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Homestay Guide


Thank you for agreeing to host an overseas student participating in an NZEAS study programme. We appreciate your offer to welcome the student into your home during the time our student is in New Zealand. We hope that students and homestay families enjoy a lasting relationship built on trust and friendship. These notes have been prepared to assist you in caring for and understanding your student.

Students have come to New Zealand because their parents place a high value on qualifications and learning English. Their primary aim is for students to be successful in their studies. NZEAS is engaged by parents to be involved in the study programme of the students. They must be able to live comfortably with a new home situation, new friends, a different approach to learning in school and a culture that is more permissive than the one they would be accustomed to.

To assist a student to reach his or her full potential requires caring and sensitive adult supervision. Host families, guardians, parents and teachers should have regular discussions to ensure a student remains focussed on their reasons for living in New Zealand. NZEAS has a programme of support and guidance so that a student does not have to struggle in isolation. We hope that host families can share in the rewards of a well-adjusted and successful student in their homes.

The Home Environment

Our students need:

• A warm, supportive, welcoming environment with their bedroom as a private space.
• A daily chat to help them feel part of the family.
• Three meals daily including a lunch and snacks.
• Personal laundry service, sheets changed weekly and towels as necessary,
a desk for study, lamp, mirror and safe heater in their room.
• A house key
• An appreciation that there are cultural and personality differences that may give rise to difficulties in understanding and tolerance, through no apparent fault of either party

Settling In

Students will experience culture shock in varying degrees. They will have left behind their close family, familiar food, daily routines and travelled a long distance from a different climate. Host families can assist students' adjustment to the New Zealand way of life by providing a friendly welcome.

We suggest you:

• Write a letter to your student, introducing yourself, family, pets, activities, etc. and maybe include some photos. This can just be left in the student’s room upon arrival. You student will appreciate this gesture. It is also a nice touch to have your student's bedroom prepared with a welcome card.
• A written list of family members living at home or likely to visit and how each is to be addressed is useful.
• Advise your student of approximate meal times.
• Allow students to relax privately in their room and take a shower soon after arrival. Do not be surprised if your student retreats to the bedroom after a meal.
• In the evening turn on the TV for some background sound and entertainment. TV is often ever present in an Asian home.
• Encourage the student to call home. Use this opportunity to help the student with the use of the international calling card. This way you don’t end up with large phone bills.
• Talk about home routines.

Family Routines

Although your student is a paying boarder they should respect you and your values. You should not need to alter your routines for the sake of your student with some exceptions of course. It is a good idea to be clear about your expectations early in the students’ stay. They must understand your requirements regarding meal times, bed times, use of the bathroom, telephone, electrical appliances and home security. Simply written rules may be given to a student to establish the boundaries of behaviour and expectations.

Meals / Eating

Students are expected to eat with the family at meal times. This routine may be unfamiliar to some students. So please let them know when you normally have dinner. As with your own children, you can ask your student to advise you well ahead of time if he/she is not coming home for dinner. Sometimes students may forget to ring you. Just keep their food in the microwave for them if this is the case.

Of course, your student's taste in food will be totally different from what is served in your home. Some trial and error is necessary to find out what your student enjoys eating. At the beginning allow your student to select the foods that appeal. It may be a good idea initially to serve food in serving dishes or pots on the table so students can help themselves. A meal of rice or noodles will be appreciated as a regular diet of potatoes is often found to be too bland. Take your student to the supermarket and allow a few things to be chosen for your shopping. Occasionally, a takeaway meal may be acceptable. 

Encourage healthy eating after school. Have snack foods available in the pantry for students to prepare for themselves. Make sure students know which food they are allowed to eat. Allow your student to cook and demonstrate how to make their favourite foods. Please make a drink (water or other) available during a meal, not just at the end.

Lunches should have a variety of foods. Many students will not deal with a large amount of sandwiches. However, some will love sandwiches. Others prefer rice/leftovers and/or a pottle of noodles. They may also like a muffin or biscuit and fruit.

Encourage students to help themselves to a variety of cereals, fruit, yoghurt and/or toast in the morning. Some students will find it very hard to adjust to our type of breakfast and will prefer cooked items such as reheated rice, noodles or a hard boiled egg. If this is not a workable reality in your household please discuss this with your student to find a helpful compromise. The Asian food warehouse sells sachets of instant savoury rice porridge known as congee which is a very typical Chinese or Thai breakfast.

Take some time to involve students in meal time conversation; talking at the table may be an uncommon occurrence for them. Strange eating noises are not unusual. If this bothers you, you can explain what is polite in our culture and how to say thank you after the meal.


Negotiate a time for your student to use the shower and bathroom. Be aware that an excessive amount of time may be spent under the shower or in front of the bathroom mirror. The wet floor concept is typical of Asian bathrooms. Explain to your student how to bathe within the bath or shower, not outside. If they splash water around the basin or onto the floor show them how to wipe it up. Please have a lock installed on the inside of your bathroom and toilet. Demonstrate lifting the toilet seat to male students and consider the discrete disposal of sanitary pads for female students. Students should use their personal supplies of toiletries, shampoos, etc.


Show students where to put laundry for your regular wash. Use of your washing machine by students is not recommended. Show your student procedures for hand washing and drying, as well as storage of wet weather items. Some embarrassment may be felt when underwear pegged on the line is on display to neighbours. It is not customary in many Asian cultures to display female underwear on the line. Please provide an alternative space in the laundry until your student gets more used to the NZ way. The warehouse provides very cheap hanging peg frames that are convenient for this purpose as well as camping. It is also helpful to offer female students a laundry bag for their underwear. Explain to the student that NZ houses are damper than in Asia to deter them from hanging up items to dry in their bedroom or worse in the student’s wardrobe. Ironing of school shirts or blouses should be done by hosts.

