Coming back home after a language and cultural exchange.

Back to reality

How can you deal with your return home after a cultural and language exchange? Time, thought and innumerable to-do lists are invested in the preparation of a french or spanish exchange. However, we never prepare for coming back home!

french exchangeFor some reason, the end of an adventure never seems easy. Not that you don’t expect it, but you never expect it to be so hard. On one hand, you’re happy to see your friends and family again, but on the other hand all the time you spent preparing your journey is over! How could time fly so quickly? Did it really happen, or was it all a dream?

The Kinder Exchange team is acquainted with this dreaded feeling of going back to your normal life. We gathered up our ideas and wrote a list to make your next return home much easier…

Keeping in touch
By keeping in touch with your family and friends in France, Spain, Germany or elsewhere, you will maintain long-lasting links and friendships, keep up your language skills, and make plans to visit your family again! Modern technology allows you to keep in touch easily, with tools such as WatsApp, WeChat, Face Time or Skype. That being said, who doesn’t like to receive a postcard now and again?

Bring a few traditions home
Language and cultural immersion in a family is very culturally enriching. Of course, you will discover the most important traditions of a country, but you will also discover and adopt more subtle customs. Why not bring a few customs home? Some aspects of your hosts’ culture will help you feel connected to the country and the people you met, as well as making you recall your stay in your second family.

Bring home a few recipes

We can’t deny it; one of the favourite things during our travels is the incredible cooking we get the chance to taste… Food doesn’t always travel well in a suitcase, so why not ask your host family to give you the recipes of the food you liked? That could also be a good way to impress your family back home!

Carry on speaking the language

During your exchange, you will get the chance to speak another language, and maybe even learn to french exchangespeak like a local! There’s nothing more inspiring than to put your linguistic prowess to practical use. Try to use this inspiration when you come home, and carry on using the language by reading magazines, comics, books, listening to podcasts or talking to your host family on Skype. The more you carry on using the language, the more you will benefit from your exchange, even after you went home!

Plan your next adventure

Nothing better to keep the ‘blues’ away before your next cultural and language exchange! Where would you like to go next? Would you want to go back to the same country to know it better? Or are you dreaming of virgin territories? Whatever your plans are, we’d like to hear about it!

Why not tell us about your next destination by pre-registering on our website, kinder exchange?

Found in Translation

A page in a French definitions dictionary
Bilingual life can make monolingual like feel a little limiting

When you’re been living a bilingual life, life in one language can become a little frustrating.

Yes really! During a language or cultural exchange you can get accustomed to life in two languages, with two language’s worth of words and all their nuances. How do you go back to monolingual life after all that possibility?

Moving back to the UK after living in France, one particular word that I wanted to pack in my suitcase and bring home with me was profiter. A French – English dictionary would have you believe that this means take advantage of or make the most of… but there’s a nuance to the word profiter that just doesn’t seem to translate into English.

That got us wondering about other words in other languages that just don’t quite translate…

A man sitting in a cafe with his back to the camera
Looks like a seigneur-terrace to us!
Seigneur-terraces (French)
  • Café customers who sit at the table for a long time without spending much money.
Pena ajena (Spanish)
  • That embarrassing feeling of watching someone else be humiliated
香 / xiāng (Chinese)
  • Literally translates as ‘fragrant’, but when applied to food it describes an intense, often meaty aroma that gets your mouth watering.
Shemomedjamo (Georgian)
  • Literally translated as ‘I ate the whole thing’: when you keep on eating an entire meal despite being full
Poronkusema (Finnish)
  • The distance a reindeer can comfortably travel before taking a break.
L’esprit de l’escalier (French)
  • Literally translated as ‘stairwell wit’ – a retort that you only think of when it’s too late (one of those ‘I wish I’d said…’ responses).
Sobremesa (Spanish)
  • The moment when you’re still at the table after finishing a meal – the food is still gone but the conversation is flowing.
A ring left on a table by a glass of water
Spotted! A culaccino
Schadenfreude (German)
  • A feeling of enjoyment that comes from learning of the troubles of others.
Culaccino (Italian)
  • The ring left on the table by the bottom of a cold glass of water.
孝順 / xiào​ shun (Chinese)
  • Obedience to your parents by being dutiful, respectful, and taking care of them in their old age.

