Tag Archives: hints

Hints for Success – Homesickness/Culture Shock

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

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 lots of other new au pairs who are feeling the same way you are right now. Set a goal to reach out to one 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. We are still living in a pandemic. Remember to be safe and follow your host family rules and any local rules for masking and other precautions.

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 Facebook group to find others who may want to join you on your adventures.

Photo by:  Shimelle Laine (Flickr)

May Host Family Tips

Illustration: www.onewaystock.com (Flickr)

Illustration: www.onewaystock.com (Flickr)

Several host families have asked me to share more about our experience as host parents. Of course every day is different and no two host families or au pairs are alike, but here are some ways we have found to successfully communicate with our au pairs.

1. Weekly meetings: We meet every Sunday evening with our AP to discuss schedules, the children’s behavior, and other issues. This helps my husband and me communicate as well, so we think it’s important for both host parents to attend these meetings. (We’ve also had meetings during the work week with my husband using Facetime from his office.) 

2. Schedule: We use the weekly meeting to go over the upcoming week’s schedule and discuss future changes (vacations, etc.). An online calendar is critical for our planning purposes. Cozi works for us, but Google Calendar is great too. We schedule everything online for the kids- school drop-off and pick-up, playdates, haircuts, doctors’ appointments, etc. All 3 of us can access the calendar and know who is responsible for each event.

3. Texting: I work from home, and it’s easier if my kids don’t see me during the day, so my AP and I text a lot with each other. For example, if I need a snack, I’ll send our AP a text and give her time to take the kids to the basement or outside before heading to the kitchen.

4. Compliments: We use our meetings to compliment our au pair on areas we’ve found her to be particularly successful (even the smallest thing). This is really helpful when we need to address an issue that isn’t as positive. 

5. Rewards: We look for ways to surprise our AP. Has she been great about entertaining the kids during a snow day? Did she soldier through a bad round of strep throat? Do we know she’s excited to see an upcoming movie? Starbucks gift cards, pedicure gift certificates, and movie gift cards go a long way to helping an AP feel appreciated and loved. (You can find discounted movie and restaurant gift cards at Costco.)

For more ideas, check out the  Tips for Current Host Families on the APIA website.