A home stay is an unusual environment to live in. As a resident of the house you are able to witness the daily routines and habits of the family, while at the same time you are distanced from them because you are not a family member. The first step towards improving relations with the family is to realize that in the beginning you will be treated as a guest and it is up to you to change how your host family views and interacts with you. You should begin by accepting that they are treating you as a guest and slowly work your way into a closer relationship with them. You may offer to help in doing chores, take an interest in the daily activities of the family, offer to help the children in doing homework or spend time playing with them so that the mother/father can do household chores without being disturbed, help cook a meal for the family or simply make sure to always be on time regarding your curfew and other social obligations. It is important to make this transition slowly rather than forcing your host family to adapt to how you want things to be done as that will only cause further strain on your relationship.
Also, regardless of how you decide to better adapt to your host family, you should be aware that they will have vastly different expectations of you than you may think. Your host family belongs to a different culture than you do and you both have very different ideas about daily activities and social relationships. Often your host family will assume one thing while you assume another and neither of you will be aware that the other person(s) has different assumptions. This could lead to you doing something that you thought they had no problem with while they assumed you would understand that they didn’t want you to do it. As a guest, you should begin your home stay by observing how the family acts among each other and how they act with you. Do they treat you differently? Do they offer you better food, entertainment, etc? Do they not ask that you clean up after yourself? Once you have established this, you can begin to slowly enter into a deeper relationship with the host family, by doing the above mentioned things or others that you have observed are typical of the family members.
Even though the host family may have accepted you as an honorary member, it is important to remember that there will most likely continue to be misunderstandings because of cultural assumptions. These are inevitable and once resolved may even bring you into a closer relationship with your host family. Lastly, if a home stay situation shows warning signs of being unhealthy, unsafe, or extremely unpleasant; it is best to quickly resolve the matter and move out of the home stay rather than simply “bearing with it”. A home stay should never make you feel uncomfortable or unsafe because of the family members. If the matter is something that you feel can be resolved, speak about it with the family or if you are uncomfortable speaking directly to them, ask a program coordinator to discuss the matter.