About Talya

Talya has traveled extensively throughout Europe and the Middle East and worked as an au pair in southern Germany. She currently lives and works in Berlin with her three children, recruiting for start-ups, writing, and helping singles meet other date-able singles through Cupcake Dating.

When you can’t go home for the holidays

its-a-wonderful-life

(photo from It’s A Wonderful Life)

Some au pairs have enough money set aside to fly home or family who will cover tickets to go home to visit for Christmas. Other super lucky au pairs have a generous host family who will fly them back to their home country for the holiday season to see friends and family – I was one of those.

When I was as an au pair, I had a fab host family who did just that – they flew me back to the States for a short surprise trip home over Christmas and it was SO. NICE! I was having too much fun as an au pair to ever get really homesick, but as soon as Thanksgiving came along in November during that year, I was ready to visit and catch up with friends and family.

But what if you don’t have the cash to travel back home or generous folks to cover the cost? As I am currently living outside my home country (I’m from the US and living in Germany), and I will not be traveling back this year, this is my plan – and maybe you’ll find this helpful.

Connect with family regularly – Thanks to Skype, FaceTime, and even free calls on Whatsapp, it’s easier and cheaper than ever to chat and talk with your loved ones. I try to connect with family at least once a week, and more if I’m feeling homesick. Staying connected regularly helps you not feel quite so isolated and lonely.

Plan a future trip – If you can’t afford to travel at the holidays, start saving for a trip at a later date, so that you know you won’t be missing everyone forever. Having something to look forward to makes the missing now much more bearable. For my family, we can’t do a Christmas trip this year, but we are making plans for a visit next fall, when travel is more affordable. Knowing that we’ll be back within a year keeps us from getting too sad about not seeing family now.

Enjoy where you are – Keep in mind that although you have moments of sadness and missing home, your time as an au pair is limited, so take advantage of the country you are in and the people you are with, even if they aren’t your “real” family. Take in the surroundings, celebrate with them, hang out with friends. Make the most of it! Family and friends back home will be there next Christmas. That’s how I think, anyway. 😉

Hope this helps as we move closer and closer to the most celebrated time of the year!

Exploring your new city

Hamburg

This is another guest post by Megan, who recently moved from the US to Hamburg, Germany. 

All I wanted to do once I arrived in Hamburg was explore. I soon found, however, that exploring can be expensive, tiring, and at times overwhelming. There are a few ways to circumvent these problems of exploration, namely: a bus pass, help from locals, and bringing a book along with you.

Once you get to your new city, get a bus or train pass pass. Everyone will tell you that bus passes end up saving you money, and they’re right. Bus passes are fantastically convenient, and the little laminated card can make you feel that much more official in your new home. Be sure to get the best deal on your pass, though. If you are enrolled (even as a guest student) at a local university, you should get the pass for free. Even if you aren’t enrolled at a university you can still get a student price with your old high school or college I.D. Some Au Pair families will buy you your pass so you can take the kids on the subway, and you can of course use it in your free time as well.

Remember that locals are your greatest resource when exploring. Of course the internet is good, too. You can Google “Best places in Hamburg,” or read the New York Times’ 36 Hours in Honolulu (and you totally should!), but a local is almost always the best resource. Not only do you hear what actual citizens enjoy about their city, but you also hear their critiques about these places. The personal interaction of talking with locals about their city also adds more dimensions to exploring than an internet article ever could. And you  have the added benefits of practicing your new language, asking questions, and making new friends.

Exploring and reading are rarely thought of as complementary activities, but the two do go hand in hand. If you’re on a long train ride, reading is like a little mental adventure. Even better, reading a book that takes place in your city (or new language) is like a fictional accompaniment to your real adventure! Right now, for example, I’m reading Königskinder, a story which takes place in my new city, Hamburg. The book was a bestseller here in Germany, so I feel like I’m sort of joining a massive, underground German book club. Not only am I learning about Hamburg, practicing German, and being entertained, but I’m also partaking in contemporary German culture! Find a book that takes place in your new country, or is a bestseller in your country and bring it with you on your adventures. Reading gives you a reason to sit in the park for hours, take a long bus ride, or stop at a café. When you’re finished with the book, it sort of serves as a souvenir from that time you went to the Eiffel Tower or visited Central Park.

There you have it! A few (hopefully) useful tips to help you get to know your new home. We’d like to hear from you too … what do you do to find out about your new city or town? What have you found is the best way to learn how to get around? Please share any tips or ideas in the comments below!

