Moving to a new country and learning to adapt to life in new culture can be a massive step out of your comfort zone and one that comes with both highs and lows. Working as an au pair is great way to experience life in a new country first-hand. Initially, however, I found it can be a challenge to adapt to differences in culture - whether it be food, language, customs or the weather!
I have been working as an au pair in Canada for the last three months and I absolutely love it. But when I arrived I did struggle for a few weeks to feel completely settled. I honestly expected the change to be easy as I assumed that Canada would be fairly culturally similar to Australia and didn’t prepare myself for such a big shift. (In my experience, people might find you hard to understand, they may not sell Vegemite in stores and you may have to start calling your ‘jumper’ a ‘sweater’!)
It’s super important to be prepared so I’ve come up with 6 strategies based on my experience that you can use to make adapting to life in a new country as an au pair as smooth as possible!
1. Engage with locals
Engaging with locals is one of the best ways to help you feel a part of a new community and make friends, but it requires you to put in effort. Things like helping out at your kids’ school, taking an exercise or language class, or volunteering with a local organisation are great ways to get involved with your local community.
On the days when my family doesn’t need me, I work at a local café. This has allowed me to make a little extra money, engage with customers and make friends with my work colleagues.
2. Say ‘Yes!’ to every opportunity
A great way to open yourself up to new experiences is to say ‘Yes!’ to every opportunity that presents itself while you’re living in a new country. Try everything and aim to immerse yourself in the local culture/traditions by embracing the differences. You could do this by going to a sporting match, trying local food or participating in cultural holiday/ceremony.
While I’ve been in Canada I’ve tried the Canadian speciality poutine, gone to a Thanksgiving dinner and watched a baseball game live – all things I’ve never done before and didn’t know I would love beforehand!
More information on how to get the most out of your au pair stay.
3. Share what you know
You may think your home country is ordinary, but it is likely that people in your new country think you come from a super-interesting exotic faraway land. Au pairing is a cultural exchange so it’s important for you to share what you know with those around you! Cook a signature dish from your home country, teach the children some phrases of your language or share photos of your travels/where you live.
I cooked traditional Aussie lamingtons for the kids I look after – they had never tried lamingtons before and loved them!
4. Get out and explore
Use your role as an au pair as a basis for exploring your new country. Take every opportunity to visit a nearby city, go on a hike or simply wander around your local area - you never know what you might find!
Living on Vancouver Island, B.C., I have so much natural beauty surrounding me. One weekend I took a ferry to a nearby island and went hiking and to the local markets, it was so much fun!
5. Connect with other au pairs
Connecting with other Au Pairs is a great way to make friends with other people who are going through the same experience as you. There are many Facebook groups for au pairs, including AuPairWorld’s, in which you can connect with other Au Pairs and share your journey and experiences!
Find out more about making friends during your au pair stay.
6. Learn about the country’s history
Learning about a country’s history is important as many aspects of modern-day life are influenced by what has happened in the past. This knowledge will equip you with a deeper understanding of certain traditions and aspects of your community’s culture.
I found that while living on Vancouver Island in Canada, it was important for me to educate myself on the history of the Island’s First Nations people. The area I’m living in is home to many First Nation communities and as I wasn’t previously familiar with their history, it was really important to me gain that understanding.
These steps will have you feeling at home in your new country in no time! Au-Pairing is a great experience, and one that will leave you with so many great experiences and a new cultural understanding.
About the author:
Claire Brack is a twenty-one year old marketing graduate backpacking around the world on a gap year (or two!). She writes about all her adventures and shares videos on her blog Chasing After Claire.