Dear Worldly Willie,
I’m currently abroad in Quito, Ecuador, and I just can’t seem to get along with my host family. It seems like everything I do ticks them off. I mean, it’s not like the vase I broke was that expensive, and I’m always quiet when I stumble in at dawn. And they told me that their casa was mi casa, so I don’t see why they got so upset when I carved my initials into their kitchen table. Whatever, I’m just saying that there’s a direct correlation between me making myself at home and my familia not being down with my steez. What’s up with that, Willie? Please help!
Quibbling in Quito
Dear Quibbling in Quito,
Yours is a classic case of Literalitis, the tragic condition of taking pleasantries literally. When someone tells me to make myself at home, I don’t immediately go and rub Vaseline all over the mattress so I can glide out of bed in the morning…not that I do that at my own home…I swear, I don’t. But my point is this: although you may be an honorary family member, you are still a guest in someone else’s home and you must behave as such. Be aware that there are limits and that you must obey the same rules as everyone else in the family. If your host siblings wash the dishes after dinner, you should offer to do the same. Your host family may refuse, but genuinely offering to help out will be much appreciated. As a general rule of thumb, keep your area abroad twice as clean as you would in your own home. And as for the vase you broke, I’d suggest that you offer to replace it or pay for it. Your host family has been kind enough to open their home to you, so you should try to abide by the Campsite Rule: leave their home in the same or in better condition than when you found it. Good luck!