Jeremy: I Can't Help Breaking the Rules (male, US)
 
Jeremy came on a homestay with the Uemoto family for six months, during his senior year in high school. He had already had one summer homestay in Japan which had worked out very well. But this time, when he was introduced to the family, he feared that things were not going to work as well. His host father greeted him in English and he soon realized that all the members of the family except the mother spoke very good English, since they had lived for five years in the U.S. They talked to him only in English, but Jeremy had specifically requested a homestay for the purpose of learning Japanese. However, he resolved to ask them to speak Japanese to him.

The first thing the family did upon his arrival was to give Jeremy a long list of 50 "rules of the house" that he was supposed to obey. Jeremy resolved to do his best, but he was not used to this many restrictions. It was also very clear that the room he was staying in was the younger brother's room, because it still contained his toys and other things.

Jeremy tried to follow the rules and behave as the family did, but no matter how hard he tried he seemed to be doing things wrong. His host father was seldom home, his host mother ignored him, and his host brothers treated him like an intruder. Everyone spoke to him in English, when they spoke to him at all, in spite of his requests that they speak Japanese. They constantly got upset with him and lectured him on how he should behave, and berated him for breaking the rules. At one point he became ill with a high fever, and the father told him he must get up and go to school because this was his job. "If you don't do your job when you feel a little bad, it is showing disrespect for the family." Jeremy tried to talk with them about his situation but the father simply responded, "We are treating you like we treat our sons," and that Jeremy had to live the way the family did, since he is living in Japan.

Jeremy realized by the end of the stay that most of the members of this family didn't really want an exchange student. In fact, only the father did. The younger brother was upset because Jeremy had taken his room, the older brother was upset because the younger brother was spending all his time in his room, the host mother found Jeremy an unwanted intrusion in her life, and the host father just wanted him there so he could practice his English, and possibly keep up his children's English.


Warning signs about this family:
  • Jeremy is immediately press-ganged into the family uchi with no cushioning. It may be that living abroad has made this family think that dropping Japanese guest conventions is the best way to treat a foreign guest. Yet this puts Jeremy in an impossible situation, since he doesn't yet know how to act like "one of the family." He needs to be a guest initially until he can learn some of their conventions.
  • The father says he wants to treat Jeremy like one of his own sons. But he seems to have overlooked some important things in his treatment of Jeremy. (Are family members ordinarily expected to always speak English? Are they normally given long lists of rules? Are they ignored by other family members, especially the mother?) The father overlooks the fact that Jeremy is actually a stranger when he enters the family.
 
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