The Best Way To Learn A Different Culture
In 1995 I was a junior in college in Japan, a little bored with my college life, and anxious to do something unusual when one of my friends
told me about her homestay in New Zealand. She told me about her host family and about how different their lifestyle was from ours. Her story and pictures
attracted me so much I decided on a New Zealand homestay for my summer vacation.
Like my friend, I was taken in as one of the family members. I helped my host mother with housework and played with the kids. On weekends
I went shopping and watched movies with them. Sometimes we went on a picnic near their home. When they had a party, I helped them and talked to their friends.
Just by being with them, I came in touch with a lot of new things.
After coming back, I could only think about my host family and New Zealand. Then I began to think about being on the opposite side.
The chance came when I was a senior in college. A college near my home was accepting host families for its exchange students. My family
hosted Jon Brock, a student from the U.S., between April and July. I tried to be nice to him, like my host family in New Zealand was to me, and teach him
what it is like to be Japanese.
Jon taught us what it was like to be an American. On the first day he told us what he liked and disliked. Japanese tend not to initially
show who they are as individuals and to consider others first. Jon would decline our invitation to go out when he did not want to go. Most Japanese would
accept the invitation out of respect and hospitality toward the host family.
Jon also brought his rollerblades from his home. He often rollerbladed around my home. Even when he went to college, he took a train
wearing his rollerblades. No Japanese take trains with rollerblades.
This summer, Jon came back to Japan and visited us. My family was very happy to meet him again. His Japanese had progressed a lot. My
mom cooked Japanese food for him and we had very good time.
Homestays give both students and host families educational and unforgettable experiences. I still keep in touch with my host family
in New Zealand. After me, they have accepted exchange students from countries including Switzerland and Indonesia. Jon is in California now and sometimes
he emails my family and me. After experiencing them from both sides, I can say that a homestay is the best and fastest way to learn a different culture.