American families come in all shapes and sizes. Most families live in a house, but some live in an apartment. Most families are middle-class or “average,” so you will stay in an ordinary home and learn about everyday life in America. Your private room will have a bed, a desk, and a place to store your clothes. You will share the bathroom with other family members. Students may share the family’s washing machine, dryer, and cooking appliances, but students will buy their own personal items, such as shampoo, soap, toothpaste, and laundry detergent.
Average American families do not have maids, and most women work outside the home. You must clean your own room and wash your own clothes and bedding. You are also expected to help clean the shared areas such as the bathroom, kitchen, dining room and living room.
Food is provided by the host family. Usually, family members help themselves to breakfast, and pack sandwiches or leftovers for lunch to take to work or school. Most evenings, the family eats together. You will have some social activities, so you will sometimes eat lunch or dinner out with friends. If you will not eat dinner with the family, you must inform the family of your plans. You can always help yourself to snacks, like fruit, crackers, or nuts. Ask your family what’s normal in their house and what you can eat.
If you want special food from your country, your homestay family will tell you where to go shopping, but they are not responsible for buying expensive imported foods. If you enjoy cooking, you are welcome to use the kitchen as long as you clean up afterwards. Your families are curious about your culture and food, so feel free to introduce a new dish and invite your family to cook together with you. Occasionally your family may ask you to join them for dinner at a restaurant.
Americans are usually very informal people. Your host family wants you to act like a member of their family. If they say “Help yourself to something to eat,” they really mean you may eat anything in the refrigerator when you are hungry.
Your family wants to learn about your country, culture, and your family. They also want to share new and interesting experiences with you. They enjoy helping you learn English and understand American culture. It’s important that you greet and talk to your family members. If something confuses you, or you have a problem with the family, talk to them immediately! It might be just a misunderstanding or something that the family is not aware of. They appreciate honesty. If you don’t talk to your family, they will think you are unhappy and dislike them.
American customs may be very different from yours. For example, your host parents may hug and kiss in public, or they may argue in front of you. These things are part of the homestay experience.
You are expected to stay with your homestay family for at least two months (one session), and pay on time. If you plan to move out, you must tell your family one month in advance.
You should respect the house rules and schedules. In general, people don’t use the home phone after 9:30pm unless there is an emergency. You should use common sense to conserve water and electricity, and be quiet while other family members are resting. You should always let your host know where you are if you will be coming home late, or if you are away overnight, so that they don’t worry about you!
It’s possible that your family has some special rules. These rules shouldn’t be too strong or unfair. If you think your family’s rules are unfair, talk to them. If you have any concerns and complaints that you cannot solve by talking with your family, talk to WESLI’s Housing Coordinator right away.