We hope that you will find the following information useful. As customs in different countries vary, you may occasionally be surprised by the way things are done here in the UK. For example, it is not usual for a family in London to employ a maid, so your host is likely to take care of the home themselves.
Please also be sure to read the page Frequently asked questions for students, which will also be of assistance should you have a specific question regarding the homestay service.
The following information is designed to help you understand:
1.What you can expect of your hosts
2.What your hosts will expect of you
Your hosts will treat you as one of the family, but this means that you will need to fit in with their family routine, which may be different to what you are used to. If there is anything that you do not understand or are unhappy about, please do not be afraid to ask your host. Misunderstandings can sometimes occur because of language difficulties and it is best to sort out any worries at the beginning!
A homestay does not provide guests with a service similar to a hotel. However, we guarantee you a high standard of accommodation with friendly hosts, all of whom we know personally. Your host is there to help you but not to serve you. Politeness and friendliness are a normal part of English family life and it is customary to say “good morning”, “good evening” and “thank you” to your hosts when they have been helpful. They should do the same.
Please note that when staying in a homestay, you are staying as a guest of the host family. It is therefore very different from an apartment share or a student residence. When staying with a host family you should respect the house rules, including limiting your luggage to one or two suitcases. If you require more baggage and therefore a large amount of storage space, this must be indicated in your request.
Please note that all guests should be either studying or attending an internship and are therefore expected to vacate the homestay between the hours of 10:00 and 16:00 to attend their course/internship (good health permitting).
Arrivals and departures
Please be aware that you are staying with a host family and therefore arrival and departure times need to be arranged prior to arrival. Please ensure you give as much notice as possible to your host, to enable them to arrange to be at home to greet you upon arrival.
Unless special arrangement has been made and agreed with your host prior to arrival, the following check in and out times apply:
Check in is always after 14:00 and before 20:30
Check out is before 10:00 am
Please note that most hosts will be at work during the daytime so unless prior arrangement has been agreed all weekday arrivals must be after 18:00 and before 20:30.
Your room is your own private area for sleeping, relaxing and studying. Your host will clean your room before you arrive. It is your responsibility to keep the room clean and tidy during your stay. Bedrooms in family homes do not usually have their own key. Your privacy will be respected, but (if there is a bedroom key) please do not lock your room when you leave the home. Heating is normally switched off at night while you sleep. Friends should not be brought to your room, either to visit or stay overnight, without your host’s permission. You are not entitled to use the room to accommodate anyone other than yourself.
If you wish to play music, or if your room has a TV, please keep the volume low and respect your hosts’ need for quiet, both at bed-time and possibly at other times during the day. If you wish to plug in your own appliances (such as a computer or radio), please check with your host first. The UK uses appliances with 220 volts, which is different from some other countries such as the USA and some Latin American countries.
Your host will change your bed sheets and pillow-cases once a week.
The rest of the house
You will be able to use the main living areas of the house such as the sitting and dining rooms. Most students watch TV or converse with the family in one of the communal rooms. If you have booked Half Board accommodation, your meals will be taken with the family.
Some hosts may have a private study room, which is not for the use of other family members and guests. Bedrooms are always private. Students/guests must never enter the bedrooms of their host family. Please note you cannot use any other room in the house to store your belongings, unless in special circumstances where the host family has granted permission.
Your host is responsible for cleaning the communal areas of the house, but you should help keep the home tidy by not leaving your belongings around.
In winter, homes are centrally heated. Heating is normally regulated by a timer and set to go off at certain times of the day when the family is not at home. If you are not warm enough, please discuss this with your host. It is advisable to keep a woollen cardigan or jacket handy for extra warmth in or out of the home. English homes are not usually air-conditioned in summer but the climate is rarely unbearably hot and rooms can be cooled by opening a window.
English bathrooms may be different from what you are used to in your own country. For example, some may have a hand held shower attachment instead of an overhead shower. It is not common for bathrooms to have bidets.
The number of bathrooms per home will vary, and unless you have booked a room with private bathroom, you will usually have to share a bathroom with other people. It is important to be considerate and not to spend a long time bathing or showering if others are waiting to use the bathroom.
As there will be some busy times during the day (such as early in the morning) for bathroom use, it is best to agree bathroom usage times in advance with your hosts. This way you can be sure to be on time for classes and other family members can get to work or school.
Your host is responsible for cleaning the bathrooms and ensuring that they are always clean, but please leave the bathroom as you would wish to find it as there may be someone waiting to use it straight after you. Please take care not to leave a wet floor, your personal toothbrush and other items should be left tidy out of respect for others.
Your host will provide toilet paper, but you should purchase your own “toiletries” such as toothpaste, body soap/shower gel, shampoo etc. Please do not help yourself to other peoples’ toiletries. Toilet paper should not be removed from the bathroom for cosmetic use. Chemist shops such as Boots offer a wide choice of good, inexpensive bath products and cosmetics. Used toilet paper should be disposed of in the toilet (not in the rubbish bin) while feminine sanitary/hygienic products and cotton wool should be disposed of in the bathroom rubbish bin (not in the toilet).
