How do I get in touch with locals and the culture? Glad you asked! This is the third post in a series on getting in touch with locals during travels. Check back for more, or subscribe via email to never miss a beat.
I have my ways of getting touch with local culture. In the past two editions of this series, I’ve talked about foreign language study abroad and teaching English as methods of connecting with locals; my third edition is going to cover something that goes along with the first: a homestay.
Living in someone else’s house is never easy (at least for me) — something I am yet again discovering at this very moment. I find myself peeking around corners and double checking that I’m not doing something that might be out of the ordinary for the household, and it adds a bit of stress. In other words, you never really feel like you can relax.
But, living with a family in a foreign country is the best way to see how this part of the world lives, how they speak, where everyone sits within the family and my favorite — what they eat. I have done two homestays during my travels: one for only a week in Xela, Guatemala, and one for 7 weeks in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. The latter I had intended to spend more time at but eventually decided that I just couldn’t handle not having my own comfortable space any longer.
During both of these times, I learned a lot… but during the homestay in Bishkek I learned a LOT. I learned I had a love for MSG flavored soup, fresh lagman and black tea. I learned my host sister had an unhealthy obsession with licking things (including my arm). I learned that the concept of passing germs when someone is sick was not common knowledge. I learned that the Ninja Turtles were just as popular when dubbed over in Russian.
I saw what life was like for military wives in Kyrgyzstan, and I further saw how passionate my host father was about anti-terrorism. I saw how intrigued this part of the world was with the American culture and the English language.
I hung around as they sang karaoke for hours on end in the house, and I definitely had a few vodka shots in the process.
I find the idea of a homestay a very difficult task to get through, but in the end, I’m happy I do. Even if I only last a week, it’s still an insight I’ll remember forever. Do you have a homestay experience of your own to share?