Homestay and Cultural Awareness Orientation and Reference Guide

Version updated 31.1.2018


  • Introduction
  • The Role of the Homestay Host
  • Establishing Guidelines & Expectations
  • Guidelines for Appropriate Behaviour by Homestay Hosts
  • Guest Safety
  • Host Payments
  • Homestay Guests Going Away on Holiday
  • Host is Absent From Home Overnight
  • Guest Health Matters
  • Communication and Confidentiality
  • Complaints Procedure
  • Cultural Awareness


Welcome to the Global Booking Services (GBS) family!

This orientation is designed to assist homestay accommodation providers in successfully hosting homestay guests. It is to provide awareness and act as a guide to support you as a homestay provider, and to offer assistance with any queries associated with your homestay guest. It is important to enjoy your homestay experience together, and that there is a warm, friendly and flexible approach to hosting your homestay guest.


This orientation and reference guide is updated regularly, and we will continue to provide you with the most current information to assist you. We will include enhancements designed from feedback from guests, hosts, institutions, agencies, and the industry. GBS strives for excellence and continuous improvement, and expects the same of our GBS family. We welcome any feedback on making the homestay experience even more positive, and appreciate any thoughts on improvements!

The Role of the Homestay Host

Congratulations on your decision to host an international guest! This is a unique and rewarding experience for both you, your family and your guests. As a part of our hosting family, you agree to:

  • provide a clean, warm and friendly environment
  • ensure your homestay guest’s safety and well-being
  • encourage homestay guests to speak English at all times
  • be flexible and helpful
  • be sensitive to cultural differences
  • incorporate your guest into your daily routine
  • communicate any concerns that arise with your guest and solve problems or misunderstandings

Homestay guests will come from many different countries and cultures, and there may be some things we take for granted living in Australia. Below are some items that would be beneficial to review and discuss with your guests.


  • to abide by Australian law at all times
  • not to consume alcohol or tobacco, if underage, or drugs at any stage
  • to adhere to schedules and timetables
  • that you will help your guest to buy a public transport card
  • that you will teach your guest to use public transport
  • to let you know where they are going and approximately what time they will be home
  • to confirm with you if they can invite friends home for a meal or to visit / study
  • that all household rules apply to them as they do to other members of the host family
  • that they should assist with household chores, such as washing dishes, keeping their room tidy, assisting with laundry, etc.
  • that short showers are expected in Australia
  • they should speak English at all times and to try their best at speaking English and participating as a family member.

Establishing Guidelines & Expectations

Just like with families, guidelines are just as important for your guest. Settling your guest into Australia, and your home, is important. Almost all concerns are solved when communication is open between host and guest, and most times are just misunderstandings.

Your guest will most likely be tired and unsure when they arrive at your home. A suggestion to help them feel at home is to offer a light refreshment, and have a chat to get to know a little bit about them. Here are some suggestions to better understand them and establish guidelines during their stay in your home.

  • What time do you usually wake in the morning or need to be at school?
  • Do you prefer to take a shower in the mornings or evenings?
  • Are you comfortable doing your own laundry?
  • What time do you usually eat breakfast?
  • What time do you usually go to bed?
  • What foods do you prefer?
  • Is there any special information that I should know about? (eg allergies, medication, etc.)

Here are some questions that your guest might be thinking – they may be too shy to ask but should be discussed!

  • May I use the internet? May I download movies and music?
  • How late can I Skype / chat with my family and friends?
  • How long may I have in the bathroom/shower? When should I shower?
  • Are there any dangerous areas that I should avoid?
  • May I invite friends over to stay the night?
  • May I stay over at my friend’s house?
  • If I go out at night, what time should I be home?
  • If I am not coming home for dinner, what time should I let you know?
  • Are there any special house rules of which I should be aware?
  • How do I get to my school?
  • May I use the kitchen / washing machine / dryer / clothesline? How do I operate the washing machine / appliances?
  • How can I get a phone / SIM card / travel card for the train/bus?
  • Where can I go for groceries / movies / fun?
  • Where is the bus stop, bus number I need?


