We want your time with your family to be valuable. We select families according to the information given on your application and they are informed of your specific needs. It is not always easy to adapt to a different culture and standard of living from that to which you are accustomed, but if you are prepared to be flexible and understanding, you will gain a lot from your experience with the family. We would like to point out a few guidelines that may help you form a good relationship with your host family, as well as some "rules and regulations" that should be observed.
One of the most important parts of your learning and cultural experience is the homestay. Families are paid so you don't have to bring gifts, but it is a nice gesture to do so (some ideas: kitchen or bath towels, candy, something for the house, t-shirts, a picture frame or something local from your home town). Most families like to be told if there is something bothering you and will try to accommodate you. This includes telling them if you need an extra blanket, asking them to change your sheets at the end of each week, letting them know what kinds of food you don't like, etc. If you feel that you cannot express yourself, please come talk to us at the MG Helpdesk and we will relay the message. Overall, the homestay should be one of the highlights of your trip but sometimes things may simply not be working out. Notify our staff if you wish to change families due to a valid reason.
You will receive a key to the outside door and will be able to come and go as you like. Of course, you are not obligated to eat your meals with the family, but courtesy demands that you should notify them when you will not be eating at home. You are not held accountable for your comings and goings, but please advise your family if you will be returning late at night, as they may worry about you. Overnight guests are not allowed.
The food and drinks served by your host family are "safe". Your family will serve three meals daily (except Sundays). Meals are served at specific times. You should always inform your family if you are not going to be present for a meal. Please do not expect food service out of the specific meal times. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day, with dinner often being light (eg: black beans and rice). Your family is instructed to provide well-balanced meals and purified water (either bottled or boiled). Remember that you are in Guatemala to experience a different culture - and that includes different food. Obviously you should feel free to tell the family if there is something you don't like, but please don't expect to be served the same food that you would eat at home. Food might be more diverse in some families but everything balances out.
In Antigua, it is difficult to guarantee lots of family interaction. Family interaction is largely based on the student. Guatemalans are friendly and enjoy talking to you if you make the effort. However, you must understand that they have a constant flow of students and they tend to keep their lives a bit separate. At the very least, they should eat with you and talk to you during meals. If this is not happening, please tell us!! Generally, the host families who provide more comforts, have larger homes and host more students which often means less family interaction. We make every effort to primarily find a family that is not too basic and meets your specific homestay requests (diet, children/no children, no smoking, etc.).
Your host family respects your beliefs and we ask that you show that same respect. You can discuss anything with your teacher but some subjects regarding religion, culture or politics may be inappropriate to discuss with your family. It is a good idea to bring some pictures of family, friends, your house, a map that shows where you live. These can be used to begin discussions.
Each family has a different routine for cleaning the students' rooms. In efforts to respect your space and possessions, many do not like to enter students' rooms when they are not there. If this is the case, you should ask the señora to clean while you are at home, or tell them it is okay to enter your room while you are away.
Showers are heated by an electric contraption at the top of the shower head that looks dangerous but is not. To get the hottest water, you need to keep the water pressure low. Turn the knob just until you see the bathroom light dim and hear the water heater turn on. Do not drink water from the faucet. The tap water in Antigua is treated with chlorine, but is not completely trustworthy, so always drink bottled or boiled water. It is generally is okay to brush your teeth with water in Antigua, but not in other areas. Potable water is called "agua pura." Ask for a bottle in the store or "un vaso (glass) de agua pura" in a restaurant. Households and restaurants purchase Agua Salvavidas in big 5-gallon jugs, so don't be scared if you get water in a glass, it doesn't necessarily mean it's from the tap (but you should always ask).
Please discard used toilet paper and other waste disposal in the bin near the toilet, as flushing it will clog the pipes! Please don't stand on the toilet seat. Please don't use toilet paper for other purposes like dust cleaning, handkerchief or make-up remover. Make sure you leave the toilet as you want to find it, and to switch off the light as you leave the room.
Guatemalans value good manners very highly and will always greet you with a "good morning/afternoon" and "how are you?" You should take the time to respond accordingly, even if you are in a rush. If you come home late at night, please try to make as little noise as possible as most of our families are in bed by 22:00pm. Most families react very sensitive to smashing the front door. Also, in many of the houses, you will be sharing a bathroom with family members and/or other students. Please try to limit your shower time, and to coordinate with your housemates.
The cost of living in Antigua is relatively high and the families ask students to help them economize in some simple ways: (a) turn off the lights when leaving your room or the bathroom; (b) do not use excessive amounts of toilet paper; (c) do not leave the water running when it is not necessary. Electricity in Guatemala is particularly expensive, and so please avoid excessive use of electric appliances.
Use of Telephone:
In general, the host families don't like you to use their phone to make calls, even using your calling card since such calls are charged at the local rate of $0.10/min. If you have to use the phone in an emergency, please reimburse the family for any cost incurred. In addition, if you are going to receive calls at the house, please make sure this is okay with the family first and limit the time you spend on the phone to 5 minutes. We do recommend though to make and receive calls in either TELGUA or with any other telephone service provider. Every student can receive phone calls in our office without being charged (max. 10 minutes).Alternatively, you can rent a handy or just buy a cheap for using your own handy.
You will find a detailed listing of "Homestay Rules" in your room. This list has been elaborated in cooperation with the host families. Please don't be offended, everything mentioned there has been a cause for problems in the past. The intention is just to point out that things that are part of your daily life in your home countries, are perceived differently in Guatemala, like not using too many electric appliances, or inviting over guests. Please also note that you are expected to pay for home items you break, and for a new set of keys and the padlock in case you lose your keys.