Earn Tax Free Income And Enrich Your Family Life By Being A Host Family

Written by admin on May 8th, 2011

When I was 14 years old, I left Bolton to travel alone for the first time to live with a French family in Le Mans, Bolton’s twin town, for 2 weeks over the Easter holidays. After an 8 hour journey our coach full of assorted Bolton secondary school kids arrived, slightly dishevelled but chattering with excitement, at the Town Hall in Le Mans. I just about managed to say “Bonjour! Je suis Peter” as I was pushed in the direction of a bemused looking French family who then confused me by shaking my hand one by one. The dad held up a small toddler, pushing him towards me. My mind raced as I evaluated the most appropriate response, finally opting to shake his hand, too, and repeated my French language mantra. During the car journey back to their town centre apartment I managed to make an unintelligent stab at their rapidly delivered questions, falling back on randomly selected “Oui”s and “Non”s in response. God knows what impression I’d already created by the time we got out of the big Citroen car a demie heure plus tard! With a low hiss, the car settled back down on its suspension as we all walked to the lift. As I sat on my bed in my new bedroom in Le Mans I contemplated what challenges lay ahead. My head already hurt as I desperately tried to recall everything my French teacher had tried to teach me. I was thirsty and so pondered :

“J’ai soif” or is it “Je suis soif”?

After 20 minutes I braced myself and thought of England and bravely strode into the lounge to try my luck. I was too thirsty to let grammatical inaccuracy keep me from essential rehydration a moment longer. And so began my first experience of being a guest in a foreign person’s home, being totally reliant for my social survival on my ability to speak a foreign language. Adrenalin, my inherent inability to remain quiet for long and various bodily needs and functions all conspired to make me embark on what linguists would describe as an “explosion of language learning”. I made friends for life and was propelled from bottom of the class in French to the top set for my year, going on to get an A grade in my O Level! Later on in life I would repeat the experience on a three month long EU working exchange to Trento in northern Italy.

Hosting foreign students whilst they are in the UK can be such a rewarding experience for all the family, and so I wanted to share the benefits with you so that you might consider becoming involved as family yourselves. Should the idea of welcoming a foreign student in to your home appeal to you and your family, a good starting point is to contact your nearest British Council accredited English language school in your area and arrange to speak to the Home Stay Co-ordinator. They should be able to visit you in your home to explain how the scheme works and even put you in contact with some of their most experienced hosts so you can talk it through with them, too. However, in the meantime please see our top 5 tips for stress free hosting below:

1. Give ’em some space!

Don’t let your curiosity and willingness to appear friendly and welcoming frighten your visitor to death! As a foreign visitor to someone’s home you do have a duty to fit in with your host family’s routine. However, you can very quickly feel like a circus animal if paraded around the neighbourhood immediately after arrival. Of course Auntie Madge and Jack at number 11 are dying to see what a Japanese man looks like in the flesh, but spare a thought for the poor chap who’s just got off an overnight west east over nighter!

2. Set out your stall early on

Of course it’s strange at first having a foreign guest living in your house, but agreeing a few simple rules from the moment you welcome your guest inside, will stand you in good stead. A good place to start is the bathroom! Think through how you and the family normally get up and get ready to leave the house on a working day. Talk this through with every member of the household in advance? Then you can your guest hogging the bathroom at peak times. It’s probably also worth asking your guest not to use your phone to call home. Most international students will be sensitive to this and will come ready prepared with an international phone card allowing them to make calls home without you incurring any extra cost.

3. Don’t take it personally

Spending time with a foreign visitor is a fascinating and enriching experience, mainly as you get to see and evaluate our own British way of life through the eyes of a foreigner. Why do we have just two choices of tap: one producing scalding hot water, the other ice cold? Most foreigners will be used to having a mixer tap rather than using the plug in the sink. It might come as a shock to students from some countries that we switch off our central heating during the night. Another one is pets. The British are unique in Europe when it comes to keeping animals in the house. Don’t be offended when your guest points out these things, it’s natural to find some differences bemusing, even annoying, especially if you are already fatigued from struggling to learn English all day long.

4. Celebrate cultural differences, they make language learning a laugh

If it were just as simple as learning a new language, life would be so easy. However, inextricably linked to language learning is culture. But how dull would life be without these differences? Did you know that a Japanese female will be too ashamed to hand over her smalls for the laundry each week? So save her the hassle and give her a pillow case to put them all in then you can assure her that you will wash them all in this and return them to her in it afterwards!

5. Don’t forget, you’ve always got back up – you’re not on your own

It’s so important to remember that the Host Family co-ordinator from your local language school is there to help you. Never hesitate to pick up the phone if there is anything that gives you concern or is starting to make you feel uncomfortable. These things can be quickly and easily resolved by an experienced practitioner. It’s also a good idea to work with an English language school happy to place short stay students with you (just 1 or 2 weeks) whilst you and the family get used to the idea. Also, a good school will be happy for you to host as and when it suits you, allowing you to have time at home without guests before you host again.

In summary, hosting foreign language students is a fun, rewarding and enriching experience for the whole family. Most hosts form genuine lasting friendships with their short stay guests, getting invited to their country on holiday and to important family events giving you and the family a unique behind the scenes glimpse at another cultural in an interesting part of the world. Finally, it’s also worth keeping in mind that schools pay their hosts on average £100.00 / student / week and up to £150.00 / week should you be able to offer a room plus a private bathroom!

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