Category Archives: Cultural Exchange and Adjustment

Fair Season 2019!

Prince George’s County Fair (Image: F Delventhal)

Looking for a change of scenery?

Want to get out DC’s concrete jungle for the day?

Or maybe you just want to try a fried Oreo?

All of these dreams can come true over the next few weeks at one of the many area county and state fairs. 

What is a Fair?

Usually held in late summer or early fall, county and state fairs often include agricultural exhibits or competitors, carnival amusement rides, and games, displays of industrial products, automobile racing, and entertainment such as musical concerts (adapted from Wikipedia).

Maryland and Virginia Fairs

Montgomery County Agricultural Fair (Images: Catherine McEaddy)

The Montgomery County Agricultural Fair and the Arlington County Fair are held in August; The Prince George’s County Fair takes place in September. KidFriendly DC and NBCWashington have details about some of the most popular county fairs throughout Maryland and Virginia.

The DC State Fair

Interested in checking out an agricultural fair on urban turf? Then don’t miss the 10th Annual DC State Fair on September 8th. That’s right- DC has a state fair! It may be small in comparison to Maryland or Virginia’s state fairs, but the DC State Fair definitely has the best t-shirts. Plus as a DC resident, you can enter one of the contests!

Going Home and New Beginnings

Most au pairs have mixed feeling about returning home. As the end of the program nears, there is both excitement and nerves about adjusting to life at home.

Adapting to life back home will include some of the same emotions experienced with adjusting to life in the United States, such as:

  • Homesickness (only this time for your American family and friends)
  • Rejecting things that are cultural norms in your home country
  • Adapting to a new environment and routine
  • Accepting your new situation

At a recent cluster meeting, au pairs discussed creating a resume to reflect the new skills they acquired during the au pair program. (Photo: Catherine McEaddy Holmes)

How do you prepare for going home? While you have been away, things at home may have changed. You have certainly changed, and after adapting to the American culture, you must adapt again to your own culture. Here are some tips to consider as you prepare for the journey home:

  • Be flexible as you think about life back home, give yourself time to adjust, and don’t expect it to be easy every day.
  • Let yourself be sad and feel the loss of friends and family.
  • Reflect on your experience and acknowledge what you have gained and learned during your au pair year.
  • Focus on positive ways you have grown.
  • Make a list of the skills you have acquired or strengthened as an au pair.
  • Make your new resume!
  • You made it! Celebrate and be proud of your au pair achievements.
  • Going home is not the end of something….it’s the beginning of something new.

(From Christine Connally’s blog post Going Home and New Beginnings)

Amazing Cluster Meeting at US Capitol

More than 700 Au Pair in America au pairs from 30 DC/Maryland/Virginia area clusters came together on Saturday, March 9 to tour the US Capitol. We were joined by Au Pair in America director, Ruth Ferry. We had a wonderful time and an amazing photo.

Au Pair in America au pairs from the DC/MD/VA area, their Community Counselors and APIA director, Ruth Ferry

Touring the US Capitol is a highlight of any visit to Washington, DC. The Visitor Center offers free online tickets and a limited number of same-day tickets. The tour starts off with a brief and engaging video with some history on the Capitol Building and the US in general. The tour guides are knowledgeable and will take you to some of the building’s most iconic locations.

Touring the US Capitol is a highlight for our cluster every year.

Christmas 2018

We have host families from a wide variety of backgrounds and faiths; some of our host families celebrate Christmas, some celebrate Hanukkah, some celebrate Kwanzaa, and some celebrate more than one holiday or none at all. If you’re an au pair living with a host family who celebrates Christmas and you do not, I encourage you to take part and experience it with them. This can be a great opportunity for learning and culture sharing. I also encourage host families to ask their au pairs to share their holiday traditions and customs. 

 

History

Christmas is both a sacred religious holiday and a worldwide cultural and commercial phenomenon. For two millennia, people around the world have been observing it with traditions and practices that are both religious and secular in nature. Christians celebrate Christmas Day as the anniversary of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, a spiritual leader whose teachings form the basis of their religion.

