If you have, you’re already in the right direction to be a good host family!
When getting au pairs, you should always bear in mind that these young girls/boys have just arrived in a foreign country where they know nobody, they are in a different culture, they must speak a foreign language and probably eat different food to what they are used to. It is very normal for an au pair to take a little time to settle into their new environment. Here are a few things that you can do to help your au pairs to feel more at home. It will take them a while to adjust to their new environment, so try to .
1. Spend some quality time with your au pair
When your au pair arrives it is important to be as understanding and as patient as possible and make them feel at ease. At the beginning it's always a good idea to show your au pair around the area where you live. Introduce her to the local amenities such as the park, the library, the shops, where to catch the public transport etc. We would also recommend that you would spend some time with your au pair each day. Use this time to ask them about their day, what they did, how they are finding their new environment, and tell them a bit about your day too. It’s important that you also share a small part of your life with them, so that you develop a relationship with them to help them feel part of your family. Remember at the beginning your au pair may not have the English to explain everything she/he wants to say but by talking to them, it will give them a chance to practice their English and improve their speaking skills.
2. Get to know your au pair
The best way to make your au pair feel at home is to get to know them. For example, ask them what their favourite foods are and buy some of these when you do the grocery shopping. Or, find out their favourite hobbies and what they like to do in their free time. If your au pair likes cycling, you might encourage her to take your kids out for a cycle. If your au pair likes to cook you might offer that she cooks for the family occasionally. This is a great way for your family to experience new foods and flavours and it will also allow your au pair to have some of their food from their own country. If you know their favourite band is playing in town, you could bring them to the gig. Or, if you know who their favourite author is, you could buy them a simplified English version of one of his books, so that they can practice their English and at the same time do something they like.
3. Be fair to your au pair
Before starting a placement, au pairs and host families usually have a conversation over the phone or on Skype. It is important that the family and the au pair discuss the placement terms (pocket money, working hours, housework to be carried out by the au pair, etc.). An au pair agreement should also be drawn up and signed by both you and your au pair. It's really important that the family and au pair stick to what it says in the agreement. For example if the au pair is due to finish work at 6pm, it is important that she finishes at 6pm. If you are due to give your au pair her pocket money on Saturday, she should be paid her pocket money on Saturday. If for some reason you aren't sticking to the terms of the agreement, you need to sit down and talk to your au pair about this. For example, if you’re always late, you could give her an extra day off one weekend or you could buy them a special gift every now and then. Always remember to treat your au pair as if she was one of your own children. If you expect your au pair to stick to the agreement then it is important that you also stick to it.
4. Help them find new friends
One of the hardest things for au pairs when they move to a new country, can be loneliness. Moving to a new country for 6 months or more is a big challenge for a young person and it's important that your au pair finds some new friends to share this new experience. Before your au pair arrives, you should check out what are the options available in your town to meet new people. Here are some suggestions:
- If your au pair hasn't enrolled in a language course yet, check out the language schools in your area.
- If your au pair is into sports, find a sports league in your town that he/she could join.
- Contact your au pair agency and ask them if they can give you the contact details of other au pairs in town.
- Find out if there are other au pairs in your estate or area and introduce your au pair to them.
5. Say Thank you!
Life can be very busy for a family these days and sometimes it can be easy to forget to thank your au pair for all the effort and hard work she puts in. If you see your au pair is doing a great job with the children, helping you a lot in the house, and making your everyday life better, always remember to thank her/him every now and then. Show them you trust them and show your appreciation for the good things they do. Your au pair will feel rewarded and will be happy to keep on doing her/his best. Remember feeling appreciated is really important to everyone!