Tag Archives: cultural

Smithsonian Folklife Festival 2019

The Folklife Festival will take place June 29 & 30. 

This year’s Smithsonian Folklife Festival theme is “The Social Power of Music”.

This year will celebrate the power of music to entertain, educate, inspire, preserve history, strengthen identity, and build community. This is one of the largest annual cultural events in the United States.

The 2019 Festival will be a little different, with two days of concerts instead of the usual two weeks of events. Visitors will still be able to enjoy live music and a variety of food and drink options from local food trucks.

The Festival is held outdoors on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., between the Smithsonian museums. There is no admission charge. Visitors should dress for hot and humid weather. Parking around the Mall is extremely limited, so visitors are advised to use public transportation. L’Enfant Plaza is the closest Metro station to the Festival site. National Archives, Smithsonian, and Federal Center stations are within a half-mile. For assistance planning how to get around, visit www.goDCgo.com. For general Smithsonian visitor information, http://www.si.edu/Visit or call 202.633.1000 (voice).

Photo: S Pakhrin (Flickr)

Chanukkah Begins December 16 at Sundown

ChanukahWe have host families from a wide variety of backgrounds and faiths.  Some celebrate Christmas, some Chanukkah, some Kwanzaa and some celebrate more than one of those or none of the above.  That is something that makes America special, we can all be different, but still one united together.

I wanted to give a brief overview of Chanukkah and some of the customs you might observe.  Something important to note is that Chanukkah is not the Jewish equivalent of Christmas.  From a religious standpoint, it is a relatively minor holiday.  So, the amount of emphasis put on Chanukkah and how it is celebrated will vary from one family to the next.

You may see Chanukkah spelled in a variety of ways: Chanuka, Hanukkah, Hanukka and more. Part of the reason for this confusion may be due to the fact there is no exact English translation of the Hebrew word for Chanukkah.

If your host family celebrates Chanukkah and you don’t, I would encourage you to take part and experience the customs of another religion.  This can be a great opportunity for culture sharing.  The same is true, if you are a host family and your au pair celebrates a different holiday than you.

Here is a simple explanation from Judaism 101:

Chanukkah is the festival of lights, commemorating the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after a successful revolt against the Seleucid Greeks. As part of the rededication, the victorious Jews needed to light the Temple’s menorah (candelabrum), but they had only enough oil to last one day and it would take eight days to prepare more oil. Miraculously, the one-day supply of oil lasted for eight days. The miracle of the oil is commemorated with this eight-day candle lighting holiday.

Chanukkah begins between Thanksgiving and Christmas. About half of the time, it overlaps with Christmas, but there are many years when Chanukkah ends long before Christmas. In 2002, for example, Chanukkah began on Thanksgiving and ended in the first week of December, but that is unusual.

Almost all Jews light candles with their families for at least some nights of the holiday, so people like to be at home during this holiday. Although almost nobody takes off from work or school for this holiday, many may not want to work nights or travel during the holiday so they can light candles with the family, and accommodations should be made for this.

Here are some links for more info and children’s activities:

2014 Au Pair in America DC Regional Cultural Fair


Au Pair in America is hosting a DC Regional Cultural Fair

Au pairs representing over 35 different countries will provide: children’s activities, performances, visual displays, face painting and a cultural parade. This event is open to the public. Anyone interested in learning about other cultures and the Au Pair in America program are invited.


Saturday, April 5, 2014
1:00-3:00 PM
Spanish Ballroom

Glen Echo Park
7300 MacArthur Boulevard
Glen Echo, Maryland 20812

For more information, please contact Christine Connally at cconnallyaupair @ gmail.com or 301-860-1314.

Au Pairs Working as Santa's Helpers

P1180121Rockledge Elementary had their Annual Holiday Shop on Friday, 12/9.  Au Pair in America sponsored the arts & crafts activities: providing the craft supplies as well as some volunteers to assist the children.  Three au pair volunteered: Alex from Austria, Šárka from the Czech Republic and Sabrina from Germany. The students kept us busy! One of the volunteers, Šárka said,  “I´m glad I was there, it was a nice time with the kids.”

You can see more pictures from the Holiday Shop here in the article on the Bowie Patch.

Life In America – Natacha

Natacha 1Five Things That Surprised Me Most in the US

  • Everybody is so friendly. I think Americans are really friendly, when you go to a restaurant waiters and waitresses are super nice, calling you “sweetie” and coming during dinner making sure everything is ok; You can’t walk in a shop without having multiple help from the people working there, they also actually help you choose your clothes! You can say that it’s their job, but even people in the streets, strangers, seeing me with a map offered to help, asking if i was lost! I’m not gonna say French are not nice but we have more distance with strangers and maybe a little bit rude sometimes (me included for people here, it’s not being rude though, it’s culture haha).
  • The thing about being super proud of their country! I noticed that in the National Anthem (everybody just stand quietly, hand on your heart), the Flag on the door step (and it is sacred, don’t mess with the flag), the applause in the plane for military… We are not that proud of our country and especially not of the Army.
  • The Air Conditioning!!! It’s always cold inside, wherever you are, even your own house! Maybe because it’s doesn’t get THAT hot in France, but I’ve never been so cold at a movie, my house doesn’t have air conditioning and it actually make me sick because of the constant change of temperature!
  • The Driving! First week here my host parents took me to Michigan with them, just a … 10 hours drive!!! Then Canada…. 12 hours drive!!! We don’t drive so far away! Maybe because we have a really fast train or because our country is so small and in 10 hours we will cross the whole country, it made no sense for me to drive so far away! (Why not fly instead?)
  • 24/7, I never went to the grocery store at 1am before!

