Chinese Homestay When You Are Over 40: Nightmare or Friends for Life?
This is the story of Lenka, who came to Beijing in September 2018 with her daughter, Teresa. They’re staying together with an LTL Chinese Homestay family for four months, while Tereza takes an intensive language course at our school. Read on to find out more about Lenka’s experience living with at Chinese family…
Staying with a Chinese Homestay Family – can I face this challenge?
I am 44 years old, hate being organized or controlled by any meaning of these words. Before I came to China people warned me that Chinese people do not make any exceptions; children, adults, seniors are all treated like children. They control your every single step… where you are going, when you come back, they tell you that you should wear warm clothes, that you haven’t eaten enough… They expect you to do what they say, without comment. They don’t mean this in a negative way, it is just the way they are and is part of the culture! Can I cope with this? Will the family respect my own independence?
These were the questions I asked myself before I left for our four month stay in Beijing with my daughter.
Day 1 with our Chinese Homestay: The Rules
Just after our arrival on Thursday morning we were shown to our rooms, had a bite to eat and were told to have a rest until 2:30 p.m. “Then we will go to the police station to register,” Mrs. Jiao the grandmother of the house, a lady in her 60s said. “After the police station, we will take you to the supermarket where you can do your shopping, and tomorrow we will take the subway and I will show you where the school is. On Sunday we are all going to the Temple of Heaven where my granddaughter is playing XXX (a type of Chinese instrument that I didn’t quite understand). Dinner is at seven, for breakfast you can have bread, peanut butter and an egg. You can wash your clothes twice a week. Don’t throw the toilet paper in the toilet please, as it will clog”, she explained. OK, rules set. Let’s see.
I didn’t want to be impolite, but I really needed to breathe and spend some time alone, just with my daughter and the Beijing air. So we said we would like to do some sightseeing on our own for the rest of the day. At first they were afraid we would get lost, but then Mrs. Jiao showed us where the subway was, around a 10 minutes walk from our new home, and told us to be home for dinner.
“Let’s have our Beijing welcome drink!” We started to sing and went to downtown, had a nice walk, and a coffee in Starbucks (risky to try something typical Chinese when there is a Starbucks around, isn’t it?).
We did some window shopping, went to the school to say hello and had a drink in a nice bar. And then … of course we realized that we were already running late for dinner! First evening, first rule broken! We didn’t know the way home, Google maps couldn’t find the right location in the middle of the narrow Hutong streets and it was starting to get dark. What to do now?
We decide to send a WeChat message to Mrs. Jiao, letting her know that we will be at the subway exit around 8 p.m (an hour after the time set for dinner…) and that we need her to come and pick us up. This is not the best start to our four month stay…
But as soon as we arrived at Happy Valley station and saw Mrs. Jiao waving and smiling, leaning on her bicycle, all was fine. She even hugged us and in this moment the ice was broken. Even though I don’t speak a single word in Chinese, it was clear, this is going to work out well.
First Month Anniversary with our Chinese Homestay
At present, it is working well! We have already celebrated our first month anniversary living with Mrs. Jiao, her husband, her son and daughter in law, as well as little Xiao Yu, their sweet 6 year old daughter. We are our enjoying the time together very much. Most of all we feel at home with Mrs. Jiao and Xiao Yu, and we have so much fun! Xiao Yu loves her “older sister” my daughter Tereza, and they laugh, make funny faces, play hide and seek or watch cartoons – sometimes I play with them, too ☺.
Even though there is 9 year gap between them, Tereza likes spending time with Xiao Yu and it helps her to practice her Chinese a lot. Sometimes I teach Xiao Yu English, playing games or watching funny videos. I also try to talk to Mrs. Jiao. We have so much in common, except the language, however. But using the mobile translation app, we have already had nice chats with a cup of tea, talking about families, raising kids, having time for ourselves. We also go to the swimming pool and to yoga lessons together. You know what? Life, work, relationships, everyday duties and pleasures are similar everywhere, even though the culture and continents are so different! I am sure that I have really found a friend here and that we will keep in touch!
A huge thanks to Lenka for writing about her homestay experience for our blog. Stay tuned because we will have plenty more student stories along to add to our growing collection. Check out Lenka’s earlier blog about her trip to the hospital too. Don’t forget that you can visit our review page for more experiences and stories from our students via Facebook, Trust Pilot and lots of other review sites.
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