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Homestay snag surfaces

ANIMAL intestines and chicken feet are off the menu as Expo Host Families are finding their foreign guests have far different attitudes towards food and other matters.

With the homestay program, which is supported by the municipal government, designed to give foreigners an authentic taste of how Chinese live, there was bound to be some culture shock on both sides.

Host families are learning to avoid some embarrassing aspects as an increasing number of foreigners choose to stay with them, a sharp contrast from the beginning of the Expo, an official told Shanghai Daily yesterday.

For example, families have now taken animal intestines off the menu.

"Some Austrian visitors were shocked after we invited them to eat animal intestines," one local family said. "But we were also surprised since we think it's a delicacy when well cooked."

Chicken feet, a common dish on local tables, also had to be abandoned since most foreign visitors wouldn't eat it, said Jin Tao, director of the homestay program in Linfen neighborhood in Zhabei District.

Some families were also disappointed when their fish dishes proved unpopular among foreign guests, who struggled to remove the numerous bones to get at the flesh, Jin said.

Shanghai people regard bony fish as better tasting than those with less bones.

Now, hosts remove bones, along with the head and tail, when serving fish to foreigners.

Another source of embarrassment was one family's home decor.

A host family said two Palestinian guests were offended because they had portraits of family members hanging on the wall. The guests said where they come from only the portraits of leaders are allowed to be hung in homes. The host family voluntarily took down the photos to resolve the issue.

However, Jin said most guests accept cultural differences and some are even willing to try traditional Chinese food.

Kuek Yi Hsing, a teacher from Singapore who stayed with a local family for four days, said the traditional Shanghai breakfast - sesame cake, fried dough, fried rice cake and soybean milk - was very good.

Shanghai has about 80 families participating in the homestay program.

A homestay costs about 200 yuan (US$29.66) a day, including accommodation and meals. Families don't make a profit from the project, but receive subsidies from the city's tourism authority to ensure they break even.


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