It is important for your guests to understand the house rules and expectations, as every host family is different. Going over items such as this will help alleviate many concerns for both hosts and guests in a new environment.  Please note if you are hosting a guest for roomstay (room only), they will be more independent and may have different expectations around family living. They should still be advised of the running of the home and expectations as a guest/tenant, however may wish to lead a more independent lifestyle similar to a tenant in a rental property. You should show them where they can shop for their food, where to store it, and how to work the kitchen/laundry appliances.


Guidelines for Appropriate Behaviour by Homestay Hosts

The best way of ensuring appropriate behaviour is to abide by Australian law, comply with the points agreed to in the Homestay Ts and Cs Agreement and exercise common sense and caution with regard to the guest in your home. Hosts should take into account the significant cultural differences between their own ideas of appropriate behaviour and those of their guests.


While it is not the intention to stifle the warm and friendly relationship between families and guests, you should be aware of behaviour with your guests, and that there are many cultural differences from other countries. You should therefore be mindful and exercise appropriate care and consideration towards your guests both in verbal and physical attention.

Guest Safety

As this will probably be the first time that your guest has been out of their home country, they may be a bit nervous trying to navigate their new surroundings. Please consider this when your guest is out and about and think about how to ensure their safety is maintained. It is also a good idea to ask your guest if they are ok with you taking a copy of their passport details and an emergency contact number for their own safety.

Things to consider:


  • Night time travel
  • Safe keeping of valuables
  • A copy of your contact details in case they get lost
  • How you can contact them in an emergency, eg mobile or social media app

Host Payments

Homestay hosts are paid weekly for the nights that your guest stays at your home. Hosts are paid by direct deposit into your bank account weekly on a Monday immediately after the day your guest arrives for that week. Hosts are only paid for the nights that a guest stays in your home. Please ensure that you provide the correct bank details to enable timely payment.


Processing can take up to 48 hours depending on your bank. Generally, you should receive funds in your nominated account by close of banking on Tuesday each week. Should payment not arrive within 48 hours, please send us a payment query on the contact form on our web page and we will investigate promptly.  StudentBNB bookings will be paid several days after arrival for the full term booked. Please see Ts and Cs for further information on StudentBNB.


Homestay hosts must NOT EVER charge or accept money direct from their guests in relation to homestay services provided; this will terminate your agreement with GBS immediately and remove you from our database.


Phone calls, SIM cards, and public transport are all items for which your guest must pay for themselves. Internet usage is included in your host payments if you have indicated you will provide internet service and the guest has opted for the internet option.

Homestay Guests Going Away on Holiday

If a guest wishes to return to the same host after their semester break, they are only required to pay for the nights they actually stay in the accommodation. We do not charge students a room holding fee. Should the host wish to utilise the room while the student is away, they should instruct the student to pack their belongings and store them securely for them until their return. GBS needs to be notified if they plan on returning to the same home or if they need alternate accommodation.




Important information for Under 18 Student Care in Homestay 


A homestay family is required to provide:

  • Full board in a clean, tidy household that is relatively close to the school and located nearby to suitable public transport routes
  • A safe, secure, private bedroom with suitable storage space for clothes, personal effects and study materials
  • Suitable facilities for study including a desk, a chair, and adequate lighting
  • Three meals daily ensuring adequate nutritious food and access to other foods as required. The homestay family may allow the student to prepare his/her own meals as mutually agreed.
  • Access to bathroom and laundry facilities
  • Laundry services as negotiated between the homestay, student, and where relevant, the school
  • Access to household items, such as towels, sheets, blankets and eating/cooking utensils.
  • Provide the student with a key and/or alarm passwords for the house to allow free access
  • Provide a general orientation to the local area and community facilities available. The homestay family should undertake to accompany the student to and from school on his/her first day and familiarise the student with the public transport system (if applicable) and routes to and from the homestay residence.


The homestay family is expected to maintain suitable supervision of the student(s) in their care, as if the student(s) were their own children. 


Should the homestay family’s circumstances change (home alterations, moving/selling, other boarders, etc) the homestay family is required to notify GBS in advance.


