Common problem: “It’s the end of my au pair year and I have sooooo much stuff! It’s going to cost me a fortune in extra baggage fees.”
This post is about one way to prevent that problem.
I know it can be tempting. There are so many beautiful things and great sales out there. But in 2020, I challenge you to take a moment before each purchase and ask yourself:
- Do I really need this?
- Do I want it enough to pay extra baggage fees to get it home later?
- What experience could I have with this money instead? For example, you might ask yourself, “Would I rather have these designer shoes or a ticket to a concert?”
Being an au pair can be an amazing time in your life where you have the opportunity to try new things and see new places. The more money you save for travel, the more of those unforgettable moments you will have to carry home with you.
Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.
The National Cherry Blossom Festival is an annual event that celebrates springtime in Washington, DC as well as the 1912 gift of the cherry blossom trees and the enduring friendship between the people of the United States and Japan. This year’s festival will be MARCH 20-APRIL 14!
The predicted peak blooming period of the cherry blossoms for this year is – MARCH 26–30.
They have Free Apps for iPhone & Droid to help you keep track of the festival events and share your festival experiences via social media.
Here are some of the highlights:
Family Day – Saturday & Sunday, March 23-24, 2013
National Building Museum
401 F Street, NW
Metro Judiciary Square, Red Line
Sat – 10 am-4 pm & Sun- 11 am-4 pm
Smithsonian Kite Festival – Saturday, March 30, 2013
Washington Monument Grounds
10 am-4:30 pm
Fireworks Festival – Saturday, April 6, 2013
Waterfront Park – 600-900 Water Street, SW
Fireworks at 8-9 pm
Cherry Blossom Parade – Saturday, April 13, 2013
Constitution Avenue from 7th to 17th Streets, NW
10 am- 12 pm
There are many more great events, visit the festival website for more information.
Cherry Blossom Festival Website
National Park Service Bloom Watch
Metro Website (use the trip planner feature on this website to find the metro options, taking metro is much better than driving for the festival events)
Five 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!
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!
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.
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.
- 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”.
- 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!
- 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!
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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. : )
This week’s au pair featured in my Life in America blog series is Anna from Germany.
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! :)”
I have found that these are some of the most common reasons host families select Au Pair in America.
- APIA is the first and most experienced au pair program.
- Our Community Counselors average 9 years with APIA.
- Our Stamford Office staff average 7 years with APIA.
- Our Community Counselors get paid to provide service and support to host families and au pairs. Some other companies pay their local coordinators based on recruiting new families.
- We have the largest applicant pool in the industry, recruiting in 55 countries on 5 continents.
- Three different options to meet your needs: Standard Au Pairs, EduCare and Extraordinaire.