8 tips for future AuPairs in the USA
Previous AuPairs (we like to be called Returnees) can often provide plenty of interesting thoughts, tips, and reminders for future AuPairs. Here are 8 tips for future AuPairs in the USA:
Tip #1 – Don’t limit yourself to certain areas!
Locations in California, Florida, or big cities like New York are always in high demand when I hear future AuPairs talking. There are host-families in almost every state of the US and they are looking for the right fit for their family not for someone who only wants to come to their area because of something they saw on TV, read something on the Internet, or because some famous person is living there! You can always travel during and after your year to those destinations. Host-parents care about their kids first and want you to fit their family profile to support them. And you should care about a fitting host-family, too, so make it more about the age of the kids, the activities they and you like, and so on – you will be spending a lot of time with them! Rachel Ward put it this way: “The key to a successful au pair experience is thoughtfully choosing a family whose expectations are in sync with yours.” And I have to agree with her from my own story. I was ready to say yes to my first host-family with two musical girls close to NYC. Quickly afterwards I was happy they decided for a different AuPair and I choose to go to a family with four kids about in southern NJ. Why? Of course I was attracted to the city but with my real family I had a much closer connection: sports and activities – my area of expertise 🙂 So here is my tip: Listen to your inner feelings about the host-family and how they fit to you and not where they are from!
Tip #2 – English or not – here I come
Don’t be afraid of talking in English and making language or grammar errors – most Americans make many mistakes themselves. However you always can ask to be corrected or “improved”. In addition, if you don’t speak and try you will never learn it. So be open to experiences and laugh about your mistakes! So here is my tip: Practice often and engage with your new friends that do not speak your mother tongue!
Tip #3 – Your first priority
The first priority is to your host-kids – that includes keeping them safe and watching them all the time. If you cannot see them they are too far away from you. This may be different in other countries of the world where kids often roam more “freely” but in the US it is an important measure for security and safety. Each family may have their own rules also dependent on the age of the kids but make sure you talk to your host-family and make sure you adhere to their rules! Most importantly give your kids your undivided attention, don’t talk on the phone with friends or message with them when you are working. Focus on your kids and what they need in every situation.
Tip #4 – Driving is a piece of cake
Yes, it may be but chances are it is not. Signs may be similar but not the same, driving conditions may vary, and often cars and “driving-styles” are much different. What do I mean by that? Well, what I mean is get accustomed to the state and region you are driving in. Check for the Motor Vehicle Agency of your state and their rules if you need a local drivers license or not and check out their resources to study for the tests. Even if you do not have to take the test, flipping through the book or PDF may give you important hints about driving. What else? I used to drive a small car in Germany and was introduced to a truck and a mini-van – I got used to the mini-van quickly but have to say that I was always fearful in the truck and not to unhappy when it was given away finally. What else? Bigger cities and surrounding areas are congested, have a lot of traffic, and sometimes crazy fast drivers. In NJ/NY lanes are narrower, many drivers drive +10 mph on the speed-limit, and change lanes without using their signals – oh and by the way they like to pass you on any lane. It just takes some time used to it – give yourself that time and ask your host-parents to drive with you a few times alone before you bring the kids along.
Tip #5 – College is just another chore
Be creative about your courses! Don’t just settle for an English course or an ESL course. Note that most ESL courses are filled with other students just like you trying to learn more English and making the same mistakes. Can you learn more from a “regular class” in an area that interest you? Yes, that is what we believe! Take a course in painting, programming, a different language than English and your own, history, biology,… Here are my tips: Trying things out will also help you find your future area to work in or weed out the ones you are not interested in. While college and fulfilling the 6 credits is important, check what other courses are accepted by your organization. Continuing education and adult education are offering a large variety of courses and even if you have to pay out of your own pocket may provide you with great learnings!
Tip #6 – Culture is everywhere
Part of the program is cultural exchange so be open to engage in culture. This includes not only concerts of your favorite band or clubbing (if you are old enough) but also taking a trip to church, going to local festivals, visiting the local market, celebrating holidays with your host-family, and more. It also includes bringing culture to your host-family. Talk about your country, the things you like to do, show them pictures (my little one loved to look at the photo-album I brought with me), cook some food, teach them a word or sentence, and play some songs or games. You will learn much more about each others culture if you are open and giving.
Tip #7 – Little and big things
A year is a long time and of course you have some big ideas on how to fill it. Trips during your time off are often the biggest thoughts and memories. But don’t let those big things steer you away from the little things! Plan a day-trip to a nearby town, visit a market, do what you really like to do and cherish it. A walk on the beach, taking pictures, having something special to eat, a certain weather patter that you never experienced at home or a special season. Enjoy all the little things that come your way and that you create!
Tip #8 – Being an AuPair is work
In the end, being an AuPair is still a type of work relationship. You are receiving room and board, college funds, and weekly pocket money in exchange for up to 45 hours of work surrounding the kids of your host-family. Not everything is laughing, dancing, and enjoyment. These 45 hours can be hard work including trying to feed a toddler with food they don’t want, wiping the bottom of a four-year-old after the bathroom visit, changing clothes at the library because the notice came too late, or running from one play-date to the next appointment with four kids in the car who dislike each other today. If what you are being asked for by your host-parents involves your kids, it is your job. And when you are on-duty, no personal TV, phone calls, playing on the computer or phone or other things! Yes, you may feel like a maid sometimes and it can be a struggle – but it’s all what YOU make out of it!!!
Do you have any questions for Returnees? Do you have your own tips for future AuPairs? Feel free to ask them in the comments!
While these are great tips, the most important one is to have fun with your work, be positive, outgoing, enthusiastic, and creative! Don’t just let the year be in your dreams – You are creating your own time!!!