As a Host Family

Before your visitor arrives, every effort will be made to provide you with the youth’s name and address in ample time for letters/email to be exchanged. When contacting your youth, tell them about your home life, the occupations and interests of family members, and your reason for hosting. Describe your community’s activities and attractions. Mention practical matters such as the type of clothing needed for weather conditions in your area. You can correspond in the same language you will use for communication during the exchange.

Your prospective visitor will be encouraged to write to you with details about his home and community. Take some time to study the youth’s culture and language (if it is different from your own). You and members of your family should be generally familiar with the youth’s country: its population, history, major cities. Your knowledge of these things will certainly make your visitor feel more at home.

Arrival

Imagine you are a young exchange visitor entering a country for the first time. As you step off the plane, a voice over the loudspeaker announces something in a language you may not understand. You see people dressed in clothing different from your own. Posters advertise products you have never heard of. Soon you will be meeting people you know only by name or through email. Excited but somewhat apprehensive, you wonder what it will be like living with these people under the same roof.

With this picture in mind, you will see why it is important for you to provide your visitor with not only food and shelter, but also sympathy and encouragement. The youth will need your support to gain an accurate comprehension of your culture. With your guidance, the youth’s visit can become a valuable learning experience.

Settling In

One of the first things your visitor should do is telephone home collect (or send email) to confirm safe arrival.

After the youth has notified his family and unpacked, you can give a tour of your house, show where to find things. You can also give your visitor your family’s daily schedule and instructions on curfews.

A map of your community, showing the location of the post office, pharmacy, bank, and church, can help your visitor become familiar with your community. The youth will also need a safe place to store passport, travel tickets, insurance documents, and money.

The Visit

Since experiencing family life is one of the best ways to learn about a culture, you should try as much as possible to let your visitor take on a family member’s role. This role may be quite different from what the youth is accustomed to, but it should be one that is natural for you and your family. You will find that treating your visitor as a family member will create genuine ties of friendship and foster better understanding of your way of life.

Living as a family member, of course, does not mean having special privileges. It may be easier for your visitor to learn your way of life if you avoid giving preferential treatment. You may even give the youth some small household chores, just as you would to a son or daughter. But don’t assign tasks you would normally hire someone to do, such as child-care.

It is important that you do not to leave your visitor alone for long periods of time. One of the parents, or an older son or daughter, should be home during the day to keep the youth company.

Meals

One of the most difficult adjustments for your exchange youth may be dietary. Foods favored by young people in your culture may not be the same ones enjoyed by young people in another. Nevertheless, you do not need to arrange special meals for your visitor, unless the youth has special dietary restrictions due to medical or religious reasons. Very likely the youth, perhaps after some initial hesitation, will learn to enjoy the types of food to which you are accustomed.

Cultural differences may involve not only kinds of food, but also the manner in which food is eaten. Since your family’s table manners may not correspond to your visitor’s, you should go first at mealtimes to show the visitor the proper portions to take and how to eat them.

Thank You

The Lions thank you for your important role in promoting friendly relations among the peoples of the world.

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