Today we continue our chat with the CEO of Au Pair Clearinghouse. If you haven’t seen Part 1 of our interview with Edina, be sure to check it out. Part 2 of our interview is full of useful tips for current and potential au pairs, as Edina shares from her ten years + of experience in the au pair industry. Enjoy!
Best Au Pair Guide: Before we get into tips for au pairs, you mentioned a few of the traits that host families are looking for in au pairs (language ability, friendliness and flexibility, and driving experience). Is there anything else they would like to see in an au pair?
Edina: Actually, yes there is! Host families prefer au pairs who love children. They want au pairs who will get on the floor and play with their children, as well as go outside and hike and bike with them. You will also be happier as an au pair if you like children, otherwise they job will quickly bore you.
And no boyfriends, please! Host families also look for au pairs who are not tied down to a boyfriend back home, because they know of other host families who have experienced problems with au pairs who were distracted and sad because they missed their boyfriends. Au pairs may quit the program and go home because of this reason, so host families really do avoid au pairs who are in a serious love relationship.
BAPG: Ok, that is great advice, and good news for the single au pairs out there! Now that we know what host families are looking for, what advice do you have for new au pairs, especially those coming to America to work?
Language is key. Don’t believe your agency if they tell you that your English will improve by immersing yourself in the language. This is true, of course, but there is no substitute for a good, basic foundation of speaking skills in English. In fact, the U.S. government requires basic language skills before you sign up. This means that you must be able to interview with your agency agent for one hour in English (no cheating!). If your English is weak, sign up for a language course as soon as you arrive. Americans are impatient and host families want au pairs to speak to them in their native language.
Don’t drink and drive! The rules for au pairs in America are very strict, and au pairs caught driving while under the influence of alcohol will be sent back home. All agencies have a “zero tolerance policy,” which means that any drinking and driving, no matter how much alcohol is involved, will not be allowed.
Another important tip is regarding host families and problems. If there are issues, communicate! You deserve a good family who offers you trust, support, and a nice room and car to drive. If your host parents are not treating you in a respectful manner, please do not wait to say something to your counselor. It is your special year abroad, so make sure you are with the right family.
For example, if your host mom is distant and fails to invite you to family meals or events, have a conversation with her first – ask, “Is there a problem with my work? Do you like me?” Depending on her answer, you will have to communicate any problems or issues with your counselor. If you have to rematch (find a new family), try to be as pleasant as possible.
BAPG: Now what about more culturally specific things, especially for non-Americans coming to the US? What should au pairs take into consideration?
Edina: First of all, Americans accept the fact that foreigners will make mistakes and they are generally very forgiving. However, it is important to be mindful of some taboo areas that may cause embarrasment if not handled properly:
- Personal hygiene – Americans are obsessed with cleanliness, so it will not hurt to shower every day (they say, “cleanliness is next to godliness” – that’s how serious most of us are about being clean!)
- Don’t stare at people, even if you are talking to them – make eye contact, but glance away occassionally.
- Be politically correct, meaning don’t talk negatively about different ethnic groups, or share strong feelings about the wars America is in. Remember, you are a guest, so be polite.
- Don’t as your host parents how much money they make! Americans are very private about their income and wealth.
- Don’t talk about your host mom’s weight – You can talk about health issues, which is popular in America, but Americans are very touchy about personal weight.
- Don’t tell your host parents that their kids are spoiled, even if they are. Children tend to be indulged in America, especially on their birthdays, so be prepared to see some “over-the-top” celebrations.
- Don’t dress sexy – your host mom will not appreciate it and you will make your host dad and children uncomfortable. Save the skimpy tops and short skirts for the clubs on the weekend!
Ok girls, you heard it from the expert! This is excellent advice from Edina, and I am already looking forward to scheduling another interview with her! As you see, she knows what host families are looking for and what au pairs need to know before starting their au pair job, especially those who are coming to America to work. Hope you enjoyed this as much as I did!