Image: Alan Cleaver (Flickr)

Image: Alan Cleaver (Flickr)

In the United States, popular customs include exchanging gifts, decorating Christmas trees, attending church, sharing meals with family and friends and, of course, waiting for Santa Claus to arrive. December 25–Christmas Day–has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1870. (Source: History.com)

Christmas Traditions in the US

Infographic: History.com

Infographic: History.com

In the US, Americans celebrate Christmas with traditions that have been introduced from different cultures as well as some uniquely American celebrations.

  • The period of time in the US from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day is called “the holidays.”
  • Decorated Christmas trees begin lighting up windows in homes, and shops and outdoor plazas shortly after Thanksgiving.
  • Christmas tree ornaments can be found in almost every store, but many families have boxes of treasured ornaments made by children out of paper and other crafts which are lovingly hung year after year.
  • Christmas lights decorate trees indoors as well as the front lawns and porches of houses. Many parks have special holiday light displays.
  • Children write letters to Santa Claus requesting gifts. Shopping malls, parties, churches, and some schools host events where children can have their photo taken with Santa Claus and ask him for gifts in-person.
  • Christians remember the birth of Christ with nativity scenes displayed on church lawns, Christmas pageants performed by children in churches and some schools, and delicate, often handcrafted manger scenes set out among the Christmas decor at home.
  • On December 24, Christmas Eve, many families have special traditions and often attend Christmas Eve church services. Children hang Christmas stockings, leave cookies and milk for Santa Claus, and try their best to fall asleep so Santa can deliver their presents.
  • On December 25, Christmas Day, children wake up early to see the gifts Santa Claus left them. Families exchange gifts, which have been wrapped and placed under the Christmas tree.
  • Americans mail Christmas and holiday cards (often with photos of the family) throughout the holiday season. In 2010, Americans mailed 1.5 billion holiday cards.
  • Source: Moo.com

    Source: Moo.com

    Many Americans view the same beloved Christmas movies year after year. Some classic favorites include, “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “The Christmas Story,” “Home Alone,” “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Frosty the Snowman,” “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” “Elf” and “A Miracle on 34th Street.”


The 2018 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree (Forest Service photo by Cecilio Ricardo)

Celebrating Christmas in Washington, DC

A very Merry Christmas to all!

Five Thanksgiving Tips for Host Parents and Au Pairs

Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November each year. Based on the Pilgrims’ harvest meal in 1621, Thanksgiving was proclaimed a national holiday by President Abraham Lincoln during the 1860s. You can learn more about the holiday here.

Even though a few other countries also celebrate Thanksgiving, it’s still considered a uniquely American holiday ~ one that the au pairs look forward to experiencing.

I really enjoyed Thanksgiving with my host family. It was as I imagined! So much food to try. Everyone got dressed up and shared what they were thankful for. It was so warm and special. The next day we began to prepare for Christmas. It was magical.” – Selina from Germany

Here are some tips to help you have a terrific Thanksgiving experience: 

Host Parents

1.  Please plan to include your au pair in your Thanksgiving celebration, if at all possible. Thanksgiving with an au pair offers an opportunity to consider the relevance of the history and meaning of Thanksgiving as you compare the hospitality offered by the Native Americans to the recently arrived Pilgrims and the hospitality you offer your au pair.

2.  If you are traveling or will not be able to invite your au pair to join you for Thanksgiving, give her plenty of notice and help her make alternate plans. You don’t want to leave your au pair alone over the holiday.

Au Pairs

3.  If you are invited to attend dinner, please let your family know within 5 days of the invitation, whether you are planning to attend. It is considered rude in America to accept the invitation for dinner and then change your mind later in the month. Please be thoughtful.

4.  Make sure to discuss time off during this holiday weekend. Many host families work the Friday after Thanksgiving so do not assume you have this day off or the entire weekend. Talk to your host family BEFORE you make any plans.

5.  If your host family is unable to include you in their Thanksgiving plans, please let me know if you have trouble making other plans. You may be able to join a friend and their host family for the holiday dinner.

Bonus Tip for the Kids

Click on this infographic to see a larger version.

If you are looking for a fun recipe to make with your au pair, check out these turkey cupcakes.

Find more fun activities and recipes on the Au Pair in America Fall Holidays pinboard.

Fair Season 2018!

Prince George’s County Fair (Image: F Delventhal)

Looking for a change of scenery?

Want to get out DC’s concrete jungle for the day?

Or maybe you just want to try a fried Oreo?

