Top 10 Heavenly Homestay Tips

Staying with a Chinese homestay family can be both an exciting and nerve wracking prospect, but have no fear! Here are 10 homestay tips to help you get to grips with what to expect and what to look forward to!

1. Make first contact

A good first impression is always key when meeting new people, but don’t be worried as your host family will be excited to have you staying with them! If you’re nervous about meeting your host family for the first time a great tip is to contact them on WeChat (a Chinese social media app) first, that way you can get to know them and ask questions before you arrive!

An intern stood with his homestay family in Qingdao

An intern stood with his homestay family

2. 入乡随俗 ‘When in Rome!’

Chinese language has the saying ‘Rùxiāngsuísú’ which conceptually translates to the British saying ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do.’ It is important to understand you are in a different country and one that has a cultural background most likely quite different to your own! There may be things you have not seen or experienced before and my top tip would be to embrace and involve yourself in as many new experiences as possible!

China has lots of strange foods you’ve never tried before and some things you never thought you would try, but your host family will be enthused if you eat or at least try all the food they prepare for you – even, or especially, the strange ones!

But don’t be scared that you’ll be forced to eat something you don’t want. InternChina will have already let your host family know if you have specific dietary requirements and they will be understanding!

3. Find out how your host family runs

Ask your host family about their daily routine; what time do they wake up and go to sleep, what are the meal times etc. It is common for these to be at fixed times each day, so it’s good to ask so you know what to expect! Similarly, your homestay family may want you to be home at set times too, so make sure to ask permission and let them know if you plan to be out with your friends late!

4. Be polite and respectful

The Chinese concept of “face” (mianzi) is a complex one. Face represents a person’s reputation and prestige in both their work life and family life as well as in society in general. As a guest try your best to be polite and respectful of your host family’s way of life. You should offer to wash up after meals, help out if asked and remember to be thankful of what they provide for you. Also be aware that you may need to wash your own clothing and to dress decently around the house!

An intern having a meal with her host family

An intern having a meal with her host family

5. Communication is key!

Communicating with your family will make your home stay experience much better, as problems often arise from lack of communication! Your homestay family wants you to have a good time, so don’t be scared to communicate.

Here’s some advice from an intern about communication:

“Be honest about what you want or think, just be polite and have a smile while doing it.

Don’t like the food? Say it. (In the first week, my homestay auntie cooked 3 times a day. I told her I can’t possibly eat 3 warm meals a day and she quickly agreed to warm food for breakfast and dinner)!

Need time for yourself? Say it.

Not sure if what you’re doing is correct or strange? Ask for it.” –  Philipp an Intern in Zhuhai

6. Family is everything – Prioritise family plans!

Taking part in the family activities gets you integrated really fast and will also help you engage with Chinese culture. They may take you out for meals with them or out to visit sights. Prioritize these plans, as there’s a whole world of exciting things to go out and do whilst you are in China! On top of this your homestay family will really appreciate spending times with you, as they have invited you to their home for this exact reason!

7. A great chance to practice your Chinese

Living with a Chinese host family is a fantastic opportunity to not only experience Chinese family life, but also to practice your Mandarin skills! Your host family will be more than happy to help you practice and con’t be afraid of making mistakes! Just have a dictionary app on your phone and get ready to test out your skills! Another great tip is Voice-to-Text or Voice-to-Voice translation apps, which can help a lot if you are struggling to communicate with your host family.

“We had a lot of good laughs because of me saying some funny things. Never have I been blamed for speaking nonsense in Chinese!” – Philipp

8. Mistakes happen!

No-one is perfect and you are not expected to be either! Don’t worry if you mess up or say something strange in Chinese by mistake, your host family will understand and cultural differences can lead to mistakes anyway! The best thing to do is to take it with a smile and ask for help!

intern and her homestay family at the beach!

Homestay family at the beach!

9. Having a hard time? Ask your family for help!

Your homestay family is there to help! If you’re having difficulties finding something or understanding something your host family can be a big help.

“My homestay family seems really invested in my wellbeing. If you need help finding a specific location like a special shop, visiting a bank or other daily tasks just ask the family. They will probably guide you and help you getting your point across to the locals.” – Philipp

Sometimes you may get homesick especially since you’re on the other side of the world! This is not something to worry about as it happens to a lot of people and your host family can help you to adjust. You can ask them where you can get some home comforts and they may even be able to help you cook some at home!

10. Say thank you!

If you’ve had a great homestay experience it is really nice to let your host family know. It is considered polite to get them a small gift or take them out for a meal at the end of your time in China. Giving a gift from your home country will go down really well. For instance if you are from the UK  tea or biscuits will be super effective!

Do you want to take part in your own homestay experience? Apply now!