Each family has a set of beliefs about how things should be and to relate to each other. It is influenced by the structure of the family, number of children, personalities and experiences. Cultural background impacts attitudes towards communication, education, hierarchy, and values. Your exchange student gets immersed in uncharted territory when becoming part of your family and your family structure is altered at the same time. Understanding how family dynamics work and the awareness of this change will help you to adjust faster to this change.
Let’s imagine for a second that your exchange student comes from a “circle” environment and arrives to your family which is a “square” environment…
This can illustrate how different the world he or she is coming from is and how it may be difficult to integrate into your environment. How does the “circle’ adapt and communicate with the“square” members of the family? How does the student adapt and behave in a “square” environment?
Your current family dynamics…Those are defined by the individual member’s relationships with each other. Family members share bonds and a sense of history and endeavor to meet each other’s needs. Those will be affected with the entrance of your exchange student. Roles, alliances and boundaries will be affected.
In addition to the family dynamics changing, the student will bring his/her cultural baggage that may differ substantially from your culture. Culture affects the way we communicate, think and behave.
The presence of a different cultural background can negatively impact the success of a Host Family/Student relationship if an awareness of those differences is not known and understood.
Cultural misunderstandings occur when we expect other people to behave like we do, but they don’t or they expect us to behave the way they do but we don’t!
These are just a few examples that can explain some of the behaviors your student may display and are not always related to a lack of respect. As a host family, it is important to differentiate those “cultural behaviors” from “typical teenage behavior” or even “inadequate behaviors. “This difference will help you to know what to do next to fix whatever needs fixes. Be sure to always discuss these items with your local coordinator and your student. Discover the differences and never make assumptions!
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