It can be really hard to live with a family that you’re not related to. Every family has their own way of doing things (and annoying little habits. You have to get used to those. So, here are eight tips that will help you survive while living with a host family! Not just as an au pair, but also as an exchange student or any other way that might require you live with a host family.
Bring a gift
Bringing the host family something small from your country is a great way to break the ice. Read this post to get some inspiration on what to get them!
Remember that it isn’t your house
So keep your room clean and don’t leave your stuff all over the house. It’s very likely that your host family will respect your privacy and won’t enter your room. But the least you can do is to keep it tidy. You’re not living in a hotel, and your host mum is not your maid. Be on your best behaviour and clean up after yourself.
Be open and communicate with them
I cannot say this enough. Communicate with your host family. Especially when you’re an au pair and taking care of children, but also if you’re living with a family while going to school. If there’s something you’re not happy with, let them know. And if they ask you to do something different, accept that. Unless you have a really good reason for doing something a certain way (like, if it keeps you from dying).
Talking to your host family will help you learn the language, you’ll get to know them better, and it will help you make sure that you are on the same page. Let them know if you’re going out and where you’ll be so that they can come to help you if something happens. If you missed a bus and are going to be home late, let them know. Even though they aren’t your parents, they still worry about you. (Which is something my friends – who hardly talk to their host parents – sometimes find hard to believe.) Give them an easy way to contact you, as well.
Establish and confirm house rules
Try to have this conversation as early as possible because it will make you feel more at ease if you know what the rules are from the beginning. Are you allowed to have people over? What about overnight visitors? It’s easier to have these discussions before a potential conflict arises. Be ready to communicate and talk about the rules. If you don’t agree with them, you can probably have them changed. If not, respect them.
Get to know the family
You’re living in their house. Might as well get to know them a little, right? The more you fill each other in on your schedules, classes, how your days were, etc., the closer you’ll get to them, and the more you’ll enjoy your stay.
In the beginning, you might not understand everything your host family tells you. And they might not understand everything you say. Just be patient, and give each other time, because that phase goes by pretty quickly. Just don’t do what a lot of other au pairs do by only communicating with your host parents by text.
Enjoy your time with them
You don’t get to live with them forever so enjoy the time you do get to spend with them. Friendships can’t be forced, but you’ll hopefully get along with your host family and stay in touch after you’ve left. Your host family will have influenced you in major ways, just by talking to you. They would love to hear that you decided to go to that one school you were talking about or that you got that exciting dream job.
Living with a host family can be challenging, and some people are luckier than others. But everyone has ups and downs, and I’m convinced that there is nothing better than coming home to a loving family in a new place. My host family is a huge part of why Aldershot feels like home. I can talk to them about anything, and I can’t imagine what my first year as an au pair would’ve been like without them.