Homestay in Australia:
A couple of years ago, I was living with an Australian family, so I want to tell you something about Australian homestays first.
A homestay in Australia is either arranged through the university/college the student is attending or through a specialized ‘homestay service provider’. Students visiting Australia who are under 18 must have a guardian and can only stay in a host family that have had a background check (it is called a ‘working-with-children-check’, some providers make this type of background check mandatory for all families wishing to use their services).
Taking a shower and other funny things…
I still remember, it was my second week living with an Australian family, my host-mum Wendy was a really nice and easygoing woman. One night she came knocking at my door and asked: “Xavier! Do you want to take a shower together?” I was shocked because before I came to Australia I imagined western people to be open minded, but definitely not THAT open! Maybe Wendy read my mind( ’cause I was not the first Chinese child in her house), so she explained to me every single weekend, the whole family will have a bath together inside the spa pool. She invited me because I am part of this family now. She changed the way to tell me because she just wanted to scare me when asking the first time.
Having meals in Australia
Salad – which just is a lot of fresh raw vegetables with dressing – is the starter for every single Australian, next will be the meal, the Australians really like to cook bacon, adding some sauce, cheese etc. So maybe some Asian people will not really like this kind of food. In the evenings I always talked with my mum on the phone and told her how much I miss my Cantonese food!!! My homestay-family had their own green house in the garden, so every vegetable we ate had been grown by themselves. One day after I finished my salad Wendy told me: “Xavier, you know that those vegetables are organic, we used our feces to fertilize them.” I really got a shock again! But just after a few second she told me it was a joke too.
Why do a homestay in China:
Having a homestay which is organized by InternChina is an opportunity for interns and/or people who come here for language classes to learn a lot about the Chinese lifestyle as well as improve their language ability. China has more than 5000 years of history, it is one of the oldest countries in the world. 2000-2011, China became the second largest economy in the world. So that is the reason why there are so many western people who want to come to China, learn some Chinese and do an internship in China. Their first choice should be living with a host-family to have a traditional Chinese homestay and that’s why:
Staying with a Chinese family might be different than any other homestay you’ve already had. Chinese are very friendly and hospitable people. They will try to make your stay in their country as comfortable as possible, since they want you to take a good image of China back home. Having a Chinese family care for you might sometimes also seem a little exhausting. They might tell you to be back home latest at 10p.m., but that’s not because they don’t want you to have any fun, but because they are afraid something might happen to you in the night. Anyways, most of them will be willing to talk about a curfew – or actually won’t be having one – and since you do have to talk about such problems with your host-family you will already have learned a lot about Chinese culture. 😉
Then there is this one major point: Food! Your host family will cook for, and together with, you. There is no better way to learn about Chinese cuisine than staying with a Chinese-family. The three main criteria for good Chinese food are: colour, aroma and taste. If you do an internship in Zhuhai, you will get Cantonese cuisine which western people normally love, in Qingdao you get northern Chinese food which is just as good. Some Chinese love to add a lot of chili, so make sure your host-family knows if you don’t like to eat spicy food.
3. Chinese Holidays
Besides, living with a Chinese family you can pass every single traditional Chinese festival with them, such as Chinese New Year maybe. It will really make a huge difference celebrating this major holiday(s…it’s actually almost 2 weeks of continuous partying and throwing firecrackers) with a Chinese family ’cause you willlearn about all the traditions connected with these holidays. Normally, being a foreigner in China without a host-family, you just miss out on all this stuff.
4. Living Environment
Finally, the living environment is different as well. Most Chinese live in apartments which are organized in big living complexes, and the community in these buildings is normally really good. You know your landlord and your neighbours. Say ‘hello’ or ‘ni hao’ to everybody you meet and don’t be afraid if you see all the old people sitting together playing Majiang, Chinese chess or card games, smoking cigarettes and screaming a lot, they are not arguing but having fun! And if you ask nicely, they might even teach you how to play these games.
Xavier Song works at InternChinas Zhuhai Office and stayed in Australia for 6 years, spending 8months with a host-family. Thanks for this amazing blog Xavier!