Additional requirements/ expectations for under 18s

The homestay family should:

  • Assist and support the student’s good attendance at school
  • Communicate with the student in English only except for situations where communication in the student’s native language is necessary for the student’s safety or emotional wellbeing
  • Initiate immediate discussion with GBS if there are concerns regarding the student’s academic progress or welfare
  • Notify GBS promptly in the event of any serious problem occurring or in the event of an accident or medical emergency and or the school emergency contact number
  • Communicate to GBS any concerns regarding the general personal wellbeing of the student
  • Assist the student with gaining access to any necessary medical, dental, hospital or other health related services by making appointments and, where necessary, accompany the student to those appointments
  • Assist the student to understand the school and house rules and requirements and help ensure that the student abides by them
  • Ensure a suitable bedtime is negotiated with the student
  • Arrange for suitable out of hours supervision during school terms to ensure that the student is not left unsupervised for extended periods of time
  • Assist the student to participate in extracurricular activities arranged or recommended by the school
  • Ensure that safe and appropriate transport arrangements are in place, where the student engages in out of school hours sporting, social or recreational activities  
  • Be aware of activities and company kept outside school hours by the student
  • Converse with the student regularly


If your guest is under 18 and wishes to sleep at a friend’s, he / she must get permission from their caregiver or guardian and their school. Please ask your guest for the address / contact details of where they will be.


The homestay family acknowledges that GBS or the school can in no way be held responsible for damage to property caused by the student. The homestay family acknowledge they have been offered advice and options of appropriate insurance for both public liability and property damage and have agreed to ensure suitable cover is in place.


Any person(s) within the homestay family household over the age of 18 agree must be in possession of a current ‘Blue Card’ or exemption notice in compliance with the Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian Act 2000.

Host is Absent From Home Overnight

If you are planning to be absent from home overnight, you must ensure your guest is comfortable with these arrangements and that any meals required are prepared. If you have any guests under 18 years old and there will be no registered GBS residents in your home over the age of 18, please contact us to discuss via email at contact@homestaybookings.com.au . If the homestay family is planning to be away overnight or for an extended period of time, the homestay family is to notify GBS at least one month in advance (if possible) so that suitable arrangements can be made for the student.

Guest Health Matters

Most international guests require health insurance to enter the country. Should your guest require medical attention, you can refer them to your local GP or hospital if required. After hours, another option is calling 1300SICK. The guest is responsible for paying for the consultation and obtaining a receipt for insurance purposes. For any critical issues, please contact the necessary authorities / hospital to ensure student safety, and advise us as soon as possible thereafter.

Communication and Confidentiality

When difficulties between host and guest occur, most concerns are resolved with open and honest discussion. We encourage both guests and hosts to raise concerns with each other directly, and make every effort to resolve the issue/s. In the rare occasion where a matter cannot be resolved, please contact the GBS team for assistance.

Complaints Procedure

If you been unable to resolve a problem after talking to your guest, please contact us via email or phone for assistance.

Cultural Awareness

As a GBS host, you will be introduced to many different countries and cultures. It will become apparent to you that not all cultures understand Western guidelines and ideas. You may find that your guest does not help with washing up, or may expect you to serve them rather than serve themselves. The guests may appear rude when in fact they just do not understand our Western cultural differences. As such, we must also be cognizant that they have their own ways, and be sensitive that they are learning a new culture whilst studying overseas. It might be the first trip away from home for many of the guests that you host.


Remember that even if your guest has studied English, they may find accents, vocabulary and colloquialisms difficult to understand. Be patient with your guest, and try to speak slowly and clearly to assist them with their learning and adjustment to life in another country.


We would like to share with you some information on a few different cultures that may be of assistance whilst hosting guests from different areas of the world. Please feel free to explore more information as required if your guest’s culture is not shown below.



