For international students, staying in a London Homestay is a great way to get to quickly improve your English language skills and learn more about the British culture. By living with a London host family, you have more chance to experience how they live, from what they eat to how to they socialise. With such a unique opportunity being presented, it’s important to get the most out of the experience.
To help students who are maybe visiting London for the first time, here are some helpful hints and tips:
Try new foods
Perhaps the greatest challenge to overcome when visiting a new country is the difference in food tastes and habits. There may be times that you are offered meals that you do not like so much. The secret is to be open-minded and try new foods. If there is something you do not like so much, try adding or removing specific spices, sauces or ingredients to change the taste slightly.
However if you find yourself in a situation when you are clearly not happy with the meal(s) provided, talk to your Host(s) openly and respectively as you will find that many will happily consider your dietary likes and dislikes when preparing meals.
Please remember that your Host(s) will make an effort to provide you with samples of the local cuisine; cooking on a regular basis is not easy especially when many Hosts have other work and family commitments. Hosts will therefore greatly appreciate those students who do try to eat their foods. They will equally appreciate that not everyone will like every meal; in which case it so important that you talk to your Host if you find yourself in such a situation.
If you have special dietary requirements, it is important that you have communicated this to HFS London ahead of your booking confirmation so that Hosts can be reasonably prepared for such situations.
Help out around the Home
As your Host is welcoming you to live in their home, it is respectful that you offer to help wherever you can. Such examples can include offering to clean yours or others dishes, cooking a meal sometimes, or even going into town to collect the groceries. These are by no means compulsory but they are all nice gestures to your Host(s), and they are also very unique ways of learning about the culture and what it is like to perform everyday tasks. You will often find that the Host(s) will reward your kindness by similarly offering you with acts of goodwill.
Keep an open mind
London is a diverse society with many different cultures and habits which make it one of the most attractive and interesting cities in the world. It is likely that you will come across different customs and ways of doing things than you are not used to. Keeping an open mind, and remembering that you have been invited into your Host’s way of life, can make your time with your Host(s) extremely fulfilling.
On the other hand, your Host(s) may equally be unaccustomed to your habits. It helps therefore if both parties are patient and open-minded. Remember, you won’t be here forever and you may never have such a chance again, so try to open yourself up to as many unique learning opportunities as possible.
Spend time with your Host(s)
Your homestay should be more than just a room in someone’s house; by living in a Homestay you have a chance of establishing real life-long friendships. Not only is spending time with your Host(s) seen as more respectful, it can also be much more rewarding for you. It will give you the chance to gain a better understanding of life in London as well as the opportunity to do activities that you may not have otherwise had the chance to do.
Learn cultural norms before you arrive at your Homestay
Try researching about London before you arrive at your Homestay. This will help avoid any cultural shocks or misunderstandings when you’re here in London. It will inevitably help you settle into local life quicker. At the end of this post, there are several useful links designed to help you with this. Feel free to contact a member of the HFS London team should you have any further questions on this matter.
Teach your Host(s) something new
Just as you would want to learn from your Host(s), they are most likely hoping to learn more about your culture as well. Bring photos from home of your friends, family, places you go, foods you like, your neighbourhood, and anything that you think someone who has never been to your city or country might want to know about. Try teaching your Host(s) recipes, games, songs, dances, art skills, and other fun activities that you think might be interesting.
Students who have visited the UK before often recount how their first experiences of Homestay in London have shaped their opinions of our culture, of British people and how they view the UK.
We hope that by applying some of the suggestions above, your experience will be as positive and fulfilling as you may wish and one that you will cherish for the rest of your life.
Useful Links for International Students in London
This site offers a great variety of information for overseas students including the following topics: Arriving and Living in the UK; UK immigration control; the regulations on fees, awards and loans; financial aid and sources of funding; and your rights as a European Economic Area student studying in the UK.
2. BIA-Border and Immigration Agency
Home Office rules and information on immigration for individuals living in the UK. Includes downloadable application forms.
Home Office rules and regulations for individuals applying to seek leave to enter the UK.
An online tool that helps you plan your money for UK study.
An organisation representing students across the UK.
A useful resource for international students coming to the UK.
Information about applying to an undergraduate degree programme in the UK.
Links to British Council offices in countries worldwide.
British Council information about studying in the UK.
Information on London
A comprehensive guide to what London has to offer.
Information on bus, tube, rail and river transport in London. There is up-to-date information on ticket prices and travelling to and from the airports. Downloadable maps are also available.
Information about the mainline rail network throughout London and the rest of the UK.
Online version of one of London’s best known listings magazines. Details of theatre, cinema, exhibitions and galleries, restaurants, nightlife, etc. for the coming week.
Useful information on British culture and living in London.
Money Saving Advice
Enjoy thousands of free events, lectures and seminars held in London throughout the year. Find out more at Visit London.
Sign-up for discounted student travel and save 30% on London travel cards. Find out more at Transport for London.
There are thousands of student discounts available ranging from travel to books and cinema tickets to eating out. Find out more at Visit London.
How to book a London Homestay
We hope you found the above helpful? If you are thinking about choosing homestay as your London accommodation, then read our How it Works page for more info on the booking process. Another useful resource is our Help Centre. If you have questions that are not covered here, please feel free to contact us!
We look forward to hearing from you.