How to Homestay With a Mexican Family
Are you tempted to do a homestay in Mexico but don’t know where to start? A homestay is an unforgettable opportunity to experience life in a foreign country just as if you were a local!
People speak highly of homestays because they are an immersive adventure to learn another language, and experience at first hand the culture, cuisine, traditions, and identity of a foreign country.
It is a fun, dynamic way of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes for a couple of weeks or months.
Reasons to Do a Homestay in Mexico!
Mexicans are famous worldwide for their hospitality, and hosting families is no exception. Yet, unplanned events can always happen so I would definitely recommend joining a program. This way you will feel sure about your decision. Some of these programs even offer to relocate you if you are not comfortable with your new family or city.
A Homestay in Mexico Will
- Broaden your global awareness and understanding of diversity.
- Give you a rounded experience of local culture, customs, and traditions.
- Connect you with native Spanish-speaking people on a deeper level.
- Encourage you to learn the language, idioms, and slang quickly and thoroughly.
- Get you in touch with authentic local cuisine and flavors.
- Allow you to experience first hand what people deem important in a different culture, like religion, family values, activities, traditions.
So, if you are into tacos and enchiladas, into dancing banda music or singing with a mariachi, or maybe into history and want to learn more about the fusion of Catholic and prehispanic religions, and are looking to do all of that while learning Spanish, a homestay in Mexico is most definitely for you! It will change your life forever.
Find below the do’s and don’ts, homestay options, people’s experiences and even a guide on how to pick your city!
Do’s and Don’ts
This is a short guide of Mexican etiquette that applies to most Mexican host families. However, you may end up in a less traditional home or in one where everyone needs to work until late hours, and you won’t see them as much.
Homestay programs often try to choose the most traditional environments so you can experience what it is like to be part of a Mexican family. As it is an important part of your experience, I encourage you to communicate that this is a priority for you while enrolling in a Spanish immersion homestay in Mexico.
1. Be Respectful
Most families will not allow swearing inside the house and highly value phrases like bless you (salud), thank you (gracias), you are welcome (de nada) and please (por favor).
Be sure to follow their rules such as curfew hours or schedule if there are any, and other specifics like no pets, no invitees, or no shoes inside the house (this last one is not part of our culture but it’s becoming more popular). Also, always respect your elders and take their advice if feasible.
2. Join Your Host Family for Meals as Much as You Can
If your new family works until late, try to always share breakfasts (8-10 am). If everyone wakes up and leaves at different hours but makes an effort to have lunch (2-3pm) together, accompany them. Some others can’t have a schedule and they join only for dinner (8-9 pm), so try to make it on time.
Not only is this respectful, but it also will help you with your Spanish when everyone shares what they will do or did during the day. If you like this activity—and believe me, it is a whole activity, not just a meal—be present as much as you can.
To share meals three times a day with strangers can sound intimidating. But that feeling will not last long. Eventually you will be doing this as a family, and probably will be the thing you miss the most when you leave!
3. Bring a Gift With You
Mexican people love souvenirs, so if it is possible bring a gift of something traditional from your country. Make it thoughtful and easy to bring in your luggage. Some programs give information about host families before the adventure starts. So you will know if the family has little kids (bring toys), or elders (bring postcards).
My personal advice is that you bring something they can remember you by, like a keychain or bracelet, and food. Always bring food, a salty snack or a sugary dessert are the best options. If you know their occupations you can also bring something related to those.
4. Always Try To Communicate in Spanish
If you are a beginner this will feel awkward and uneasy at first. But Mexican families will do their best to make your experience and transition comfortable. It is okay to bring in signs and even drawings at the beginning, it will feel like a game. And they won’t mind helping you out since that is the whole point of you coming to their house after all. Regardless of your Spanish level, you will notice how quickly you pick up on common phrases and questions and you will eventually communicate with them smoothly.
5. Raise Your Hand
Raise your hand if you have a specific diet or need of any kind. Especially if you don’t feel well. First you will think that getting sick while travelling is simply bad luck, but if you are lucky enough to experience a Mexican mom taking care of you while you’re feeling bad, you will not forget it. At first, all of your interactions will probably have to do with how you adapt to their house, so it is okay, and chances are they have done this before so don’t be shy.
6. Be Kind to Yourself
Host families have different traditions and customs, so keep an open mind to the things you see, hear, try and be part of. Also, despite you expecting things to be different, it may feel strange adapting to your new environment at the beginning.
Remember to be patient and kind to yourself as you will be experiencing a new life. If adapting takes you longer than expected, or are homesick it’s okay. Your new family will understand and respond in a positive, friendly way. After all, when Mexicans get homesick, we get passionately homesick, so we get the feeling.
