Settling into homestay living

What you can expect living in New Zealand and advice to help you settle in.

The homestay experience in Wellington

It can be quite a culture shock arriving in Wellington and not knowing what to expect. The food, weather and people are all very different and the Kiwi accent can be hard to understand. The best thing about staying with a local family is that it is a great way to get used to this new culture and experience local life in New Zealand, and most importantly, it helps you improve your English language skills.

Settling in with your new family can be worrying at first, especially when you are unsure of what is expected of you. You may have concerns about the food you will be eating, how you will get to your English language course each day, or it might be the first time you have lived in a home with young children. Don't worry—these are all things that will be resolved in the first week or two of your stay.

Here are some points to remember to help you settle in and feel more comfortable living with your new family. Make a note of them to avoid any miscommunication with your host family. These points will help you get the most out of your homestay experience:

  • When you arrive make sure you tell your homestay family about any health issues, cultural needs or food requests you might have. Usually you will be asked about these things, but it's OK for you to talk about them as well.
  • In New Zealand it is the cultural norm to offer assistance when staying in someone else's home and help with household duties. To not offer help and have your homestay family clean up after you may cause offence. So offer to help out with house hold chores like washing dishes, vacuuming or cleaning the bathroom.
  • Always try to clean your own room and never use it to prepare or store food.
  • It can be easy to lock yourself away in your room and use your nights to Skype family at home. Try to avoid doing this too often. Spend time in the lounge and talk with your family. The more you talk the better your experience will be.
  • Always wash your hands after using the toilet and preferably before each meal.
  • In winter, Wellington can be very cold. Make sure you bring plenty of warm, preferably woollen/thermal clothing with you. While you will have a heater in your room, power is expensive, so remember to turn this and any other electrical appliance (such as an electric blanket or computer) off when they are not required, i.e. when leaving your room or the house. When leaving the house, remember to ensure that all windows and doors are safely locked.
  • New Zealand has a very wet climate during winter, so it is a good idea to make sure your curtains or blinds are open during the day and the window is left open. Never dry wet clothes in your bedroom as this will make your room damp and could damage walls and window sills. Ask your homestay family how to use the laundry and where to hang up your washing. If you feel uncomfortable about having your laundry in view, don't be shy to discuss this with your family. There may be other options available.
  • Internet charges in New Zealand are high compared to other countries. You pay $10 per week for standard internet usage, but if you start to use large amounts of data, you will be charged extra. Ask your homestay host about using the internet.
  • It is not possible to move from your homestay because you are unhappy with the distance you need to travel to your place of study. Ask your homestay which buses or trains are the right ones to catch. It is normal to live in Wellington and use public transport to get to school or work so make sure you are familiar with the timetable. Sometimes the family may be able to drop you in the city by car, but you will need to be up early in the morning to do this. Remember, it's your responsibility to get to your classes.
  • If you are worried about anything, don't be afraid to talk with your host family. It is better that they know and that you give them the opportunity to help. They will want you to be happy and supported, and they respect how difficult it can be when you are away from your own home.
  • Finally, get out of your room and see and do as much as you can and make the most of your New Zealand experience. If there is somewhere special you want to go, let your family know. They will be happy to help.