What about a Homestay?
A homestay is more than just a place to sleep! It is a form of cultural exchange where a visitor stays with a local Korean family or resident for the duration of his/her time in Korea. Homestays are offered all over Korea and you can stay for just a weekend or for months at a time. There are plenty of options and there may be just the home for you, so check it out!
Say “YES” to a Homestay!
Homestays offer a new way to travel and see Korea. They can deepen your experience abroad and truly create unforgettable memories. Here are some of the reasons why!
Homestays provide an opportunity for foreigners to be thrown into Korean culture. By staying with Koreans, you have access to firsthand information about the culture, sites to see, food to eat and things to do. Your host family can give you the “inside scoop” about Korea and tell you things the guidebook neglected to mention. In addition, homestays often provide home cooked Korean meals, so you can get a ‘real’ taste of the country!
If you want to learn the language staying at a homestay should be your first option! As we all know language immersion leads to language acquisition. There is no better way to improve your Korean than by speaking everyday with a local as you will at your homestay.
Home away from home
If you have been traveling for a long time or you are coming to Korea for an extended stay, you may want a place that feels like a home, unlike an empty apartment or sterile hotel room. Your homestay will become your new home and you will become part of the household. Not only will you get to try home cooked meals, you will also have a furnished room, a bed to call your own, living space to use, and of course, a new family to spend time with. Each homestay offers different amenities, while some include many perks like the use of a computer and a TV, laundry service, airport pickup and drop-off, and personal tour guiding, others many only offer the basics.
Homestays are often cheaper than renting your own apartment or staying at a fancy hotel. Homestays can be especially cost efficient if you plan to stay in Korea for a few months. At the homestay you will be paying month to month rent and you will not be required to put down a large deposit or sign a contract, as would be expected with an apartment. Meals can also be included and you won’t be paying any utility bills.
Homestay hosts are usually Korean families. There is a good chance you will develop a close connection with someone in the household whether you are a student studying Korean, a parent traveling on business or a young adult coming here for a year abroad. The relationships with your new Korean friends will last far longer than your time spent in Korea. Plus transitioning from your home country to a band new one can be lonely and challenging. It is nice to make friends right away!
But Consider the “NOs”…
Without a doubt homestays sound great, but there can be some less than appealing things that you might encounter at this type of accommodation. Before you jump right in, consider these downsides.
You’ve just landed in Korea after a long flight and you are exhausted. All you want to do is take a scalding hot shower and jump into bed. That might not happen at your new homestay because you have to meet the family, get acquainted and show off your most gracious smile. You will certainly have less privacy at your homestay than if you choose a hotel or apartment. Although you will have your own room, you may have to share a bathroom and you will be living under one roof with other people. If you like to come home and kick off your shoes and then walk around naked, you should probably consider another option.
Albeit homestays are unquestionably cheaper than the Hyatt Hotel, they are not cheaper than hostels, pensions or guesthouses. Furthermore, if you are planning a long term stay in Korea, homestays offer month to month rent, but so do hasuks, gosiwons, sublets and dormitories. See the article about Types of Housing in Korea for more info on those! As well, there are hidden costs. The homestay company will charge a matching fee and there can be additional fees for amenities like breakfast, airport pickup and weekly laundry service. Make sure you do the math before signing up. You don’t want a homestay to break your bank!
You are now living with a new family which means you need to be respectful of others and your living space. You will have to pick up your dirty clothes regularly. You may also not be allowed to stay out until 4am, have friends drop by unannounced or chat loudly on the home phone. Think about your habits and how you like to live your life. If that includes showering with the door open, it’s best to book into your own place.
Hit or Miss
Homestays are safe and your host family is there to look out for you, which is indeed a huge bonus. However there is a risk that you won’t develop a kindred relationship with your homestay family. In addition, host families may ask favors of you since you are staying in their home. These types of awkward encounters can dampen the overall experience and you may find yourself wishing you splurged on your own accommodations.
Who is the ideal candidate for a homestay program?
As mentioned above, homestay experiences aren’t always fun and games, and they are surely geared towards certain types of people. With that being said, if you don’t fall into one of the following categories, don’t let it discourage you from inquiring about the programs.
Generally homestays in Korea are priced accommodations and that price differs from host to host. The host family selects their own price depending on many factors including amenities offered, room size, homestay location, season and the retail value of the home. Homestays tend to be cheaper the longer the stay.
As well, homestay services which match guests with hosts do charge a matching fee. Each company differs but it is usually between 5% and 20% of the booking for both the host and visitor. Some companies charge a flat rate application free or flat rate commission fee, regardless of how many nights a visitor stays or the price of the room per night.
à Note: Please check the individual homestay company for exact housing prices and matching frees.
In Korea, it is possible to find homestays for free or at a significant discount. In this case, there is often an exchange of a service that the visitor can provide for free rent. Many Koreans want to learn English or other foreign languages. Koreans seek foreigners to live with them in order to learn a new language and get daily practice. Other times, a host family may request that the guest perform some daily duties such as babysitting, housework, or gardening in exchange for cheap or free accommodation.
The following services offer homestay programs in Korea. They all work a bit differently. They have particular host profiles, individual application processes and their own service fees. It is best to check each one before making a final decision. Please refer to their website and then contact them directly.
Home-stay programs operating only in Korea
Home-stay programs operating worldwide, including in Korea
Photo Credit to Joogang Ilbo
Lindsey lived and worked in Seoul, South Korea for over 5 years. While there, she dabbled in different areas of work and explored the culture. She spent time teaching elementary students, business English to adults and high school students about college preparation. She also studied Korean, wrote blogs and tasted as many foods as she possibly could including fermented skate fish. Over the years, Lindsey developed a love for Korea and the culture. She is keen to share her knowledge of Korea with others and she will always consider Korea a second home.