7. Make Yourself at Home but Not So Much
Especially if you are sharing bathrooms or work spaces. Always have your things together and clean up after yourself. Don’t put your new family in a situation where they have to talk to you about it.
8. Mexicans Take a Shower Everyday
If your first reaction is “So do I!” you can jump to the next point on this guide. If your reaction is an absolute surprise, that is totally fine. They do not expect you to do the same but to definitely use soap and shampoo at least 3 times a week.
Some cities and countries aren’t used to this and local weather in other places doesn’t make you sweat as much, but in Mexico it’s quite the opposite. Personal hygiene is something Mexicans value a lot, so keep that in mind.
9. Leave Room for an Extra Do or Don’t
The points above apply to almost all Mexican host families. But sometimes specifics matter too. Be observant of your new family and if they like to say grace, to have a sobremesa—which is an enjoyable conversation after a meal, while having coffee—or highly value not interrupting each other and such, be sure to follow those rules as well.
Homestay in Mexico Experiences and Options
According to the Lonely Planet forum on travelers’ experiences doing homestays in Mexico, a few people had some hiccups with the school or homestay administration regarding organization and such, but most people had an amazing time coming over.
I have curated some review-based options so your research narrows a little bit:
1. Oaxaca International
Price: 90 USD from 10 hours of classes per week to 210 USD for 30 hours of classes per week
Learn and practice your Spanish while staying in one of the best cities Mexico has to offer. Full of color, vibrant people, delicious food, biodiversity and culture. Oaxaca International will also take you on unique cultural excursions twice a week. The school has many recognitions that give them the credentials to teach Spanish as a second language.
A maximum of 4 students make up the 9 am classes, so each gets personal attention. They give you an UNAM diploma (the UNAM is the top university authority in Mexico). According to reviews, “instructors are excellent, skilled, kind, helpful and fun people”. Some of them went to see Barro Negro pottery, mezcal distilleries, weaving in Teotitlan, alegrijes and papel picado artisans.
2. IMAC Spanish Language Programs
Where: Guadalajara (also in Puerto Vallarta, Playa del Carmen, Cuernavaca, Oaxaca and Guanajuato)
Price: 98 USD per week
This unique homestay in Mexico does not only include three meals per day and lodging through the Spanish course, but also the host families teach you how to cook traditional dishes once a week. They have more than 2000 local students learning English with them, and their families are the ones to choose from to accommodate foreign students.
3. La Hacienda Spanish School
Class price: 29 USD one hour a day – 108 USD 4 hours a day
Homestay price: Depends on accommodation arrangements (how many meals a day, private or shared bedroom and bathroom).
La Hacienda Spanish School offers classes from 1 to 4 hours a day. It also has an option to homestay with a family with whom you can practice and is walking distance from school. They are able to provide from 1 to 3 meals a day—always taking into account your dietary needs—and you can choose to have a private or shared room and bathroom. Since homestay options can be many,you can cover the service separately.
Overall, La Hacienda reviews say that you will be learning vocabulary, grammar, and conversation skills every day from enthusiastic teachers. The environment is relaxing, comforting and cordial amongst students and teachers, inside a secure and private building. There is a lot of growth in terms of language proficiency in a short amount of time.
4. Institute of Modern Spanish
Homestay and instruction price: 452 USD 20 hours a week – 739 USD 40 hours a week
Homestay in Merida Mexico with this fun immersive Spanish program gives tailored 2-3 hour classes to 3-5 people every morning. You can ask for additional hours to focus on conversation skills or cultural lessons.
Plus, they make excursions to archeological sites available to you and you can take a volunteer option if you are into child or animal care, English teaching or environmental research.
Homestay includes a private room with host families near the school in the beautiful city of Merida, one of the safest ones in Mexico.
How To Get the Best Out of Your Homestay in Mexico?
Whatever destination and school you choose, I guarantee you that your experiences will be exceptional during your homestay in Mexico. For example, it is one thing to learn how to buy something in a classroom, and another one is to actually speak to a street stall owner and even bargain.
Train your ear to listen to Spanish while spoken by natives, not by someone whose intention is to pronounce perfectly. Also, Mexicans will always ask how your food was, whether they made it or not. You will learn to share your tastes and experiences.
Plus, you will be able to imitate non verbal language while speaking Spanish by watching others, this happens as well with local accents.
It is more likely that you absorb language details like this while you are in a Spanish-speaking country like Mexico than at home in a classroom.
Check out which are the Spanish-speaking Countries of South America!
Wherever you do your homestay in Mexico, chances are you will be making friends. Keep them close to continue your Spanish practices from home!
Other Factors To Consider
You probably already started to think about the myriad of wonderful Mexican cities you can choose for your adventurous homestay with a Mexican family. There are, however, some additional factors to consider while making your decision. They may not seem very important at first, but they can radically change your experience .
