This page contains some additional information that will be useful for planning and getting the most out of your homestay experience.
This is not always going to easy. Everything will seem different to you. The language, food, smells, noise, traffic, customs, values and school life. You will not have your family or friends to support you in the beginning. You may experience loneliness and homesickness. Although this will be a challenging experience for you it will give you an opportunity to develop personal qualities which you will use for the rest of your life. You will learn to be understanding of others needs, tolerance, flexibility, and the ability to deal with difficulties. Both you and your host family will need to make adjustments and learn to be sensitive to each others needs. In most Australian homes they do not have servants and all members of the family will work together in the running of the home. Housework is shared between all family members. Most women work outside the home and are considered equal heads of the home with the husband. All family members are equally important.
All families are different and live in different style homes. Some have big houses, small townhouses, flats and units. Some are wealthy and some are not. Australians are typically sports fans and love their sport especially football or more commonly known as "The footy". Others may like to go to the theatre, museums or visiting tourist attractions.
Why do people become hosts
Most people will host a student because they are interested in learning about other cultures and have an interest in meeting people. They will also want to share the Australian culture with you. Some hosts do it for the company that it provides - their children may have all left home and the hosts miss having young people in the home. Caring for students in homestay is a two way exchange with both parties benefiting from the experience.
Your position in the family
You will be welcomed into a private family home and accepted as part of the family. You will be cared for as any other family member and will be made to feel comfortable. Your family will provide 3 meals per day, you will have your own room which is fully furnished. Your family will involve you in family activities and family functions. They will talk to you and care for you. All members of the household are responsible for the running of the home. You should be aware of the household rules and follow these. If you are not happy or do not understand these rules then you should discuss this with your host. The best way to resolve issues or misunderstandings is to communicate. You may be asked to assist with washing up dishes, setting the table and washing your own clothes. You should keep your bedroom tidy and any other common areas of the home. You will also be given new bedding (sheets, pillow cases etc) and it is your responsibility to make sure that you change these regularly.
Payment for hosting
If you were staying in a hotel you would be the customer. The customer is always right and can do many things such as go out any time they like and not return without informing anyone. Order room service and special meals. Leave the room or bathroom in an untidy state. Make noise and talk loudly late at night. Management at a hotel doesn't mind these things because guests pay a lot of money for these privileges. It is very different in a homestay situation. Most hosts do not make a lot of money from homestay. Most families do it for the experience. It is important that you show respect for your host family - just as you would your own parents. If you would like them to do something for you you should ask nicely and try to fit in with the house rules. Let your host family know in advance if you will not be home for dinner or plan to stay away.
How much time will my host spend with me
Australians are private and independent people. Young people are encouraged to be self sufficient and make their own decisions about their lives. Your hosts will try to include you in many activities however many Australians work long hours and do not have much spare time. They don't always do things together as a family so they may not be able to take you everywhere or drive you around. You should not be offended by this and should try to take the time to develop your own interest and make new friends.
Pets in the homestay
Most homes in Australia will have a pet or pets. It is usually a cat or dog. Some families have birds, fish, turtles or rabbits. The pet is an important member of the household. Many pets will be inside pets and will have their own bed to sleep in. They will also be taken to the groomers to have their wash and get their fur and nails cut. If you have a problem with pets in the homestay for religious or health reasons then you should let the accommodation officer know. But only put NO pets if you have good reason to. You may be ruling out many very good homes and hosts who are available simply because you don't know much about pets. Many past students have found that they have enjoyed the experience very much living in a homestay with pets. Often students have taken on the task of taking the dog for its daily walk. They are surprised at how much they like the family pet.
Going out with your family
Activities with your host family will be very rewarding. But sometimes these activities will cost money.
Usually if you are invited to a restaurant and your homestay includes meals then you wouldn't be expected to pay. However if you are asked to go to the movies or the zoo where there is an admission fee your host might expect you to pay. If you are not sure if you need to pay then just ask the host "how much money will I need?" this way you will know if they expect you to pay or if they are going to pay for you. If you cannot afford to join them just say "I'm sorry but I don't have enough money." Your host will not be offended if you cannot join in for good reason.
Most homes will have two bathrooms and toilets. The main bathroom will usually have the bath/shower and toilet in a separate room. There will be either a shower curtain or screen - this keeps the water inside the shower. The hand basin is used for cleaning teeth and washing hands and face. This is not used for washing the body. A bathmat is used to stand on after showering or bathing. A hand towel is used for drying your hands after washing them. Some bathrooms will have an automatic ceiling fan that will come on when you turn on the light-if the fan does not come on automatically then you should turn this on when you shower. Used toilet paper is put into the toilet and flushed away. Rubbish is put in the rubbish bin.
Most Australians will only shower once a day. These showers are usually as short as 4 minutes. Australia is a very dry country and is currently experiencing one of its worst droughts. Melbourne homes are currently on very strict water restrictions.
DO NOT stand outside the bath or shower and splash water. Step inside the shower and close the screen or curtain to keep water inside.
DO leave the bathroom clean and tidy - wipe the basin and mirror to get rid of excess water. Hair should be picked up and put in the bin.
DO hang wet towels over the rails to dry. Australians will use the same towel for 3-5 days in row.
DO wrap tampons and sanitary pads in a paper bad and place in the rubbish bin. Or wrap in toilet paper and place in the bin.
DO lift the toilet seat lid (for male household members) when using the toilet. Please put the seat back down when finished.
DO NOT stand on the toilet seat. Australian toilets are made for sitting on and may break if you try to stand on them.
Laundry and Washing
It is expected that you will do your own washing. Some hosts will do your washing for you. Others will want you to do it. You will always be expected to do your own ironing. If your host does your washing for you it would be polite of you to offer to hang out the washing or perhaps bring it in. If you are embarrassed for your host to wash your underwear then you can do this yourself. Please ask your host where you can do this. Most Australian hosts will not be happy with underwear being washed in the hand basin or in the shower. Clothes are usually dried outside in the sun on a clothesline. Most hosts will have a clothes dryer however these used sparingly. If it is wet outside and there is no dryer then your host will usually have a space somewhere undercover for you to dry your clothes. Please ask you host what to do.