The Ones That I Liked

  • The friendly people of course, who wouldn’t like it! Even if it’s sometimes too much, it’s always nice to feel welcomed in a place and to be helped when you need it!
  • The driving! It seems crazy at first, but you actually can see more of the country driving through than being stuck in a plane!

Just Like in Movies

  • The yellow school buses!!!! Every morning i take my kids to the bus stop and I see them climbing in that big yellow bus, I didn’t know they were real, picking up kids almost at the front door!!
  • The Gigantic and Fantastic New-York City!!
  • The Fraternities and Sororities of University of Maryland – THEY ARE REAL!!! I missed the party and couldn’t enroll!! (but i have good pictures)

My Best Experience in the US?
I actually can’t choose ONE single thing!

  • The People that I met here (essentially au pairs) are the best friends I could have had here! I made such good friends that I’m sure I’m gonna keep even if we are far away, I will see them again and never forget our trips, our laugh, and the help they provide me in rough times! Always hard to see them leave of course but then you have to make new friends, always more amazing!
  • My College Time, I discovered a new passion, won an award, made friends, I didn’t thought i will have such a good time at college and I actually look forward to start my summer semester in a few days! American College a different but amazing experience!
  • My Travels, from New-York to Florida, and soon California! So many amazing places to see and variety of landscapes to remember forever!

natacha 6

Life In America – Sandra

sandra 1

Five things that surprised you most about life in the U.S.

  • The food surprised me very much, especially because I live in a family where my host parents cook, so I’ve tried a lot of different dishes, while I expected I was just gonna eat hamburguers and similar for a whole year! but of course the amount of fast food eaten in the United States in ridiculously huge, and I must say I expected that. I’m also very surprised about how many people do not cook at all here! and the stores are full of pre-cooked stuff and everything has a bunch of sugar and is fattening…it’s impossible not to gain weight here! and also everything is big size!
  • The big deal americans do of every single holiday. All the stores have a section they change for every season or holiday and it lastes until next one is coming. for example, halloween decorations, costumes, etc. started being saled in August! And then I discovered Halloween is not even a day off, everybody works and kids go to school and everything! it’s crazy, cause it’s such a big deal,and not just halloween, every single special event: valentine’s day, easter, 4th of July, thanksgiving, Christmas….we celebreate in Spain but it’s not that big deal, here it’s like celebrating for celebrating.
  • The discounts on clothes (and more stuff, but clothes specially) This is amazing! In Spain we have sale seasons, but not that many outlets and stores like Marshalls or Ross where you can buy discounted items every day!
  • The concept of drive-in is just hilarious. There are drive-ins for everything! I just knew the drive-ins for fast food places before coming here, but know….you can even go to the bank and don´t get off your car! Amazingly lazy!
  • The education is very different from my country, specially the superior one, like college and university (which are apparently same thing) and the you have to specialize in a different school (law, medicine, whatever) and that’s why universities like harvard or Yale are so famous, because of their specific schools! And also, it’s very surprising that everybody (or almost everybody) goes to live out of their houses when they go to college. In Spain most of the people live in their parent’s houses while they attend university. And also here it’s extremely expensive, which is something I don´t like at all, education should be available for everybody, and here it isn´t.
  • Any of those things you are surprised to find you like?

  • Of course I love the discounted clothes! you get crazy shopping here! 🙂
  • And I also love the security that kids’ places have to avoid kidnapping (it’s normal, cause the US has one of the highest rates of kidnapping in the world) like wristbands for the whole family, or like in chuck e cheese, that they put an invisible number and they check it when you go out to avoid people to go out of the place with kids that are not theirs. that is an awesome system all the countries should have.
  • Anything that was exactly like you have seen in American movies or TV?

    America is a movie!   I’ve been sending mails to my family and friends all year long telling them about the tru and false things and breaking and confirming streotypes….and I must tell almost everything was exactly like movies!

    • I never expected the patriostism and the war pride were gonna be that real….and they’re even bigger than I thought.
    • The ice-cream truck exists! I thought it was a movie-thing, but it’s not! the first time I heard it in the neighborhood I screamed and run downstairs and my kids were like: are you crazy? you have never seen an ice-cream truck?
    • It happened the same the first time I saw a sheriff, I thought they just existed in the far west movies, but they’re real!

    Sandra 2

    Best experience in the U.S.

