Life with a host family abroad may be very different to yours. You will be meeting new people, exploring new places, speaking your host country’s language and learning different routines. Don’t worry, your host family is excited to meet you and will make you feel very welcome! Please ask them if you have any questions as you settle in with them. Your international cooperator will also be available to help if you have any questions.
Cooperation and Respect
It is important to talk about the children with your host parents and how they want you to take care of them. Please cooperate and respect their ideas about their children, even if you do not always agree with their child care ideas. As an au pair abroad, you will be treated as a member of the host family. You will need to be respectful of the host family and this includes the family’s home and belongings. Everyone will be happier if you respect each other.
Respect Your Host Parents
- Always make time to tell your host parents about your day with the kids or to ask them questions that you have.
- Communicate! Sometimes this can be really hard, but this is the best way to solve problems early and for good. If you don’t communicate with your host family, problems can become too big. If you need help communicating with your family, ask your international cooperator for some tips.
- It is never a good idea to criticize your host parents about the way they are raising their children. It may be very different than what you are used to, but accept that this is the way that they want to raise their kids. If you have a question about anything, feel free to discuss it with the host family or your international cooperator.
- Respect your host family’s privacy. Do not share their information with other au pairs or friends. Do not post anything (including pictures and videos) on social media without their permission.
Respect the House
- This is your house too. Act like a family member in the same way you would in your own family. Help out with small things that are necessary on a day-to-day basis. For example, bring in the mail, take out the garbage and stack the dishwasher.
- Clean up after yourself and the kids throughout the day.
- Lock the doors when you come home. Discuss with your host parents what they would like you to do if you are the last one home at the end of the day or late at night.
- Do not give out any information about yourself, your family or your home — especially to strangers — unless you have your host family’s permission.
- Keep your room neat and tidy.
- Ask your host family when you can use the family computer. Remember that you should never use the computer or Internet for personal use when you should be caring for the children. Do not visit inappropriate websites or download anything onto their computer.
Many families and international au pairs agree that weekly meetings work well for them. Set aside about an hour each week on a chosen date and time to reflect on the past week’s events, challenges and successes. You will also want to use this time to constructively give and take feedback to make your overseas au pair experience as rewarding as possible. Here are some topics you may want to discuss together:
- Child Care Ideas and Goals
- The Weekly Schedule
- Your host parents will talk to you about the family’s schedule so that you can arrange your days off and if applicable, time for classes. Tell the family about any vacation days you may want to take as far in advance as possible.
- Practical Demonstration
- Your host parents should explain any relevant, practical household information. For example, they may go over how to use the washing machine or dishwasher; how to change a flat tire; or, what to do if there is a loss of electricity.
- Cultural Awareness
- Ask your host parents if you have questions about your host family’s culture, customs or language. They will be able to let you know what events are coming up in the community and about any special holidays. You could also teach your host family some words in English, tell them more about your culture and share your own family pictures.
- Be a Part of Your Host Family
- Spend as much time as you can with your host family! This is a great way to practice language, learn more about your host culture and have a wonderful experience as an au pair.
- Have dinner as often as you can with your host family and help out as a family member.
- Participate in social events and family events with your host family.
- Share your culture with your host family. Talk about the United States, teach the family some English, teach the kids some of your songs and games and prepare some food from your country. Your host family will love this and it will make you feel closer to home, especially if you are feeling homesick.
Love Your Au Pair Job!
- Be on time for work, picking up the kids, meal times and curfews.
- Always smile and greet your host family when you see them.
- Have fun! Play with the kids and get involved in their favorite games and activities. Try to stay positive, outgoing and enthusiastic.
- Keep the kids safe.
- Bond with the children. By getting to know them, they will know that you really like and care about them and will trust you even more.
- When you are working, make sure that you are watching the children or doing child care-related things.
- Never leave the kids alone, especially outside, in the car or near a lake or a pool.
- Keep in mind that your host children will be different than the children in your home country.
- Always encourage your host kids with everything, especially if they need extra encouragement! It will help them stay positive and have good self-esteem.
- Communicate with your host family about any behavioral changes you see with the kids.
- Treat all the kids equally.
- Keep an open mind about the differences between American life and life in your host country. Remember that you became an au pair abroad to experience cultural exchange!