Please read this section carefully before coming to Japan.
The homestay experience requires an open mind and cultural sensitivity. Behavior that might be acceptable in your own home may not be appropriate in a Japanese home. You will be a guest in your host family’s home. As such, you will be responsible to behave as a guest and to respect the rules of your family, which may include following a curfew and/or helping out around the house.
Although your homestay experience may be one of the most rewarding aspects of your time in Japan, it is important to remember that your primary responsibility is to study the Japanese language. Homestay families understand the intensity of the KCP language program. For example, if your family has made special plans that include you but you have a scheduled examination the next day, please explain this to your family and excuse yourself from the activity. Many students have found it helpful to go over their class schedules with their host families in advance to avoid conflicting activities that may affect their academic performance.
It is equally important that you respect your host family’s generosity. Host families are eager to enjoy your companionship and learn about your country and its people, so make an effort to spend quality time with your Japanese hosts. Use the experience to practice your Japanese language and improve your understanding of Japanese culture and society.
You will need to be open to special Japanese customs and family rules. Most families hope that the students will become part of their family, observing the same rules and customs as would any member of the family. We cannot stress enough the importance of having an open mind and not rushing to judgment. Sometimes these rules may be difficult for you, but remember you are a guest in a home in another country. You are expected to observe your host family’s rules and work hard to develop a good relationship based on mutual understanding and friendship. If you have problems with your host family and are hesitant to discuss these problems directly with them, please tell the KCP student coordinator.
Students at KCP are fortunate because they enjoy the privilege of getting to know families who are especially interested in foreign people. These families offer their hospitality out of good will and a desire to develop close international friendships.
Your First Week
KCP International Japanese Language School will select your host family before you arrive in Japan, based on the information you provide. When you arrive, a KCP staff member will take you to meet your host family. Although you may be experiencing jet lag, it is important to go over basic house rules with your host family at the beginning of your homestay. Setting clear rules and developing mutual understanding is the key to avoiding future misunderstandings. Please do not hesitate to ask questions. It will take some time before you feel comfortable at home, but think of this as a learning experience. Remember, your host family and all of us at KCP are always there to help you. If you find it difficult to communicate with your host family about the house rules and such, please consult your student coordinators.
When taking your luggage into your room, be very careful not to damage the floor (especially the tatami mat or carpet) by dragging your luggage across it. Please also be careful with furniture and other objects in the room.
Japanese family members usually clean their room every day. Likewise, you are expected to keep your room clean and orderly. If you use a futon (a traditional Japanese bed), please tuck it away in the closet every morning. Ask your family where to put the futon and how to handle it. If you use a Western-style bed, please make your bed every day.
Remember that your host family may need to enter your room from time to time. This is normal and may involve getting things stored in the room or airing it out.
Curfews and House Keys
Expect your host family to be protective of you and perhaps reluctant to let you go out alone, especially at first. This is not from a lack of trust, but rather from concern, as your host family will feel a parental responsibility for you.
Talk to your family about rules for entering and leaving their home, especially at night. Some families may prefer that you knock to be let in, while other families may allow you to borrow a key. If your host family lends you a key, be careful and responsible with it.
Most host families have a curfew. Discuss the specific time with your host family: you need to respect and obey your curfew. Remember, you are in a different country living with a family who maintains a different lifestyle. It is your responsibility to respect that lifestyle.
Becoming a Family Member
Keep an open mind. To help you through your adjustment, offer to help with family chores. This will indicate your desire to enter into family life. It will also provide a means to communicate with your family and enable you to experience the Japanese lifestyle. While you are living with your Japanese family, observe the same rules of courtesy that you would when visiting someone’s home.
Be open and honest if conflicts or misunderstandings arise.
Above all, be sincere!
Your host family will provide breakfasts and dinners. You are responsible for all lunch expenses. Dining with your host family is a great way to enjoy homemade Japanese food and an excellent time to learn Japanese manners and customs. It’s also a good opportunity for family conversation.
If you have any eating restrictions, you must let KCP know in advance. A typical Japanese diet is well-rounded: each meal usually consists of vegetables, fish or meat, and rice. If you have dietary restrictions, vegetarians, or those who prefer to make their own meals, strongly consider the dormitory option.
If the host family has a set time for meals, please adjust your schedule the best you can to accommodate their routine. If you must miss a meal (especially dinner), inform your host family well in advance. Preparing a meal usually involves a great deal of time and thought on the part of your host mother.
