Friday, September 14, 2007

Homesickness

Most au pairs are young women who are separated from their family for the first time. Homesickness is a big issue for many of the au pairs I got to know. If you are feeling homesick, you are not alone. My solution to homesickness was to surround myself with other au pairs. I feel better when I am surrounded with people I have something in common with. In this case, it's homesickness. As I made more friends and got to know my environment I felt better and started enjoying the au pair experience more.

I think it's a good idea to make a list of the goals you wanna achieve during your stay in a foreign country. Is it learning a new language, culture, see new places, improve your childcare skills...? Look at the list once a week, keep a diary or a blog! It's a great idea to take a look at the list once a week and record what you have done to accomplish your goals. When there are goals to accomplish you can look into the future and see how much you can gain by this experience. This will give you the strength to go on and enjoy your time in a new country.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Culture shock

Primary goal of the au pair life is to get to know another culture and language while living and taking care of a family's children. Number of au pairs complain that they are not compatible with their host family. The problem might also be the culture shock and people may not realise it.

It is not possible to move to another country and pick up the culture right away. Things will be different, perhaps much different, than your home country. Study the language and culture beforehand. Choose a country that you are really interested in getting to know. Different cultures do things differently around the world. That doesn't mean one way is right or wrong. Au pair candidate must keep an open mind and be interested in learning different lifestyles.

Same applies to the hosting family as well. Most host families like the concept of au pair because they have intensive travel experience. Some host mothers might have been au pairs when they were younger. Other families might simply want to expose their children to foreign cultures and languages. In any case, the au pair should also be ready to represent her country and culture.

Friday, August 10, 2007

How to protect yourself from the Internet scammers

With the growth of the Internet certain problems arise for people who try to use it for legitimate reasons. I found my jobs through the Internet and didn't have problems with the scammers back then. Now I receive scam mails everyday. Although they are easy to spot, I think some people still have a hard time distinguishing them as the scams get more sophisticated.

My first advise is to not to get into a financial transaction with anyone you met on the Internet. If someone is trying to get you to send them money posing as a travel agency or host family at the end, chances are they are scammers. They may be very convincing, but these people usually ask you to send money, hundred or thousands of dollars, via western union or bank transfer.

Legitimate families do not ask for money to do your paperwork or refer you to their "travel agency". Travel agencies do not even deal with au pair visas as far as I know.

Make sure to talk to the family on the phone more than once and check their answers to your questions. Make sure there are no disperancies. Ask for the pictures of the family, house and the surrounding area. Be a detective and investigate everything before you take the job.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

How to quit

I get tons of email from au pairs all over the world. Thankfully, most of them are great stories about how wonderful the au pair experience is. There are also some emails about things not working out and au pairs trying to figure out how to quit.

I believe that people can work out most issues, but sometimes it simply doesn't work out. My advise on the best way to part with a family is to give them enough notice to find a replacement. Most host families are both working parents and cannot survive without childcare. In fact, most families who like live-in childcare are usually full time working parents. They must have continous childcare to go to work and support their families.

Both parties should not let problems get out of control. Weekly meetings to discuss issues are very beneficial in developing a working relationship. It also helps parents and au pairs bond and get to know each other better.

Naturally, if the situation is unbearable aupair should think of her best interest as well. However, I believe giving enough notice before quitting and parting in good terms is the way to go.