Getting ready for an international move: Packing Tips

Travel, suitcase, airplane

(This is a post by our new blogger, Megan Lester. She will be writing for Best Au Pair Guide on a regular basis, and we happy to have her! Her bio is below)

Conquering the Suitcase/Carry-on:

In a few days I will be flying overseas to spend another year in Germany, which means this week is packing week. One checked bag (40 lbs.) and one carry-on (my trusty backpack) are almost all I need for my time abroad … almost. This post is about how to make the most of your limited packing space: what to leave behind and tricks that can make all the difference.

BUY THINGS THERE

This tip depends, of course, on where you are going. As I am headed to rainy/sunny/snowy Germany, it would seem wise to bring snow boots, a snow jacket, a rain jacket, hats, scarves, etc. But these items alone would take up half of my suitcase and up to a quarter of my weight limit, which is why I am leaving them behind. The clothing and accessories sold in your new country will not only suit the land’s climate (probably better than your clothes do anyway), but will also match the locals’ style. Save room, time, and hassle by buying especially cumbersome items while abroad. When it starts to snow in Germany, finding a chic coat won’t be any trouble at all.

STUPID CLOTHES

We all have stupid clothes. Old track shirts from high school, puke-colored shorts … this isn’t just me, right? I always pack some ‘stupid’ clothes when moving abroad, and here’s why: losing ugly shorts at a hostel is no big deal. Throwing away an old shirt to make room for a souvenir is no big deal. Having an outfit that is fair game to get dirty opens you up to getting dirty. Interpret that as you will. Stupid clothes are comfortable and convenient, but ultimately disposable, which can be a lifesaver on weeklong trips to hot, muggy cities or for camping at a national park.

CARRY-ON MUSTS

A day of flying is exciting and exhausting, but mostly gross. I bring a few things in my carry-on to make me feel a little more human at the end of the day: Wet Wipes, lotion, chapstick, Downy Wrinkle Release, and gum. Wet Wipes make for clean hands in a pinch, improvised showers during unexpected delays, and quick-cleanups for spills and surprises. You can get wipes with alcohol, which also act as stain removers (if prone to spills), or fancy face wipes for a refreshed face after transatlantic trips. Lotion and chapstick obviously keep my skin from turning into scales when on those mega-dry airplanes. Downy Wrinkle Release makes your clothes look and smell good after long days of traveling. If you’re meeting someone at the airport whom you want to impress, a well-timed spritz of wrinkle release can freshen an outfit effortlessly. Gum is a must-have for releasing pressure from your ears on planes, getting fresh breath without a toothbrush, and making friends with your seatmates on long flights.

The most important tip when packing for a move is just to pack appropriately. Search online for your city’s weather, fashion, trends, etc. so you know how to be comfortable and fit in. These other tips will hopefully supplement your packing prowess and get you ready for your international move.

I’d love to hear from readers – what do you do to get ready for a move? Any packing tips that you swear by? Share in the comments below!

Megan Lester is a graduate from the University of Portland where she studied English and German. She recently moved to Hamburg, Germany on a Fulbright scholarship and finds her new home ganz schön.

Au Pair, travel, and language programs in – China!

China

(photo courtesy of the Asia Kids Society)

Have you ever thought about working as an au pair in China? If so, I just found out this week about an organization that can help you get there. The LOHO Centre in Beijing offers people au pair jobs, internships, and other work and language programs throughout travel. It’s also part of the IAPA (the International Au Pair Association), so it’s legit.

I don’t have numbers to prove this, but I would think that China is still a bit off the beaten path as far as au pairing goes. But apparently they have a very large number of host families looking for au pairs to come work for them. The agency also says that they have an increasing number of au pairs coming in from Western countries, which I can imagine is true.

So if the Chinese language, culture, and people are fascinating to you and it’s a place you would like to find out more about living and working in, take a look!

 

Au Pair Ebook Summer Special – $5

Talyas-au-pair-book-thumbIn celebration of the long hot days of summer, we’re offering our Ebook, The Girl’s Guide to Being An Au Pair, for half price!

From now through the end of August, you pay $5 instead of $10 …  So if you want to find out about being an au pair – where to go, how to find a host family, how to make the most of your time abroad, and more … be sure to grab a copy!

The button below will take you to PayPal, where you can pay with your PayPal account OR with a credit/debit card if you aren’t an account holder. We will then send you your very own copy of the Ebook, to help get you started on your way to being an Au Pair.

Enjoy!