What words have you learned that you would add to the list?

Where could languages take you?

Jobs for bilinguals: what’s in store for language learners?

signpost pointing in two different directions
What does the future hold for bilinguals?

What if you could hop into a time machine to see what you might be doing in 20 years? We can’t deliver a time machine, well not yet anyway, but we can give you an idea of what kind of jobs will use your language skills.

As a general rule, knowing a foreign language is brilliant for your employability: it shows that you are tenacious, assiduous, and adaptable. However there are some jobs where knowing a foreign language is a huge advantage, and sometimes even essential.

We’re not sure about you, but we think the future’s looking bright for bilinguals!



a microphone in front of an audience
Interpreters can find themselves in an exciting range of settings from one day to the next

Have you ever seen a TV programme with someone signing the dialogue in the corner? This person is an interpreter.

Interpreters convert  spoken or signed language from one language to another in a variety of settings. They can find themselves working at conferences and exhibitions, community events, criminal justice proceedings, and event on the television or radio. In fact, as interpreters often work freelance, they can end up working in all of these settings! You can be sure that a career in interpreting will give you a huge variety of experiences: you’ll need a good memory, excellent communication skills, and a high level of your second language… Better get practising!!



Translation booth
The job of a translator is to convert text from one language to another, they can work from home, abroad, or on location.

Like an interpreter, a translator converts one language into another. However, a translator deals with written material, rather than spoken.

Translators can specialise in a huge range of sectors, including literature, scientific and technical documents, legal documents, and even films. That’s right – translators have even written the subtitles when you watch a foreign film!

Translation is a hugely competitive field, especially as translators are often freelance, working from anywhere that they want to in the world.



Many bilinguals go on to share their passion for languages by teaching others. Language graduates are highly sought-after for school teaching roles, however you can teach languages in other settings too. Many bilinguals work as private tutors, both online and in person, whilst may  teach language evening classes or head abroad to teach English as a foreign language. Where ever you teach, you’re sure to meet a whole range of interesting people!


Travel writer or photographer

Travel photographers and writers make a living from discovering new places.

Although you may be telling stories through the lens of your camera or in your mother tongue, speaking the language of another culture will enrich these stories as it is a great way to encourage the locals to open up to you. Travel writing and photography is competitive, however you can start practising right away by writing about your language exchange abroad!


Tour guide

Helping visitors to get to know your city is hugely rewarding, especially if you get to practice languages too!

During a language exchange, your partner often acts as a guide, taking you on a tour of the region. In some ways, this is also the job of a tour guide.

Tour guides accompany visitors around towns and monuments to give them the inside story on the local area. These visitors often come from foreign countries, so speaking another language is a huge help!


Flight Attendant

aeroplane flying over water infront of a sunset
Taking to the skies is ideal for those with a taste for adventure and for travel!

Flight attendants make the jet-setting lifestyle their occupation, much of their role takes place up in the air en route to far-flung corners of the world!

Cabin crew often work unsociable hours (evening and weekends) however they enjoy many benefits when it comes to travel.

Speaking another language can be essential for flight attendants, putting bilinguals in a great position to take to the skies!



Speaking another language isn’t necessary for journalism, however it is hugely beneficial for finding stories and communicating with the locals, especially if you’re working abroad as a foreign correspondent!

What you need to know about Chinese customs

Navigating Chinese Customs

two people shaking hands
Even the simple act of greeting a friend depends on the country’s customs

Every culture has its customs. When you greet a friend in Paris, you kiss them once on each cheek; in Provence you kiss them three times. Tibetans stick out their tongues to greet one another, whereas in some cultures it’s customary to press your forehead onto the hand of your elder. In Anglophone communities we tend not to do anything, unless we’re in a formal setting, then like a good firm handshake! Finally, in China a weak handshake with the right hand is the customary greeting…
Phew! If something as simple as saying ‘hello’ can be that complicated, however do we manage to get through cultural exchanges without offending everyone the moment we meet them? You’ll be relieved to learn that allowances will be made for you when it comes to etiquette in your host country, but it’s always handy to do a bit of homework beforehand so that you know what to expect.


