Immersing yourself in other cultures

Tricky situations which may arise during the au pair stay, together with tips on how to resolve them: This page focuses on the exchange of different cultures - an everday factor in the life of an au pair. The right combination of rules and tolerance, initiative and communication are the magic words here.

It's fun to explore new cultures

Being open to new customs and traditions

Tips for tricky situations
Dealing with homesickness is important

Host mum Sabine was mindful of her au pair's homesickness as soon as she spotted the signs. "Our au pair's first experience with a host family was with us, for whom she was our first au pair. You could tell she was homesick. She didn't do a lot at the beginning."

Tips for tricky situations
AuPairWorld's tip

Host mum Sabine gives her au pair the right tips. "I confronted her about her homesickeness and told her that she must do things for herself from time to time. It wouldn't work otherwise, and I feared that the homesickness would make her fall to pieces. She took my advice on board, finding herself a hobby and taking part in lots of things in her free time. It was an advantage for us that she could already speak almost perfect German. We're still in contact with her now as she has stayed in Germany to study."

Tips from au pair Monika in Ireland: 

  1. Contacts outside the family are great to get any frustrations off your chest. Other au pairs are also very good, as they are familiar with similar problems; and those who speak the same language as you are ideal, as you don't have to think twice and can simply chat away.
  2. If everyday life with the children gets too boring, it helps to do something different for a change, e.g. going to the Zoo, or the cinema, having a picnic, etc. It's not only fun for the kids, but is also great for taking your mind off things and often makes for the best memories later on.
  3. Make your room your own. For me that means putting up a picture of my parents first of all, over time I then add post cards from friends and photos from the time I've spent here. 
Tips for tricky situations
Keep communicating with one another 

Au pair Anna learnt how important it sometimes is to admit one's faults. "The family who I lived with were excellent and at first I was very happy (...), but then over time I began to realise that I didn't have a very good relationship with my host mum and I made a big mistake: I began talking to her less and wasn't honest with her about things I didn't like or agree with." 

Tips for tricky situations
AuPairWorld's tip

Here's how au pair Anna resolved the situation. She took the decision to change families, and everything worked out a lot better for her second time round, as it often does when one learns from past experiences.

Our tip: In principle, when conflicts arise it is helpful to not let yourself be affected by others, and therefore to defend your own position at all costs. It is often wise to consider both sides of the argument and ensure that your point of view is justified and realistic, incorporating both your and your host family's needs. Ask yourself what it is you really want to achieve and reconsider how you can resolve the issue from a neutral point of view. It can be a thoroughly rewarding process. Many of our au pair stories tell us how solving problems in this way often leads to happy endings - and can in hindsight be an enriching experience.

Tips for tricky situations
Are cultural differences insurmountable?

Host dad Laurence talks about his family's first au pair. "Our first au pair came from China, and stayed with us for 8 months. She was initially meant to stay a year, but our different cultures made it quite difficult. The girl was very quiet and reserved from the start. After a while she told us that she was having problems adapting with the European lifestyle. Nevertheless she continued trying her best to do everything correctly. With cooking however it didn't work out at all, she couldn't even cook pasta. She also didn't want to eat with us, she'd brought a suitcase full of cook-in-the-bag foods from China with her, which she mostly ate on her own late at night. She always said that girls in China aren't used to doing housework."

Tips for tricky situations
AuPairWorld's tip

Light housework is obviously part of an au pair's duties. It should, however, be largely connected to childcare. It sounds to us as if no clear conversation about the au pair's exact duties was had here, neither before the au pair stay nor later on. Maybe it doesn't always have to be pasta that is served, a chinese delicacy could also become a new culinary hit! The au pair should, however, already be able to cook with fresh ingredients, but this does not mean that the host family can't show their au pair how to cook a few tasty dishes that the family like as well. Even that counts as part of the cultural exchange.


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