What to Tell Your Au Pair Before She Arrives!

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When you visit the Go Au Pair website and being your search for an au pair, you will naturally begin to think of, and hopefully write down, all the expectations you have for the perfect caregiver for your kids. You will, of course, think of daily things like picking up the kids from the bus or fixing and cleaning up snack or supervising homework. House rules, expectations and communication will be high on the list of topics to consider.

When you begin interviewing potential au pairs, these directly child-related tasks will be the topic of many of your conversations, but I don’t want you to leave out some other things your au pair may want to know about before he or she arrives. Some may be of major concern for your au pair, depending on where you live and where he or she calls home. It is not uncommon for an au pair to arrive at their new home virtually unprepared for certain aspects of the placement that neither party may have considered important at the time.

First, it may be important to discuss with your potential au pair what kind of food you and your family eat as well as what kind of foods are available nearby in either grocery stores or restaurants. One aspect of our culture that many au pairs feel unprepared is the food. Many au pairs come from rural areas where all the food is home grown and prepared fresh in the kitchen, including meat and not just vegetables, to which we may be more culturally familiar. Au pairs may be surprised or need instruction on how to shop for certain items (such as colored-cap milk options or varied-purposed cleaners/detergents). One au pair even shared with the Au Pair Sis how she couldn’t believe soup came ready-to-eat in a can!

Second, depending on where you live, people get around in different ways. For example, in many cultures, including those throughout Europe and Asia, families use public transportation as a rule and do not own their own vehicles. If you live in a more suburban or rural area like Smithfield, Tiverton, or Charlestown, your au pair may be expected to drive in varied local and highway conditions, something that should be discussed beforehand and practiced with supervision. Many au pairs do come with an International Driver’s License, which RI recognizes for one year (but check with your state’s Division of Motor Vehicles), but may not have experience driving in icy and snowy conditions which we do get each winter.

This leads me to my third point: weather. It is very important to consider the climate we live in as compared to the climate your au pair calls home. This is not to say au pairs cannot learn to be comfortable in a climate different from their usual one, but just to bring it to his or her attention prior to arrival. If he or she is coming from a very different climate, be considerate of that and provide sweaters, sweatshirts, extra blankets and warm clothes if necessary, as you would a house guest.

Finally, one should consider what the culture of your area is like or what cultural activities are offered nearby, even if you and your family have never been or accessed them. Do you live close to downtown Providence where day and night life is bustling with activity? Or do you live in Foster, where the only traffic on your street on Sunday could be the horse-drawn carriage or tractor from the farm down the street? Does your local town offer any cultural activities? You might consider checking with your local library or town hall or recreation department if you don’t know the answer yourself.

Please call me, Joan Lowell, Go Au Pair Local Area Representative for Providence, RI at 401.309.1925 or message me at jlowell@goaupair.com with your child care questions. Visit our local page at http://www.goaupair.com/Providence.

We are accepting host family applications in the RI, CT and MA area and look forward to meeting your child care needs with a cultural child care experience!

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