November 29– Black Friday is the Friday after Thanksgiving and is the beginning of the traditional Christmas shopping season. Black Friday is not an official holiday, but many people have the day off, which increases the number of potential shoppers. Merchants and the media use the term Black Friday to refer to the beginning of the period in which retailers are in the black i.e., turning a profit for the year. Sales are everywhere–set your alarm and hit the stores before the sun comes up to get an authentic experience this unique day!
There are so many new faces in the cluster. You must have heard “make this the best year ever”, but what does it really mean? Here is a list of suggestions I gathered from my former au pairs. They all agree that the year goes by really fast and despite having some bad days, they do miss being an au pair. When I asked them what suggestions they wanted to share, here is what they told me:
1. Take good care of the kids (this really was their first response!)
2. Listen and respect your host family, be honest about your mistakes, don’t try to hide them….it will only make things worse.
3. Travel as soon as you can, don’t procrastinate.
4. Meet new people, try not to hang out with only au pairs from your country
5. Enjoy every moment
6. Be open-minded, don’t compare
7. Don’t spend all your money on the stuff you don’t need. It’s not easy to take it home
8. Give it a good chance, even it you are feeling homesick, shy or nervous. Stick it out because its definitely worth it
9. Take advantage of your free time, volunteer and help out. The reference letter may help you get a job in the future.
10. Pick your classes carefully. There are some options that you will find interesting.
Enjoy your journey!
If you are like me, you probably have napkins and straws from fast food restaurants and other assorted items in your glove box in the car. It can be a nifty storage place, but it’s main purpose is to keep some important documents related to the car.
It is very important that you keep all of the necessary documents in the car glove box. These items will be necessaryif you are stopped by a police officer or have an auto accident. Not having these items can result in your receiving a ticket (citation) from a police officer.
- Car Registration Card*
- Insurance Card*
- Car Accident Emergency Form
- Pages 5 & 6 from MD Driver’s Handbook (Highlight the part that says the ”Persons Exempt from Licensing” and continuing onto page 6 “Any nonresident of this state provided that…”)
*Some host parents may tell you to carry these in your wallet instead of keeping them in the car. Follow their instructions.
- Tire Pressure Gauge
- Vehicle Owner’s Manual
- Map or GPS
- Tissues and Hand Sanitizer
- First Aid Kit
In Your Wallet
Carry your Maryland license or country driver’s license and international driver’s permit with you at all times, especially when you are driving. You should leave your passport and Social Security Card and other documents at home, to reduce the risk of losing them
HERE’S WISHING A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM MY FAMILY TO YOURS!
Christmas around the world
Millions of children around the world are familiar with plump and jolly Santa Claus, much loved of North America, with his red suit, black boots and twinkling eyes. He arrives Christmas Eve bearing gifts from the North Pole in a sleigh pulled by reindeer. Other countries have their own native gift bearers of the holiday season as well.
Christmas around the world: In Italy, children receive gifts from the good witch La Befana, old, bent and dressed in black. La Befana was a widowed, childless woman when the Three Kings passed on their way to see the Christ child. When they asked her the way to Bethlehem she was busy cleaning and sent them away. Realizing her mistake, she left to search for the Baby Jesus. To this day she is still searching going from house to house on Epiphany, January 6, leaving a gift for good children.
Russian children await gifts from Babouska, a farmer’s wife who offered food and shelter to the Three Wise men on their journey to Bethlehem, Baboushka declined their offer of travelling with them to visit the Christ child. Realizing her error on the eve of Epiphany, she tried unsuccessfully to find them, but handed the presents she had intended for the infant Jesus to children she passed along the way.
In Spain, Mexico, Puerto Rico and South America, the Three Kings or Wise Men bring Christmas gifts to children, while in France children eagerly await the coming of Father Christmas or Pere Noel who brings their gifts.
