Monthly Archives: December 2023

Avoiding Homesickness in the Holiday Season

Homesickness can be a problem during the holidays, even if it hasn’t been at any other time of the year. Au pairs often miss their friends and family, familiar places, and their own traditions and customs. The holiday activities in the United States seem, and may actually be, different just at a time when an au pair would welcome something familiar.

It is common for au pairs’ emotions to be close to the surface during the holidays. Her highs are higher, her lows are lower. The enormity of what she has done–actually living in another country (which is an amazing thing when you think about it!)–hits her and throws her into a self-protective mode.

Au Pairs, there are things you can do to reduce homesickness during the holidays. It is important to balance your activities to feel connected to your family back home and your traditions but also embrace new customs and experiences here in the U.S.

Lina and her friend enjoying one of the most popular celebrations of the year in Colombia. “Every December 7, Colombian families get together with very close friends to light several candles thinking about wishes for the coming year such as health, prosperity, love and happiness. It is also very traditional to share typical food from the region, and what can never be missing is wine and cookies.”

Share your traditions with your host family and friends. Each country has its own special holiday customs. Being friends with other au pairs, you can not only learn about the U.S. but also how other countries celebrate. When you talk with your family back home, you can share some of the new holiday experiences you are having. That can help lessen the feeling of missing out on moments at home by reminding you that you are here in the U.S. for a short time and you are making memories that will last a lifetime.

Host Parents can help her through this unfamiliar territory by talking to her about what your specific family activities will be (gifts, meals, visitors, religious services, in-home traditions, or none of these, as the case may be.) In the spirit of cultural exchange, ask her if she has any favorite holiday traditions or foods that you might be able to incorporate into your family’s celebration of the season. Let her know what you will be doing when you will be doing it, and what she can expect. Talk to her about what has to be accomplished and get her involved and interested. Don’t expect her to just “know” what needs to be done. Give her some clear, agreed-upon assignments. Make her feel a part of things. And, let her know her contribution is needed and appreciated.

Photo: Lina Cabeza Paez

Clothing & Accessories to Keep You Warm in the Winter

We created a blog post in October called Preparing for Cold Weather, with some general tips on layering and the kind of things you can wear to stay warm. I encourage you to check that out and then come back here for specific suggestions for clothing items.

Even though I have lived through very cold winters my entire life, I still get cold very easily. So, I can understand how difficult it is for many of you from warmer climates to get motivated to go outside when the temperatures drop below 10°C. But winter is just beginning and staying at home too much can lead to homesickness and depression. There are a few warm pieces of clothing you can get that can make all the difference.

Thermal Underwear Sets

Thermal Underwear sets are long-sleeve shirts and pants that are meant to be worn under other clothes to add warmth. This is a simple place to start.  You can search “thermal underwear set”. Here are examples for men and women.

Under Skirts and Dresses

Do you wish to wear a dress or skirt during the winter months? The secret is fleece-lined tights. They are actually warmer than a pair of jeans or any other typical pants.

You can find these on Amazon and many other online retailers. Here are the search terms to use: “fleece lined tights” or “thermal tights”. They come in solid black and some other colors, as well as some styles that look like sheer tights or bare legs, depending on your skin tone.

Here is one example that comes in a variety of skin tones and colors. When searching be aware that not all fleece-lined tights are as thick and warm. Look for pairs with lining like these below.

Under Jeans and Pants

You can also buy less expensive pairs of nylon leggings and tights to wear under other pairs of pants (especially distressed-style jeans with rips!). They are not as warm as the fleece-lined tights but they are snug enough to fit easily under other pants and combined with jeans or pants they keep you pretty warm. The more tightly woven the fabric the warmer it will normally keep you. Cotton is not as warm as nylon and polyester fabrics.

You probably already have some of these you were wearing by themselves. Try them under a pair of jeans and see how much warmer you feel. Here is one example, but you can find these at many clothing retailers.

Under Shirts & Sweaters

Just adding a simple long-sleeved T-shirt under another shirt will add warmth. You can get long-sleeved T-shirts inexpensively at places like Walmart. But there are also warmer long-sleeve shirts that are made to provide additional warmth under shirts and sweaters. Here are the search terms to use: “Long sleeve thermal top” or “Long sleeve fleece lined top”.

Here is one example that comes in several basic colors. But, remember you’ll be covering this up with other shirts, so you can probably get away with just buying a simple black, gray, or white shirt that will go with everything.

Hats, Gloves, & Scarves 

Even if you have the rest of your body dressed warmly, if you leave your head, neck, or hands uncovered or minimally covered you will still feel cold. You can get all of these items at local stores and online. Again look for tightly woven fabrics as they keep you warmer and let in less chill from the wind. Here is a basic set on Amazon.

Thermal Socks & Boots

You can find thermal socks that will keep your feet very warm. Here is one example. Winter boots can provide warmth and many styles are waterproof. These can be purchased online, at local stores, and at thrift stores (resell used items for a discounted cost). If you are wearing warm boots, you may only need to buy a fluffy/thick pair of socks that you can get inexpensively at lots of local retailers and online.

 Jackets, Coats, Snow Pants

It goes without saying that you will need to wear a warm jacket or coat over your clothes throughout the winter. These can be purchased online, at local stores, and at thrift stores (resell used items for a discounted cost).

If you will be outside in snow or very cold temperatures for an extended time, you can also purchase snow pants or snow bib overalls. They go over other pants and are both insulated and waterproof. Here are some examples for men and women.

Note: We are including links to help you see examples and not recommending any one retailer or brand over another and this is not a sponsored post.


Winter Sports & Sports Insurance

Trying out winter sports like ice skating, skiing, and snowboarding can be very exciting, especially if this is your first time experiencing winter weather. However, you should also know the risks and be prepared.

Is it risky to do winter sports without sports insurance?

Yes. If you have to pay your own hospital bills for a broken bone, you might be shocked at how much that would cost. I checked this website for some cost estimates.

Here are a couple examples:

  • Without medical coverage, treating a broken arm or leg (that does not require surgery) could cost up to $2,500.
  • Without medical coverage, treating a broken arm or leg (requiring surgery) could cost $16,000 or more.

You must understand how your medical coverage works for sports-related injuries. There is a list of “high-risk sports/activities” that are not covered by basic or upgrade medical insurance plans. Those activities are only covered by the Sports Insurance Package. (Snowtubing is the only snow sport that you already have coverage for without the sports insurance package.)

The Sports Insurance was available pre-departure and may also be purchased at any time during your year. It takes effect within 48 hours of your enrollment and is good for 12 months. The cost will be the same ($110 as of this posting) whether you have a month left or your whole year ahead of you. I recommend you pay for it early on if you haven’t already purchased it. You never know when an opportunity might present itself and you don’t want to miss out on an adventure. You also don’t want to risk getting injured and being responsible for the bill on your own.

Below is a partial list of sports that are only covered by the sports insurance package:
Football, Rugby, Scuba diving, Ski-doo,  Wakeboarding, Skydiving, Parachuting, Rock climbing, Zipline, Skateboarding, Rollerblading, Roller skating,  Ice Skating, SkiingSnowboardingSnowmobiles and Snowshoeing.  View the full list on your insurance brochure.

Note: Injuries sustained while partaking in these sports are ONLY covered with the purchase of Sports Insurance.

How to register for the Sports Insurance

To enroll in sports insurance, use the link found in the email sent to you with the subject “Au Pair in America Sports Insurance Upgrade Option”. Ask your community counselor if you are having trouble finding the email with the sports insurance enrollment link.

If you think you will be doing any of these sports, you should get it now.