This past August DIS Student Blogger, Hannah Durant, moved into her homestay home, not knowing what the semester had in store for her. Now after two months, she is fully in the swing of things. She knows her favorite seat on the s-tog (train), the kitchen cabinets no longer feel like unknown territory, and she’s successfully navigated the complexities of a Danish shower. Above all though, what has been most exciting is getting to know her homestay hosts. Hear from Hannah herself about her favorite homestay traditions thus far – and why these routines make her feel right at home.
1. Exchanging languages
Whether it’s just fixing the pronouns in your host sister’s three page analytical English essay or your whole family having to correct you on how to say “my name is…” in Danish, you’re always learning from each other (though I may have a little bit more Danish to learn than they have English!) Though both parties will get made fun of along the way for saying something incorrectly, being immersed is the fastest way to learn!
2. Watching movies and TV shows together
Between the Danish version of Dancing with the Stars, having a Harry Potter marathon or being introduced to new American movies that your family can’t believe you’ve never seen, watching movies and TV shows is an amazing way to bond. It gives you and your family the opportunity to connect over something in common and it can be a surprisingly good conversation starter (Harry Potter led to interesting conversations about accents and cultures!). And eating popcorn and apple pie while watching movies together doesn’t hurt either!
3. Trading cuisines and trying new foods
Like your parents taught you, you have to be open to trying new foods! Living in a homestay allows you to try new foods that you have otherwise never tried. We get to try smørrebrød and pickled herring while they get to try peanut butter and macaroni and cheese. You don’t always love everything your homestay has you try, and they won’t like everything that you have them try (peanut butter in my family!), but just give it your best shot!
If there’s one thing your homestay can’t wait to share with you, it is the holidays… especially Christmas. You’ll hear all about the “rice and milk concoction with cinnamon sugar and butter” that they can’t really explain until you actually try it or the advent television show that comes on in December, and how they literally do dance around the Christmas tree. And on the flipside, they can’t wait for you to cook some Thanksgiving food for them… how does one cook a turkey again?
One of the first things you’re bound to share with your homestay is your hobbies and interests. You’d be surprised how many things you may have in common with your family! Before you know it, you’re watching soccer games with your host dad and being invited to go play soccer with him and his friends – or you’re playing board games with your host sisters. Little things like this bring you closer to your family and make opportunity for a unique tradition within each household.
6. Dinner conversations – skipping the small talk
It may seem like such a small element to the homestay, but it is probably one of the biggest. Dinner is the one time almost every day of the week that everyone sits down and spends time together. You not only talk about each other’s days but you have the opportunity to talk about politics, culture differences, and anything and everything else. Don’t take those amazing conversations for granted. Not only does it bring you closer, but you are able to learn from your homestay hosts just as much as they can learn from you.
Ah, the Danish word that Danes can never fully explain or translate; you have to experience it to understand what it is. The beauty of a homestay is getting to experience true Danish hygge. Coziness, candles, company of friends and family, good food, warm blankets, good conversation, a great movie or anything else that makes you feel cozy and happy. Just as Danes say, it is so hard to explain or convey… you just have to experience it, and being in a homestay gives you that opportunity.