Good etiquette is very important in China; good manners are believed to invite luck whereas bad conduct brings shame.

Red gift box
Wrapping gifts in red wrapping paper brings good luck!


It’s traditional to bring someone a gift when invited to their house in China, however there is certain etiquette that must be observed when choosing and wrapping your gift.

Food or traditional items from your own country are often well-received, as are scarves for adults and toys and games for children. Gifting someone a clock is unacceptable in China, as it implies that you are  counting down the minutes until their death.

Take the number of gifts and to wrapping paper colour into consideration, avoiding unlucky numbers and colours, (red is very lucky!). After all that, you may find that your hosts don’t even open the gifts in front of you! Don’t be offended, it’s customary to wait until the giver has left before you open a gift in China so as not to appear greedy.

Stuck for gift ideas? Head over to our guide on Finding the Perfect Gift.

Table manners

A Lazy susan in a chinese restaurant
Going for meals is a popular way to honour guests and deepen friendships

Eating out is one of the most common ways to honour a guest, socialise, and deepen friendships; so you’re pretty likely to go for a meal with your host family!
Dishes are often shared and are served on a Lazy Susan in the middle of the table.  Be considerate of others when serving yourself; try not to gobble all of one dish or take more than your fair share and allow your elders to serve themselves before you. Also, resist the temptation to spin the Lazy Susan around too much, especially when others are using it! 


Chopsticks are used to eat most meals in China, although you can request a spoon or fork. They’re tricky to get used to but you’ll probably have fun learning to use them. Never do any of the following when using chopsticks:

  • Point at others with your chopsticks,
  • Wave you chopsticks about,
  • Stick chopsticks vertically into your food (this reminds people of funerals),
  • Stab or skewer your food,
  • Use your eating chopsticks to serve food.
street food stand in china
China is known for its scrumptious street food

Food and drink

With all the Chinese restaurants in the west, at least our stomachs know what to expect, right?
In fact, western Chinese food is nothing like the real deal and varies hugely according to the region you visit.

Our top tip for Chinese cuisine is to be adventurous but not reckless! China has rightfully earned an excellent reputation for scrumptious street food. Entire markets are dedicated to cooking up colourful and exciting treats. A great way of finding the tastiest delicacy is to head for the stall that’s attracting all the locals, but be cautious when eating meats – some travellers fall victim to food poisoning when being a little too adventurous with food.
Some western foods are available in Chinese cities, although they are more expensive, but if you’re worried about the food it’s worth taking some dry snacks along with you to keep you going.
Avoid drinking tap water in China and opt instead for bottled water.

What to expect

It’s hard to know what to expect before you go to China: even walking down such unfamiliar streets is an exciting experience. However, there are some aspects of Chinese culture that would be considered rude in English-speaking societies. These can take time to adjust to!

Staring and Pointing

As a westerner you’ll no doubt attract quite a lot of attention when exploring China, especially if you have a fair complexion.
This attention comes in the form of pointing, staring, and taking photographs. Such practice is more common in rural areas where less Westerners venture and tourist destinations where rural dwellers tend to visit. It’s strange to be starred at, but try not to be offended as this is usually an expression of curiosity and no harm is intended. In fact, it can even be fun to pose for photos with the locals! If you’d rather not pose for photos with people, ask your host family to help you decline politely.

Street Vendors

Street vendors can be far more persistent in their sales pitches than we’re used to in the west; don’t be afraid to say no, more than once if necessary.
If you would like to make a purchase, bargaining is standard practice in many regions of China, there’s no harm in trying to get the price down!


A chinese road
Crossing the road in Chinese cities can be disorientating

Us Anglophones are known for our orderly queues. However this is a practice that you’ll have to leave behind in many areas of China unless you want to be waiting around all day! Remember: not queuing is not rude!

This is not the case in every region, so if people are queuing , for example in large supermarkets, don’t just push to the front!

