Tag Archives: culture shock

Top 5 Tips for Overcoming Homesickness

Almost everyone experiences culture shock when they come to a completely new environment. Everything is different: the language, the food, and the people.

When everything feels so unfamiliar, it is natural to long for the security of home. However, you don’t want to let that feeling of longing for home, make you too sad or prevent you from finding happiness in your new home.

Here are my 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 often makes homesickness worse. Try texting 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 go to 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 nearly all of them stay and have a successful year (some stay for two years). 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 group to find others who may want to join you on your adventures.

Photo by: Hernán Piñera (Flickr)

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)

Avoiding Homesickness this 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.

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: Sheila Sund (Flickr)