In some cultures, Saint Nicholas travels with an assistant. The old bishop Sinterklass arrives in Holland on December 6 in his red bishop’s costume astride a white horse. In many port towns, he is said to have sailed in on a ship from Spain. Beside him walks Black Peter with a black sack and a book recording each Dutch child’s behavior through the year. Good children receive a gift from the bishop while bad children may be carried away in Black Peter’s sack
In Germany Saint Nicholas also travels with a helper, known as Knecht Ruprecht, Krampus, or Pelzebock, and comes with a sack on his back and a rod or switches in his hand. Saint Nicholas gives gifts to good children, while those who have been bad are punished by the assistant with a few hits of a switch.
Swedish children wait for the gnome Jultomten, also called Julemanden or Julenisse, who dresses in red and carries a sack of gifts on his back. He flies in his sleigh pulled by the Julbocker, the goats of Thor, the god of thunder. Elves, called the Juul Nisse, hide in the attics of families throughout the year, eagerly waiting to help him. Children leave bowls of milk or rice pudding in the attic for the elves, hoping they will be empty in the morning.
In Austria and Switzerland it is Christkindl or the Christ Child who arrives bearing gifts. In some towns children await the Holy Child and in others Christkindl is a beautiful girl-angel who comes down from heaven bearing gifts.
And in England a thinner version of Santa Claus known as Father Christmas, wearing long red robes with sprigs of holly in his hair, delivers gifts to children.
Merry Christmas around the world
Afrikaner (Afrikaans) ~ “Geseënde Kersfees”
Argentine ~ “Felices Pascuas”
Bohemian ~ “Vesele Vanoce”
Brazilian ~ “Boas Festas”
Chinese (Cantonese) ~ “Saint Dan Fai Lok”
Danish ~ “Glædelig Jul”
Dutch ~ “Vrolijk Kerstfeest”
English ~ “Merry Christmas”
Filipino ~ “Maligayang Pasko”
Finnish ~ “Hyvaa Joulua”
French ~ “Joyeux Noël”
German ~ “Froehliche Weihnachten”
Greek ~ “Kala Christouyenna”
Hawaiian ~ “Mele Kalikimaka”
Hebrew ~ “Mo’adim Lesimkha”
Icelandic ~ “Gledileg Jol”
Indonesian ~ “Selamat Hari Natal”
Irish ~ “Nollaig Shona Dhuit”
Italian ~ “Buone Feste Natalizie” – Natale italiano
Japanese ~ “Kurisumasu Omedeto”
Korean ~ “Sung Tan Chuk Ha”
Lithuanian ~ “Linksmu Kaledu”
Malay ~ “Selamat Hari Natal”
Maori ~ “Meri Kirihimete”
Norwegian ~ “God Jul” – Jul i Norge
Romanian ~ “Craciun Fericit”
Peruvian ~ “Felices Fiestas”
Portugese ~ “Boas Festas”
Slovakian ~ “Vesele Vianoce”
Spanish ~ “Feliz Navidad” – Cyber Navidad
Swedish ~ “God Jul” – Jul i Sverige
Welsh ~ “Nadolig Llawen”
The Holidays should be a time of joy and excitement. From my experience, we have noticed they can also be a time of stress and disappointment for Host Families and Au Pairs. I would like to offer some ideas and insights that I hope can broaden everyone’s understanding.
First, let’s face the issue of homesickness. Host Families, this can be a problem at this time of year even if it hasn’t been in the past. Important people and places are missed. Our traditions and activities seem “different” just at a time when an Au Pair craves the “familiar” celebration. My observation has been that an Au Pair’s emotions are closer to the surface during the holidays. Her highs are higher, her lows are lower. The enormity of what she is accomplishing…actually living and working in another culture, (which is an amazing thing when you think about it!)… can induce a self-protective mode. You can help her through this unfamiliar territory by talking to her about what your specific family activities will be such as when the candles will be lit, the stockings hung, the gifts given, the meals prepared and eaten, the relatives arriving, etc.. Let her know what you will be doing, when you will be doing it, and what she can expect. Talk to her about what must be accomplished and get her involved. Ask her if she has any favorite holiday foods or traditions that could be incorporated into your celebration. Give her some clear, agreed-upon assignments. Remember, her parents have probably handled the organization in previous years, so don’t expect her to “know” what needs to be done. Make her feel a part of things. And, let her know her contribution is needed and appreciated. Try to cut a little slack, then be pleased with progress.