Crossing the road

Crossing the road in Chinese cities can be a little tricky. Scooters and bicycles don’t always stop at crossings, and cars won’t stop for pedestrians unless they really really have to! Never jaywalk and do your research to find out what the road signs and lights means.

Back to Reality

How to cope with coming home after your language exchange

So much time and thought, not to mention countless to-do lists, are invested into preparing for an exchange abroad, but there’s one thing that we’re never quite ready for: coming home.

(Not sure how to prepare for your trip? Consult our recipe for a great exchange)

A pile of old suitcases next to a chair
Putting down you suitcases in your own home can feel surprisingly strange after an adventure abroad!

Oddly enough, the end of an adventure always seems to come out of the blue. It’s not that we’re not expecting it, but we never expect it to be quite so tricky… On the one hand you’re happy to reunite with family and friends, but on the other, the trip you’ve spent so much time preparing for is all of a sudden behind you! How did the time pass so quickly? Did it really happen or was it all just a dream?

Don’t worry, here at Kinder Exchange we’re no strangers to going off on adventures and the inevitable return to our ‘normal lives’, so we’ve put our heads together and come up with a list of ways to make the coming home a whole lot easier…

Stay in touch

By keeping in contact with your host family and friends, you not only nurture lifelong friendships and keep your exchange experience alive, but can keep speaking the language, and make plans to visit them again! Technology makes staying in touch easy, but who doesn’t love a postcard every now and then?

Take home some customs

Staying with a native host is a truly special experience and gives an extraordinary insight into another culture. Of course, you’ll learn about the a country’s more prominent traditions, but you’ll also discover and adopt more nuanced customs. Why not take a few home with you? Adopting aspects of your host’s culture when you return home will help you to feel connected to the country and people that you’ve met and will also serve as a little reminder of your experience.

A pile of French books, comic, magazines and DVDs
The writer’s kit for continuing to feel the benefits of an exchange, even when she’s back home!

Take home some recipes

We can’t deny it, one of our favourite things about travelling is all of the amazing cuisine we get to taste… (you haven’t lived until you’ve sampled the Fontainebleau puddings just down the road from Kinder Exchange HQ!). Food doesn’t always travel so well in a suitcase, so why not ask your host family to note down the recipes for the meals you’ve eaten? As a bonus, you can impress your family with a taste of your adventure when you get home!

Keep speaking the language

During your exchange abroad you’ll have oodles of opportunities to speak another language and maybe even learn to talk like the locals! Nothing is more inspiring than putting your linguistic prowess to practical use, try to harness that inspiration when you get home and continue to use the language. Whether you’re reading magazines, comics and books, listening to podcasts, or chatting to your host family on Skype; the more you keep using the language, the more you’ll keep reaping the rewards of your exchange even after returning home!

Two young women looking over a view with their arms open in the air
Where will your next adventure take you?

Plan your next adventure!

There’s nothing better to keep the post-exchange blues at bay than planning your next adventure! Where would you like to go next? Maybe you want to return to a country to get to know it better; maybe you’re hankering for unexplored lands… Whatever you’re planning, we’d love to hear about it! (Why not tweet us to tell us about your next destination?)

Discovering German Culture

New member of the Kinder Exchange team, Juliana Huber, tells us about German customs and why she loves discovering new cultures.

We can’t help but get excited when a new school year starts.

Sure, it may signify the end of summer, but it also seems to signify new beginnings. With a new school year comes new challenges, new projects, new adventures, and a lot of new faces!

One particular new face here at Kinder Exchange is Juliana Huber. A French and P.E teacher based in Freiburg, South-West Germany, Juliana will be looking after our Anglo-Germanic exchanges.

Juliana Huber, coordinator at Kinder Exchange
We’ll be seeing more of Juliana around Kinder Exchange from now on

Juliana’s passion for languages and travel was sparked by a love of all things  French. Having started to learn the language at the age of 8, she pursued studies in languages and sport and was soon packing up her suitcase and venturing off to live in France.

