How to Effectively Communicate House Rules to Your International Student

You will likely be unsure of what to expect when you initially meet your international student; what they like to do, what their personality is like, their cultural upbringing, etc. Most host parents have already raised their own children before taking in an international student, so they will tell you that before anything, your international student is first and foremost a teenager.

Whether you are familiar with raising a teenager and the perils that come along, you should note that international students experienced an entirely different cultural upbringing that will affect their attitude in the U.S. This may be prevalent as they become more comfortable living in your home, especially as they combat symptoms of culture shock.

An international student studying in an unfamiliar culture will experience the difficulties of both adolescence and the additional layer of cultural adjustment and assimilation. With time and experience, international students become resilient and open-minded to cultural adjustments, but not without first overcoming a vast range of cross-cultural obstacles and challenges.

You’ll want your international student to feel as comfortable as possible in their new home, but you’ll have to establish the house rules early for them to respect your household. Here are some tips for initiating a smooth transition for your international student, and some best practices for gentle verbal and written reminders regarding house rules.

Examine Expectations

Examine expectations you have for both your international student AND yourself.

What are your expectations of a new person in your home? What are your expectations for cleanliness? What chores should be delegated to the new addition to your family? What are you flexible about? What won’t you budge on?

In addition, make sure the international student is treated with the same amount of respect as every other household member, and does not attain additional expectations from other children in the household.

Housing an international student is an adjustment for all members of the household.

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Review Household Rules with Your International Student

We strongly recommend that you keep a written checklist of the household expectations for each member of the family visible to your international student. Be prepared to review this document with your international student and all household members within the first few days of their arrival. This process will potentially eliminate many of the misunderstandings prominent after an international student arrives. Sample House Rules can be found in the Host Family Handbook.

Use Simple English When Initializing the Conversation About House Rules

Many international students have not yet fully developed their conversational English proficiency when they arrive in the U.S. To avoid embarrassment or a potentially rude demeanor, many international students will simply respond “yes” even though they are confused of a subject. To combat this, use simple English when explaining house rules and confirming if they understand your expectations.

Speaking louder is not an effective tactic to convey your message. Speak clearly, and enunciate your words.

Check out our post “9 Tips For Communicating With Your International Student” for some more insight!

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Gently Remind Your International Student of the House Rules and Expectations

If your international student seems to struggle to understand the house rules, it is advised to calmly remind them verbally. You may also consider presenting the written rules to them and specifically letting them know which areas they can work on improving.

It may be a good idea to ask them for honest feedback regarding your expectations. Are your expectations too unfair? Do they put too much pressure on the international student?

Remember, acclimation does not happen overnight.

Get a Sense of Understanding from Your International Student

Many teenagers, mainly that of East Asian culture, will decline any opportunity to speak their mind to avoid conflict. They may express understanding and sympathy when, in fact, they disagree wholeheartedly. This notion of “saving face” or pretending to have resolved a conflict can be detrimental in your relationship and discomforting for your international student.

Establish an open environment for discussing any potential issues that may arise, and maintain a positive and inviting attitude with your international student.

Understand that Language Barrier Plays a Huge Role in Politeness

Your international student will initially have some difficulty expressing themselves, which may result in them not trying to properly resolve anything at all to avoid discomfort. Allow your international student to take their time as they begin to understand the subtle nuances of the English language.

Remember to be patient! English is their second language, and you would have the same difficulties if the situation were reversed. Kindly remind your international student of how to phrase requests in English, keeping in mind how to sound polite and respectful.

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Consult Your Support Services Coordinator (SSC)

If all else fails, feel free to reach out to your local Support Services Coordinator. If your international student is still not understanding the house rules after gently trying to inform them of the proper etiquette, your SSC can help mediate and come to a reasonable conclusion.

If there seems to be a problem or conflict with your international student, it is likely that they have also noticed the problem but are incapable of articulating a solution due to cultural differences and communication problems. Cambridge Network’s SSCs are trained professionals that deal with these conflicts on a regular basis.