Life at a Chinese Host Family in Qingdao
Before accepting a homestay in China you may have some initial doubts about the prospect of living in unfamiliar surroundings.
What can I expect from living in a Chinese host family? What is typical for them on a daily basis? How will they treat me? Do I have to eat dogs or insects? And very importantly: Will I be able to adapt to their cultural habits or will I feel like a total stranger throughout my time in China? These may be some of the questions that come to mind regarding a homestay in China!
First of all I want to clear up something: Chinese people are not aliens, they are people like you and me, just with some different trades and habits. One different aspect is the food. So be prepared: it is possible that Chinese families will offer you strange things like grilled bees, crabs thousand year old eggs or really spicy food. My advice is to give them a try. You might be surprised that it is sometimes not as bad as you expected!! Nonetheless, I am certain that your Chinese family will make an effort to cook something which you can enjoy. They often have many different dishes in the middle of the table so take your chopsticks and try out the diverse meals of vegetables, fish, chicken, rice and dumplings!
The living conditions also differ from those in our Western cultures. Some of us were quite shocked because once we arrived; we stumble across an old kitchen, a 20 year old washing machine, an uncomfortable bed and a shower in the middle of the bathroom so you cannot avoid flooding the whole bathroom! Immediately we realized China is still a developing country which is the reason why some homestay families do not live in luxury like we do back home.
It is essential to share some activities with them because it is a useful way to get to know their culture. Chinese people like to go to restaurants, family parties and they are very pleased to welcome their foreign guests and to cheer at them with their local Tsingtao beer. But it is important to know that Chinese people avoid staying out late at night. In general family doors are closed around 9 pm, and as a result Chinese parents basically watch TV in the evening whereas their children often play computer games. You think that this is boring? Well, their aim is not to keep you “imprisoned” at their house. If you spend some time with them the rest of the day your host family will usually let you go out. The majority of students usually come home around 12 pm at the weekend or they even get a key to come home whenever they want. It can be seen as a signal of trust so be proud of it and do not try to exploit your host family!
If they accept you as a part of their family it is likely you will get a chance to join them for extraordinary activities like the international Qingdao beer festival, a typical Chinese wedding, big birthday parties and a lot more.
So what conclusion can be drawn from my own personal experience? I believe that family life in China can be described as a “give-and-take” relationship. If you are nice to them by trying to adapt to their habits, joining in with family activities and attempt to converse and learn their language, they will be more inclined to give you freedom. Additionally it is a great opportunity to get to know a culture which is totally different to our culture back home. So be open-minded, try to see further than the end of your nose and you will definitely enjoy your life in China.