University Preparation students
Living in a homestay

General guidelines and advice

Homestay is a great way to experience multi-cultural Britain and feel part of UK home life. We have a range of homestay hosts (retired people, professional couples, single parents and families) who would all like to welcome you into their home. Here are some of the things that your homestay hosts will do for you:

They will:

  • Do their best to make you feel at home and treat you as a household member.
  • Encourage you to speak English as much as possible.
  • Give you a clean and comfortable room to sleep, relax and study.
  • Make sure you have enough to eat for breakfast and dinner.
  • Show concern for your health, safety and welfare during your stay.
  • Respect your cultural background.
  • Be interested in getting to know you.
  • Be sensitive to your needs.
  • Sometimes invite you to do something or visit somewhere with them.
  • Keep in contact with the college and help with any problems you have.

Staying with a host may be different from your own country in many ways. There are many things that may not be the same. Your homestay hosts will do their best to make you feel ‘at home’, but some things will seem strange at first. It is very important to be ‘open’ to the new culture and talk regularly to your host about any questions or feelings you may have.

As a new member of the home you will take part in the normal routine of life in Britain. You will probably meet other members of the household, as well as friends and neighbours. This will be a good chance to practise your English. If you are not sure, ask the hosts what you should call them. Most of them will be happy for you to use their first names.

The importance of good communication

Talking to your hosts
To really enjoy your time being part of a British home, it’s important to talk to the host regularly. The host will want you to feel happy and comfortable in his or her home and have a good relationship with you. Please speak to them every day about your plans, your needs or any questions you may have.

Checking
If you are not sure about something, just ask. You can begin: ‘Is it OK if I....’. Remember that British people will sometimes try to be polite if they don’t agree, so when they say ‘Well, not really’ they may mean ‘Absolutely not!’ Remember that in British culture, it is important and polite to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.

Phone Numbers and Email
Please remember that the cheapest way to keep in contact is by sending SMS/text messages to your host. Please give your mobile number to your host and ask for your host’s mobile number. Please put the house’s street address and home phone number in your phone. It might also be useful to have your host’s email address, and to give your email address to them. Your host will want to speak to you and keep in contact with you regularly to know your plans.

Punctuality
If you are planning to meet your host or have plans to eat with them, please be on time. Always call if you know you are going to be late.

Plans to Move
Many students enjoy staying with hosts, but if you plan to move from the host home to private accommodation, remember that you must tell your host at least 7 days before you move, and must move out at the weekend (Saturday or Sunday).

Your room

Your room is an important space for you to relax, sleep and study. Every room should have a bed and storage space. There should be somewhere to study in the room, or another quiet place to study in the home. It is important that you feel comfortable, as this is your private space. However, it is good to also remember that the host may have some rules about using the room.

Here are some of the things you should remember:

  • You should tidy your room regularly.
  • Use the laundry bin in your room for all dirty washing.
  • The host family will give you clean bedding every week.
  • If you want to make any changes to the room, please check first.
  • Never smoke in your room or out of the window. You may be asked to leave the home.
  • Don’t eat, cook or store food in your room. Don’t use candles or heaters in your room without the permission of your host.
  • Return any used glasses or cups to the kitchen.
  • Your host may sometimes need to enter your room to give you fresh bedding, etc. Someone should knock on the door or check it is OK before entering your room.

Curfews

Students under 18 must be back at their homestay accommodation by a certain time each evening. The curfews are:

  • Students aged 16–17: MUST be home by 22.30 every evening unless they are attending a Kings run activity in which case they must be home at 23.30
  • Students aged 14–15: MUST be home by 21.30 every evening unless they are attending a Kings run activity in which case they must be home at 22.30

Anyone breaking these rules may be asked to leave the homestay.

Rules in the home

Every household has its rules about what members should or should not do. Therefore it is important to be sensitive to the rules of the house. The most important general rule is to think about other people’s needs and feelings. If you are not sure how to do something or what the rules are, please ask your host. However, every homestay student must follow these basic rules:

Friends
Do not take friends home unless the hosts say it is ok. Friends are not allowed to stay the night in your room.

