I was in Jordan for just shy of 4 months, and I spent all of this time living with a Jordanian family. I’d like to first explain why I personally chose to do this. I had spent the previous semester living with friends in an Airbnb in Morocco. There was also the opportunity to arrange a homestay in Morocco, but I decided against this. In fact, I had always lived with friends during my time at university in Manchester, which is why I started to consider trying something different.
I was very apprehensive at first because you always hear very mixed reviews no matter the country. We certainly heard some horror stories from students living with families in Morocco, which didn’t exactly encourage me. But these were mixed in with the experience of those who really cherished their time living with a family – so do you take the risk?!
I had to weigh up my own reasons for wanting to take on the opportunity. That’s how I tried to view the experience, as an opportunity to fully immerse myself in not only the language but the cultural experience of living under the roof of a Jordanian family. It was definitely risky, as something which absolutely pushed me outside of my comfort zone, but potentially a highly rewarding one.
And so, I decided to give it a go. I didn’t have anything to lose and ultimately, if I truly hated it, I could always drop out and find myself other accommodation.
Arriving in Jordan, I spent the first two nights in a hotel before meeting the family at the language academy where I was studying (JLA) whom organised the homestay arrangement. I lived with the mother and daughter whilst her three sons lived in the apartment and the pricing included a full board of rent, three meals a day and all bills including wifi. I had no idea what to expect but the apartment was surprisingly luxurious and I even had my own balcony attached to my large bedroom.
Evening views from my balcony over looking the Marj Al-hammam area
Amman is a super hilly place, and Marj Al-Hammam is one of the highest points in the city so it gets very foggy!
After moving in, the family explained to me that a student from my university would also be living at the apartment at the same time as me, another girl, but that we would still have our own separate bedrooms. This was actually a huge financial help to me as it meant I had someone to split taxi fares with on our journeys to and from school!
The food cooked for us by the mum was some of the best food I’ve ever had – anyone will tell you Arab food is always best cooked in the home. For breakfast we’d either have fresh home made waffles or a mix of omelette, pitta and a dips such as hummus and labneh. Lunch was the main meal of the day, and was sometimes started by a small home made soup, usually followed by a large rice dish with meat and vegetables such as makloubeh. Dinner later would usually be something lighter, similar to breakfast items such as falafel and pitta with dips and eggs.
The family were very relaxed on allowing us to come and go as we pleased but I consistently tried my best to be as polite and respectful as possible to the family and Arab traditions, especially as I didn’t want them to worry about me unnecessarily.
I think you should expect, and be open to, having to change your behaviour when living with a family from a culture different from your own, and so I always made sure when I was going out I would give them a rough time of when I’d be back and let them know if this changed. Some people might find this too restricting on their freedoms, particularly if they are used to living alone or with friends without having to account to anybody. However, I think this is a simple and easy way to maintain a respectful and mindful relationship between yourself and the family.
Respect needs to be mutually felt, so if you neglect their kindness in allowing you into their home and lives, they probably aren’t going to respect you and your needs either. I’m incredibly grateful for my experience in the homestay as I fostered a really close and genuine relationship with the family and felt that we had a really unique bond, especially as myself and the other student were the first they had opened their home to. They didn’t put pressure on us to spend all, or any, of our time with them if we didn’t want to, but the time I did spend with them was really special. The family always went above and beyond the duties they needed to fulfil as outlined by the language academy and would take us out on day trips around Amman and further afield.
Touring down town!
Living with a family was also super helpful when it came to doing my homework – my family all spoke perfect English and Arabic so it was like having my own personal Google translate! It was a really enriching experience learning about Jordan and their stories and experiences in living there, comparing them with my own and also how it compared with other Arab countries.
It was also very helpful having the family for support when I became ill, unfortunately I got food poisoning (still no idea what from), but they were able to take me straight to the nearest doctors and translate for me, luckily it was all a very straight forward process and I quickly recovered but without them things would have been a lot more complicated!
I’m still incredibly grateful for the experience I had with my family, and definitely took the right decision in living with them. I felt very lucky to have had such a positive experience when I know many people have unfortunately had the total opposite. It does really seem to be pot luck! I would absolutely recommend anyone else considering this option to just go for it, but to also ensure that you have the option to drop out if it turns out it isn’t for you, so I wouldn’t recommend paying in full upfront. If you did move in with a family and were not enjoying it, you could see if there is the option to switch families as I think it’s definitely worth sticking out if you can.
If you have any questions about anything I’ve written about or would like any advice when it comes to an international homestay, please don’t hesitate to contact me!