there are things that are bound to be different. The meals that you will be sharing will be totally different from what you are used to. Try to be open and eat their meals without being rude. Although do not change your beliefs, if you are a vegetarian don’t eat meat or if you are Muslim don’t eat pork or anything that infringes on your conscience. Be kind and appreciative to whatever is served on your plate by eating. In some countries and cultures insects are regarded as part of delicacies; and in some cultures all parts of cows and pigs are eaten from the meat to their tongues. There also could be habits which could be new to you like how they take a shower or how they raise kids. Do not judge them by their habits, but try to understand their culture and you will find their ways are different but they also work.
In the mornings, don’t be waking up too late in the morning. Don’t be the first one to wake up or the last one to wake up in the morning. You don’t want to be seen as lazy, by being the last one out of bed. Most of the time you would be having something to do in the morning, and you won’t have to wake up too late. But on the days you have nothing to do or have some obligation in the afternoon do not wake up to late. Wake up in time for breakfast and if possible try to help with making breakfast. Some cultures find it offensive to still be in bed when everyone has woken up.
Be thankful for everything the family decides to give you or do for you. If the host mom wants to wash your clothes do not refuse, just accept and be very grateful. When they bring for you food and any other thing be kind, gracious and make sure to thank them.
When the time for your departure has come, be kind and leave for them a small gift. Get for them a small token of gratitude to appreciate the time you had spent with them. If possible go out for lunch or dinner with them to recount the good times you had with them. Most volunteers leave the homestay and they stop communicating with the host family. They send one email and make one call and they forget the host family from there. Try and keep up to date with the host family whenever you can. This way you would have formed lifelong friendships, and the next time you go to that country you can stay with them.