During your stay, there might be a time when your host mother cannot prepare a meal. In this case, we ask host mothers to prepare something in advance so that you can heat it up. If you prefer to cook, please ask the host family how to use the kitchen.
Not all families are the same. Your family may happily give you kitchen privileges, or they may not. Be sensitive to your own situation.
Bathrooms and Bathing
The evening bath is still a ritual in many Japanese homes. The Japanese bath tub is for bathing purposes only, not for cleaning. Before entering the bath, wash with soap outside the bath and rinse all the soap off. Use the bath itself for soaking and relaxing. Families usually take baths in the evening before or after dinner.
The bath water is often hot compared to Western standards. If you are not accustomed to the high temperature, please explain this to your host family and ask if you may add cold water to the bath. Most likely, it won’t be a problem, but it is polite to ask permission.
It is also important to let your host family know when you customarily use the bath or shower and make arrangements for a routine that will accommodate both you and your family. This is especially important if you are with a big family. Each family member will have a routine, and it is polite to make sure there are no conflicts.
Don’t drain the bath water after using it, as it may be used by other family members.
Each family has a different system for the hot water supply. It can be dangerous if misused. Make sure your host family explains their system. If you do not understand completely, please talk to your student coordinator.
In Japan, people shut the bathroom or shower door after leaving. So even when it is not in use, the door may be shut. Check by knocking on the door.
In general, do not use the family telephone. Phone calls are very expensive in Japan; there is a charge for each local call. In addition, telephone bills are not usually itemized, so it’s difficult to determine the cost of your calls. International calls from Japan are significantly more expensive than calls from the U.S.
If, in an urgent situation, you are going to have your family call the host family phone, be sure to notify your host family first. Many host families do not speak English and would be disconcerted by hearing English questions on the phone. Also, be aware of the time difference between your home and Japan.
During your first week in Japan, purchase a telephone card, available at many convenience stores and vending machines, or arrange a cell-phone service. For more information, see Phones.
Utility costs are much higher in Japan than in the U.S. Use electricity and hot water conservatively.
When leaving your room, turn off the light, air-conditioner, or heater. If you do not know how to use an appliance in your room or the house, please ask your host family.
Ask your host family about the location of the washing machine and how to use it. Do your own laundry. If you prefer to use a laundromat, you are responsible for the cost.
Don’t plan to be able to do laundry every day. If your family offers to do your laundry, be reasonable with the quantity you give them.
Not all Japanese homes have a dryer: clothes are hung out to dry, which does take longer. If you have a load to wash, don’t expect to wear those clothes the next day. But don’t save a lot of laundry up, either, and try to hang-dry it all at once. Once a week or slightly more often is a good schedule.
Don’t overload the washing machine. Japanese washing machines are much smaller than American models. Always get directions from your host family about the operation of the machine before doing a wash by yourself.
If you smoke, check with the family regarding rules for smoking in the house. Ask your host family where you can smoke.
Most host families separate trash into burnable, unburnable, and cans. Discuss with your family their system.
It may take a while for you to feel comfortable using your conversational Japanese. At first, you might feel overwhelmed and lost, but be patient and keep trying. The more you practice, the faster you will improve and feel comfortable.
Caring for Yourself
Be self-sufficient by doing your own laundry and getting yourself up on time, so your host family doesn’t feel unnecessarily burdened.
Balancing Your Schedule
Keep your host family informed of your plans. If your plans change, call them so they won’t worry if you miss a meal or get home late. Whenever possible, alert your host family ahead of time that you may miss a meal.
Make an effort to be part of the normal household routine. Assure your family that they don’t have to change their schedule or make special plans just for your sake.
During the first week of the program, go over your class schedule with your host family. If you have any pre-set personal plans and will be absent for an extended period of time, talk about these plans right away. If your plans change, let your family know.
The KCP language program is very intensive. You will be busy with your studies during the week and with the culture class and excursions on Saturdays. You may want to visit many other places and you may have friends with whom you want to spend time. However, please remember that your host family also wants to spend time with you. So it is especially important for students participating in the homestay option to plan your time wisely.
Please do not borrow money from your host family. Lending money is rarely done in Japan unless it is a real emergency. If you have a money emergency, first tell family or friends back home.
The fee KCP pays host families does not cover the following expenses: lunch, telephone, laundry, toiletries, alcoholic beverages, sweets or snacks, and so on. Set up a budget and follow it. Japan is a very expensive country to live in, so be careful with your money. Plan carefully, and don’t spend aggressively in the first few weeks of the program.
