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."
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:
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."
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.
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."
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.