When I first thought about becoming an Au Pair, I didn’t think about it the way I do now. I wanted to improve my German skills and get to see the world and live abroad without spending a huge amount of money. I had just graduated and I wasn’t ready to start working with a language I didn’t have a strong command of. Surprisingly, the most important thing I take from my experience doesn’t happen to be the language but the people it has connected me to.
The moment I landed in Germany my language skills were really poor. However, my host family kept me motivated during my whole stay! They took their time to explain things, invited me to different events, and most of all they trusted me to perform different duties where using the language was a must (from getting the phone to taking their kid to play dates with other people). This gave me a lot of confidence and I still feel really comfortable talking to them about any issue even if my German is still not perfect.
Apart from improving my language skills, I also got to learn a lot about the German culture, which has helped me to better understand the people and their traditions. Living abroad and exposing yourself to a new culture helps to open your mind and gain a new understanding and respect for it until ultimately you feel it is a part of you. And I must say I do love the cultural differences that show up spontaneously whenever I go to visit my family in Spain or when I am back from holidays in Germany. Sometimes I do have to think twice and not kiss Germans when meeting them for the very first time and I usually have to explain myself for the hand-shakings in Spain. However, every family, every Au Pair and every culture are different and both parts need to adapt and learn from each other. As an Au Pair you need to be flexible and understand it can sometimes be hard for a family to host a completely stranger and make them part of their family. It is part of your duties to respect their environment and their culture instead of trying to impose yours, which is something we sometimes forget.
The host family should understand it is not easy for the Au Pair to be in a new environment with new people from another culture and try to make it your home at once. That is why it is really important for the host parents to integrate their Au Pair and be patient with them and to also remind them that despite of the unusual situation they are now part of the family.
In my opinion, everybody should have this experience at least once in a lifetime. You really get to know yourself in a different environment as opposed to the one you are used to and love a new, different culture as much as your own.