Living with a host family is can be one of the most enriching pieces of the cultural experience of being a Lattitude volunteer. It’s a really fantastic way to integrate into another community and have the comforts you might be missing from home (nothing is better than a home-cooked meal after a long day of volunteering!). Despite this, host family life is something that a lot of prospective volunteers find daunting. So, we’ve compiled our top tips to help you settle in and feel at home with your host family.
1. Contact your host family before you arrive to introduce yourself. It’s always a great way to ensure the ice is already broken before you get there. It’s also a good chance to get more of an idea of what to expect: whether you’ll have any brothers or sisters or if they have any pets.
2. Bring your host family a gift from home. A gift isn’t expected, but something modest is a kind gesture that can go a long way. Traditional biscuits/chocolates are always popular and show you’re grateful for being welcomed into their house. Your host family will also be eager to learn about your family and the community where you are from. Bring postcards of your hometown and photos of your own family and share in some conversation so they can get to know you.
3. Bring homely items with you. Photos or posters are great as they can easily fit in your suitcase, and will really help your new bedroom to feel more like home. Make sure you ask your host parents before you begin to redecorate the entire room though!
4. Offer to help cook dinner. Your host family will love teaching you more about the food in their culture and how to prepare it. You could also take over the kitchen one evening to cook them something typically eaten in your own culture.
5. Never be afraid to say you don’t like a meal! It’s always good to give everything a try, but if you really don’t like something, don’t pretend you do or you’ll be getting it every week!
6. Offer to help out with household chores! Not only is it polite, but it’s also a good way to bond with your family members whilst you’re at it.
7. Don’t spend every weekend going away with your fellow volunteers. Be sure to spend some quality time with your host family too. It’s likely that they’ll want to take you to see all the sights and to meet their extended family throughout the country. It’s a really great way of learning more about them, their culture, and feeling like a member of the community rather an a tourist.
8. Most of all… make the most of this opportunity! Your host family will become your second family, and you’ll be treated as one of their own. They will be one of the biggest and most memorable parts of your experience overseas – so make the most of the experience.