- What is an Eco Homestay?
Homestay is a popular form of hospitality and lodging whereby visitors stay in a house or apartment of a local of the city/location to which they are traveling. The length of stay can vary from one night to even a year and can be free, in exchange for monetary compensation, in exchange for a stay at the guest’s property either simultaneously or at another time (home exchange), or in exchange for help on the host’s property. Longer term homestays are popular with students that are participating in study abroad programs.
An “eco homestay” is a cultural travel / educational tour / volunteer / exchange activity in which a person visits or temporarily stays in another cultural region or country with or in an apartment of a local host family who is ethnic culturally oriented and environment conscious. Eco Homestays involve relationships between people and is beyond the experience of just a boarding-house or hotel experience in which a person only rents a room. While visitors/students pay their own expenses for room and board, the purpose of an Eco homestay is not just to provide a place to stay but to create an enriching cross-cultural and learning experience for both the visitors and the host. There are homestays for short periods (one night or a weekend) and for longer times (a vacation period, a term, several terms).
- What kind of visitor / student is best suited for a Eco homestay?
Eco Homestays are available and useful for travellers / students of any age, from 18 to 80, but they are not ideal for every visitor/student and every situation. Eco Homestays are probably most helpful for families / young travellers / students coming to the foreign cultures or foreign countries for the first time and interested in having a safe, supported family environment in which to: practice and get used to life in a different country; learn about a local family life and values; interact with people of different ages; and share their own culture and interests. Eco Homestay travellers / students must be willing to make an effort to communicate and cooperate with others and accept the rules and preferences of the families with whom they live. For example, most eco homestay families do not allow smoking in their homes. Because of the additional responsibility involved, guests / students seeking a homestay should be mature, stable individuals who are good-natured and flexible. Such travellers / students usually have a positive and memorable eco homestay experience in India.
- What kind of families participate in the eco homestay program?
There are many different kinds of families involved: traditional rural families, retired couples, single-parent families, single individuals, widows, as well as modern families. But whether they are young or old, with or without children, they all share a strong interest in cross-cultural communication and students / visitors from other cultures or countries. Many of them have hosted a number of international interns and some may have hosted just a few but due to our continued engagements with them they can always identify with you. They are excited to welcome you into their homes and assist you in your adjustment to life here.
- What do eco homestay families expect of travellers / students?
It will depend on the nature of accommodation.
If you take up an independent self-contained room, then there are not many other concerns except that one needs to vary of not creating noise at odd hours.
In a shared space, like families all over the world, most Indian families are interdependent, which means that individuals often must give up some of their own independence in order to help family relationships run smoothly. Living with a family requires a kind of cooperation that sometimes involves some personal sacrifices. An eco traveller / volunteer / student becomes like a member of the family, not a guest. As a result, families may have certain expectations of you as a family associate rather than a disconnected tourist such as participation in family activities, cleaning their rooms, keeping reasonable hours, communicating clearly with the family about their schedules, and occasionally helping with cooking or other household chores.
- What are the advantages of an eco homestay?
There are many benefits of an eco homestay. First of all, an eco homestay allows international / foreign / abroad travellers and students to use English / Hindi all the time. You can learn to communicate effectively with native speakers in a natural setting. Second, living with a family provides a quiet atmosphere for cross-cultural learning and study and a greater sense of security for some students. Third, an ehomestay exposes travellers / students to India to a rich variety of cultural learning opportunities, such as family activities, holiday celebrations, religious practices, sporting events, etc. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, an eco homestay often results in travellers / volunteers / students developing deep, lasting friendships with their families. Such a personal connection gives many an international travellers / students a real sense of stability in their lives here.
- Are there difficulties with an eco homestay?
The major difficulties can be an irregular internet for some, comforts of living for other few, who may sometimes find homestays to be inconvenient and isolating. Eco Homestay families sometimes do not live very close to Eco HomeStay India, and they are usually unable to provide some demanding wants of some travellers / students..
- What suggestions do you have about Eco Homestays?
*Living with a family, your own or an Indian family, takes understanding and patience. You will have misunderstandings and minor problems, but they can be worked out. The advantage of working on your relationship is a lasting friendship with a family of another culture, and much more personal growth as well.
*Be observant. Notice ways you can be helpful to your family. Clear your dishes from the table after dinner. Clean up the kitchen if you do your own cooking or fix a snack for yourself. Keep your bedroom neat and clean. If the family is doing work around the house or in the yard, offer to help them.
*Let your family know if you plan to be gone for dinner or for the weekend, or if you will arrive later than usual. Your host mother will appreciate knowing how many persons to cook dinner for and will want to know where you are in case of telephone calls or an emergency.
*Pay for your room and board, in advance / pay on time.
*Make telephone calls to your country collect or with a phone card or have your family call you. Long-distance calls are very expensive and most families do not want to pay for other people’s calls at the end of the month – it can be a very expensive bill.
*Let your host mother know what kind of food you enjoy eating. Sometimes she worries that she’s not cooking food you like and would appreciate your telling her what you like. Thank her if you particularly enjoy a meal!
*If your host family takes you to a movie or a special event, offer to pay your own way. Sometimes, families want to include students in their recreational activities, but don’t have the money to pay for the tickets.
*If you have questions about house rules or procedures, just ask. Do you know who is supposed to do your laundry? Where do dirty clothes go? Is smoking allowed in the bedroom? Is it OK to take snacks from the refrigerator? Can you bring friends home any time? Your family wants you to feel “at home” and the best way to do this is to find out what rules the family has for its family members.
*Electricity conservation is important. Try to turn off the lights after using them. Ask if there are any special rules about keeping the heat thermostat at a certain temperature. Make sure that your shower or bath does not last so long as to inconvenience other family members.
*Try to learn about local culture through your experience with your family. Ask about their customs and beliefs; notice the ways which they do things – there may be small or big differences from how you are accustomed to living in your own country. Although you need not change completely, you will find that by copying some of the customs of your family you will feel more a part of the group and more comfortable with Indians in general.