Please consider all of the factors below to make a smart choice. The most important element to your Spanish learning process is that of immersion, so make sure you weigh this in at the moment you make your final decision. For the other aspects of your experience to be satisfactory, read ahead to find your perfect city!
1. Choosing Cities
How to choose a city? I can think of many beautiful places with hospitable people where you can do your homestay in Mexico. Guadalajara, Tulum, Oaxaca, Merida and Mexico City, are only some of them. Make sure to find out about the cost of living in the city to be financially prepared.
If you are not vegetarian or a vegan consider going to the north where meat is king. The Northern part of Mexico is beautiful and has less humid weather than the South. But meat consumption is not something that goes unnoticed. Social gatherings or asados—a name for grilled meat (carne or carnita asada)—are a whole ritual there.
But say you love Lebanese food! Then go to Mérida or any city in the Yucatan state. Lebanese immigrants got to Yucatan and spread in the region,so you will find an unparalleled Mayan-Lebanese fusion cuisine.
Every state has its own traditional flavors and charms so if you are a foodie, conduct a thorough research on the subject. But if you are the more adventurous type and look forward to bringing back home a ton of stories of the things you tried in Mexico, don’t keep looking and just go to Oaxaca.
Your experience can be extremely changed by the weather. You can feel comfortable and up to the task, or uneasy or even depressed. Keep an eye for the difficult times of the year such as July where some cities get floods.
The North has the most extreme weather as it can be really hot during the day, and very cold during the night. Some people find the humidity and heat in Merida excruciating. Be aware that the best months to go as a tourist are from October to January, the freshest season.
Mexico City’s weather is one of the friendliest to foreigners. It is warm during the day and not so cold during the night unlike the North. These average temperatures happen almost every time of the year.
Wait! All of Mexico speaks Spanish, right? Yes, but a slightly different one according to region. Mexico City is rich in idioms and sayings, while coastal states almost don’t pronounce the “s” and in Merida you can learn to speak Spanish with a few Mayan words. Every Spanish dialect is a different adventure, so choose wisely which one you would like to speak.
Let me clarify some myths before you decide to do your homestay in Mexico. Here are three of them that most people think of when they hear “homestay” or “Mexico”.
1. “Am I too old for doing a homestay?”
No. It’s never too late! And one of the main target markets is senior people who wish to accomplish this kind of life goals.
2. “I am an introvert. I don’t think a program like this would be good for me.”
You don’t need to be extra social in order to study a second language immersively. Introverts are naturally observant and this is a big plus while learning from a whole culture.
3. “According to the news I shouldn’t be visiting Mexico at all.”
The news can be a reflection of tabloidism more than of reality. There are many tourist-friendly cities, states and regions where you can feel safe while doing your daily routine. Nevertheless, I listed a few thing you might find useful in terms of safety:
Security in Mexico
If you are ready for a homestay in Mexico, there are some things you need to know.
- First, if there is an international homestay program in a specific city, it’s likely that it is a safe one. No one wants to put students in danger, or to go back home with a bad taste of Mexico.
- Second, if you have never been to Mexico, please make sure to not have things handy. Don’t put your cell phone or money in the back pocket. If you have a purse, make sure it has closed zippers and put it in front of you, not in the back (especially if you are using the subway or going to crowded places).
- Do not flash your money or valuable items. You will already be attracting enough attention because you are a foreigner, so don’t do it more than needed.
- If you want to wander around the city, make sure you don’t go into bad neighborhoods. Make a route and google it or better yet, ask a family member to approve of the route you have designed and ask for tips. Be always aware of your surroundings, don’t be on your phone, especially at night.
- Be careful with professional equipment of any kind, let it be at your sight at all times. Do not leave your things unattended. I’ve seen many tourists eating by themselves at a restaurant and going to the restroom while leaving all personal belongings at the table. This is a huge don’t.
Learn Spanish and Homestay in Mexico!
Learning a language can be a personal goal, a hobby, or any other kind of enriching experience, but you can stretch it even more! By doing a homestay in Mexico, you will be opening many doors for yourself and creating new opportunities.
You will be able to talk to more people. There are around 53 million people that speak Spanish in the United States alone, making it the second largest Spanish speaking country in the world. According to CNN, 41 million of them are native speakers. So I hope you are ready to expand your social circle!
Also, you can get an attractive side job as an interpreter or translator. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these are among the fastest growing occupations.
So you really want this, what should be your next move then? Get ready for your homestay adventure in Mexico and prepare for your immersive Spanish experience today. Go for one of our Spanish tailored packages at HSA.
Become part of our 24,000+ monthly enrolled students who have trusted our 10 years of experience and our fast-track learning method. Speak Spanish by practicing your conversation skills with one of our certified native Spanish speakers from Guatemala. Sign up for a free trial class today!
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