1. Experience the city like a local
You don’t need to pay for cooking lessons, knitting lessons, farming lessons – whatever other lessons there may be! You can stay with a local and learn directly from them the different tasks and activities they do on a day to day basis without having to spend money on overpriced tour packages that might not even be able to give you an authentic experience.
I once rented a qipao in Jiufen, Taiwan which was nice, and we dressed up like siams in Malika RE124 – but those experiences were specifically paid for, not something that was organic. But on my homestays in Nepal, I didn’t need to pay a single cent to feel like a local for a day. They dress you in their traditional wear which they have on hand, and they’re more than experienced enough to fix you up in it too. My host family even taught me how to dance in a saree!
2. You learn the language
We all know that one of the best ways to learn a new language is by immersing yourself with the people who speak it – something paid lessons will probably never be able to achieve. With your host family, you learn the most important phrases a local uses on a day-to-day basis, as well as their slang. By the end of your homestay (assuming you stay longer) you might find that you can get around the country, order food and ask questions with relative ease!
3. Get tips from locals
On a homestay, tourism becomes more than just simply looking around and taking pictures. You’re able to get an in-depth background on the different attractions since your hosts have been living in the area all their lives and know the inside and outs of their community and heritage. They’ll tell you the history, as well as some other interesting trivia you probably won’t ever get in a paid tour.
4. Learn about their life experiences
Sure, it’s easy to go online and look up some historical facts and recent events that occured in a city – but it won’t ever be as detailed and truthful as a primary source in the form of the people who live in the area themselves. Not only will they share their history and culture, they will also share their lived experiences which is arguably one of the most valuable things you can get out of travel. I personally was able to learn about how daily life is in Patan, and how they struggled during the 2015 earthquake that shook the country – you get to know their lives as individual people, not just as another statistic in the books.
5. You make a second family
The families who host homestays are incredibly welcoming. To them, you are not just a visitor when you step into their home – you are part of their family. Your interactions aren’t just limited to speaking about the country – they tell you about their lives, their interests, and they even ask you about yours. You get to form personal connections and memories which will be with you even years after you’ve finished your homestay, further enriching your travel experience.
Until now, my homestay moms are messaging me.
6. You help the local communities
The money you spend on a homestay isn’t only exchanged for fantastic experiences and personal connections. You aren’t just paying for the experiences – you are empowering the homestay families by helping them obtain a steady stream of income. The more you go visit and stay with the local communities, the more they are able to build their towns into a richer, more flourishing destination. You get to have a terrific trip all while helping the locals live better lives as well.
7. You get to take part in local events
You can attend the local festivals and events if you’re lucky enough to visit at the right time! You get to learn all about their rituals and be part of it yourself which is so much more fun and exciting than simply reading about it in a travel guide and watching from afar. There’s so much you can learn about their celebrations and traditions when you go to a homestay – and even getting the privilege to join them? It makes the experience all the more rich.
8. You get to catch a glimpse in their day-to-day lives
A tour can tell you all about the happenings of a city, the lives of the locals, their beliefs – but telling is all they can do. In a homestay, you get to actually live the experience with them. You wake up with them in the mornings, have your meals with them, head out to the markets to purchase supplies and ingredients – you see the city, you see how they live because you are living with them, not just looking at them as an outsider and tourist.
How community homestays work
Community homestays aren’t just all about getting tourists to come visit the town – it empowers and funds the community. It aims to use tourism as a means for good, and to make a positive impact on the towns. The community homestay program links rural villages in Nepal who are in need of economic and monetary support and connects them to the community homestay website. Afterwards, they collaborate with the locals, particularly the local women, readying their homes to become homestay fit. Then, when people book a homestay, the money goes into the families’, and the communities pockets, helping the rural towns grow more developed and prosperous! They also make sure that the money is distributed equally among the homes in the community by connecting with the local officials, making equal opportunities for all of the families living in the area.
