This day has been lingering in the back of your mind for months. The plane has touched French soil and you know that there are just a couple hours before you meet your new family for the foreseeable future. You are nerveu(x)/(euse), but excited for all you will learn, do and see. Upon meeting your new mère, père, frères, et soeurs, you give your first bisous and spill over your first introductions as ungracefully as possible.
Here are some tips from my experience living with a French host family.
Each host family is different.
This may seem obvious, but weekend plans, dinner arrangements, and living structures will all vary between families hosting within your program. Often times, your program will try to put you in a family similar to your own. There may be adopted siblings, divorced parents, and blended families.
Of course, each family will be of a different economic status just as home. Some host families may have beach houses to visit for the weekend, while others may frequent the movie theater. Some may have nicer cars or offer nicer meals.
While families are different, it is important to remember the benefit of the live-in French education you are experiencing and be grateful to have this opportunity and make the most of it. Your family’s unique situation should not be a hinderance to that.
Just like your family, your host family will have their highs and lows. Fighting, arguments, bad moods – these situations are likely to happen and it is can be difficult to know what to do in these uncomfortable moments.
However, these situations are fleeting and it is important to know that you are not responsible for any host family issues. Your host family has invited you into their home to provide an enriching experience for you, yet they cannot promise constant elation and excitement.
Feel comfortable knowing that they want you in their home and you may speak to them about how you are feeling.
That being said, your family should never be mean or rude to you. If you do feel like something is wrong or feel threatened then you should reach out to your program to talk about the situation.
It can be difficult to find your place. Families are close; this is a given as they have grown together over many years and joining such a close-knit group can be difficult.
During dinners, family nights, and get-togethers, it can feel isolating when your host family begins laughing over old memories and holding discussions not that do not particularly include you. The quick banter back and forth in French is difficult to follow at first and it is easy to get lost in the conversation.
Try to listen well and work on your comprehension skills. When there is a break, follow up with a question about a word or clarify that you understood. Your family will be grateful to help you follow along.
You might have responsibilities as a new family member. Whether or not you have chores at home, it is possible you might have them chez your new famille!
Whether it’s doing the dishes a couple nights a week or setting the table, this is a nice way to fit into the family and have a role within the group.
Your family may not appoint your to any certain responsibilities, but it can’t hurt to ask and impress your family with your consideration. Doing dishes with your mère or setting the table with your frère is a nice way to bond and learn more about the members of your family.
Have your host sister take you to her favorite café or your host brother to his favorite park.
As a family, they’ll surely take you to their favorite restaurant and places to have fun, but what better way to know your new city than on a personal level with your host family.
Share a Piece of Home
Bringing a gift for your host family can be a cool way to share a piece of your life chez toi!
Whether it’s a local food or a keychain or a handmade family gift, this is a good way to bond and help your new host family better understand you and your hometown.
Stay in Touch
When your time in France is done and it’s time to return home, keeping in contact with your French family can be one of the most special effects of your French life (as well as your better language and speaking skills).
Send a letter overseas, a holiday card, or simply a Facebook message to let them know you’re thinking of them.
The time you spend with a host family is one you’ll remember and cherish for years, though every moment may not be as picturesque as you had imagined. Homesickness may strike and loneliness too. But as soon as your plane leaves, you’ll be looking at flights to decide your return to France and a possible rendez-vous with your family away from home.
Mary Bradley Cassada, FrenchCrazy Contributor
An occasional cowgirl, when-I-should-be-doing-other-
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