Teaching English to French children is a rewarding experience that will give those kids a valuable skill they’ll use for the rest of their lives. This is particularly effective in an immersive environment, where the child is surrounded by the English language and culture 24-7, but this method, while the best for people looking to learn another language, can cause culture shock in children.

Culture shock happens when someone moves to a place where nearly everything is different from their life back home and can cause frustration, homesickness, and depression. As most English immersion holidays are relatively short-lived, culture shock is rare, but it’s more common in younger children who haven’t been away from home before.

There’s no denying that things will be a little different for a French student coming into an English household, especially if you live in the UK, but it’s not like you live in the Australian Outback or work as a Sherpa on Everest. For most people, they’ll be no major differences; just small things that can result in misunderstandings. That’s why it’s a good idea for you and your family to know about the cultural differences so that you can work to increase everyone understands. You can help prevent culture shock by explaining these differences to students before they arrive.

Greetings

Many French people will greet each other with cheek-to-cheek kisses, rather than a handshake or a hug. This may be less prevalent in younger children, but it is important to know if you or your kids would feel uncomfortable with the greeting.

Attitude

In France, it is important to make the most of life. That’s why you’ll see people dress up to go to the shops, take regular time off work, say yes to a glass of wine with lunch, and take their time with dinner. Your students may not be used to grabbing a quick bite before moving on to the next activity and French people can be pretty protective of their way of life, as we are ours.

How to spot culture shock

There are several signs that a student is experiencing culture shock including:

  • Homesickness
  • Sadness
  • Irritability
  • Hostile reactions to the host family or other English speakers
  • Lack of interest and desire to participate
  • Inability to focus
  • Looking dazed
  • Unusual sleeping and eating patterns
  • Physical symptoms, i.e. stomach aches, nausea, headaches

How to treat culture shock

Thankfully, any instances of culture shock for French students will likely be minor and you can address them with ease. The important thing is to act quickly.

One of the best things you can do is to put together a lesson about the topic, where your student will learn – in English – that it’s perfectly normal to feel sad about being away from home but it will only be temporary. Get students to open up, share their feelings, and talk about their home lives. Another thing that can really help is by keeping students busy with lessons, activities, and more.

While you probably don’t need to be told this, a little bit of empathy will go a long way. Preparing a favourite meal for the student or encouraging them to text their parents and tell them about their day can make kids feel a lot better.