Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

One of our listeners is about to participate in a home stay situation with an American family in the United States.

In this episode we’ll show you five things this listener should keep in mind during this experience.

Here is the listener’s question:

“Hi Lindsay at All Ears English, I am Kongkeo Sivilay from Laos. I often listen to your podcast because I find it very useful and I can improve my English a lot. I like both you. You have amazing voice and full of energy and present the samples in an easy way. Next month I will be joining a youth exchange program (YSEALI) in the U.S. with the program I am expected to be with U.S families for quite sometimes. Therefore could you give me some tips how I can stay with the local families in the happiest way.”

“What am I expected to do while I am with them? And one more thing I would like to give them some gifts as souvenir. Should I give to the parents or their children. Thanks”



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Tip #1: Bring a gift- I used to bring VT maple syrup because it’s a famous food in my area.  At the very least give one gift to the family but you could also bring one for the parents and one for the children if you want. You could also give a book of landscape photos from your country.


Tip #2: Ask about house rules:

  1. “Is there a time that you’d like me to be back in the house?” (curfew)
  2. “Should I take my shoes off when I come inside?”
  3. “What chores can I help out with?”


Tip #3: Expect cultural differences and articulate them when they come up.

  1. Let’s say you’re at the table and you do something that is considered impolite in American culture. Maybe the kids laugh at you. For example, you eat something with your hands that is supposed to be eaten with a fork. Don’t get upset or curl up. Just apologize and talk about how it’s different in your culture. It could start an interesting conversation. You could use these phrases:

    1. “In my culture we eat this dish with our hands.”
    2. “Where I come from it’s considered polite to have your elbows on the table.”


Tip #4: Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. Do it politely. 3 ways to make a request:

  1. “Would it be okay if I used the phone?”
  2. “Would you mind if I borrowed the car?”
  3. “Would it be possible for me to use the house phone?”


Tip #5: Expect to be confused a lot of the time with the language. The native English in someone’s home won’t sound the way your textbooks have shown you. If you’re confused, let them know. Check out other articles that we have done on how to ask someone to repeat, how to ask someone to slow down.


Final advice:

  • It will be intense. Living with people is different from working with them or going to class with them.
  • It’s temporary. When I lived abroad I would always try to keep that in mind. It will be uncomfortable but it won’t last forever.
  • You’ll probably have a “honeymoon” period and you should expect that. You might be really happy at first and then you might experience a crash in your mood.
  • Neither culture is better. They are just different.


Have you ever participated in a home stay in the United States?

Let us know your advice if you have some extra to add. Tell us in the comments section below.

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