Tuesday, September 27, 2005

My trip to the USA

I just wanted to share my recent trip to the USA with you. I thought it might be helpful to the au pairs who are planning to go to the USA. I went there for my summer vacation. I have never been in the USA even though I have many American friends in the Netherlands. I must say that it is a beautiful country first of all.

I have visited New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. I think these are the best cities for the tourists as my friends advised me. I'm very glad I chose to visit these cities.

I was certainly fascinated with New York city. It was not like any other city I have been to. Buildings were so tall sometimes that they blocked sunlight. I could turn my head up and look and look and look just to catch the top of the building. New York is a very cosmopolitan city. I could hear millions of foreign languages spoken wherever I went to. It was amazing, a true international city. I also loved shopping there. I found very good bargains. Talking about bargains, the Chinatown and Little Italy were amazing. The food was outrageous. I probably gained weight in 5 days I was in New York.

My next stop was Los Angeles. Southern California is a natural beauty. Seeing the Pacific Ocean and the breathtaking beaches (we drove along the coastline to San Francisco). Pacific Coast highway is a very scenic route. I recommend everyone to take it. Drive on that road as long as you can. It will amaze you.

Los Angeles was as I expected. I'm not too crazy about seeing movie stars or anything, but Los Angeles is still a nice city to visit. Weather is nice, beaches are great and there is a lot to see if you are in to the movies.

San Francisco impressed me more than Los Angeles. It is a very characteristic city. I believe there is no other city like it. The roads in the city are all huge hills. I was scared to drive on some of them! San Francisco has a nice Wisherman's Wharf by the sea. You can see the seals on the pier. It is very cute. I have seen them lying on the piers and shore in Los Angeles as well. They are really cute and they make strange sounds. San Francisco also had an amazing Chinatown I should mention. If you like Chinese food, you shouldn't miss it.

I loved the flowers around the houses and buildings in California. I think the weather is so beautiful, Californians can have flowers all year around. How lucky!

Even though I had some good bargains shopping, San Francisco and New York can be a bit expensive if your home country is not an expensive one. I stayed with my friends/their families all through my trip so I can't really give you advise on how much the hotels cost. But I think everyone would agree with me when it comes to shopping, especially the American brand clothes and shoes!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

What are the responsibilities of an au pair?

Au pair helps the families with childcare and light housekeeping. Families should not even ask au pairs to clean their house, do parent's laundry, wash the windows of the house etc... In most Western countries, families usually have a cleaner who comes in once a week to clean the house.

Au pair is usually responsible for the children's laundry and light housekeeping. Light housekeeping is defined as keeping the house tidy. That is cleaning up after the children to me. Children make most the mess around the house. It is necessary to keep their toys off the floor when the parents are due back home from work. Noone wants to see or clean up after a long day's work. Parents usually take over the children when they arrive home and it is also curteous to keep the house in order.

Au pair does the children's laundry. Children change a lot of clothes especially if they are out playing all day. Small children also change clothes often, maybe several times a day.

Hoovering the children's rooms and play area is also considered light housekeeping and au pair is usually expected to do this task. This may be once a week or 2 times a week depending on the family and children.

Of course, besides light housekeeping au pair is expected to take care of the children like their parents would do. Follow the rules the parents establish. They usually tell the au pair what to do and how. This can make things even easier if the children have a regular schedule and activities to do.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Activities to do with younger children

Hi au pair friends,
I got some emails from fellow au pair friends about the activities they can do with the children. Most au pairs asking this question are looking after young children. Some of you mention that it is more fun to look after older children. This might be true for some au pairs.

I love young children especially babies. You may think there is not much to do with the babies. You can always do things with them even though they take long naps. Taking long walks (good exercise for the au pair) with the baby in the stroller is one of my favorites. Find a nice park and take long walks. Babies love it and fresh air is always good for the baby (the au pair of course too).

Take them shopping, especially grocery stores. Babies get very excited at the grocery stores. Different colors and lights make them really happy I think and people pay them attention! This is true for other shops and stores as well. Stroll along the shops, check the new trends in clothes (my favorite).

If you have a playplace (like some pizza stores do), take them there. They can meet other babies. Though some may be too young to play in the play area, they may find little friends and socialize with them. Au pair can make new friends with the mother/caregiver of the other babies/children. You can even meet other au pairs there!

I think it is a great idea to keep the baby (and au pair) active by going out of the house. You may even end up with a nice playgroup for the baby!

I hope this gives the au pair friends some ideas and help. Don't forget the babies are cute and fun to take care of!

Jana

Friday, September 02, 2005

How do I resolve problems with families?

Hi au pair friends,
I decided to give my answers to some questions I get from other au pair friends here. I hope it can benefit all of you if you have similar questions.
Some of you are already in another country as an au pair working with wonderful families. Some of you may have problems with your arrangement.
My first advise is to communicate any problems bothering you with the host family. Sometimes problems can be simple communication problems. Sometimes it is bigger and you may not have enough time to go to a language school. Children may be too many or too young for your experience. Sometimes, it is hard to move to a different country and try to get used to their customes. You may want to change your host family. I advise you check with the country's rules before you do that. You may have an au pair visa for that country. You may have to follow them to change the family. You must talk to your agency if you use one about the rules and regulations. They should know what options you have. It is not advisable to break the rules. It may create problems for you if you have an au pair visa.
These are my thoughts on this topic. Feel free to email me questions. I will do my best to answer them.
Have a good day!