Do’s & Don’ts for Hosting International Students
Before the Event
Do learn some things about your guests’ country and culture.
Don’t assume your guest will agree with everything you read in publications.
Do greet your guest as an honored guest.
For more topics of conversation, click here.
Do pray for your guests before they come that the Lord would guide the conversation.
Don’t initiate special events (such as reading the Bible at the table) for your guest’s benefit. If you do it regularly then do it with your guests, as observers.
Do give a simple explanation of what is going to happen (prayer, reading the Bible, or sharing something for which you are thankful) and tell them what their response should be (such as prompting them to share something they are thankful for or merely hold up their hand to indicate that you don’t want to share).
Do remember that English is probably a second language for your guest.
Don’t talk louder if your guest does not understand; the problem is not ignorance or hearing loss but vocabulary.
Do have a computer ready so you can Google or an encyclopedia available (if they don't understand a word that can not be rephrased).
For more communication guidelines, click here.
Do ask questions about their family, country and customs.
Don’t ask questions that would provide an uncomfortable comparison.
Sharing your faith
Don’t proselytize! Your guest was invited to share your meal, not to be preached at. (See I Peter 3:15).
Do ask your guest to share how his family (or his country) practices religion.
Do feel free to share your faith as a “cultural exchange” and let the Holy Spirit work in their heart.
During the day
Offer them a beverage whenever they're in your home.
Have your student practice his or her name for you until you have it correctly. Ask what she or he prefers to be called (don't Americanize their name).
If you have pets, show them how you relate to your pets and tell them your “pet rules”. Many cultures do not have pets in the house. You may need to put your pet in another room.
If they’re interested, let them see how you cook the meal (they may want to help).
Share pictures of your family and your vacations.
Take pictures together.
Explain any family customs you have for holidays.
Don’t shy away from any habits you have as a family. Be authentic.
Many cultures do not “pass the plate” during a meal. For some cultures it is impolite to ask for more food or “help yourself”. For others, it is polite to turn down the first offer of something. Help them understand what is polite in America.
Muslims do not drink alcohol (even in a dessert) or eat pork. Hindus are generally vegetarians.
Tell your guests the names and ingredients of your various dishes. Suggest that your guests try “just a little” of new foods. Some of the foods may be too sweet or have very strange tastes for those for whom they are new.
In many cultures (such as the Chinese) they don’t eat or drink cold items such as ice water or ice cream. Make sure that you have hot tea available.
If you have learned about their country/culture, say, “I’ve read that _____. Is that correct?”. Even if you have reliable information, not everyone from a country sees their culture the same way. Be a learner.
Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you in spiritual conversations – some people from other faiths or cultures are eager to learn about Christianity, while others are just hoping to have an “American experience”. Friendship and acceptance communicate the love of Christ.
Avoid political conversation unless your guest initiates it. If your guests are from different countries, they also might not agree on politics (such as if one is from Syria and the other from Israel).
Enjoy yourself but remember that humor does not always translate well. Most internationals would like to understand American humor better though.
Following the dinner or event
When inviting your guests to a future event, give them an easy way to refuse. Many cultures may feel pressured to do what you suggest because they now feel obligated to you. For example, say, “Would you like to join us next week at ______ or do you have too much work to do?”
Watch to see what foods they particularly like and offer to send some home. Have containers on hand that you don’t need back.
Make arrangements before leaving for when you will see your new friends again.
Invite them to plays, concerts, movies, and discuss their reaction afterwards. These don’t have to be expensive (such as a high school basketball game rather than the NBA).
Invite them to future holiday celebrations.
If a spiritual discussion has occurred, they may want you to visit a religious service.
If they would like, let them cook for you next time. They may not have enough dishes to have you to their apartment so offer your home.
Always let the student know ahead of time if there will be a Christian talk or discussion at any future events.
If they are expected to pay for any of the events let them know before hand. Some come from wealthy families and have significant resources while some are just scraping by.
Check here for other activities you can invite them to or attend with your international friend.