Living abroad, she not only developed her language skills and understanding of French culture, but her outlook changed too. Spending time in another country led Juliana to become more open towards other people, as well as towards their traditions and customs. It was this that motivated Juliana to join the Kinder Exchange team, where she would be able to help young people to meet exchange partners with common interests and to support them in making the courageous yet wholly rewarding step of embarking on a language exchange.

After hearing about Juliana’s experiences in France, we were pretty keen to learn what she made of her own country’s culture! We asked Juliana to tell us about life in Germany, here is what we discovered…

A Christmas Market Scene in Germany
Christmas Markets in Germany are known for being, well, really Christmassy!

You only have to take a quick look at the world-renowned Christmas Markets in Germany to understand how important Christmas is there! In Germany, presents are exchanged on Christmas Eve and families typically have a feast of carp and potato salad in the evening.

School Day

In German schools, students tend to start the school day at around 7:30am. Sounds early right? Perhaps, but they finish school earlier too: usually at around 1pm in the afternoon. This gives young people ample time for extra-curricular activities.

A lake and mountain in Munich, Bavaria
Germany is full of remarkable natural landscapes, and citizens work hard to protect them.

Germany is very mountainous, which means that lots of Germans love going skiing and hiking. However, unlike here in the UK, a very small portion of Germany is by the sea, so they have to go a little further afield for those long stretches of sandy beaches that we like to bask on!


Nature is very important in Germany, and people are willing to go to great lengths to protect their environment.


Rugby is barely known in Germany (despite studying sport, Juliana hadn’t seen a rugby match until she was 21 years old and living in France!); so what sports are popular? Handball, football, and volleyball are very widely practiced in Germany, as well as gymnastics and mountain biking.

A pile of pretzels orBrezeln
Pretzels, or Brezeln, were believed to have been invented in the Early Middle Ages by monks. Incredibly, they’re still a favourite now!

You can’t mention Germany customs without talking about the food! Particular favourites include Brezeln (Pretzels) and Bratwurst (sausages). We can confirm that they’re extremely tasty, and definitely worth the trip!


Finally, Juliana explains, Germans are very proud of their high quality automobiles. Well after all that daydreaming we’ve been doing about Volkswagen Campervans, who are we to argue with that?

Cards with greetings from berlin written on themIf all that hasn’t whet your appetite for a trip to Germany, well, we don’t know what will! To find out more about exchanges in Germany, give us a call or drop us an email before completing your registration.


Exploring China’s Social Media

No Facebook? No Google? No Problem!

Part of going on adventures abroad is sharing them, and the internet sure has made sharing easier!

In the days of yore – before social media – getting hold of information involved a load of cumbersome Encyclopaedias and showing your holiday snaps to your faraway friends meant posting them your only copy.

But in 1991 the World Wide Web became publicly available for the first time. As little as 26 years later, Facebook, Skype, Twitter, Snapchat, Amazon, Instagram and Google sit among a myriad of social media platforms, search engines, and apps that bring the world to our fingertips. Imagine how difficult it would be to find a language exchange partner before the internet, these days you can log onto a platform like Kinder Exchange and contact prospective host families with the click of a button, all from the comfort of your sofa.

a stack of britannica encyclopaedias
The world before Google

These apps have become such as staple of daily life that the prospect of leaving Facebook, Google, and  Instagram behind during your exchange in China… well, it’s a little unnerving  to say the least (and that’s before we’ve even thought about the FOMO).

What? No Facebook?

In China, the internet is restricted by what is referred to by us Westerners as the Great Firewall of China. This is a system of filters that block certain websites, creating a kind of huge, national intranet. This means that Chinese residents don’t have access to the same websites that we do. In China there is no Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram, and no Google.

A world without Facebook, a world of opportunity

To many of us this is unfathomable, but getting out of your usual social media sphere for a few weeks can’t be a bad thing, especially when there is so much new and innovative technology to try out. This is especially the case in China, where the gap left by Facebook and Twitter has been filled by a new generation of innovative mega-apps that are rapidly gathering momentum.

