“Keep an open mind. Smile. Like any relationship, it takes work. But it’s worth it. Looking back, my host family was probably one of, if not the best part, of my AKP experience.” – 2016 AKPer
Communication, flexibility, and respect are the keys to a successful homestay. You may encounter some “lost in translation” situations, but please know that the Homestay Coordinator and Resident Director will help you. Each host family has its own rules, but AKP asks all students to abide by the following basics:
1. Driving Restrictions: For safety and liability reasons, you may not operate cars, motorbikes, or any other motorized vehicles while the semester is ongoing, even if invited to by your homestay family or if traveling on vacation outside of Japan.
2. Fire Safety and Property Damage: Japanese people are extremely cautious about fires, so ask your host family about fire prevention measures. Do not smoke in the house and be careful to keep your bedding away from heaters. Ask for permission before using household items and appliances and turn off the gas appliances when you have finished using them. If you incur any damage or loss to homestay property, you will be responsible for the cost.
3. Money: Do not borrow money and do not accept expensive gifts from your host family or friends. The Kyoto Center can lend you money in an emergency.
4. Cleanliness: One of the most effective ways to demonstrate respect and gratitude to your host family is through cleanliness. Pay close attention to personal hygiene by bathing daily, doing laundry often and keeping your room tidy. Always offer to help with mealtime cleanup. Due to living space constraints, it is important to keep your own things in your own room.
5. Curfew: Many families will set a time that you must be home by. This stems from their sense of responsibility for your safety while in Japan. Generally, the curfew is based on train or bus schedules that may end as early as 10 or 11 p.m. If you are going to be unavoidably late, even if only by a few minutes, make sure to email or telephone home. Many students find that after they have earned their family’s trust, their curfews are relaxed. Before trying to negotiate a later curfew, first try to meet your family’s wishes.
6. Inviting Guests Home: Always ask your host family before inviting guests. Japanese people normally entertain friends and acquaintances at restaurants or coffee shops, rather than in their homes. If you want to invite a friend home, ask your host family well in advance and see how they respond. Do not expect to entertain guests or friends in your own room. As a general rule, do not invite overnight guests, and under no circumstances should you have guests over when your host family is not home. Finally, do not expect your homestay to host family members or friends who visit you in Kyoto.
7. Meals: Your host family will provide you with breakfast and dinner, and you will receive a monthly lunch stipend from AKP. Note that your AKP lunch stipend is meant to be used 7 days a week. Host families are not obligated to prepare lunch on the weekends or on breaks. Please show extra gratitude if they do so.
8. Aisatsu: Announce when you leave the house (itte kimasu, to which someone will reply itterasshai), return home (tadaima, to which someone will reply okaeri-nasai), begin eating (itadakimasu), finish eating (gochisosama-deshita), enter the bath (osaki ni), or leave the bath (osaki deshita). Learn other phrases when using the phone or taking something from the refrigerator. The importance of these ritual expressions cannot be overstated. Make sure you use them daily.
9. Keeping the Homestay Informed About Your Schedule/Plans: Host families take their responsibility for your health and safety in Japan very seriously. What you may consider nosy may be their way in checking in and making sure that you are okay. Even if you are just going to class, tell your host parents when you’re leaving the house to put their minds at ease. Inform your host family of any travel plans, including where you’ll be and when. Never stay away overnight without first informing your host family, and do not wait until the last minute to ask for their approval. They may feel ill at ease if your request comes at the last minute.