12 Tips for International Teenagers living in an English host family
Learning English in England is an exciting adventure. Living in an English home, where you will have a real connection with English people and English life can be the most memorable part of that experience.
Going away from your own family for the first time to live with people you have never met before can make you feel anxious.
Don’t worry. Read our tips for living in an English home, take a deep breath and jump in. You’ll have a great time!
1: First impressions are very important.
- Contact them before you arrive. We will send you your host’s contact information. You can email or contact them via WhatsApp to introduce yourself. Don’t forget to send them a picture so they know what you look like. Your host will be really happy to know you are going to be friendly.
- When you arrive here in Exeter your host family will come to collect you. Smile a lot, shake them all by the hand and say how nice it is to meet them. That will get you off to a good start.
- Bring a present: A memento from your area or a local delicacy (something traditional to eat) will be received with pleasure. It doesn’t have to be anything expensive: it’s a good talking point to get things started and lets them know what a special guest you will be.
2: Say ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’ – the English do.
- ‘Could I have a glass of water please?’ … ‘Thank you.’
- If you don’t do this, people will think you are being impolite, not the impression you want to give!
- The English say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to everyone – in shops to sales people, to bus drivers, to everyone. This is an important part of fitting in to the British way of life, so do it, please!
3: Learn about your host family and speak English in their home.
Living in an English home is a total immersion experience.
- Seize the opportunity and talk English as much as you can.
- Get help with your homework.
- Talk about your school day and the activities you are doing.
- Be curious too: Find out about your English family and their life.
- Offer to help them prepare the evening meal so you can talk to them when you all get home.
- Tell them about your family too.
You will make mistakes but don’t worry about it. Everyone likes someone who tries their best. You can laugh together about these little mistakes and learn so much everyday English just by chatting.
4: Eat meals together.
You may eat your evening meal at 8 or 9 (or later!) in the evening at home. We usually eat at 6 or 6.30pm in the UK. Things are different here, just accept it and go with it!
- Make sure you tell your host mum when you first arrive if there is any food you really don’t like. “I’m not keen on ……….” for example is a good phrase to use.
- Try everything. If you really don’t like a dish and can’t eat it, be polite and say something like: ‘I’m sorry, this isn’t really my cup of tea’ – a very English expression and a polite way to say you can’t finish what is on your plate and don’t really like it.
- If you like something and want some more, say something like: ‘That was delicious. Could I have some more please?’
- If your host mum offers you more food, say ‘Yes please’ or ‘No thank you, I’m full’.
In some countries, it is polite to say no at first and the host will ask again and then you say yes. This is not the case in England. ‘No thank you’ means: ‘No thank you’. Remember this and don’t go hungry!
- Make sure you are at home on time for meals. If you want to miss a meal, plan ahead and tell your host mum that morning. Don’t phone 20 minutes before the meal. That is impolite. Planning is everything!
5: Don’t use your own language when with your hosts.
If a friend is living in the same home as you, there is always the temptation to speak your mother tongue together. Never do this when eating meals or when spending time with your hosts – that is impolite. Encourage and support each other. If one of you speaks more fluently, try not to speak for your friend. Help them if necessary but tell your family that is what you are doing.
6: Respect the rules and family schedules.
Your hosts are not your parents, but they will worry about you and care about you. You will have a curfew, so respect it and be back in your home on time. If something goes wrong and you are going to be late, phone your family and tell them.
You are not living in a hotel, so find out the house rules: when you can take a shower for example, and follow to them.
7: Keep your room tidy and help with the dishes.
You are paying to live with a family and to experience English family life. Remember that you are not living in a hotel and your host mother is not your maid.
You are a guest in their home so please remember how guests behave when they come to visit you. Simple things like…
- Keeping your room tidy and making your bed each morning.
- Helping to take the dishes from the table to the kitchen, offering to help with the washing up and chatting while doing it.
- If you’ve been supermarket shopping with your family, help to carry things in from the car, just like you would at home.
- Don’t invite friends to visit or for a meal unless they have been invited.
- Don’t sit or chat on your phone in the main living areas.
- Don’t stay in bed on Sundays. Get up and join in with whatever your family is doing.
8: Respect the home you are living in.
- Try not to break anything, but if you do, tell your host family, don’t hide it away. Accidents happen to us all.
- If you can’t understand how something works, don’t try to force it. It just works in a different way from what you are used to. For example, if you are having a bath and can’t see how to let the water out, just get dried, get dressed and go to tell your family. They will show you.
- Check with your host family if you are not sure you can use your plugs in the sockets in the UK. You do need an adapter for most electrical items
- If you are using anything that gets hot – hair tongs for example, don’t leave them on the bed. No accidental fires please!
9: Join in family activities.
If your family is going out and asks you to join them for a walk, a trip to the seaside for an hour or for the day, go with them. It is so tempting and easy for you to say you are going off to meet friends in the city centre. This is not why you have come to England, so be strong, stay with your family and speak English please.
10: Be tolerant of differences.
If you don’t like the food too much, the programmes your family likes to watch on TV or their taste in music, be tolerant and remember that everyone is different. It’s part of life. You can offer to cook a meal and talk to them about your favourite films and why you like them.
11: If something goes wrong ….
Sometimes, things happen which may upset you. Often this is because you have not understood the family or they have not understood you. Stay calm and talk about it with them. Talk to the accommodation officer at school too. Upsets are usually settled very quickly as soon as you all understand each other.
12: Stay in touch.
Students often make a real connection with their English hosts, so stay in touch and send them your news. This will be good for your English too!
Don’t forget to read more about the homes we chose for our students studying at the Isca School of English here.