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July 24, 2010

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Homestay a boon for expats and families

A GROWING number of expats are benefiting from free accommodation in local homes in exchange for their language skills.

Expats from the United States and European countries are preferred by local families, who usually want English lessons for their children or want to improve their own spoken English, according to, a local accommodation agency.

Owner Christina Shen said its business had increased rapidly this year.

Free homestays are popular with people who have the time for a higher level of interaction with a local family. The expat is usually asked to teach their hosts for at least 5 hours a week.

Some local families are also taking in paying guests in a bid to know more about foreign culture.

Charles So, a 21-year-old British-born Chinese, is spending five weeks in Shanghai with a host family to learn about the Chinese lifestyle. He's teaching his host English.

He paid a deposit of 2,000 yuan (US$295) and signed agreements with the agency and host family.

"Staying with a local family is definitely the best and fastest way to learn Chinese language, understand Chinese culture and make Chinese friends," he said.

"It allows foreign tourists who want to learn about eastern China and Shanghai, a city that is constantly changing and developing, by eating, chatting and playing with the family every day."

"Free homestay offers not only an opportunity for local families to learn English but also to understand foreign cultures," said Christina Shen. "Because many families plan to send their children to study abroad and homestays increase their children's exposure to foreign cultures at an early stage in their life."


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