The Confucian ethic of proper social and family relationships forms the foundation of Chinese society. The Chinese have a strong sense of family. They have a great respect for hierarchy and interpersonal obligations. Parents expect to know when their children are going out, and also where they are going. They will typically set limits on going out or on recreational activities that might interfere with schoolwork because parents tend to take a keen interest in their children’s education and expect them to study hard. In addition, parents often encourage the active involvement of the school in their child’s upbringing. Chinese teenagers seldom date. Dates are not unheard of, but neither are they encouraged. Teens often socialise with their classmates and go out in single-sex groups.. Public touching or displays of affection between a male and female of any age is unusual, though it is not unusual for schoolmates of the same sex to walk hand in hand or with an arm around one another. The Chinese diet consists of vegetables, rice and noodles and often a meat dish. They also tend to eat a larger meal at lunch time and a light snack later in the evening. They may be noisy while they eat. The Chinese use chopsticks as a preferred method of eating utensil. While it would be fine to put out traditional western utensils with meals, it might be a nice touch to also offer some chopsticks to make your guest feel at home. The Chinese may smile or laugh to a situation that may be embarrassing or when they do not understand. It is not meant to be rude.



Arabs are a religiously diverse group, and can be Muslims or Christians. The women are typically subordinate to the men. They may wear traditional dress in full length body cover for purposes of modesty. Family is the centre of everything in the Arab world. Time is less rigid, so they may not understand that they need to be punctual. Most Arabs do not eat pork, and any meat they may eat must be Halal. They may not finish everything on their plate; it is a sign of a compliment. Traditional Arabs will fast during Ramadan month. During this time they do not eat or drink during daylight hours. There are also times when Arabs will pray, and they have rituals for their prayer times.



The term ‘Muslim culture’ is used broadly to represent many diverse Muslim cultural groups: the Asian Muslims, the Middle Eastern, the African, the European and the American Muslims, each with their own variations on customs and traditions. Some customs and traditions may be more motivated by culture than by religion. Cleanliness is considered of utmost importance, especially as prerequisite to prayer, for one’s person and the place of prayer. Animal saliva is considered unclean and must be washed off before prayer can be offered. To avoid having to wash excessively, many Muslims generally do not keep pets, including dogs, inside their homes and avoid contact with them beyond patting. In Western cultures, where many pet-owners consider them part of the family, the avoidance may be mistaken for dislike and cause offense where none is intended . Pork and its products and alcoholic drink areharam (forbidden) in Islam. Muslims eat halal meat which is meat slaughtered in the Islamic way and blessed with the name of God. Use of alcohol in products for medicinal purposes is allowed. During fasting, Muslims refrain from consuming food and drinking liquids from dawn until sunset. They are encouraged to practice reflection, forgiveness and charity during this month, and capitalize on it for the rest of the year. Islam encourages Muslims to dress modestly, and Muslim women from diverse backgrounds observe modesty in their own way, which explains the variation in their dress codes across cultures. Wearing the Hijab (head covering) is a mark of devotion and commitment to Faith. In some countries, wearing the Hijab is obligatory, but in others it is considered a personal choice. It is not a symbol of repression and separation. It would be disrespectful to criticize women for wearing it. “Social distance” is especially important to maintain when interacting with Muslim women. The difference may be obvious when dealing with a woman from a more conservative group. If she takes a small step backward it is indicative that, though interested in the conversation, she is uncomfortable and it would be kind to respect her space.



Your Japanese guest might bow, which is nothing less than an art form in Japan, respect pounded into children’s heads from the moment they enter school. You may find that your guest tends to slurp food. In Japan, slurping noodles or making loud noises while eating is acceptable, in fact, slurping hot food like ramen is polite, to show you are enjoying it. The Japanese usually take their shoes off at the door, and change into slippers. Japanese may be inclined to be a little more conservative as a sign of respect and are generally use to a quieter environment at home, so may withdraw to their rooms at times to unwind. Be aware they will often say yes when they don’t understand.


Latin Americans

South Americans are very social, independent, full of life and family oriented. They are more inclined to be assertive and socially outgoing than some other cultures and will want to spend time with peers. They are used to staying out late with friends so a good form of communication is important and house rules should be clearly but politely explained early on. They enjoy meat, bean and rice dishes but are generally happy to try any food. Latinos have a strong sense of pride in their country and culture and will become very passionate about a club, soccer match or event from home that they can watch on television. Family gatherings are frequent, large and usually involve a barbeque on the weekend with many family attending and staying around for up to four hours is quite normal. You may find them to be quite relaxed about time and punctuality so setting departure times a little before the actual time can be of benefit.