Guide for Home and Farm Host Families

So, you've decided to host a visitor from overseas...

...And you're probably wondering just what to expect. You're no doubt aware that after your visitor arrives, there will be a period of adjustment for both the visitor and the host family, as you both get used to a completely new culture. We at Contact Canada have recognized the need for this guide which has been based on contributions and suggestions gratefully accepted from former host families. In the following pages, you will find many helpful ideas to help you understand a bit better where your guest is coming from and also to aid you in leaving your guest with a good impression of Canada and Canadians. We hope it will serve to ease any difficulties you might run into and to make the homestay/farmstay experience more enjoyable and rewarding for all.

Pre-arrival preparations

Before your visitor arrives, it might be a good idea to sit down with your new family member and prepare a list of "house rules". These are things that you will need to communicate to your visitor over the first days of their stay. Try not to overwhelm the person with a big list and try to avoid rules that may seem arbitrary. Always explain "why". Some things you might want to consider:

Mealtimes: What are your regular times and what are you rules for letting the cook know if you’re going to be late or not there at all?

Laundry: Do you want to throw the visitor’s clothes in with the family wash or have them do their own. Be aware that some young women may not feel comfortable with someone else doing their laundry. Also, washers in Japan are much smaller and you may find your visitor wanting to do a ridiculously small load.

Telephoning: What are the best times for them to call overseas and for them to receive calls so as not to disturb the whole household? How long can visitors talk on the phone? How late can they receive calls from friends in Canada?

Visitors: Can friends stay over? Any special conditions?

Privacy: What are the private areas in the home for host and visitor? There have been some complaints about children going into the visitor’s room without permission. Be aware of their need for privacy.

Personal Hygiene: Shampoo, soap, etc.. What will the host family provide and what is the visitor expected to provide? Also, how long can they spend in the bathroom. You should make them aware of the source of your hot water and explain that it is not unlimited.

Housework: Where are they expected to help out - bed making, linen change, clearing dishes, etc.? It’s important to encourage visitors to help with some chores as it helps them to feel a part of the family.

Going out: What are your locking up procedures?

Special conditions: Are there any special considerations the new family member should be aware of: food, religion, health etc.?

Aiport pick-up

Here are a few suggestions for those picking up visitors at the airport:

  1. For those still using Rogers Cable, Channel 21 provides flight information (this service is not available in some areas). You can check it before you leave home to make sure the flight is on time.
  2. Prepare a sign with the visitor's name to hold up in the arrival area.  Those students who must go through Immigration Office to obtain a student visa or working holiday visa usually take 1-1.5 hours longer to clear the Customs and Immigration.
  3. If your visitor doesn't appear: (1) Check with immigration to see whether or not they have been detained; (2) Check to see if they are on the passenger list - have them paged at the information kiosk.

The first week

 During the first week, the newest member to your family will be getting used to the many things which he/she will find different or unusual about your home and the way it operates. The person may feel awkward and uncomfortable and perhaps frustrated by the number of things your five year old can do that they can't. Take the time to show by example how to do things that he/she seems particulary perplexed or concerned about--especially if your visitor's English ability is limited. A written outline of a typical day in your home can also be helpful as some language learners will have a better command of written english than of spoken English. Some things that hosts have found visitors have trouble with are as follows:

  • loading a dishwasher
  •  turning on showers
  •  using a clothesline
  •  using a stove/microwave
  •  setting a table
  •  using a vacuum cleaner

After the first week is over, it might be a good idea to sit down with your visitor and see how they're getting along, clear up any misunderstandings, and just generally take stock.

Communication

Communicating with your visitor may invlove a dictionary, a pen and paper, or great deal of gesturing depending on his or her English ability. Here are a few suggestions to help you get your messages across.

  1. Keep your sentences simple.
  2. Repeat before you rephrase. A slow repetition of the original message is less confusing and easier to understand for a language learner than having to decipher a whole new set of words.
  3. When you have a bit of spare time, help your visitor out with their English. Many will have a textbook with a variety of practice dialogues. By offering to play a role or help with pronunciation, you'll get a better idea of what they know and don't know. It will also help them get used to your accent, intonation, word usuage, etc.
  4. Avoid asking beginning English speakers, "Do you understand?" because as students of the language they cannot always be sure. Some tend to be anxious to please and will often say they understand when really they don't. One way to get around this is to have visitors repeat or paraphrase important explanations and instructions back to you.
  5. Idioms are very confusing for language students. English is chock full of them, and we usually don't even realize that what we're saying is an idiom. Don't worry--those puzzled looks on your visitor's face will soon let you know you've used an idiom. Here are some examples of what we mean:
     
    Never mind. Hang in there. Forget it. How are you doing? Okey dokey. What's up?
  6. And a word about negative questions...

