4 November 2014
With some teaching jobs, particularly voluntary positions, you will have the opportunity to live with a host family. This isn’t for everyone, but it can provide you with a unique way of really getting to know the culture and also enhance your language skills.
Learn more about the culture
One of the best things about living with a host family while you teach is that it immerses you completely in the local culture. You will be able to see how a local family live their life (as well as taking part in it), and also have the chance to ask them about anything you don’t understand. It provides you with a safe space to make any cultural mistakes (which are bound to happen at some point when you are living abroad – things which are considered polite in one country can equally be considered impolite in the next), with people who understand where you have come from and can explain them to you. As you get to know them better, you will also be able to ask questions about things which people are often more reserved about, such as politics.
Living in a host home is also a great way to get to know local people and make friends within the community. You will invariably be invited for dinner/drinks with friends of the family or to parties going on within the community and so will find it much easier to make friends.
Learn the language
If improving your language skills is important to you while you are away, this is also an effective way of doing that. Often not all members of the family will speak English, particularly if there are children, so it can be a great time to get some practice in. You could also agree to set up a language exchange with the one or more members of the family – you teach them English and the will teach you the local language in return.
Enjoy the local food
Last but not least, one of my personal favourite things about living in a host family – the food! Most home arrangements will include at least one meal with the family, usually the main meal of the day in the country you are in. This is a wonderful way to experience the local food in a traditional home-cooked way. Depending on the country you’re in it can be basic but is often delicious, and will make you try things you wouldn’t necessarily pick on a restaurant menu. Furthermore, cooking for yourself can be more challenging than you expect in a foreign country: Even if you are a good cook at home, the difference in available ingredients can make things difficult. If you’re interested your host family will more than likely be happy to teach you how to cook some local dishes.
If you are taking a teaching position with which you have the opportunity to stay in a host home, it is something to seriously consider. While it does of course have some challenges to go along with these benefits, such as the lack of personal space, it will ultimately provide you with a deeper experience of life in the country you are living in and you will form closer bonds with your community.