So, you've decided to do a homestay. Yay! You are well on your way to immersing yourself in a new culture and getting to know the ways of a new culture firsthand while also making precious memories with your host family. However, spending all your time at home can be a little boring, and sometimes starting things with a new family can be awkward. Sometimes, your host family has lots of suggestions for where to go, but if you want to give them a break from doing all the planning—or if they don't plan at all—perhaps suggesting a field trip is the way to go. A change in scenery and something fun to do can certainly jumpstart your relationship with your host family without all the silence and stilted questions!
Go to the City Center
In my case, it's Sakae in Nagoya, but the city center, depending on where your host family lives, is the perfect way to get to know them and the new city you're in and have fun while doing it. They most likely will have tips on where to go and what to do, and they can help you out in terms of language or bridging cultural gaps. They can even give you historical facts—for example, when I took my Japanese host family to TGI Fridays (yes, TGI Fridays), my host parents admitted they hadn't been to the city in over two years and commented about how the entire shopping district next to the tower didn't exist last time they went there. It'll help you learn about your host family, the city you'll be staying in for the foreseeable future, and some cool stuff on the way.
Take Them To A Restaurant Serving Your Country's Cuisine
Depending on where you live, there may be a restaurant serving your country's cuisine—or something like it—and taking your host family there could certainly bridge a gap and let you learn more about each other! As I mentioned before, I took my host family to the quintessential example of American "cuisine," TGI Fridays, and they loved it. I explained typical American food to them (tableside guac, fried egg rolls, spinach and artichoke dip, fried potato skins, etc.) and how restaurants work in America (the waiter fills up your water without you asking, keeps checking in on you, there may be loud music, etc.). They thoroughly enjoyed the experience, ordering way more than they usually do (and more than their Japanese stomachs can handle), and kept looking around the restaurant in pure awe. Even if your host family has eaten or regularly eats your country's or culture's cuisine, it's still a great experience to take them and explain some history or a fact they might have not known about the cuisine or your country/culture.
Cook Them Your Country's Cuisine
If you can't find a restaurant in your area serving your culture's cuisine—or your host parents would rather you make it, like mine did—making it can be a great substitution. This may be difficult as specific ingredients are hard to come by, as was the case for me. I wanted to make lasagna, but I had to go to four separate grocery stores before I found lasagna noodles in Japan, and they weren't even the noodles I wanted—they were oven-ready when I wanted them regular. If your city or country is considerably metropolitan, then perhaps this is a more doable option for you. Your host family isn't there to teach you just about their culture; they're also there to learn! That's why they do the program, so go ahead and shamelessly talk about your culture over some delicious food!
Go To A Farm
This also depends on where you live and the type of host family you have. My host family contained two host siblings under the age of eight, so a farm was a great way for all of us to enjoy an outing. You most likely won't encounter many foreigners and will be able to feel fully immersed. Additionally, it's more low-key compared to an amusement park or a day out in the city, so it will give you all more time to bond and walk around while petting cute animals or eating ice cream made from fresh milk from the farm.
Go Enjoy Nature
My host family and I went to see the autumn leaves, called kōyō, at a nearby park that was touristy enough to where it had people but still felt like a hidden gem. If you enjoy nature, suggest going on a hike, camping, picnic in the park, a walk through the woods, or anything that will get you moving in an aesthetically pleasing place.
Go To An Arcade/Game Center
This works for people of all ages, but because Japan has a popular game center chain called Round 1, it's a super accessible way to have fun with my family. If you and your host parents like to play games, going to a nearby game center could be a good way to build friendly rivalry—or teamwork—and get to know your host parents outside of the home environment. There may even be games that only exist in that country! For example, I played a taiko game with my host mother, a game that is super popular in Japan, and felt like I leveled up in experience learning and playing it.
Join In On Chores
Whether it's taking the kids to swim practice or cleaning, this is the most inexpensive way to bond with your host family. If they offer for you to come along on their errands, say yes. You will get to see the everyday life of a person in your new country and be able to truly live the local life by going to local establishments, seeing how people interact with each other, and buying things only locals know about. If they don't offer, you can offer under the guise of wanting to help with chores. Even if it isn't the most glamorous option and you don't get to do the most exciting things, it's still a great way to help out your family, bond with them, and follow them around as they go about their everyday lives so you get the inside scoop on your new country's culture.
At the end of the day, no matter how good your memory is, pictures are an objective and perfect snapshot into your life with a host family, so wherever you are and whatever you're doing, taking a picture will leave you with happy memories for years to come!
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I am a senior at Johns Hopkins University studying Writing Seminars (a fancy way of saying creative writing) and Sociology. My main goal in life is to be an author, so when I'm not scrolling on TikTok, I'm writing stories, reading, and daydreaming.