Whether you come to Japan to study, work, or for vacation, accommodation is essential. There are many options available to you such as hotels, hostels, and share houses, but have you ever considered staying with a homestay family?
Japanese families open their homes to foreigners interested in Japan and learning Japanese. This can be achieved in a number of ways including through university and on certain programs. If you’re going to be staying with a Japanese family soon, don’t forget these essential things to ensure a smooth and happy stay.
It is generally custom in Japan to bring a small gift as a thank you for letting you stay in the family’s home. Gifts can consist of anything you think they’d like, but it’s a good idea to bring something from your home country that can’t generally be found in Japan. Wrap it nicely and give it to them after you have arrived and settled into their home. The family will appreciate it.
Do you hate natto? Have you got an allergy? Are you a vegetarian? Make sure they know this, as it’s highly likely that the mother or lady of the house will want to cook you something. There’s nothing more awkward than looking down at a plate of barbecued pork and then telling them you’re a vegetarian. Be sure to let them know your dietary restrictions if you have any, preferably as soon as you arrive or, if possible, before you arrive.
Take your shoes off at the designated genkan area and, ideally, take your own slippers. Be careful not to wear house slippers in the toilet room, and never wear shoes or slippers in a tatami room. If you’re unsure, just copy what everyone else is doing!
Even if your homestay family speaks English, they will appreciate it if you make some effort with your Japanese. Even a simple “arigatou” or “ohayou gozaimasu” will go a long way and will make the family happy. If you’re learning Japanese, don’t be afraid to practice on them. That’s what they’re there for, and they’ll love seeing you improve!
It’s no good staying with a family if you’re never going to spend time with them. After you’ve finished unpacking, sit with the family in their living room, make conversation, or show them photographs of your family or hometown. Building a relationship with your homestay family is a great idea because it means they’ll let you stay again!
When you sit to eat with the family, avoid embarrassment by eating all your rice (if you can), using chopsticks (or asking for a fork or spoon if you can’t), and saying “itadakimasu” before you begin to eat. Again, if you don’t know what to do, simply copy what you see. Staying with a homestay family isn’t a test of your cultural knowledge and they certainly won’t judge you, so the worst that can probably happen is that you might be laughed at. However, it’s always best to behave in the way you’re expected to gain mutual appreciation and respect.
With these six things to keep in mind during a homestay, you’ll surely have a relatively hassle-free experience and hopefully, build some great relationships with your new family. People can have lasting friendships with their families for years after the initial stay, and if you’re lucky, you’ll have a kind local family always ready to help you in Japan.