AU PAIR CULTURE QUESTS
The following information is generalized and compiled from questions posed to the agents and interviewers in Sweden. Although au pairs from this country may or may not have had these experiences/beliefs, Au Pair in America wishes to share this general information with our families.
Child Care Skills
- It is common for Swedes to take care of their siblings and cousins. It is considered natural that older children in the family take care of younger siblings, often driving them to after-school programs or to friends’ houses.
- Children are taught responsibility by giving them light but regular tasks and duties from an early age.
- Swedish children are listened to but not only in family life. Government offices and companies regularly bring in young Swedes and listen to their concerns to create room for their influence in their own future!
- For most parents, spending time outdoors and organizing sports activities means spending “quality time” spent with their children. It is very common for parents to be involved with sporting activities.
- All year round in Sweden there’s at least one activity that can be enjoyed, come rain, shine or winter blizzard. And the government has made it easy to enjoy Sweden’s nature by giving people the Right of Public Access, Allemansrätten.
- Parents are entitled to share 480 days, or around 16 months, of paid parental leave when a child is born!
- English is taught at all levels of education, starting in kindergarten. It is a compulsory subject in every kind of school from 1st grade to graduation. English classes focus on oral and written skills.
- English-language movies and TV series are not dubbed in Sweden (subtitles are used instead). As a result, Swedes have everyday contact with spoken English when watching TV, going to the cinema or using the Internet.
- Studies show that Swedes are some of the best non-native English speakers in the world!
- The minimum driving age in Sweden is 18. Most applicants obtain their driving license at this age. The process of obtaining the license is at least 6-12 months long.
- Getting a driver’s license in Sweden is hard. You have to attend a professional driving school and take driving lessons. When you are ready, you take the final tests. To get there you have to pass a number of theoretical tests at the school; drive well on all kinds of roads; attend a four-hour lesson about the dangers of alcohol, drugs and tiredness whilst driving; and pass a lesson where you try driving on icy and snowy roads combined with a lesson on the dangers of speeding.
- The final tests are hard to pass. The theoretical test contains about 60-70 questions and you can only get a few wrong. The driving test lasts 40-50 minutes.
- Education in Sweden is free and compulsory for 9 years. After the 9th school year, almost all Swedes continue to non-compulsory upper secondary school (high school).
- The free education continues at university level for students from the EU, but fees apply to students from outside the EU/EEA.
- Parents put a lot of focus on children’s education from a very young age. Children start to learn foreign languages very early on and take additional courses (e.g. dancing, ballet, arts & crafts, sports, horse-riding).
- Swedish policy states that every county council must provide residents with good quality health and medical care, and work to promote good health for the entire population. Regular medical check-ups are provided by schools at every stage of education.
- Healthcare (including dental care) is essentially free in Sweden until the age of 20. Infants get free Vitamin D drops until the age of two – important in Sweden’s cold climate.
- Dental care is free for all children. It is common to visit the dentist on a regular basis.
- It is common knowledge in Sweden that “time” should be respected at all times – regardless of whether you’re going for an interview or a friendly fika. Meetings will start on time with or without you. The train leaves on time with or without you. Swedes value punctuality.
- Swedes celebrate summer with an intensity that can only be found in a people who have just endured a long, dark winter.
- Swedes are usually very straightforward and honest – they say it like it is!
- Fika is Swedish for a coffee break that is more about socializing than drinking coffee. Accompanying sweets are crucial. Cinnamon buns, cakes, cookies, even open-faced sandwiches pass as acceptable fika fare. Fika can happen at any time – morning as well as evening.
- In mid-June, school is out and nature has burst into life. It seems like the sun never sets. In fact, in the north of Sweden it doesn’t, and in the south only for an hour or two. This calls for celebration! Friends and family gather for the most typically Swedish tradition of all: Midsummer. People often begin the day by picking flowers and making wreaths to place on the maypole.
- A typical Midsummer menu features different kinds of pickled herring, boiled new potatoes with fresh dill, soured cream and chives. This is often followed by a grilled dish of some kind, such as spare rib or salmon, and for dessert the first strawberries of summer, with cream.
- How are you? Hur mår du?
- Fine, thanks. Bra, tack.
- My name is… Jag heter…
- Nice to meet you! Trevligt att träffas!
- Thank you. Tack.
“You will make so many new friends and memories. You will be so proud and happy that you made it! What are you waiting for, go!” – Klara, au pair from Sweden
“It is the most challenging and rewarding thing I’ve ever done. I’ve learned so much about myself and a new country. The best part is that I now have two families, one in Sweden and one in the U.S.”– Sara, au pair from Sweden
“It’s the best adventure I’ve ever experienced.”– Johanna, au pair from Sweden
“By inviting a person from another country to join our family, live with us, and learn about our culture, we actually learn so much about ourselves, how our own culture and way of life appear through the lens of someone new.”
Belle, host parent