I’d like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and all the best for the coming New Year. For Au Pairs who are abroad and homesick, hang in there! You will survive and see your families and friends again. And for all the rest of you, enjoy the holidays!
(photo courtesy of dreamstime stock photos)
The Christmas season is officially here, and this is a great time of year to have a lot of fun with the kids you take care of. Even though the days are shorter, colder, and rougher than the rest of the year, there are lots of things you can do to keep the children you take care of occupied.
Depending on where you live, there are probably a lot of different kid-friendly activities being offered in your local community. For au pairs lucky enough to be working in Germany, Christmas markets abound and a trip to one would be a great afternoon outing with kids, both younger and older. Most Christmas markets do not have an entrance charge, and the games, rides, and snacks are not all that expensive.
Other fun activities centered around kids can be found at theathers and museums. Many theaters, even smaller community theaters, offer special programs for children at Christmas. Matinees of the Nutcracker, puppet shows, and other offerings, such as theather workshops, could be a lot of fun to go to with your children. Local museums may also have special exhibitions centered around the holidays, so be sure to check out what they have to offer.
Another great way to have fun with the kids during Christmas is baking. You can never go wrong with Christmas sweets, can you? Baking treats – or even preparing a festive meal – can be a lot of fun with kids, and your host parents will likely not complain about having something yummy to sample. Take this time to introduce your host family to Christmas traditions from your home country.
And if you need some inspiration, check out these kid-friendly Christmas cookies. Enjoy!
(photo by dreamstime)
Anyone who lives (or has lived) in Germany knows that Germans are pros at celebrating the Christmas season. I discovered this truth when I first traveled to Berlin as a teenager, and again when I worked as an au pair in south Germany. Currently, I am experiencing another lovely (albeit cold!) Christmas season in Germany with my husband and three children, and it is as gorgeous now as it ever has been.
Au pairs – especially those in countries with very traditional holiday celebrations – are lucky in that they get to experience the wonders of the holidays in a whole new way. For those working in Germany as au pairs, this probably includes the Adventszeit, or the weekly count down to Christmas, which includes lighting a candle on the advent wreath each Sunday leading up to Christmas. Each candle represents something relating to the coming of Jesus’ birth, including hope, preparation, joy, and love (some times there is even a fifth candle, which represents Christ himself). I love that although religion and faith do not tend to play a huge part of modern Germany, the rich church history of the country still influences people in a good way.
St. Nikolaus Tag is another part of the German Christmas tradition that au pairs and other foreigners in Germany get to enjoy. The tradition is that on the morning of December 6, children who have behaved will awake to find their shoes, which are filled with candy, fruits, and nuts. Au pairs who have thoughtful host parents will also wake up to either a small gift or, if they are lucky, some delicious German chocolate!
Christmas markets are another one of the benefits of living in Germany. Even though it is cold, it is more than worth bearing the elements to experience what I consider the best part of Christmas in Germany. The Christmas markets are collections of vendors with stands made out of tiny wooden houses. You can buy anything from roasted, sugared almonds, to hats and gloves, Christmas decorations, and more. And of course – as everyone in Germany knows – no visit to a Christmas market is complete without at least one glass of German spiced wine!
If you are currently an au pair in Germany, consider yourself lucky and enjoy the rest of the season! But where ever it is you find yourself this season, enjoy the winter holidays and make the most of the season!
(photo by dreamstime)
So, the holidays are upon us – Thanksgiving was only a couple of weeks ago, and Christmas is only a little over two weeks away. Can you believe it? Am I the only one who thinks that December somehow shrinks every year?
Host families are usually very busy in December, which makes au pairs busy little bees as well. With Christmas parties, shopping, longer hours at work cramming in end-of-the-year projects, and the like, December gets hectic fast for families and their au pairs.
If you haven’t gotten around to Christmas shopping yet, you will be soon no doubt. You will probably not have a very hard time shopping for your friends and family in your new city and back home, but choosing appropriate (and affordable!) gifts for your host family may be more difficult.
Depending on what kind of family you are living with and working for, you may have children who either have all the the toys there are to have, so you are stuck wondering what to get them. Or you may be with a very minimalistic family who does not like their children to have playrooms that look like Toys-R-Us, meaning you don’t know if you can get them anything. Then there are the host parents – if you give them something, then what on earth should it be?
Add to all of this the financial dilemma of living off of roughly $500-$700 a month depending on where you work, and things can get a bit stressful. But they need not be. It is important to remember that you do not have to spend a lot of money on your host family. They know how much you earn and that you probably not afford to purchase expensive gifts for the whole family.
My recommendation is to get creative and keep things as simple as possible. Is there something you can give that the whole family would enjoy, such as a movie they all like or a game they would enjoy? If you aren’t sure what to give individual family members, then a group gift would simplify matters and make for a fun time.
Other ideas include giving services as gifts – such as an extra night of babysitting, cooking a special meal, or something similar. These things will cost you very little but would truly be appreciated by your host parents. For more ideas, Best Nanny Newsletter has some other great ideas from other au pairs and nannies as well.
What about you? Are you giving your host family gifts this year? If so, what?
The holidays are likely to make the days crazier than they usually are as an au pair. Being responsible to help out an entire family, in some way or another, can be tiring. Depending on your host family’s level of activity, you’re likely to have some – or maybe a lot – of extra work. Host families are generally busier this time of year; even more so if their children are involved in activities that include parties and other special events (plays, dance recitals, etc,.). Your host parents might also be busy with work and social activities, which tend to increase during the holidays, perhaps leaving you with more babysitting than usual. In addition to your host family’s activities, you have your own extras to think about and schedule in.
The sum total of all of this can leave you overtaxed, both physically and emotionally. To keep this from happening, make sure you get time to relax and recharge. Make sure you schedule in time to take it easy. And although parties with friends are oh-so-much-fun during the holidays, try not to overdo it. Have fun, but keep in mind that after Christmas, there will still be children to look after and chores to get done!