Farmhouse homestay, Japan (Shutterstock)
List 09 September

5 ways to be a better homestay guest

Cultural differences can make homestays tricky – so follow these tips for a rewarding, enlightening experience

1. Do your cultural homework

Don’t pat a Fijian on the head or point the soles of your feet at an Indonesian. Most homestay owners – especially those used to Westerners – are very forgiving of cultural gaffes, but learning “I’m sorry” in the local language is simple politeness. See our guide to South East Asia etiquette...

2. Don't gossip

People won't trust you if they think you'll talk about them behind their backs. And don’t post gossip or judgements online – people in the remotest of places can be remarkably tech-savvy.

3. Don’t move between homestays in a village

It’s a nice sentiment to want to distribute your tourist dollars, but if you move, everyone will have a theory about why you left the first place, which can lead to local tension.

Kiram Village Homestay (Shutterstock)
Kiram Village Homestay, Malaysia (Shutterstock)

4. Ask before taking photographs

Not everyone wants to be the object of your photos. Ask your hosts if it’s appropriate to give a gift, such as a token sum of money, in exchange for a photo.

5. Listen more than you talk

You'll learn a lot. People in remote villages get weary of hearing visitors advising them to stand up to the government / mining / logging companies. Keep your counsel and you’ll stay friends.

Most homestay operators barely make a profit; they do it mostly for the love of meeting new people. So don’t haggle too much over prices – it’s your trip, but their livelihood.

Want to have an authentic cultural experience and save money on accommodation? It sounds like homestays are for you! Browse our favourites at

Words: Sarah Hitchner, cultural anthropologist

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Main image: Farmhouse homestay, Japan (Shutterstock)

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