How to Overcome Cultural Differences when Hosting an International Student?

How to Overcome Cultural Differences when Hosting an International Student?

South Africa who is commonly known as the rainbow nation because it is known for its wide range of cultural diversities. And this is engrained in the way its people think, as well in its climate and geography.  But today we are going to focus on Cape Town, Africa. Its beaches and ambience make every soul fill itself with a sense of happiness and adventure.

This is the very reason why we chose Cape Town as the destination for students to travel to, to learn a new language while being in a welcoming environment when staying with a host family. But on the other hand, it is necessary to point out when any human being meets another, there are bound to be cultural and upbringing differences which it may, or it may not bring some issues when human beings interact with one another.

Now, it is of utmost importance to ease those cultural barriers as much as possible because those issues can block a students learning process due to the fact there is a lack of communication between the two parties, or it is difficult for both parties to overcome the cultural differences that make them different. 

Ways to resolve the cultural differences between students and host families:

1. Teachers can come up with a lesson that focuses on the similarities not the differences between the South African culture and your student’s culture.

This will help with the process of understanding one another on a daily basis.

2.Always keep in mind that each country has its way to express their thoughts and feelings.

For instance, people in South Africa express how they feel in a very open and expressive way while your student’s culture is not as open and rather be discreet about the way they feel about a certain subject. It is my thinking that the way to resolve this issue is for both parties to understand this fact and not feel offended if one party it is not inclined to talk about their feelings and for the host family not to feel intimidated if the student expresses himself or herself in an open fashion.

3.Social Behaviour

Now, let’s expand on this issue, for instance, it is your students the first night staying at your home, and it is dinner time. He or she cannot eat any more and leaves some food on their plate. Now, your student does not know that you feel insulted that he did not want to eat anymore. So, the way to resolve this issue is for you as the host not to feel insulted and take into account that your student comes from a different culture than yours where it is not an insult if a person happens not to eat all of the food that is in their plate. Here it is another example: it is the first time that you meet your student, and you extend your hand to shake his or hers, but your student just smiles and does not shake your hand. The solution to this issue is the same as I mentioned previously, it is to take into account that your student comes from a different way of life and culture, so therefore you should not feel insulted because of your student’s reaction, and understand that it is somewhat overwhelming for a young person to come to a foreign country without their family or friends.

4.Culinary differences

Now, this is a big issue. As we all know food it is of utmost importance within the South African culture. Now, let’s establish another scenario; your student is from Japan and on the first night together, he or she does not seem to try any of the food that you cooked. The solution to this conundrum is for you to ask him or her if there is an issue with the food or if there is something that he or she would rather eat instead. So, please try to remember always to compromise and find the solution that works for you and your student. This will make your students stay far less overwhelming, and it will make it a very enjoyable stay.


Here it is another scenario; your student is from Mexico, and when he arrived at your home, he was quite tired and wanted to take a nap. It is dinner time, and you told your student the time when the dinner is going to take place, but he or she does not arrive on time. Now, being on time, it is not a priority when talking about Mexican culture. Nor it is of importance for your student to ask what kind of clothes should he or she wear for dinner time. Now the solution is again for you to have an honest conversation with your student and explain that it is important for him or her to be on time, and that it is very important to you for him or her to try to achieve this.

And so at the end, the solution it boils down to communicating in a clear and concise way. I believe that for your student it will be not only about learning a new language but also learning about a new culture that he or she is not familiar with, so it is very important for that to be understood. If you keep all of this points in mind, then you will have a friendship that it will last a lifetime.

Please take a look at our English courses to learn more.

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