Returning home
You must tell your host what time you will be home at night. Depending on your age, there may be a curfew on the time you return home.

Security
If you are 16 or over, your host will give you a key or keys to the house. Be careful with these keys and try not to lose them. If you are the only person at home, always shut the windows and lock the doors when you leave. Make sure that the windows in your room are closed and locked when you leave it.

Footwear
Your host may prefer you not to wear outdoor shoes inside the house.

Phone and internet

Wireless (Wi-Fi) internet
If you have a laptop computer, you can use the wi-fi at the home. Please ask your host for the password. You should not download films or other large files. If you are missing sleep or college by using the internet a lot during the night, the college may ask the host parents to turn off the internet service. (Please remember that not all summer students will have wi-fi.)

Phone Calls
Please do not use the home telephone to make calls unless you have a phone card. You can find out where to buy a phone card from Reception at college. Of course, your own family can call you on the host’s home phone number (the UK country code is +44), but please check when the best time to use the phone will be. Remember that there may be big time differences between the UK and your country.

Eating and food

Breakfast
Please help yourself to breakfast every day. Please clean plates, knives and forks or put them in the dishwasher. Please try not to damage work surfaces and leave the kitchen clean and tidy when you have finished. Some hosts may prefer to organise the breakfast table for you, especially if you are a younger student. Please check with your host.

Evening Meal
You must tell the host as soon as possible if you are planning to not eat dinner at home. Please telephone or text (SMS) if you know you are going to be late and they will be happy to leave a dinner for you. All students under 16 will need to have dinner at home with their host every night.

Your food
Your host will give you breakfast and dinner, but you must buy your own lunch every day, unless you have booked to have lunch at college. If there is any other food that you need, please buy it at the supermarket. If you need space in the fridge or cupboard please ask your host.

Washing

Washing Clothes
One load of washing will be done once a week. Your host will tell you which day. You may have to pay a little extra money if you would like to do more. There will be an iron and ironing board for you to borrow if you wish.

The Bath and Shower
It is very normal to have a daily shower or bath. Some of the members of the household will need to use the bath or shower at a certain time, in order to go to work or college. Ask your host what time would be best for you to use the bath or shower. Please leave the bathroom clean and tidy, and please do not make the floor wet.

At night

Bedtime
Try to think about the time that everyone in your home goes to bed, as they may have work or college the next day. Try not to play loud music or games or make noisy phone calls during the night.

Waking up
Do not rely on your host to wake you up; it is your responsibility to wake up on time.

Important rules

Smoking
Remember that there is no smoking in your room or anywhere in the house. Ask your host if it is ok to smoke in the garden or somewhere else outside. Please make sure you ask for an ashtray and do not put cigarette ends anywhere outside the host house. Please make sure that finished cigarettes are no longer alight.

Students smoking in their room or out of the window will be asked to leave the host’s home as this is a strict Kings policy and fire safety is very important.

Alcohol
You should not drink alcohol within the home, or be drunk while in the homestay home. Please remember that there are strict laws about drinking alcohol for young people in the UK (see Living in the UK: UK Law). Students who break this rule may be asked to leave the homestay, and there may be much more serious action taken by the college (see Your Conduct).

Drugs
Drug use is a very serious issue and against UK Law. Do not bring or use illegal drugs of any kind in the homestay home. Please remember that, like alcohol, there are strict laws about using drugs for  people in the UK (see Living in the UK: UK Law). Students who break this rule may be asked to leave the homestay, and there may be much more serious action taken by the college (see Your Conduct).

Attendance, Lateness and Sickness
We have a strict policy on attendance (see Your Conduct). We must report poor attendance to UK Visas and Immigration and this will affect your Student Visa. If you are late to a lesson, this is counted as an absence. If you are unwell, it is important for you to contact the college before your classes start. Please do not ask the host to do this. You will need to contact college every day that you are sick. If you do not contact us, we will contact you, and your hosts, if necessary.

