Suggestions for Establishing and Keeping Good Relationship with Families
A Matter of Time
In United States, punctuality is important. You are expected to be ready for your family to pick you up at the time agreed upon. If you are more than 10 or 15 minutes late, call and let them know. If you plan to meet your family at a third place, such as a restaurant, it is very important that you reach there on time. If you cannot meet at the time agreed upon, call your family before the event to tell them the time you can arrive.
It is unacceptable to make plans and not show up. If you must cancel a meeting, let your host family know as soon as possible. Also, be prepared to arrange another meeting time.
What to Wear
If you are uncertain about what clothing would be appropriate for a visit, don't hesitate to ask your host family. Usually casual, everyday dress is fine for visiting your family. If they invite you to a party or holiday dinner or some cultural events, it will be appropriate to dress more formally.Table Manners
Follow the custom of your host family while eating.If they start their meal with a prayer, bow your head during the prayer. It is normal for an American family to use meals as a time for conversation. Americans usually wait until everyone has been served before beginning to eat. If you do not want more food, it is polite to refuse the offer by saying "no thank you." Eating all the food on your plate does not indicate that you want more. It might be rude to slurp (make noise) with the soup, talk with food in the mouth or burp (loud belch) after a meal. If there are any foods you cannot eat, the host families should have this information if you have listed them in your application. However, feel free to discuss any questions regarding the food.Smoking
If you smoke, you should ask permission of your host family before lighting up. Circumstances might have changed, though you have already listed this information in your application. Many families do not smoke and do not allow smoking in their homes. If your family does not want smoke in the house, you may ask if you can go outside for a few minutes.Helping Around the House
Families may appreciate an offer to help in washing dishes, but many will refuse your offer. You may offer to carry yout dishes to the kitchen after a meal, unless your host family makes it clear that they do not wish you to do this. Observing what the family members do provides a helpful clue in knowing what is appropriate. Conversation and Difficulty in Understanding
A visit to your host family will provide an excellent opportunity to share your opinions. Feel free to tell them what you feel and believe about topics that you might come accross in conversations. Also be willing to listen to and understand their ideas. Asking questions on personal income, cost of possessions, age and weight are not appreciated. However, if you do not understand a part or all of something that is being said, ask for repetition or explanation. Pretending to understand when you don't can lead to difficulties at a later time.Religion
If your host family actively participates in religious services, they will probably invite you to attend these services. If you accept the invitation, it does not imply an interest on your part to become a member of the religion. Normally, host family will not exert any religious pressure on you. Nevertheless, feel free to share about your religion and beliefs.Gifts
It is not an American custom to bring gifts when visiting. For a family member's birthday or at Christmas, small and inexpensive gifts will be appreciated, but will not be expected.