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NC International Exchange Program – Host Family Frequently Asked Questions

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Although each delegate and chaperone is different, much like you and your own families. The States’ 4-H International Exchange Program and the NC International State Coordinator will match delegates and chaperones to the best fit for a host sibling, family and culture. 

What is LABO?
  • LABO is a Japanese youth organization that is dedicated to cultural and language learning.
  • The name “labo” comes from “language laboratory.”
  • The group was founded in 1972 to promote cultural awareness.
Will our delegate be able to speak/write English very well?
  • There are a few delegates that will be able to communicate effectively, however some will have very limited skills and speak poorly. This should not deter you in hosting as their skills will increase over the time they are with you and your family.
  • You will most likely receive communication from your delegate prior to their arrival, it will be written well and most likely with the help of a teacher, tutor or mentor.
  • Families are asked to anticipate communication challenges, but proper preparations such as learning a few phrases in Japanese are encouraged.
Have past families shared ways to effectively communicate with their delegate?
  • Families have shared that using smiles, sign language, drawings and pointing at objects has been useful.
  • Speaking slowly and clearly (please understand that they are not less intelligent or hard of hearing, so your tone and volume make a difference.)
  • Repetition will help in their learning and adaptation.
  • Resources will be provided to host families to assist in translations.
Our delegate and/or adult chaperone are arriving soon, how should we be preparing?
  • Be sure that you have cleaned out their living space for their time with you. It is important to help them feel at home while they visit. This does not necessarily mean they have their own bedroom, but a drawer, closet space or something that they can call theirs.
  • You and your family should be willing to open up your home and interactions that encourages time together. They are visiting to learn more about you and your culture in your home.
  • They should have clear expectations and guidelines on how things work in your home. They should get the same treatment as your children in receiving privileges.
How can we tell if our delegate is having an enjoyable experience?
  • The Japanese culture is different than ours in America as most Japanese will not show emotions in the same way. There may not be indicators for one way or the other. Prepare your family for this and be ready to accept the culture difference.
  • It is most important to BE PATIENT! Comfort levels go a long way in hosting and the more you get to know one another, the easier it will be for you all to have an enjoyable experience.
  • Be observant – pay attention to their changes in behavior and watch for signs of homesickness and spending too much time alone.
  • Delegates will need time alone to adjust to their new environment and to reflect on their experiences, just monitor that it is not too excessive.
  • Most families will not be aware of how their delegate felt during their visit until the Japanese parents communicate after their child arrives home.
  • If you have any concerns about the well-being of your host delegate, please be sure to contact your 4-H Agent or the Program Coordinator to get a check-in started with an adult chaperone.
What about food and eating habits?
  • You will find that most Japanese youth like American food and are familiar with McDonalds, KFC and other fast food chains that are available in Japan.
  • As you are aware, some children have selective diets and will let you know what they like and what they do not.
  • Families are encouraged to prepare meals that are heavy in fruits, vegetables, fish, chicken, rice, etc. Be sure to ask your delegate if they have preferences on foods. Although they are familiar with fast food, please keep that minimized in their day-to-day meals.
Are there specific cultural differences that we should be aware of prior to hosting a LABO delegate?
  • YES – most differences will be highlighted in your Host Family Orientation as well as your Host Family Handbook. The following are a few obvious examples:
  • Sleeping: their beds are on the floors, if they insist on a top-bunk situation, prepare them for difference
  • Bathing habits: demonstrate how to use your shower and flushing habits
  • Laundry: Japanese culture does laundry more frequently
  • Eating: forks vs. chopsticks
  • Safety: personal safety inside and outside as well as taking care of their own belongings.
Our delegate has contacted us about seeing an attraction that is just not possible for us to do, how do we handle this?
  • Japanese youth do not understand the concept of great distance and it should be explained to them that it cannot be done.
  • In their “Welcome to NC” orientation, they will be told that great distances are not an option for most families.
  • This experience is a family experience, not seeing the sights of the United States.
  • There are many places of interest in North Carolina and if that is possible, take them to one or a few of those.
What if there is a medical emergency?
  • Each delegate will have medical information/authorization as well as insurance information that you will receive during orientation.
  • You should act as a parent would and treat them like they are your own. If you think it is life threatening, contact emergency services or visit the ER.
  • Try your best to communicate 
Do delegates enjoy seeing one another during their stay?
  • Although get-togethers are fine, the emphasis on the experience is place on their learning English and having time with their host family.
  • Just like any youth, sometimes delegates do not get along with each other. They want their time to be with their host families and not with other delegates.
We know the Japanese culture is that they like giving gifts to others, but do they expect us as hosts to give them anything expensive?
  • Yes, the Japanese like gift giving, but you are not expected to reciprocate with anything extravagant.
  • The sincerity behind a gift goes further than the price. It has been shown that delegates like receiving gifts that are hand-made or are items that are local to their stay.
What is the hardest thing about the exchange?
  • Remember that the first few days are very uneasy because everyone is getting used to their environment. Remember that being patient is the key in this endeavor for the host family and the delegate.
  • Remember that delegates are here to learn and that they will be able to communicate with you once their exchange has ended.

Adapted from the Ohio 4-H Youth Exchange Program

Should you have more questions about hosting, please contact your county
4-H agent or local coordinator.