Are you lucky enough to be spending this Christmas as a family guest?
International students and visitors often worry about staying with a host family over the Christmas season. They worry about possible expenses. They suspect that they may be considered an imposition to the family.
Here are 10 tips, almost all of them free of cost, which will make you an absolute hit with your host family over Christmas:
1. Help to decorate the Christmas tree. This is a fun task, but it is something that is much more easily done by two people than by someone working alone. Volunteer your help.
2. Prepare gifts for your host family. These should be individual gifts rather than one general gift. Instead of giving e.g. a large box of chocolates to the family, it is better to prepare a small gift for each family member. The gifts need not be expensive. They should be nicely wrapped. Attach a small sticker to each gift saying who it is for and including your name, so that they know that it is from you.
3. Offer to help with the shopping. By this, I don’t mean the Christmas shopping when everyone is out and about buying surprise gifts for other members of the family. Do, however, make yourself available to help with the Christmas grocery shopping. For most families, this can be an exhausting excursion. Not only do your host parents have to make sure they have everything for a big Christmas family dinner, but also, because in many countries shops are closed for Christmas Day, they have to make sure they have enough general supplies so that the family does not run out of any essentials before the shops re-open. There will probably be twice as many bags of groceries as the family buys on a regular shopping excursion. So if you go along and help to carry things from the store to the car, and from the car to the kitchen, your help will be highly appreciated.
4. Make friends with the vacuum cleaner. I know you probably vacuum clean your own room a couple of times a week. In the festive season, when there is a lot happening, and many visitors coming and going from the house, it is often a time when your host mother will be particularly busy and tired. In the rest times between visitors, if you can quietly bring out the vacuum cleaner and zoom it around the public areas of the house, this will be a huge contribution to the household.
5. Go to church with the family for the special Christmas service. Your host family will not try to convert you to their religion but they will be delighted if you come along. They will be proud and happy to introduce you to all their friends at church.
6. Introduce a custom from your own country. There may be a special dish your own family always enjoys. Or a story or a custom that you follow. Share this with your host family. They will be fascinated to add something new to their Christmas routine.
7. Learn a Christmas carol (song) in English. There are thousands to choose from. You may like to choose a song that you already know in your own language. Then download the English lyrics from the internet and memorize them. Famous traditional carols such as “Silent Night” are perfect for this. You never know when you might be called on to present something, or sing a song, and it is a great idea to have something prepared in advance. If you can sing a verse of the song in your own language, then follow it with a verse in English, you will probably find that your host family will join in the English verse and your little item will be a huge success.
8. Volunteer to cook a meal for the family. You will not be expected to plan or prepare a major family meal such as Christmas dinner. But if you can prepare a simple meal the next day when people are tired and relaxed, that can be a welcome gesture to the family.
9. Give the family some space. You will be a welcome addition to the Christmas season – particularly if you have contributed in some of the ways listed above. But the family will also appreciate a little “family-alone time”. So, if possible, do make plans during some of the Christmas season to go out and do something with your friends, or to do a couple of hours of your own Christmas shopping.
10. Fuss over the old ladies. At every Christmas family gathering, there are bound to be at least one or two elderly ladies (or gentlemen). Instead of sticking with the family members of your own age group, how about making a special effort to make sure the older family members have a great time? Make them a cup of tea. Help them find a comfortable chair. Bring them something special from the Christmas table. But, above all, talk to them and encourage them to tell you their stories of Christmases gone by.
These are 10 simple ways to add enormous value to the Christmas experience for yourself and your host family. Try at least some of them and see what happens! I would love to hear from you to hear about how things worked out.
B. Takase has been arranging homestay host families for international students and visitors for more than 20 years. She believes that homestay is the best possible way for people to learn English and at the same time make new friends. Barbara’s greatest satisfaction is finding the perfect family to match the student’s personality. For more practical tips on how to gain 100% benefit from your homestay experience, visit [http://www.homestaychat.com].