If follow Kinder Exchange’s facebook, you may have read that we’ll soon be launching  cultural and linguistic exchanges in China… Naturally, we’ve been getting to know Chinese social media a little better… After all, what better way overcome your Facebook cravings than to try out some of your host country’s new technology?

Wechat – 微信

With over 900 million users every month (CNN) , WeChat is setting a standard that Western apps are now scrambling to meet. Like Facebook, you can use WeChat to chat with your mates, share your thoughts and photos,

WeChat icon on an Iphone - Chinese Social Media
WeChat is used in Europe, but you have to go to China to really appreciate everything that it can do!

and search for like-minded people, however its functions stretch way beyond what we’re used to. For example, WeChat can also be used to find a restaurant, order a meal before you arrive, tell the restaurant you’ve arrived and then pay for your food at the end of the meal. You can even look at a heat map to see how busy it is before you get there… With WeChat, it’s hard to imagine ever needing anything else.

Baidu – 百度

Your homework’s due in tomorrow and you have no idea about who built the Great Wall of China nor why… Who do you turn to? Google of course! However, in China you may want to click onto Baidu instead. Also known as China’s Google, Baidu is said to be the second most popular search engine in the world.

Sina Weibo – 新浪

With 340 million users at the start of this year (that’s more than the population of the USA), Sina Weibo is now even more widely used than its Western counterpart, Twitter. Having started off with the same functions of Twitter, Sina Weibo had become more interactive and is  relaxing its 140 character limit, and adding features similar to that of Pinterest and Tumblr to its inventory.

Did you know?: In Chinese you can say a lot more in 140 characters than you can in English, which means that posts on Sina Weibo are often longer in meaning (albeit the same length in characters).

Youku – 优酷土豆

If we were to find a Western equivalent to Youku, it would probably be YouTube. However, that’s not to say that they are exactly the same! Whereas YouTube is geared at individuals sharing individual videos, YouKu focuses primarily on semi-professional videos and is often used for streaming films and TV shows. This means that a lot of the videos have a fairly high production-value!

Douban – 豆瓣

Stick Spotify and Soundcloud and Myspace (if anyone even remembers Myspace) together and you’ll get Douban. Created as a platform for sharing music, discussing and buying books and movies, and booking tickets for events, Douban is designed to  bring people together with the same cultural tastes.


Why not give a few of these apps a try during your exchange in China?

How young people benefit from cultural exchanges

More and more people are beginning to understand why learning a language is important. As a result we’re all wondering what the best way to learn a language is. The immersion technique through cultural exchanges is quickly becoming a favorite.

So what’s so great about cultural exchanges?

There are so many advantages of learning a language through a cultural exchange that we can’t list them all. So here are our top ten reasons why young people benefit from cultural exchanges…

Cultural exchanges friendship confidence
Young people build confidence through overcoming obstacles and broadening their horizons.
Get motivated!

Learning grammar and vocabulary in the classroom is all well and good, but is it all that inspiring? Visiting another country on a cultural exchange gives a context to language learning because young people can apply their language skills. As a result they’ll be amazed by how much they’ve already learned and will discover the purpose of all that spelling and conjugation practice.

Develop communication and problem-solving skills

A cultural exchange is a great way for young people to prove what they know, but on some occasions they may find themselves lost for words! Such situations are often hilarious as your son or daughter will have to get creative to communicate with their host family. This will improve their communication skills and problem-solving skills, and help them to remember new vocabulary too!

Stop worrying about mistakes

As soon as speaking a language is necessary to communicate with those around you. In consequence it becomes easier to shed that self-consciousness about making mistakes or looking silly. Such sheepishness is found in abundance in secondary schools, and as such adolescences often benefit both linguistically and emotionally from cultural exchanges.

Learn the living language

Languages are living: they change and evolve with society. This makes learning a language all the more difficult yet all the more interesting. Through immersion in a family on a cultural or language exchange, young people can learn the language of young people. They’ll also learn to speak more idiomatically, just like the natives!

Experience a different culture

Some things just can’t be taught in a classroom, to some extent culture is one of them. The best way to learn about a country’s culture is to experience it in the native language. Cultural exchanges also give young people an important insight into other perspectives, broadening their horizons and encouraging them to develop their opinions and ideas.

