Tag Archives: culture sharing

Hints for Success – Homesickness/Culture Shock

Almost everyone experiences culture shock and homesickness 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 other 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 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, go to the park, and/or go places with other au pairs. If someone invites you out, say “yes” whenever possible.* 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.

*Since we are in a pandemic, talk with your host family about what they are okay with you doing and what precautions you should take.

4. Share your culture with your host family – If you are missing some favorite foods from home, find ways that you can make them here and share them with your host family. There are many international markets in our area, you should be able to find most of the ingredients you need. If you are not really a cook, search online for restaurants and bakeries that have a taste of home. Your host family is probably just as excited to learn about your culture as you are to learn about America.

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

Realize that it definitely gets easier with time.

All au pairs experience homesickness to some extent 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.

Photo by:  Shimelle Laine (Flickr)

Making Thanksgiving Memories Together

Thanksgiving is a public holiday celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November every year in the United States. It started as a harvest festival and has been celebrated nationally on and off since 1789.  The most important part of Thanksgiving for American families is to spend family time together.  Traditionally, this is a time when extended family members gather together. The CDC is recommending people just celebrate Thanksgiving with those in their household to reduce spread of the coronavirus. This year Thanksgiving will be a little different, but you can still experience the same American holiday experience with your host family.

Martin Cathrae

Here are a few tips to help you have a terrific Thanksgiving experience.

Host Parents
Please plan to include your au pair in your Thanksgiving celebration, if at all possible. 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
If you are invited to attend dinner, please let your family know within 5 days of the invitation, whether you are planning to attend, so they may make plans. If your host family is unable to include you in their Thanksgiving plans, please let me know if you have trouble making other plans, so I can assist.

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.

Bonus Tip for the Kids
If you are looking for a fun recipe to make with your au pair, check out these turkey cookies. Find more fun activities and recipes on the Au Pair in America Fall Holidays pinboard.

Contest for au pairs: The first au pair to let Lisa or Christine know which traditional Thanksgiving food you are most looking forward to trying, will receive a prize!

Fall Traditions: Decorating Pumpkins

A treasured fall/Halloween tradition in the United States is pumpkin carving or making “jack-o’-lanterns”. Whether this is your first time decorating a pumpkin or you are a seasoned pro, these videos have a few tips and ideas you may find helpful.

Safety note: If you are carving a pumpkin with the children, remember to be very careful with kids and sharp tools. You can purchase kid-safe pumpkin carving tools that cut without a sharp blade. If you don’t have those, let kids help with all of the tasks that don’t involve a knife such as: picking the pumpkin, scooping out the insides, choosing the design and adding any other decorative touches.

We will be having a Cluster Pumpkin Decorating Contest. To be entered, be sure to share pics of your fabulous creations on our Facebook/ WhatsApp group. Winner will be announced on Monday, November 2.

Find more fun on the APIA Fall Holidays Pinterest board.

Here are video readings of two of my favorite pumpkin stories.

Image: Jeff Kramer

What is Global Awareness?

What is Global Awareness?

The Global Awareness program brings expanded educational and​ ​cultural opportunities to the forefront for au pairs. It gives them the​ ​opportunity to share their culture with others.

How do au pairs get involved?

Au Pairs can volunteer in pre-school, elementary and middle school classrooms. They have the opportunity to share their culture, customs and language with young American children. The mission of this volunteer experience is to bring multi-cultural understanding into the classrooms and help children form positive first impressions of people from other countries. Visit the Get Involved page of our website for all the info you need to get started.

Is Global Awareness just for schools?

No. Au pairs have done presentations for scout groups, at birthday parties and at children’s story times.

Are you interested in scheduling a Global Awareness presentation?

Teachers, parents or others who would like to schedule a presentation, please visit the Global Awareness website for more information and a contact link.

How can Global Awareness help host parents?

Global Awareness offers a webinar series for host parents. The goal is to increase their cultural awareness, improve communication with their au pair and ensure the most successful exchange possible. Your community counselor can provide you with the webinar schedule and how to register.

Surviving & Thriving in the Holiday Season

The winter holiday season is most often a time of joy and excitement. However, it can also be a time of stress and disappointment for both host families and au pairs.

Here are some ideas and insights that will hopefully help you avoid the stress and disappointment and share more of the joy and excitement.

Holiday Work Schedules

Miscommunication over the schedule is the #1 issue for host families and au pairs over the holidays. As a reminder to assist with scheduling, program guidelines state an au pair can work up to 45 hours per week and no more than 10 hours per day. Hours cannot be carried from week to week. Please take the time to discuss your schedules and expectations.

The au pair program regulations do not have requirements for au pairs to be given holidays off. However, in the spirit of the program and since most parents will be at home spending time with their children, the majority of host families give au pairs some or all of the winter holidays off: Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Please discuss this so that everyone is clear about the schedule when making holiday plans.

