At Home in Japan
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Module 10.1

It Sometimes Happens. . . Stay or Go?


Should I Stay or Leave?
Not all homestays are made in heaven. Sometimes in spite of the best intentions, the homestay guest does fall right into an unseen hazard hole. This section will inform you of some major warning signs from host families that the homestay is not going well. These may be subtle, but they are very important. You also need to be attuned to signs that something may be awry with your host family which has nothing to do with you. Finally, having heeded these signs, you need to know what to do to rectify your situation, or if necessary, what steps you should take to leave your homestay.

You should have some idea from the cases up to this point of some of the main problems a guest can create for a host family. (If you aren't sure about this, review the Peter case (Modules 2.1, 3.1), the sections on becoming a "good guest" (7.1-7.3), and all the sections in Module 8. Many hosts try to gaman suru (endure the situation), if things are not going well, as Peter's family did in Module 3.1. But sometimes a host family will become so fed up that they will ask the guest to leave. This may come suddenly and appear as a shock. But most likely the guest has simply missed the unspoken signs by which his family has been trying to tell him for some time that things are not going well.

Homestay guests may also have problems with their host families, and many guests also "gaman suru", resolving to endure their homestays until the end. However, neither side gets much out of a homestay based on "putting up with the situation". If problems exist, and you don't seem to be making any headway in solving them, it is far better to get in touch with your program coordinator early on in the homestay and try to improve the situation. Li Ming's case (Module 8.2) is an example of how this can work.   

1. Take a look at the three case summaries below, and notice especially what warning signs indicate that something is going wrong with the homestay. Then answer the questions that follow:

  • Is Jeremy being treated as a guest?
  • What are some of the indications that the goals of the host family and guest are at cross-purposes in this homestay? Why is the mother's lack of interest especially problematic?
  • Why doesn't giving Jeremy the "rules of the house" work in this case? Why is it necessary for a host family to "wrap" the newcomer as a guest in the beginning?



What are Jeremy's options in this situation?

  1. Do nothing. Just endure (gaman suru) and try to make the best of it.
  1. Go to the program office early on in the homestay and inform them about the difficulties with his family. They could have tried to implement Jeremy's wish to learn Japanese with the family. His homestay office could also have offered him some other strategies to cope with his situation. For example, it is likely that the father didn't really want a homestay guest for his own English, but for his sons. Jeremy could try to get along with the sons in English. If they become friendly, then it is possible the mother will also go along more willingly with the homestay. She is the one who could speak Japanese the most, if she becomes accommodating to the homestay. If these various strategies don't succeed, then the program office can remove him from this homestay.
  1. If the program office is not an option and Jeremy finds his homestay too uncomfortable, he needs to leave the homestay himself. (Find information about leaving on next page.)
What did Jeremy decide to do?
  1. He endured the homestay, because he had already had a successful stay in the past and didn't think this family could change his positive image of Japan .
2. Sometimes host families can have unrealistic expectations for the homestay. Check out the consequences in the next case:

  • What are some of the indications that the goals of the host family and guest are at cross-purposes in this homestay?
  • Is Kate's presence the cause of any of the problems she describes going on in her family? What makes it hard for a homestay guest to realize this in the kind of situation Kate describes?
  • Describe some of the expectations of the host family for Kate. Could she possibly have fulfilled them? What could have served this family better than hosting a homestay guest?
What are Kate's options in this situation?
  1. Kate doesn't have the option of doing nothing, as her stay with the family is going to become increasingly uncomfortable, since the mother has made her central to resolving their problems.
  1. Go to the program office early on in the homestay (at least at the point where the family finds out the son is doing drugs) and inform them about the various problems in the family. The program office in this case should facilitate Kate's leaving the family.
  1. If the program office is not an option then Kate needs to leave this homestay by herself as soon as possible. (Find information about leaving on next page.)
What did Kate do?
  1. Kate tried her best to endure her stay with the family.
  1. Ultimately this didn't work, and she left the homestay, and moved into a friend's apartment.

3. The following case touches on many things you have encountered in this tutorial. Try to bring these to bear on Gwen's situation below:

  • How can you explain the drastic change in behavior that Gwen describes in her host mother, from being "so nice," to "ostracizing and shunning me completely"?
  • How did Gwen misread the beginning of her homestay, and consequently, how did she run aground in her relationship after that? How does this compare with the homestay guests discussed in Modules 7-9 in Part 3?
  • Much of Gwen's homestay experience hinges on "unsaid" communication. What "unspoken" message do you think the family is trying to convey to Gwen by their behavior after they moved?
  • A major component in this homestay is the fact that neither host family nor guest appears to be able to end the homestay, even though both clearly want this. Why can't either Gwen or her family end the homestay? (See "Putting Things Together" below if you can't answer this.) In whose interests was the homestay set up?
  • What are some aspects of this homestay that are not well set up?



What are Gwen's options?
  1. She can't simply endure until the end. This homestay has no end, and her family is clearly not treating her well.
  1. Nor does she have a liaison to help her with problems; her director is the only liaison and he is inattentive to her problems because he doesn't want the homestay to end.  
  1. Gwen has only one option: She must leave the homestay as soon as possible, and she must do this by herself. She is not going to get any help from her director.  


What did Gwen do? 
  1. Gwen found an apartment that a teacher in her school was vacating, and moved in. The director of her school continued to make things difficult for her, and so eventually she found another job and moved to Tokyo.  



4. Putting things together. . . 
What can you do to avoid the kinds of problems presented above? First, apply to the homestay program on time. Then take the time to investigate how your homestay is set up. 
The following safeguards should exist in a well-set-up homestay:  
  • The time period of the homestay should be stipulated (Gwen's homestay had no specified time period, which made it difficult for either side to end the homestay).
  • A mechanism for dealing with problems should exist. This is usually the homestay office in one's study abroad program. (None of the above guests appear to have anyone they could call upon when problems arose).
  • Both host family and guest should be screened for their motivations for doing a homestay when they apply. (See Module 3.3) (This does not appear to have happened in cases 1 and 2, where both families should have been screened out of the programs.)
  • The homestay should be set up for the benefit of everyone involved. If the benefit is too one-sided or narrow the homestay won't work (for example, only the father appeared to want the homestay in Jeremy's case, and he only wanted it for his sons to learn English. Only the mother wanted it in Kate's case, and she unrealistically expected the international student (and English) to solve all of her family's substantial problems. In Gwen's case the director wanted the homestay in order to avoid having to pay key money for an apartment. He also kept requesting that the host family continue the homestay, and refused to let Gwen leave, when she requested an apartment. This put both sides in the bind that Gwen describes.
  • It is also crucial for homestay guests to prepare for their homestays. This includes learning enough Japanese to be able to communicate, as well as enough basic rudiments of Japanese social life, that you will understand what is involved in being a "good guest."



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