Overcome obstacles

Cultural exchanges can be challenging, but therein lies their value. Facing hurdles during an exchange gives young people a sense of accomplishment, boosting their self-esteem and self-awareness. As a result they return home with the ambition and confidence necessary to take on new challenges and pursue new goals.

Become socially adaptable

Immersion in another culture often involves engaging in new and unfamiliar social situations. Through navigating the social customs of another country, young people become more flexible and adaptable to unknown situations in general. They also learn to appreciate other cultures and ideas, and become more open to compromise.

Cultural Exchange Friendship
Young people often build lifelong friendships during cultural exchanges
Build lifelong friendships

During a cultural exchange young people participate in the day-to-day life of a host family, effectively becoming another member of the family. They will return home to their actual family at the end of the exchange having formed long-lasting bonds with their hosts and with many new friendships. Many young people stay in contact with their hosts long after their exchange has ended and even continue to visit one-another in the future.

Get accustomed to foreign environments

Young people who participate in exchanges are often more comfortable in multicultural and multilingual environments in the future. Not will they go on to feel more at ease when abroad and traveling, but will adapt better to new environments.

Become a host

A cultural exchange is as much about hosting as it is about traveling abroad. For many young people this may be their first experience of hosting someone that they have not met before. As a result they will develop vital social skills, learning to be sensitive to the needs of others and to analyze group dynamics.

So what are the disadvantages?

Cultural exchanges sound perfect, right? However, there are a few challenges…

Finding a host family

So you’ve decided that a cultural exchange is the best way for your child to learn a language? Now it’s time for the mammoth task of finding a trustworthy host family. For those fortunate enough to have friends in far-flung places this poses no problem, however we aren’t all so lucky.
That’s where online platforms such as Kinder Exchange come in. Although there are many exchange services out there, Kinder Exchange is one of the few platforms that takes on the matchmaking process themselves. Platforms such as Kinder Exchange allow you to rest easy knowing that your child is in safe hands.

Going away from home is daunting

Being separated from your friends and family can be daunting for a young person as well as for their family. However such challenges make participating in an exchange all the more enriching. At Kinder Exchange, we help you to get to know the partner family before the exchange so that you know when your child will be staying. By speaking via email, Skype, and social networks, young people can get to know their partners too so that they know what to expect before arriving.

Provins: the Jewel of Medieval France

Provins Tour Cesar Autumn
Tour César gives us an excellent example of medieval defensive architecture.

Nestled in the heart of the Champagne region lies one of the most significant, beautiful, and well-preserved Medieval towns in France. Stepping through the gates of Provins feels a little like stepping back in time as it’s not only the buildings that have been preserved, but the medieval traditions too.

Believed to have been medieval France’s third largest city, in its heyday Provins was a commercial hub, envied for its wealth and famed for its biannual Champagne fairs which attracted merchants from the length and breadth of Europe. These fairs doubled up as celebrations, complete with singing and dancing, and served as a cultural melting pot where ideas could be shared and connections made. Flourishing in the spotlight of European global trade, Provins even minted its own coinage, which was recognised and accepted throughout Medieval Europe.

Discover ancient architecture…

It is said that the Champagne fairs of Provins owed their success in part to protection that the Counts of Champagne offered to journeying merchants as they travelled through the region. Whilst highwaymen are certainly less of a concern on today’s roads, it’s not difficult to imagine the impression that the Provins skyline would have made upon a visiting merchant. Possibly the most striking feature of this skyline is the Tour César. Built between 1152 and 1181 as a symbol of the Count’s power, the Tour César was originally used as watch tower and prison and is an excellent example of medieval defensive architecture.

The Tour César also offers panoramic views of the defensive walls that surround Provins. The innovative design of these ramparts served as much to showcase the skill of Provins’ craftsmen as to protect the town. Built between the 11th and 13th centuries, the 1200m town walls are made up of rectangular, octagonal, and trapezoid (among other shaped) towers which were a true feat of medieval engineering.

