The US is very reserved with physical contact and when a person stays with a host family in the United States, they either are taken to see the tourist sites in the city or just left alone. The host families I have stayed with in the US just let me do my thing in the room they gave me. They didn’t really want to get to know me or anything.
My Italian family was welcoming with open arms; they immediately did the cheek-kiss thing, which I do not completely understand to this day. They make homemade meals for me every day, and help me learn Italian, slowly but surely.
This behavior isn’t just for my immediate host family either. I’ve gone to a few of the cousin’s houses for meals, and they feed me traditional Italian meals and strike up conversation with me as much as possible.
Meals with my host family are very different than how they are at my house. Here, everything is put in the middle of the table and then either the matriarch serves everyone their allotted portions and then there is a lot of talking while eating. Even though the meals take up more time, it is worth it because we bond and talk about our days and grow closer as a family. It doesn’t hurt that everything I eat here is from local small farms or straight from the garden.
My host family often bring me with them places and show me around town, not just the tourist things though. They have brought me to my host sister’s performances and dinners with their friends. I have also been invited to do a lot of activities with them, such as my host sister’s birthday and helping make the annual wine.
I like to learn about different ways to practice one’s faith, especially growing up in a Christian environment. I have gone to mass with them a few times, which has been fully in Italian. This has been a different experience, because I grew up memorizing the Creeds and going to a Lutheran church, but I had never gone to mass and had never done the sign of the cross before.
My host family has really been there for me, whenever I need their help! From bonding over Stranger Things on Netflix with my host sister, to 4am hugs from my host brother, they really have accepted me for me. I am already dreading saying goodbye to them.