Your stay with a host family is a very important part of your experience in England, and every English family, no matter how dysfunctional, will do their utmost to make you feel part of their crumbling social institution.
Whilst I cannot promise that you will be able to share every intimate moment of their daily lives (thankfully), a few tips on how to make the most of the unique British way of life will help you to be very happy with your host family, and allow you to escape with all your possessions when you leave.
What you get is:
Meals - breakfast and dinner, Monday to Friday, plus lunch at weekends. This is your chance to get acquainted with some of the choicest microwave meals available from Iceland, so be sure to make the most of it.
Bedroom – Clean and tidy; with a desk, a heater, and several secret compartments suitable for hiding a wide range of cash and/or private substances.
Showers - One shower or bath a day, about 15 minutes each day. If you are an early riser, you can take much longer.
Laundry - You can usually wash your clothes at your host family. They may ask you to wash theirs too, so learn how to use a washing machine before you venture out to the UK.
Ironing - Ask your family if you can use their iron - if they know what one is. Use mime and motioning gestures if your request results in acute incomprehension.
Keys – Don't forget to ask your family for a door key. They may have several keys to different front doors on the estate, so just make sure you get the right one. If you find the door locked and are unable to rouse the semi-comatose residents indoors, just remove a few window panes and enter quietly. The youngest member of the house will probably be able to demonstrate this to you in a spare moment.
Going out - Tell your family if you will be late home. They will probably lock the front door anyway (if it has one), so be sure to practice bunking in through windows beforehand (see above).
Telephone - You can receive calls at your host family, if you can locate the handset. DO NOT make calls without asking first, otherwise you might find yourself needing to make an unexpected call for an ambulance.
Letters - You can safely use your host family address to receive letters, as few of your surrogate siblings will be able to read.
Sandy's Top Tips for having a happy stay with your host family:
Always speak to your host family - even if they ignore you.
Do what your host family do - watch lots of daytime TV, drink super lager, and blame everything on the neighbours, immigrants, or “that 'orrible fuckin' slag” at the DSS.
Learn POLITE English and use it - you might get to teach your family something useful, after all.
Tell your family if you will not be home to eat, as it will save them a shoplifting trip to Iceland.
Tell your family if you are going away for a weekend - otherwise they might not notice at all.
Don't Offer to pay something if you go out to a bar or for a meal with your family. It would be considered rude, and would slow down the dash for the exit considerably.
Follow their House Rules – if they have any.
Speak to them if you have a problem. Learn the phrase “Am I fuckin' bovvered?” first, though.
Keep your bedroom tidy and make your bed. Otherwise one of the family's dogs (or an “uncle”) might come and sleep in it.
Lock your bedroom door (see above), especially if you don't want to see your own clothes on sale at the local market the following weekend.
Wash your clothes – you'll probably have to, as your host family won't know how to work the washing machine (unless you show them - see above).
Above all, enjoy the time that you spend with your host family, and cherish every moment you spend with each member. After all, you might never see them again, as when you return the following year, most of them will probably be 'away' for a few months or so.