If your host has a washing machine they will either allow you to use it once a week or do your laundry for you on a weekly basis, free of charge. It is a good idea to check laundry facilities with your host soon after arrival as some hosts do the weekly wash on a specific day each week. Hosts do not normally do ironing for you but can usually lend you an iron and ironing board.
You should offer to buy washing powder for your laundry if you are doing it yourself. If you need to use the washing machine or have your washing done more than once a week, you should ask your host if this would be possible. Some hosts may make a small charge for additional loads of laundry.
If doing your own laundry, you should ask your host where you can hang your clothes to dry. Clothes should not be dried in bedrooms or bathrooms.
Meal times in the UK vary from family to family. Generally speaking, English families eat earlier than, for example, in continental Europe. It is important that you check with the family as soon as you arrive, what time breakfast and dinner are served. If these times conflict with your study schedule, you should discuss this with your host. If you have booked Half Board accommodation and cannot get home on time on a certain evening, you should telephone your host to advise them. They may be able to leave your dinner ready for you to reheat when you return.
Breakfast times are normally arranged according to the time that your host has to get to work. If breakfast time is too early or late for you, you may have to prepare your own breakfast. This should be discussed with your host who will explain where to find the breakfast ingredients. It is important to note that few English families still provide a traditional English cooked breakfast. Your accommodation includes Continental Breakfast.
English food may be different from what you are used to. It may be necessary for you to adapt to the new flavours or way in which food is cooked. It is unlikely that you will be provided with bottled (mineral) water as most British families drink the tap water, which is safe and palatable.
Dinners: If there is anything you particularly dislike or cannot eat, please discuss this with your host.
Continental Breakfast normally consists of fruit juice, cereal, toast or bread with butter and marmalade or jam and tea or coffee. If you should wish to purchase extra breakfast items for yourself, please check with your host first and arrange to keep them in the refrigerator.
Please note, that you will not be entitled to use the kitchen except to make tea or coffee, unless you have booked Self-Catering accommodation or Bed & Breakfast accommodation and the host family allow free use.
Please do not take any food from your host’s kitchen without asking first. Your host will provide you with the meals booked but this does not include snacks throughout the day.
You will be expected to wash all dishes, pots and pans and clean the kitchen thoroughly after use.
Please do not store or eat food in your bedroom.
Your host’s telephone is for you to receive calls from family and close friends only. To preserve your host’s privacy, please do not give your host’s telephone number to casual acquaintances made in London. If you need to make and receive a large number of social calls, you are advised to consider purchasing a “pay-as-you-go” mobile (cell) phone once you have arrived.
It is advisable to check with your host on the earliest and latest times each day, which are convenient for you to receive calls and then advise your family and friends accordingly. In order not to inconvenience your host, you are advised to limit the number of calls you receive and restrict them to a reasonable length, so as not to tie up the telephone lines for long periods.
You are not entitled to use your host’s telephone to make outgoing calls or to connect to the Internet without permission. There are many public telephones and inexpensive Internet cafés all over London.
Some hosts will permit you to make outgoing calls using a phone card to call out (which can be purchased easily at many outlets in London). Please ask permission to do this. It is, however, advisable to make your calls from public telephones outside the home. Unlike in some countries, local calls are not free in the U.K.
If you do not have your own laptop the host may let you use their computer. If so, please respect their private documents and files and do not spend too long using their computer as others in the house may also need to use it. While we will endeavour to resolve the situation as best we can, we are not liable for any lack of internet connectivity at the host’s home. If it is crucial you have internet access at all time, we recommend you purchase a USB dongle, available from most mobile phone shops.
If you are planning to go out for the evening and return home late, please advise your host in advance so that they do not worry.
Neither Home from Home Student Services, nor your host, are responsible for your personal possessions. You are advised to take out a student insurance policy to cover you in case your belongings are lost or stolen in or out of the home.
If you have brought valuable items, such as jewellery, computers, cameras or cash with you, you are advised to ask your host where they can be stored for safekeeping. You are not advised to keep large amounts of cash in your room or on your person.
If you should wish to invite a friend over to visit, you must first ask your host’s permission. Please bear in mind that the entertaining of friends by students in a family home is not an entitlement of your stay as some families feel it is an invasion of their privacy. If they allow you to have visitors, please agree a leaving time for your visitor(s) with your host family.
Conversation with the host
Hosts are aware that you would like to practise your English and are happy to help you with your English conversation and sometimes with homework. Please remember that hosts are not teachers and as some of them have busy schedules they may not always have free time to talk at the time most convenient to you.
For example, if your school finishes late and you do not return home until 10 p.m. after dinner is over, your host may be tired and preparing to go to bed. You are advised to discuss schedules with your host in order to plan your time together.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask one of our experienced team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. We check our emails very frequently, even at weekends. We are here to ensure your stay in London is safe, happy and comfortable!