Student's Bedroom

Your student will often seek the privacy of his/her room. Please respect this privacy but don't allow your student to be cut off from the family by always having the door closed. Establish the understanding, that a closed door means “Do not disturb”. A regular vacuum and change of sheets is always necessary but other members of the house should have no cause to be in your student's room. Tidiness is a student's responsibility but you should establish a minimum standard.

Your student may feel the cold differently to a New Zealander. It is important that students adapt to a reasonable level of warmth in their room and not to continuously use electricity for heating. Additional layers of clothing, slippers and extra bedding should be encouraged instead of turning up the heating. Do not allow gas heaters in their bedrooms. Gas heaters are not only unsafe; they are also very inefficient because they create condensation making rooms damp and therefore harder to heat! If possible use a heater with a thermostat or time switch controls. You may go so far as to having the heater wired into the wall with a shut off switch or timer outside of the student’s room.


Your student will be accustomed to studying until late at night. This may disturb family members in the home and some rules will be required; e.g. 10.00 p.m. curfew on the kitchen and television, etc. Your student's guardian should be advised if computer use appears excessive or insufficient time is being spent on their school work.


Free local calls are a New Zealand phenomenon. This accessibility to friends will be quickly exploited by students. Firm rules about length of calls and times of calls, both outgoing and incoming, should be established. Call Waiting allows your calls to be received while your student is on the phone, and then given priority. Your student may wish to install a second line.
Toll calls to home and elsewhere are your student's expense. International calling cards are not only the cheapest option; they are also the best choice as they do not accrue charges on your phone account as well as being by far the most cost effective option.

The best method is for students to buy their international calling card from the NZEAS office or at any dairy. International toll calls may be as low as 5 cents per minute with these cards.

Social Life

Please agree with your students on reasonable curfew times. It is a good idea to have an address and contact number especially if they are staying out overnight. They should ask your permission if they would like to have a friend to stay the night or for a meal.


Your student may find attending school could present worries or difficulties. They could notice differences in the way students interact with each other and their teachers. Classes may be noisier than they are used to, because personal independence and outspokenness are encouraged.

Host families should monitor whether their student is happy at school. Reluctance to get up, feigned illness, and lack of concentration may indicate problems at school. Try to discuss these matters with your student but also keep the NZEAS Homestay Co-ordinator aware of the situation. We have regular contact with the school and can call in counsellors as required.

If you become aware of truancy, please inform NZEAS immediately; the school may be slow to pick this up and action on it is imperative.  


Students should be careful to budget their money. Encourage careful spending habits. There are temptations for students to spend unwisely and the school should be made aware of this happening.
For home security and the safety of your student, only a small amount of cash should be kept by the student. Displays of wealth, e.g. gold jewellery, should be discrete and modest. All students should have a personal banking account to help keep their money safe.

Apart from transactions for toll accounts, dry cleaning, etc. students are not to make financial arrangements with host families. This includes loans, guarantees and board for other students. Board is paid to the host family by NZEAS, who collect fees through a formal invoicing process.

Getting Along Together

Naturally, communication problems can be expected. Encourage your student in daily conversation to help to develop their confidence. These simple rules will help:
• Avoid using Pidgin English. Use whole but short sentences, stress key words and weaken unimportant words as in natural speech
• Slang and idioms can confuse students
• Speak clearly and slowly in simple sentences. There are a number of confusing factors in the English language, e.g. negative questions “Aren’t you cold?” They will answer “Yes I’m not (cold) ” or “No, I am. ”
• Direct English is best. The subtleties of politeness are usually lost.
• Always have pen and paper available for clearing up a misunderstanding
• But most of all patience is essential.

You should not expect your student to do household chores on a regular basis. You can however ask your student to clean up kitchen items after use, dispose of rubbish and leave rooms tidy. You can accept offers of assistance if made.

If your student behaves in a way you find irritating or unacceptable, sort this out straight away. Try to deal with the problem while it is small. Do not expect students from different countries to guess what is displeasing you. Also it is a good idea to encourage the student to tell you if he/she is unhappy about anything. The well known Asian practice of "saving face" is compromised by our culture's directness. If it is necessary to discuss a situation try to be as tactful as possible.

Cultural differences can cause students to feel isolated and homesick. It is normal for students to go through a period of depression a few weeks after they arrive. It is important they understand that this happens to everyone.

The relative freedom students experience in New Zealand with plenty of unorganised time may contribute to their being bored and lethargic. They may need encouragement to engage in active outings away from home and to meet their friends or discover new places.

Some difficulties may arise from a misunderstanding about the roles of men and women in the New Zealand home. Male students may be over assertive towards their host mother while females may be shy and timid in the presence of the men of the house. All students need to be aware of the equality and respect owed to every member of the household.

NZEAS Payments Policies

Board Payments are made by direct credit to your bank account every two weeks. The first payment occurs after one week of your student's arrival. Please check your bank account balance after 3pm the following day as we do not send out payment slips. 

Providing your student has given reasonable notice of being away from home for seven consecutive nights or more, they are entitled to have a 50% discount of their homestay fees. This does not apply to the summer/ Christmas break. Students wishing to return to their homestay are expected to leave their room so that it is useable during their absence. Ten days notice is required to quit a homestay.

Thank you for hosting for NZEAS!

© 2003 - 2019 New Zealand Education Adviser Services Limited.
1st floor, 222 High Street, PO Box 22 268, Christchurch, New Zealand.
Phone: +64 3 366 4563, Fax: +64 3 365 5042, Email:office@nz-education.com
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