Expectations of You
Please remember that the College Rules (see Your Conduct) are also true in your homestay home. Please be polite and treat everyone in the home with respect. We regularly speak to the host to check both you and the host are happy, as we want you to both enjoy your time sharing a home together.

Requests or problems
We want you to enjoy the experience of being in a British home. Our Accommodation Officer checks and chooses each host and home carefully, and tries to find a host that you will enjoy living with, and is the best match for you.

When you arrive, the college Accommodation Officer will check you are comfortable and happy in your homestay home. We want you to be happy and hope that you can speak to your host about any questions you may have. If you have a problem that you cannot tell your host about, please tell the Accommodation Officer as soon as possible so we can help solve any problems or answer any requests within the homestay.

Under 18s
There are special rules for under 18s at Kings – please see our Under 18s Guide for more information. 

Facilities in a typical UK home

Your room

You will be given a key to the house but you will not normally be given a key to your room, as it is not usual to lock bedroom doors in a private home. The host is responsible for keeping your room clean but you are responsible for making your bed and keeping your room tidy.

If you wish to move furniture in your room or put pictures on the wall, please ask the host family first. Please do not use drawing pins, glue or sticky tape on walls or furniture and be careful with shoe polish and nail varnish. If you break or damage anything, tell your host family immediately and be prepared to pay for the cost of replacements or repairs. Please ask before using any of your own electrical equipment. You can buy electrical adaptors in many shops, but please note that UK voltage is 240V.

The living room

This is where many families relax, read the newspapers, watch television, and entertain their friends. Some people call it the ‘sitting room’ or ‘lounge’. Family members may have their favourite armchairs.

Part of the living room may be a dining area. Some houses have a separate dining room. Some families eat most of their meals in the kitchen, but use the dining or living room on special occasions. Sometimes people eat while watching television if a favourite programme is on at the same time.

  • Find out if family members have favourite chairs or armchairs.
  • Use the chairs you are offered.
  • Don’t put your feet up on the furniture.
  • Always ask if you want to turn on the television or change the channel.
  • If you read books or newspapers, put them away tidily when you have finished.
  • If you eat or have a drink in the living room, always take the cups, plates and cutlery to the kitchen when you have finished.

The dining area

Mealtimes, especially evening meals, are opportunities to talk. Your hosts may be interested in what you have done, seen and learnt. Don’t miss this opportunity. Ask them about anything new, unusual or strange that you have seen or heard. This is usually a good time to ask them questions and practise your English.

  • It is important to be on time for meals. If you are going to be late, phone and explain. Your hosts will keep a meal for you. Tell your hosts if you will be eating somewhere else that day.
  • Don’t sit in someone else’s favourite chair. Ask which chair you should sit in.
  • It is polite to wait until everyone has their food before starting to eat. There is no special word or phrase that everyone says before eating. Your host may say something like ‘Please start’ or ‘Do begin’.
  • However, it is not rude to be the only person eating, so you do not have to stop when everyone else has finished.
  • Be considerate. Pass things like salt and pepper, bread and butter, when people need them.
  • Use a napkin if you have one. Spread it on your lap. You can use it to wipe your lips and fingers when necessary. British people don’t use a hot towel to wipe their hands at the table.
  • When you have finished, place your knife and fork side by side on your plate. Fold the napkin and place it beside the plate.
  • You do not have to eat everything on your plate, but it is polite to eat most of it.
  • Always offer to help clear the table. Take things into the kitchen area until the table is clear. Men and women, boys and girls help with this in most families.

Language tip

When you don’t know people very well, two very useful words when making requests or offers are ‘could’ and ‘would’.
Could you pass the butter, please?
Could I have some bread?
Would you like some orange juice?

Study tips

Notice how people make requests or offers in English. Write down some examples in your notebook.

Can you tell how well these people know each other?

Are some people more direct to each other? Why is this?

What language would you use to make requests or offers to different English speakers you know?

In what ways are table manners different in Britain? Observe and make notes. Your host family may not be typical, so observe other people in cafeterias and restaurants. Are there any manners you like or dislike? Write down what they are and why.