Cultural differences in Chinese host-families

Cultural differences in Chinese host-families

Living with a Chinese host family is not only a unique chance to explore Chinese culture, it also gives you the chance to find new friends and practice Chinese with native speakers. At the end of the day, it is in your hands how far you want to adapt to the Chinese lifestyle!

Today I would like to explore eight good reasons (“8” is the lucky number in China) for choosing a homestay. Nevertheless, I want to be realistic at the same time and discuss a variety of points which should be considered as well before making a decision.

8 Reasons Why

1. Making friends by being part of a Chinese family
2. Practicing Chinese language skills
3. Experiencing daily life in China
4. Learning more about my own culture
5. Understanding Chinese people makes you more confident in business contexts
6. Amazing Chinese food
7. Cheaper lifestyle
8. Help you to adapt to daily life and get shown around the city

1. Making life-long friends

In China traditionally family life is of high importance for Chinese people. In former times it was the ideology of Confucianism which laid out the rules for a harmonious family life. Nowadays it is the One-Child-policy which turns a kid into the center of the family’s attention. A harmonious family life and a good relationship between husband and wife are still important values for Chinese families. Consequently, you will be integrated in daily life not only as a guest, but as a real family member; a daughter, a son, a brother or a sister!

This is the unique chance to explore Chinese everyday life in as much detail as possible, make new friends and gain a second family in China! Sometimes participants even get taken away on weekend trips to mountains or even to other cities as part of the family. If the family has a kid, then the parents will probably ask you to help the kid with homework when possible.

Chinese people in general are really friendly and very curious about foreign cultures. So, they will always try to live a harmonious life with you and integrate you the best they can.

2. Practicing Chinese

If you have come to China to learn and improve your Chinese skills, you might soon realize that the Chinese you learn in the classroom differs from the vocab that you would use in daily life in China.

Living with a Chinese family can help you with improving your Chinese skills. Even if you don’t speak any Chinese before your arrival, you will have the chance to learn some “survival” Chinese during your homestay. Every family who takes part in an “InternChina” homestay programme will have at least one family member who speaks English. Chinese people love teaching their mother tongue and won’t miss a chance to help you improve your language skills.

3. Experiencing daily life in China

Where better than in a family to immerse yourself in the local culture? Our unique homestay programme enables you to experience the life of Chinese people. Some families might take you out to dinners, some cook at home every day. Others might take you to Buddhist temples or Catholic church services. You will take part in big family dinners or get to know about Chinese weddings. Most likely you will sooner or later end up in a Chinese KTV (Karaoke) or in a foot massage place. You will see how much time Chinese invest in working, how much they enjoy shopping or how they motivate their children to study hard in order to do the best in school.

4. Learning more about yourself and your culture

However, you might realize during your stay that the Chinese culture is totally different from what you are used to live in the West. When asked about the most important thing students learned from their InternChina homestay programme, the most common answer is “patience”. Among others, patience is one character trait that we as Westerners usually lack. If there is one best place to learn it, it is a Chinese family.

You will realize that life in the West is not “better” or “more developed”, it is just different from China. On the other hand, you might be surprised that many things actually seem to be the same as back home. Either way, improving your awareness of the differences between Chinese and Western culture you will have the chance to learn a lot about intercultural communication and about yourself.

5. Understanding the culture and being more confident in business situations

If you are also taking part in our internship programme, you might be interested to see how Chinese people behave in business contexts. How do they negotiate? Which is the best way to approach a proposal? Is it really more difficult in China to address problems directly – as we might do in Western countries? How easy is it to make friends with your colleagues? By staying with a host family, you’ll learn more about how to interact in an appropriate way.

You might find the difference, that Chinese people are not always so indirect as we expect them to be – especially not when they consider you as a family member. However, it would be better to be careful about relating the behavior of Chinese people in private context to behavior in business related contexts. When Chinese are with family they are much more relaxed and informal; and address certain topics much more directly as they would ever do it at work.

Nevertheless, by knowing that Chinese people can act more informal than they would do when they meet you as a business partner or colleague, is already pretty helpful to act more confident in a business related context.

6. Enjoying tasty Chinese food

Before coming to China, you might already have tried “egg fried rice” or “sweet ‘n’ sour chicken” from the “Chinese restaurant” around the corner. As you may know already, this is only a small corner of what Chinese cuisine has to offer.

When you take part in the Homestay you will have the chance to try delicious local dishes like “gala” (clams with Chili, ginger & garlic) or “jiaozi” (dumplings with pork & cabbage). Most likely, your host-family will introduce you to the secrets of home-made Chinese food, which is usually very healthy and nutritious. Nowadays a lot of families are busy with work, not all of them cook every day. So it might be that they will take you out to restaurants from time to time, depending on their financial situation.

To sum up, no matter where you will try the Chinese food, be aware that you will need to eat a lot. 🙂

7. Living a cheaper lifestyle

Living with a family often means fewer temptations to blow your budget! In the end, students who try to adapt to the family’s rhythm and take part in family activities will enjoy their time much more too. At the same time, it is only fun if you are ready to embrace the challenge to share your life with them.

8. Helping you with daily life in China

Finally, when you first arrive in China, the number of people, all the cars, the shops and the size of places can be overwhelming. If you don’t speak any Chinese it might be difficult for you in the beginning to get around independently.

A Chinese family can be really helpful in assisting you with your daily life in China. Things like buying train tickets or getting to know the local tourist spots. Some host families might take you to hidden underground shopping malls, others might prefer to introduce you to their family in the countryside.

Whichever part of China you get to know this way, it will be exciting and different experience!

To sum up, there are lots of good reasons to live in a host family. Have they convinced you to take part in one for your China programme? Before committing, it is always a good thing to ask yourself whether you feel ready for the challenge. If the answer is “yes” and you want to start your unique adventure, then let us know!

Hope to see in China soon!