Religion

For au pairs with religious beliefs different from your own, you may choose to encourage her to share the associated traditions with your family. If you are not comfortable with this aspect of cultural exchange, your au pair may need your help as well as appropriate time off to participate in her own holiday traditions with another family, with a community group or with a religious institution. Enabling her to do this is very important. Her holiday or her time to celebrate the holiday may not be the same as yours; try to take this into consideration if you can when you make her work schedule. You may find that there is no conflict in giving her time off if her traditions are different, and it can relieve a great deal of anxiety to take her preferences into consideration. If you do need your au pair to work during the holiday, please tell her way in advance so that it is not a surprise. Help her to see this as a positive aspect of the cultural exchange if she will be actively sharing in the holiday celebration.

Changes to Routine

The dynamics of established relationships and routines change during the holiday. The parents are home more, and this is unsettling to the children as well as to the au pair. Some different work expectations may be needed since the kids may prefer to hover around the parents. This can make an au pair feel unwanted and unsure of what is expected of her. The high emotions and energy of the children (compared to their more reasonable behavior during the rest of the year) may seem like craziness to the au pair. Assure her that this new set of behaviors is temporary and the household will be back to normal soon. In the meantime, suggest specific things she can do to help. Encourage her to roll with the punches and enjoy the craziness. Also, the quantity of gifts, food, decorations, etc., can be unfamiliar and overwhelming. Try to include the au pair in some quiet, meaningful time together when the true spirit of the holidays is shared.

These are important days ahead. This is perhaps the greatest opportunity of the year to respect and learn about cultural differences, which is, indeed, one of the basic elements of the Au Pair in America program. There will be fun-filled memories. This should be a time of love and understanding. Please do your part to make that happen.

Wishing you all every happiness of the season!

Photo: Sean Hobson

Thanksgiving Tips for Host Parents & Au Pairs

Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November each year. 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. You can learn more about it here.

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

Below you will find some tips to help you have a terrific Thanksgiving experience.

 

Host Parents

  • 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.
  • 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

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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

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.

Photo: Tim Sackton (Flickr)

Surviving & Thriving in the Holiday Season

The winter holiday season is most often a time of joy and excitement. However, it can also be a time of stress and disappointment for both host families and au pairs.

Here are some ideas and insights that will hopefully help you avoid the stress and disappointment and share more of the joy and excitement.

Holiday Work Schedules

Miscommunication over the schedule is the #1 issue for host families and au pairs over the holidays. As a reminder to assist with scheduling, program guidelines state an au pair can work up to 45 hours per week and no more than 10 hours per day. Hours cannot be carried from week to week. Please take the time to discuss your schedules and expectations.

The au pair program regulations do not have requirements for au pairs to be given holidays off. However, in the spirit of the program and since most parents will be at home spending time with their children, the majority of host families give au pairs some or all of the winter holidays off: Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Please discuss this so that everyone is clear about the schedule when making holiday plans.

Religion

For au pairs with religious beliefs different from your own, you may choose to encourage her to share the associated traditions with your family. If you are not comfortable with this aspect of cultural exchange, your au pair may need your help as well as appropriate time off to participate in her own holiday traditions with another family, with a community group or with a religious institution. Enabling her to do this is very important. Her holiday or her time to celebrate the holiday may not be the same as yours; try to take this into consideration if you can when you make her work schedule. You may find that there is no conflict in giving her time off if her traditions are different, and it can relieve a great deal of anxiety to take her preferences into consideration. If you do need your au pair to work during the holiday, please tell her way in advance so that it is not a surprise. Help her to see this as a positive aspect of the cultural exchange if she will be actively sharing in the holiday celebration.

Changes to Routine

The dynamics of established relationships and routines change during the holiday. The parents are home more, and this is unsettling to the children as well as to the au pair. Some different work expectations may be needed since the kids may prefer to hover around the parents. This can make an au pair feel unwanted and unsure of what is expected of her. The high emotions and energy of the children (compared to their more reasonable behavior during the rest of the year) may seem like craziness to the au pair. Assure her that this new set of behaviors is temporary and the household will be back to normal soon. In the meantime, suggest specific things she can do to help. Encourage her to roll with the punches and enjoy the craziness. Also, the quantity of gifts, food, decorations, etc., can be unfamiliar and overwhelming. Try to include the au pair in some quiet, meaningful time together when the true spirit of the holidays is shared.

These are important days ahead. This is perhaps the greatest opportunity of the year to respect and learn about cultural differences, which is, indeed, one of the basic elements of the Au Pair in America program. There will be fun-filled memories. This should be a time of love and understanding. Please do your part to make that happen.

Wishing you all every happiness of the season!

Photo: Sean Hobson

5 Thanksgiving Tips for Au Pairs & Host Parents

Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November each year. 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. You can learn more about it here.

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

Below you will find 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

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.

Photo: Tim Sackton (Flickr)

How to Carve a Pumpkin

Here is a video explaining how to carve a pumpkin (as well as some non-carving alternatives.) A pumpkin carved like this is called a jack-o-lantern. I recommend that you wait until just a few days before Halloween to carve your pumpkin, so it will be fresh for the big day.

Find more Halloween activities and recipes on the APIA Halloween Fun Pinterest board.

 

 

Photo: Jeff Cramer