    I’ve lived so many experiences here, good and bad ones. Of course living with a family which is not mine, in a house that is not mine, and taking care of american kids is a very important experience itself and I’ve learned a lot. I’ve enjoyed the good moments and I’ve learned from the bad ones, that have made me stronger. But I think, apart from that, the best I take home from this year are the wonderful friends I’ve made, all the places, cities and states I’ve visited, and all the activities I’ve done with my friends, family, cluster, etc., cause I’ve been so active this year!

    It’s been an amazing experience, very very very hard sometimes, but that has definitely made me a more fulfilled and complete person.

    Fantastic Day at International Festival

    We participated in the City of Bowie International Festival at Allen Pond Park on Saturday, October 2, 2010.  We had beautiful weather, fabulously talented au pairs and lots of eager children ready to try our activities.  Some of our activities were: painting flags on the children’s hands, creating beaded bracelets,  doing geography games and showing people how to write their names in Thai.

    Below are some photos.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get pictures of everyone who helped at the event.  We had a very busy time with lots of kids coming through and I wasn’t able to get photos of some of the volunteers in the middle of the day.

    Life in America – Ayanda

    Wow, where do I start! Ok, my life in America has seriously been like a yo-yo! Amazing times and rough times but above all a lot of growth! So, I arrived in America in August 2009. Oh, was it a huge change of scenery compared to South Africa.

    1. The food oooh was/is American food delicious! But oh is it also oh so weighty! So all I wanted to do was test, test, test  all foods and I happened to love everything, what I did forget to do was to exercise and limit myself, so that’s how my jeans sadly started saying “no ma’am”.
    2. Then another thing that absolutely caught me off guard were the prices, man were things cheap in America! I mean a sneaker for $89 that’s nothing right? Umm, Ayanda honey, wake-up call!! Convert that to south African rand and you’ll realize you just spent +-R900.00 oops!! *shrugs* so I started converting prices before I spent just so I wouldn’t  be fooled again!
    3. I knew that Americans drive on the right and that the steering wheel was on the left, total opposite to south Africa!  So, I opted to be a passenger for at least a month or two until I got the hang of it! Oh now I’m a pro, I’m nervous for home now haha!
    4. The most irritating thing was shopping for clothes and shoes.
      Me: “excuse me do you know the size conversion of USA and S.A?”
      Worker: “no ma’am”  *screams*
      To this day, I have no idea what my true size is in AMERICA.
    5. OK and America and its numbered highways. Hmm-ok, I won’t complain because now I know but at first omg I had no clue what you meant by 495 or I-95. I was like “huh, what?” but I’m good now!
    6. My American life has been flamazing*!! But, I must say I hated being under age. I mean I’m so legal in my country! So, that kept me from clubs and alcohol of course. I am in a way thankful because it sure kept me out of trouble.
    7. The friends I made were an absolute thumbs up! I met different races and ethnicities and was just able to learn so much!

    Living here was like in the movies, everything I watched I saw and sometimes lived the movie life!! So, yes America sure did deliver!

    HIGHLIGHT OF MY YEAR! DISNEY LAND!! Pure bliss, it was surreal! I would re-live that week anytime. I absolutely loved loved loved it!

    I don’t think though it would have been so amazing had it not been for the wonderful host family I matched with! A true blessing from God, I’m so thankful for them and my year wouldn’t have been such a success had they not contributed so well to it! Thank you, Hulton family for an amazing year, this ain’t goodbye its see ya later!

    Thank you America, its been a pleasure!!

    Note from Christine: For anyone (like me) who didn’t recognize the word flamazing.  I had to google it and found out that it means fly + amazing. : )

    Life in America – Anna

    This week’s au pair featured in my Life in America blog series is Anna from Germany.
    Anna and her best friend in New Yorks Times Square

    Anna and her best friend in New York's Times Square

    “I wanted to go America pretty much since I was 15 years old. For some reason at that point I got more and more excited about everything I saw in the movies and the TV. Especially when we talked about this country in our English lessons at school I was really into it! Becoming an Au Pair and going to the USA for one year was a big dream come true. And from the first day in the USA until now I was and still am fascinated by this country and everything about it!

    Starting this year with the orientation in Newark and having a tour with all the Au Pairs through New York in the very first days was the best possible start and an overwhelming first impression of the United States! Since then I went to New York a couple of other times and it is one of the most fascinating cities I saw in my year. Actually not comparable. And you see so many things that remind you of all the great movies!

    The rest of the my year I got to see so many different places in America, like Miami, Niagara Falls, Washington DC, Chicago, …..  and every single trip was an amazing experience and left a lot of great and different impression. And I think the most impressive fact for me was, that you were just flying in a different state but suddenly it felt like you were in a different world.

    I fell in love with this country, that’s for sure. I think what I´m gonna miss the most are the American people, the way they live and think, the way they celebrate holidays, the way they make this country what it is!

    This year was the best that could have happened to me. I am very grateful that I could make this great experience, see so much of this country and meet so many people. I couldn´t have imagined it being better. And I really hope that such a great year happens to every Au Pair! :)”