Inviting Guests to Your Host Family’s Home
If you would like to invite friends to your host family’s home, get permission first. If permission is granted, remember that your guests are your responsibility. DO NOT invite friends for overnight stays.
Issues with Host Families
Japanese people generally avoid conflict. Whenever possible, KCP asks host families to talk about concerns or problems with you directly. But this is not customary in Japanese society. If you feel there are any problems, please talk sincerely about your feelings and try to resolve them. If you do not feel comfortable talking about problems with your hosts, please talk to your student coordinator. Language and cultural misunderstandings are usually the cause of most problems.
Because finding host families in Tokyo is very difficult, moving to another family can only be done with a valid reason. If problems arise between you and your host family, inform the student coordinator immediately and then try to talk to your family. Often, problems can be resolved by patience, listening, understanding, and a sense of humor. If problems seem too large to resolve, consult the KCP student coordinator again. Changing your host family can happon only in an emergency or in a persistent, severe problem that cannot be solved. If all agree that a change in host families is appropriate, it might take a week or longer before you will be placed with a new family. When you do move to a new host family, if the change was for personal reasons, you will be responsible for purchasing a new transportation pass. You cannot change host families more than once per term.
Japan is very different from your home country, with very different cultural and social expectations. Accept the differences. After all, that is why you are choosing the homestay experience.
Want to know more about living in a Japanese family? At Home In Japan will help you remember the most important aspects.
Going on Trips
If you plan to be away from your host family for more than one day, let them know where they may contact you in the event of an emergency and when you will return. Also inform your student coordinator.
Within the first 10 days of your stay, your student coordinator will show you how to purchase a train-bus pass from your home to KCP. Local transportation costs you incur between your home and school before you purchase the pass will be reimbursed by KCP.
When school is not in session (for example during breaks between terms), you will not be reimbursed for transportation costs.
Going Out With Your Host Family
When going out with your host family, please discuss the cost in advance so you can budget your money accurately. In some cases, your host family will offer to pay. In others they may extend the invitation but you will be responsible for your own costs. If you are unsure, discuss the situation with your host family.
Leaving Your Host Family
Plan on leaving your host family’s home no later than the program ending date. If you need to extend your stay for any reason, you must first discuss it with KCP staff.
When you leave your host family, check that you take all your belongings with you. Clean up your room and give any keys back to your family. Show your sincere appreciation. This is very important in Japanese culture: showing appreciation is one attribute of Japanese society that cannot be overemphasized.
Useful Homestay Phrases
おはようございます / Ohayo gozaimasu / Good morning
おやすみなさい / Oyasumi nasai / Good night (before going to bed)
ただいま / Tadaima / I’m home (when coming home)
いってきます / Itte kimasu / I’m going (when you leave house to go out)
いただきます / Itadakimasu / Let’s eat! (when starting to eat)
ごちそうさま / Gochisosama / Enjoyed the meal (when finished eating)
いつ / Itsu / When
どこ / Doko / Where
なに / Nani / What
どうやって / Doyatte / How (in what way)
だれ / Dare / Who
いくら / Ikura / How much (price)
どのくらい / Donokurai / How much (quantity/length)
これは なんですか？ / Kore wa nandesuka / What is this?
XXは にほんごで なんですか？ / XX wa nihongo de nandesuka / What is XX in
どうやって たべますか？ / Doyatte tabe masuka / How can I eat it?
どうやって つかいますか？ / Doyatte tsukai masuka / How can I use it?
XXは どこに ありますか？ / XX wa doko ni arimasuka / Where is XX?
だいじょうぶ？ / Daijobu / OK?
Asking for permission
つかっても いいですか / Tsukattemo iidesuka / May I use it?
かりても いいですか / Karitemo iidesuka / May I borrow it?
たべても いいですか / Tabetemo iidesuka / May I eat it?
のんでも いいですか / Nondemo iidesuka / May I drink it?
うれしい / Ureshii / happy
たのしい / Tanoshii / enjoyable, fun
おもしろい / Omoshiroi / fun, funny
おいしい / Oishii / delicious
さびしい / Sabishii / feeling lonely, missing someone
ざんねん / Zannen / pity, shame
きょうはXXじに かえります / Kyo wa XX ji ni kaeri masu / I will be home at XX o’clock.
ゆうごはんは いりません / Yugohan wa iri masen / I will not have dinner at home.
ともだちと でかけます / Tomodachi to dekake masu / I will go out with my friend(s).
あしたは てすとです / Ashita wa tesuto desu / I will have a test tomorrow.
ちょっと まって / Chotto matte / Just a moment, please wait.
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