Au Pairs, regarding homesickness…you knew when you came for a year that family and religious holidays would be a part of that year. If you get involved and active in the family’s plans, I assure you that next year you will be thinking about this family and missing their celebrations! Your Host Family will make many efforts to assure that this holiday in America is special for you. It is important to your Host Family that you acknowledge their efforts. Show your appreciation and participate, participate, participate!!! Look for ways to help. If you aren’t certain, ask! Thinking about someone other than yourself is the best way to manage homesickness.
Host Families, another problem to consider is how the dynamics of the established relationships and routines change during the holidays. Parents are home more and this demands adjustment for the children as well as the Au Pair. 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. She may not see the specific needs of the children other than the usual. The high emotions and energy of the children (compared to their more reasonable behavior during the rest of the year, I’m sure) may be difficult to handle even for the most confident Au Pair. Assure her that this behavior is temporary and 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 energy of the season. The quantity of gifts given to the children and the excesses of gifts, food, decorations, etc. can be overwhelming. In everyone’s best interest, make sure there is some quiet, meaningful time together when the true spirit of the holidays is shared.
Au Pairs, life will be busy and, perhaps, stressful for the Host Family as they do all that they would like during the holiday season. Celebrations don’t just “happen”…there is a lot of work involved in having fun! Your Orientation information from Connecticut, under “Policies and Procedures” very clearly states under “Holidays” that there are no automatic “holidays off.” You are expected to help with the work and responsibility. Your Host Family may not be at their usual jobs, but they are putting in great effort to prepare for the family celebration. Your Host Parents are very successful day to day, but, these same people will be in an absolute panic trying to prepare holiday meals, get all of the toys assembled and wrapped, and create a “perfect” day for their family AND for you. Find ways to help! Play games with the children, bundle them up and take them for walks, visit the library with them, use up some of their energy. This can free the parents for other things. If the children want to be in the middle of the action, then find other ways to help. You can keep the kitchen floor swept, do the extra laundry, prepare lunch when parents are busy. BE CREATIVE about what you can do. During your free time all year, you have the choice to be one of the children or one of the adults in your family…this is definitely the time to be one of the adults! Keep your eyes and hearts open for moments to help out!
Host Families, remember that socially, the holidays are a time when Au Pairs want to be with their friends. Christmas Eve, in some countries, is spent with friends rather than family. New Year’s Eve in America is a very special occasion to them. Discuss your plans and expectations with each other. Be as generous with free time as possible.
Au Pairs, if you treat family holidays as a time to disappear every evening, and sleep all day, you can expect to disappoint your family. If you came to learn family customs, then please know that our customs during the holidays include working together, sharing responsibility, and spending time with the extended family. As for ‘New Years Eve,’ all of you would like to have this night off to celebrate, but many of you will be asked to work. If this is part of your responsibility, do it with good grace and cooperation. It is only one night out of your 13 months here! If your Host Parents make arrangements so you can be free, express your appreciation.
Host Families and Au Pairs, these are important days ahead. They will involve adjustment, but will create fun-filled memories if you let them. This is a time of love and understanding. Please do your part to reflect these priorities.
I wish you all a very wonderful holiday season and a happy and healthy new year.
There are different ways to handle the little expenses that may come up. Things like when an au pair takes the kids out for ice cream or picks up a gallon of milk. Some families keep a cookie jar fund, a little cash that they set aside weekly or monthly for this kind of expenses. Here are some suggestions for avoiding problems with that.
- It’s important to be clear about how long this money should last and what types of expenses are approved.
- Let the au pair know whether or not you expect receipts.
- Only spend the money on approved expenses.
- If it is something you are not sure about, ask first.
- Put your receipts in the cookie jar in place of the money to avoid any confusion.
Gas and Fare Cards
Host families are responsible for the au pair’s transportation costs:
- to and from classes and cluster meetings
- driving the kids
It is a good idea to figure out how much gas an au pair will use for these trips and either put gas in the car or give a gas allowance. If your au pair is riding to classes or cluster meetings with another au pair, you should offer to share the cost of gas.
Au pairs are responsible for their own transportation at all other times. You should replace the amount of gas used for personal use.