    Negative questions can be a source of real confusion between English speakers and Japanese speakers. They exist in Japanese as they do in English but the way they are answered is just the opposite. For example. English: Q: You're not going to the park now are you? A: No (=no, I'm not going to the park.) Japanese: Q: You're not going to the park now are you? A: Yes (=yes that's right, I'm not going to the park.) If you're going to use negative questions with your visitor, you'll need to clarify the answers.

Culture shock

Culture shock is a very real concern when dealing with visitors from overseas, and something you need to be aware of as hosts. We can divide this phenomenon into roughly three stages.

Stage 1: In the first stage the visitor is very excited and enthusiastic about everything in their new environment. They look at things through "rose-coloured glasses" and are almost in a state of euphoria. This the only stage short term guests may experience and it's the one many of us have experienced as tourists. It generally lasts about two months, but can vary from 1 week to a year.

Stage 2: This is a stage of adjustment. The enthusiasm for things different wears off and the visitor may begin to feel overwhelmed by all the changes they must make in their lifestyle. Everyday actions such as shopping, ordering in restaurants etc, become major problems. The visitor can become very frustrated at their lack of ability.

One of the biggest problems is homesickness. Though it may seem so, it is not really a desire to return home but rather a need to feel at home and supported in the new surroundings. Without this support, it's very easy to develop strong feelings of isolation and loneliness. It's important for anyone experiencing these feelings to recognize them for what they are and make a conscious effort to quell them, and also to realize that the feelings will pass.

By recognizing culture shock for what it is the individual is able to combat it. Some of the symptoms may be insomnia, tiredness, lack of interest in the what's going on, no desire to try new things, physical withdrawl, crankiness, irrational behaviour, longing for home and illness. The answer to most of these problems is to do exactly what you don't feel like doing---try new things, seek out people, make contact get invlolved with them and don't dwell on your own negative feelings.

Host families can help lessen the shock by making sure that the visitor feels like he/she belongs. Taking an active interest in your visitors past, present, and future will help to make him/her feel like a part of the family.

Stage 3: Once the adjustment phase has passed, visitors can then start to delve deeper into the culture. There will still be many things that will surprise and frustrate newcomers. To become completely at home, visitors need to learn the language, be aware of local and national news, social concerns etc. Becoming involved in the community as a volunteer or member of teams or clubs is a great start. A person in this stage will come to have a balanced view of the culture acknowledging both its positive and negative elements.

Tips for Farmstay hosts

As well as having an extra hand around the farm, it's a wonderful opportunity to establish lasting friendships with folks from other countries. This is a great experience for all members of your family especially if you don't get the chance to travel much.

Expectations from Farmstay visitors

Your visitor will have expectations about his/her stay on your farm and it's a good idea to keep these in mind. In most cases, their top priority is to learn English in a family environment. So talk to them--lots. They expect to work and are generally interested in learning about farming. Making Canadian friends is also high on their list. They want to learn about Canadian culture and also to share their culture with you. The most successful farmstays are the ones where the visitor shows a strong interest in life on the farm and, likewise, the host family demonstrates a real interest in the visitor's family and culture back home.

Getting off to a good start

First off, tour the farm with your visitor, showing him/her some of the jobs that they will be involved in. Find out what their interests are. ( It may take them a little time to find this out themselves). Don't write off a job as something they would hate or couldn't do. It may turn out to be the thing they'd most like to do. Some visitors might want to start out working in the house and then gradually move out to the barn and fields.

It's a good thing to keep in mind that visitors are told that they will work on average 5-8hrs/day, 5days/week for the working farmstay. Country stay participants cannot work. It is their voluntary participation to host's daily activities. They are also told that there is no clock to punch and that, depending on the time of year, farmers may work very long hours. The farmer and the visitor must decide what to do in these situations. It's very hard to just stop working when everyone around you is busy. The majority of participants will continue to work and never complain--until they leave the farm. To keep things fair, try to establish a daily work schedule for the visitor so that everyone knows where he/she fits in.

In some instances (i.e. on smaller farms, during slow seasons, or on a more mechanized farm) it may be a problem to find enough for your visitor to do. Introduce them to your friends and relatives. Sometimes they can do work for them in exchange for driving lessons, riding lessons etc. Help them get involved in 4-H or other community clubs. Some more outgoing visitors with good english abilities may want to give talks to local groups about Japan. Whatever you choose, getting them involved in the community is a great idea--the busier they are, the less likely they are to suffer culture shock.

Daily frustrations of farm life

Generally speaking, Japanese do not show anger or frustration in front of other people. This is a good thing to remember as you tell your tractor what you really think of it after it's broken down for the fifth time that day. If your visitor is within earshot at the time, this display will be a totally new experience for him/her. They might even be a little bit scared. If this happens, it's a good idea to let them know that you were just "blowing off steam" and you're not really becoming mentally unhinged. There will also be the question of explaining all that new vocabulary...

Safety first

Don't assume anything about the common sense level of your visitor. Stress points of safety loudly and often and with "showing by example". Make sure they understand what to be extra careful around and what to avoid altogether.