There are many people out there who love meeting new friends and making connections. They don’t get satisfied with meeting only people of their area and sometimes they choose to broaden their horizons by making international friends.
Becoming a host of a homestay is a one of the ways for him/her to meet people from different cultures. A homestay is a form of tourism or study abroad program whereby the host offers a bedroom(s) to foreigners who want to learn the local culture and languages.
Most hosts are paid directly or indirectly by the foreign visitor. Although in others, the host offers their home for free. There is a slim profit margin to be made in hosting a foreign volunteer, student or just a tourist as such many hosts do it not to make money but to expose themselves to new cultures.
The main benefits of hosting foreign visitors: meeting new people; experiencing and exchanging cultures; broadening world views; long term friendships and tax cuts (in the USA). Before hosting here are a couple of things the hosts should consider:
Most foreign students and volunteers expect to get a bed, table light and an electric terminal. Some visitors do not mind sharing a room with another person.
The number of visitors should be two per room. If the room is large enough to accommodate more without interfering the comfort of the visitors, then more could share it.
Some hosts go the extra mile to provide free internet, a small fridge and a television. Other amenities that could be thrown in are mosquito nets, bedding and laundry services.
Some hosts get intimidated by hosting foreigners and they try to make food that the foreign visitors are used to. The host should cook food that they normally eat with or without the volunteer.
They could make the effort of going the extra mile of cooking local delicacies that are only found in that area. However, the dietary requirements of the visitor should be considered.
There are people who are vegetarians, vegans and some who don’t eat certain kinds of foods (Muslims avoid pork). They would eat the food so as not to offend the host but they will not be comfortable. From the first day, the visitors should be made aware of what times to expect meals.
Safety and security are the cornerstones of homestays. When foreign visitors signup for a homestay they expect to be put in a safe home and they don’t want to feel insecure.
Some visitors carry expensive items with them, for example cameras, laptops, money and clothes. They would expect their belongings would be safe when they leave them in the home.
As a host, s/he could provide a lockable drawer or somebody to watch over their belongings. If the host lives in high risk areas (in terms of security) they should give advice to the visitors on how to behave so as not to compromise their safety.
While living with foreigners the hosts would be exposed to different cultures. They will learn how the visitors cook, live and how they carry themselves.
The foreign visitor too will learn the same things also from the host. The hosts’ lifestyle is what the visitor are coming to observe and appreciate. With students and volunteers who have come to learn the language, the host should be patient and help in teaching them the language.
Being a host is good experience all in all. But being a host, one is exposing him /herself to some risks that they are not used to. This is especially true if the host has children and they get a visitor who is immoral.
There are also cases where the visitor would have some habits that the hosts are not comfortable with for example drinking, smoking, drug abuse etc. to avoid these situations they have terms and conditions that the visitors should abide too.
Also before welcoming somebody to their home they should properly vet them.
Re-compiled by: Go Volunteer Africa