Provins Saint Quiriace Collegiate Church Autumn
The enormous blank walls of Saint Quiriace Collegiate Church are eerily beautiful.

Whereas the Tour César evokes the wealth of the town, the church just metres aways tells a different story. Begun in the 12th century, the Saint Quiriace Collegiate Church remains unfinished to this day as its constructionwas halted due to financial problems throughout the French kingdom. Now the starkness of this colossal building adds to its beauty, and it is an unmissable monument to the fascinating history of this extraordinary town.

Experience medieval customs…

The traditions of Provins are as well-preserved as its monuments and, in tribute to its medieval history, activities such as Equestrian Falconry are still practiced, and it’s not uncommon to see knights galloping within the city walls in the daily shows put on by the town throughout the spring and summer. The Champagne Fairs may have seen a decline in the 14th century, but the tradition has been upheld all the same and Provins plays host to Champagne Fairs, nocturnal celebrations and musical events which celebrate the customs of the region.

On top of the excitement and drama of the medieval shows, peace and tranquility can also be found in Provins by visiting its rose garden. Here you’ll find a quiet place to relax whilst learning about the history of the rose, its contribution to Provins’ success and, of course, its place in French cuisine!

Just 50km from our hometown of Fontainebleau, Provins is one of our favourite places to explore. We especially recommend tasting Confit de Pétales de Roses: a delicacy of the region!

The truth behind the classroom myths.

At school, no one seems to take language classes very seriously. I didn’t particularly enjoy them either; I could never imagine being able speak French fluently and it all just seemed like a waste of time.

Somehow 10 years later I’m living and working in France. Recently I’ve been trying to work out why speaking another language never seemed like an achievable goal. It seems like it all comes down to the myths about learning foreign languages which are born in the classroom and which convince us that learning a language just isn’t worth the effort. It turns out that it is worth it after all, so here are the facts behind those classroom myths…

Myth #1 “Learning a language at school is no use in real life”
When you’re practicing French in the classroom with your mates it can seem a bit pointless, but there are countless reasons to learn a new language. When you speak a second language you can meet and talk to a whole world of people, travelling becomes easier and more enriching, and you can become immersed new culture. What’s not to love? Bilinguals also gain access to the global job market, earn a higher salary and have better job prospects in general; put simply : employers like language learners. Most importantly there’s nothing better than the buzz you get from having a conversation in another language, or using some new vocabulary for the first time.

Myth #2 “Learning a language is too hard.”
Learning a language can be hard but it doesn’t have to be… it all depends on how you learn. Did you know that there are different styles of learning? These are known as visual, auditory (listening), reading/writing, and kinesthetic (practical learning), and by finding the right balance between these styles we can make learning easier, more effective and more enjoyable. Sometimes Myth #1 makes language learning even harder, because if you don’t see the purpose of learning a language, it’s hard to find the motivation! I found that immersion in a French family gave me the motivation that I needed to apply myself to learning a language, and also served as an interactive way of learning as I had no choice but to listen to and speak French all the time, making the whole process more enjoyable.

Myth #3 “It’s embarrassing to make mistakes when speaking another language”
I have a degree in French and work in France, but only a week ago I accidentally offered a stranger a punch in the face (un coup de poing) instead of a helping hand (un coup de main). Making mistakes comes with the territory of speaking another language but it shouldn’t prevent you from trying – in fact it’s often the best way to learn. Instead of worrying about getting things wrong when you’re speaking another language, try to remember how amazing it is to be able to communicate with someone who doesn’t speak your native tongue. Most people are very understanding when you make mistakes too, which in my case was very reassuring!

Myth #4 “Most people speak English anyway”
I’m afraid not! Although English is becoming an international language, you’d be surprised by how many people don’t speak a word of it. In fact according to the British Council, only 25% of the world’s population has some understanding of English.There are many countries in the world where speaking the native tongue is an absolute necessity for travelers. It’s a little unrealistic to want to learn all of the world’s languages (although don’t be deterred from trying) but I’ve always found that when travelling, meeting people, and looking for jobs, the more languages you speak, the better!

Written by Hati Whiteley for Kinder Exchange.