How to Engage with Your Host Family: Tips from our Alumni


Living with a host family can be one of the scariest parts of going abroad. You don’t know how you will fit in with your host family or how well you will communicate. To help ease your mind about how to engage with your host family while traveling abroad, we posed the following question to our homestay Facebook groups:

“How did you engage with your host family before and after your trip, and is there anything you wish you had known before leaving?”

The answers were shared with us by Greenheart Travel alumni & staff and these are our top tips for engaging with your host family.

1. “Don’t worry about messing up, linguistically speaking — know that you will mess up, that people will make fun of you, but then, it will be over, and you’ll be able to move on and keep talking and practicing. Talk all the time. Your family will be more comfortable if you show them that you understand their language and are making an effort to connect, and the best way to show them that is by talking.” – Erin

2. “I would say that if you are a picky eater, leave it in your home country. I do the best I can to eat all of the food that is given to me. It’s part of the experience. Also, try to abide by their house rules and help out with anything you can.” – Anthony

3. “Laugh and smile. A lot. You won’t always understand the punch line of a joke or follow every aspect of a conversation. But by laughing and smiling along the way, you’ll put yourself and your host family at ease.” – Megan


4. “I asked for their email and asked about their hobbies, etc. before I arrived. I also brought small pieces of home to share with them when I got there, like pictures of your family and things that represent who I am and where I came from. They will definitely be interested in seeing them, even if you think they are boring.” – Ashley

5. “Before I left, I sent my family an email thanking them for hosting me and telling them how excited I was to stay with them during my time in Italy. My host mother appreciated that and she sent the message to my host sister and father who also wrote me emails in response. From there we went into dialogue about ourselves, their town, my town, and my school and then we connected on social media. When I arrived in Italy, I made it a point to eat lunch and dinner with my family every day (breakfast was difficult because we left at different times in the morning). When we would eat together, we’d talk about our days and I’d practice my Italian with them and I’d speak about the American culture in return. I’d also make it a point to tag along with my host mother to have coffee with her friends. In that I was able to meet even more people and that connected me with more people my age. And if there was a show that my family and I were interested in, we would always watch that together, even though it was in Italian.” – Andrea

6. “Come up with creative ways to communicate, like acting out words you don’t know or pantomiming actions or phrases you don’t understand. It seems silly, but its a fun way to learn and engage when you are lost in the language.” — Kevin


7. “Connecting with my host family on Facebook was great before/after the program to keep in touch . I also brought my host family small, meaningful gifts which really seemed to start things off on a good note for families that may not be as engaged online.” — Arianna

8. “You won’t understand everything that they’re saying when you start. Sometimes, it’s not even that you don’t know the words; you get fatigued and worn out a lot at first, and sometimes keeping up with conversation can be hard. Be gentle with yourself. Sometimes it can be best to let something go if you do not understand it; they may move on to a topic that you DO understand, and then you’ll be able to contribute! Ask them to speak slowly if you need them to. Ask them what specific words mean if you don’t understand them! Ask for help if you need it.”  – Erin

9. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions, even you think they are stupid. There may be a cultural difference in which your family doesn’t even think to tell you something which to them is obvious, but for you seems so foreign. Remember, it’s a learning experience for you and the family, and asking questions is one of the best ways to learn about new things or things you don’t understand. It may be awkward, but you’ll be so much happier in the end.” — Lauren

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One thought on "How to Engage with Your Host Family: Tips from our Alumni"

  1. Johnny McCarron says:

    I like how you mentioned not worrying about messing up, linguistically speaking. In my experience, people love it when you just try. If I were ever looking for a host family overseas, I wouldn’t mind staying with people who don’t speak the same language as me.

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