By William Mills
As summer approaches Brighton is filling up with overseas students visiting our city and attending language schools courses.
Although some are staying in hotels and privately rented flats the majority are placed with ‘host families’, who are usually are local residents with a spare room in their homes and need some extra income.
The Hosts reasons for choosing students from language schools are varied but factors weighing in favour are the schools provide security of payment, and move students at short notice. It also provides a change, and gives us experiences of different cultures.
However sometimes there are some shocks when different peoples meet.
Cost of living
Some students are surprised at how expensive it is to live in Western Europe. Although the cost of living is relative to earnings. If a person earns £10 per hour and a packet of cigarettes cost £8 then it takes 48 minutes to earn a packet. In some countries cigarettes cost 16p a pack. If the worker earns 20p an hour it will still take 48 minutes to earn the pack.
However when a visitor comes to England and finds the pack costing £8 representing the wages from 40 hours of work it is a shock. Even if one stops smoking immediately the difference in costs is dramatic.
What can the foreign student expect from the host family?
Hopefully a warm welcome and a happy stay. But to expect the hosts to do nothing other than entertain their guest for the duration of his stay is wishful thinking.
In England the average income is around £35,000 per annum. A student lodger is providing about one eighth of this. The hosts need to find the rest from other sources or they will be struggling to make ends meet.
In some countries rented properties come complete with domestic staff. In England however staff expect paying and it is a mistake to regard the owner or his family as some sort of servants. This invariably causes offence.
The student would need to be paying the equivalent of £700 to 800 a week before the hosts were able to give up most of their time to the student.
Bills to pay
Although the rent seems a lot it quickly gets spent on gas and electricity, mortgage and upkeep expenses. It is not solely salary for the landlord by any means, indeed after all the bills have been paid it is unlikely there is any left over if at all.
Accommodation should be seen for what it is. The student has somewhere to live and in return provides money to help pay the bills.
On arrival the student should ask what is he getting for his money. Usually it is an exclusive use of a bedroom and shared use of bathroom and kitchen.
The hosts live there all the time. All the contents of the building are the owners personal possessions.
Do remember that what is some old pan to the student, might be a cherished wedding present to the host.
It will cause offence to assume you have suddenly become a part owner of somebody else’s possessions. It is best to establish on arrival what is available for you to use, and accept that you must ask first before using anything else.
Ask when it would be convenient to use the kitchen.
Clothes washing should really be an extra, so offer to pay. Ask where the nearest laundrette is and visit it to see how much it costs, then offer the owner something towards the laundry.
Overseas students tend to stick together so meeting English people can sometimes be problematic. Students need to have regular conversations with a native English speaker. However unless there is a formal arrangement for teaching the hosts are not qualified in this role and not paid for it either.
It is wrong to enter someone’s home and expect them to give up their social time to work as your free tutor. Talking to someone who doesn’t speak the same language is laborious and dull.
The student needs the practice, not the other way around. So the student should make the effort to start a conversation and stick to the principle of little and often, unless you have a genuine interest in common. So long as students have regular conversations in English they will quickly master the language.
If misunderstandings do arise go and see the accommodation office at the language school. They have lots of different houses to choose from and can quickly find somewhere else.
Brighton is fun
Most students settle down very quickly and come to love their stay in Brighton and find the time flies by.