And it’s more than clear that the homestay project isn’t just about the money for them. During my stay, not once did they ask me for a tip! In fact, all they wanted to do with to be giving, to learn about you and to share about themselves – they were all so sweet and welcoming,and to think I wouldn’t have been able to meet my host families without the community homestay partnership.
All in all, this is a way not just for the local community to earn but also to learn from different cultures! It’s a lot like travelling for them too – just as you learn from their culture, they learn from you.
The type of activities you’ll be doing depends on the family you’re staying with and the cultural practices of the area you’re in, but here are a few of the activities you might be able to experience while on a homestay.
1. Cooking lessons – Get to see how the families make and prepare their everyday meals – and even try to cook some up yourself!
2. Wear a saree
3. Do the work they are doing
5. Cultural dancing
6. Experience their festivals and events
7. Farming – I’ve seen other people go farming, but the families I stayed with were not so into that, however they did do knitting and they were kind enough to teach me how! Despite not being so good at handicraft, the point is that I was able to learn and try new things.
8. Eat local food
9. Learn their language
10. Learn about their different cultures
And much more!
Etiquette during homestays
1. Eat with your right hand – Like in many countries in the south Asia region, the people of Nepal typically eat with their hands – and never the left one as they consider it dirty. However, don’t be afraid to ask for utensils during your homestay if you’re not used to it! The hosts are more than happy to give you a spoon.
2. Wear weather-appropriate clothing – It can get rather cold in Nepal particularly in the winter months, so be sure to pack up and bring along some jackets and extra layers especially if you plan to tour around the community.
3. No need to bring too many necessities – Being prepared is a good thing, but keep in mind that the host family usually has a lot of necessities with them on hand already! During my stay I was given extra blankets by one family, and a heated water bag by another. They usually have charging outlets in their homes too, but you might want to bring along a powerbank because power outages are the norm in some communities.
4. It’s okay to say no!
The host families are very hospitable and love offering food and tea for their guests, making sure they’re full and content – but it’s always okay to politely say no if you’re full, or if you’ve had enough to eat for the day. They won’t get offended at all.
5. Gadgets off, as much as possible
Visiting a rural community like the ones offered by the homestay program is a perfect time to shut off all gadgets and just live and experience day-to-day life with your host families! That’s not to say using your electronics is bad per say – just keep it to a minimum and enjoy the hospitality and activities the locals will have ready for you.
6. Learn to live without hot showers
In my case, the homes in Patan and Panauti both had heaters so I didn’t need to take a cold shower. But some homestays don’t have hot water, and if you want to bathe you’ll need to do so using a bucket filled with cold water, just as the locals do.
7. Get used to their culture and habits
There are different aspects of Nepali culture which are very different to other countries, particularly Western ones, like eating with your hand or practicing Hindu prayers and festivals. It might be different but it’s best if you grow to appreciate and learn from their different practices instead of pushing it away.
8. Don’t be afraid to use English
Many of the homestay families don’t expect you to speak their language fluently upon arrival, of course. Most families, particularly the ones with younger kids, will know how to speak in English – but it is polite if you know how to speak a couple of Nepali phrases as well, like hello, thank you, and goodbye – just so you can show your hosts that you really want to integrate with them during your homestay.
9. Stay longer if you can
One day really isn’t enough for a homestay! There’s so much to do, talk about, and learn from the families that you’ll never want to leave. So, save your heart the breakage and book a longer trip if you can – the attachments you form to the community and your hosts will be more than worth it.
10. Be open to new experiences
When going on a homestay, keep an open heart and an open mind and try to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Try new things, be open to new experiences! After all, you never know what you’re going to get – you just might end up falling in love in what you were too shy or scared to do in the past.
What can I say about Nepalese people?
The whole time I was here, they all thought I looked like a local! They would speak to me in their native language only to realize I didn’t actually understand a thing! Either way, Nepali people are very friendly, happy, and family-oriented like Filipinos are. They’re always welcome and hospitable, always willing to help and share stories and tidbits of interesting information about their homes, communities, and themselves. The country itself shines bright with its ancient history and heritage but it is further enriched by their kind and loving people. You will definitely enjoy your stay in Nepal.