All of these dreams can come true over the next few weeks at one of the many area county and state fairs. 

What is a Fair?

Usually held in late summer or early fall, county and state fairs often include agricultural exhibits or competitors, carnival amusement rides, and games, displays of industrial products, automobile racing, and entertainment such as musical concerts (adapted from Wikipedia).

Maryland and Virginia Fairs

Montgomery County Agricultural Fair (Images: Catherine McEaddy)

The Montgomery County Agricultural Fair and the Arlington County Fair are held in August; The Prince George’s County Fair takes place in September. KidFriendly DC and NBCWashington have details about some of the most popular county fairs throughout Maryland and Virginia.

The DC State Fair

Interested in checking out an agricultural fair on urban turf? Then don’t miss the 9th Annual DC State Fair on September 23rd. That’s right- DC has a state fair! It may be small in comparison to Maryland or Virginia’s state fairs, but the DC State Fair definitely has the best t-shirts. Plus as a DC resident, you can enter one of the contests!

Celebrating the 4th of July in DC (2018)

The 4th of July celebrates the date American colonists declared independence from Great Britain in 1776. Also called Independence Day, the 4th of July is commemorated throughout the USA with fireworks, parades, concerts, family gatherings, and cookouts.

As the nation’s capital, Washington, DC, is the perfect place to celebrate this truly American holiday. Here are just a few of the many celebrations in DC: Continue reading

Presidents Day 2018

Photo: Bill & Vicki T (Flickr)

Presidents Day is a Federal holiday created to commemorate the births of former Presidents George Washington (Feb. 22) and Abraham Lincoln (Feb. 12). 

In 2018, Presidents Day is celebrated on February 19th. Throughout America, Presidents Day is observed by big sales in the stores and no mail delivery. School is probably closed on February 19th in honor of Presidents Day, too.

Presidents Day Fun Facts and Questions for Host Kids

  • The United States has had more than 40 presidents. How many can the children name?
  • Who has been president during their lifetime?
  • Take a look at American coins and bills; who are the Presidents pictured on each coin and bill?
  • Apostrophe or not? You’ll see references to the holiday as Presidents Day, President’s Day, and Presidents’ Day. Learn more about the confusion surrounding whom this holiday honors in this Washington Post article.
  • 10 things you may not know about Abraham Lincoln

Celebrate Presidents Day in DC

Hints for Success – Overcoming Homesickness

Almost everyone experiences homesickness and culture shock to some degree, when they come to live in a completely new environment. So much is different and it takes time to adjust.

It is normal to miss your own family, at home. Try to remember that they support you and want you to make the most of this experience. They will enjoy learning more about the U.S., through your eyes, as you share your adventures with them.

Top 5 Tips for Dealing with Homesickness

1. Make Friends – Don’t wait for other au pairs to reach out to you, reach out to them. There are other lots of new au pairs who are feeling the same way you are right now. Set a goal to reach out to a few of them each day. Some will respond and some will not. Don’t let that discourage you. No one will ever be mad at you for sending them a message to say hello or ask if they want to do something together. Make friends from various countries and you will also get a chance to practice your English skills together.

2. Stay in touch with your home country, but not too much. Skyping or talking on the phone every day with your family and/or friends back home normally makes homesickness worse. Try emailing instead and reduce the Skype and phone calls to once a week, until you feel stronger. It’s much harder seeing the faces and hearing the voices of those you miss.

3. Get out of the house (or your room specifically) – Go to cluster meetings, have coffee or movies with other au pairs, join a gym, go to the library, go for a walk, visit the mall, get a manicure, visit a museum. If someone invites you out, say “yes.” Also, don’t be afraid to do the inviting. If your host family invites you to do things with them, say “yes.” This will help you get to know each other and contribute to your overall happiness.

4. Realize that it definitely gets better – All au pairs experience homesickness and the vast majority of them get through it, stay and have a successful year (some even extend for a second year!) So, it must get better, right? Once you get past the initial homesickness, most au pairs report how quickly the year goes by.

5. Make Plans – Create your own Au Pair Bucket List (places you want to go, new foods to try, new things to experience during your year in the U.S.) and start doing them now. Post on our cluster Facebook group to find others who may want to join you on your adventures.

Photo by:  Shimelle Laine (Flickr)

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