The Power of Homestays for Experiencing New Cultures Abroad
August 27th 2019
I left the UK almost two months ago. It was the start of my first summer spent away from home. I chose France as its culture and language (and food) interest me tremendously, so when better than the present to get a real taste of life in France – with a chance I’d even fall in love with the country. My goals were to improve my French and learn more about its culture – pretty doable in two months. I’d also started thinking about doing a Master’s in Strasbourg, and wanted the next few months to trial living in France. Being a student does go hand-in-hand with lacking funds, however, and left me with only one way to hope to achieve my ambitions, homestays.
Homestays are, in my mind, the best way to spend time periods longer than a few days in a country. They also happen to be affordable – phew – and provide a truly authentic experience, one unique to you. It gives a ground-level view of how a native lives, from the food they eat to the games they play, all of which is done in a new and novel environment. Homestays get you involved in a family’s life, and if that means pushing you out of a few comfort zones, then I’m sure enjoyment, or at least experiences to learn from, will come of it. With a common goal that everybody works towards enabling the sharing of stories and creating of new ones, homestays build relationships that are like no others made back home.
Even just helping to renovate a newly-bought house, seeing how much of a difference I made, all whilst sharing the time with people I can talk to about totally new things in a new language – it’s just fun. I implore you to consider a homestay in another country. WorkingAbroad offers homestays in Thailand, Nepal, and Galapagos, with work far less mundane than I’ve been up to here – and I’ve still had a whale of a time. Learning to milk a goat with the previous host was… an accomplishment, as well – but nonetheless a time I’ll never forget and boast about at any opportunity. But you could brag about having worked with sea turtles.
The starkest difference I’ve noticed hasn’t been anything about my surroundings changing however. It’s been my language acquisition. I’ve found it incredible how quickly the mind makes connections and use of new words. Literally feeling the improvement upon noticing the use of a specific conjugation or expressing oneself without translating the thought comes with such a rush of pride and happiness… simply wonderful. It’s not always ‘simply wonderful’ though. Losing access to English mannerisms leaves me having to work out who I want to be à nouveau, but this time in a foreign country. I thought I was relatively aware of other cultures and how they differed from my own. Therefore, France, with a language and culture I am interested in, would be relatively easy for me to adapt to… is what I thought. Before I realised how ingrained specifically English culture is in me.
I can’t escape it: I am very English. Not British, English, and is a trait I could not and would not want to leave behind. I enjoy cultivating my vocabulary, being conscious of pronunciation, and deploying all of the classic Britishisms that I have come to miss. I went to France thinking that learning the language equated to becoming more French, but that’s so far from the truth. I must want to make space for becoming French to do so, and that’s not the case for me. I’ve ended my time here feeling that just learning the language is enough, and I have enjoyed every moment of it. That feeling of genuinely liking where I come from, who I am, even when given the perfect opportunity to change, fills me with the knowledge that I am truly comfortable and proud of where I come from. And that, whilst not the goal I set out to achieve, isn’t a bad note on which to end my time in France.
Article by WorkingAbroad Blog Writer Tristan Ledger