Resources for Current Host Families
Encouraging Cultural Exchange
Your au pair has chosen to spend a year of her life living far from friends and family. There are many motivating reasons for this decision, not the least of which is to learn more about life in the United States. You have chosen Au Pair in America as a child care solution. The cultural exchange component of the program can be educational, enriching and rewarding for your family.
Here are some ideas for maximizing the benefits of cultural exchange:
- When an au pair arrives, she probably has brought pictures from home. Ask to see the pictures, and ask her about her family, her home town, her country.
- Share information about your family, your occupation, your community.
- Ask the au pair what she likes to eat. If her preferred foods are available locally, buy them and taste them. If she likes to cook, invite her to make foods from home to share with the family. Start a cookbook with international favorites. Offer her some American recipes to take home.
- Show the au pair your children’s favorite storybooks and teach her nursery rhymes and songs that might be part of their everyday routine.
- Encourage your au pair to teach the children songs, games and phrases from her country.
- Have local maps and tourist information available to the au pair. Help her to plan her vacation time to see other parts of the United States.
- Ask the au pair to show you and the children where she lives on a map or on a globe.
- Encourage your au pair to visit the children’s school to share information about her country. Most teachers would embrace this opportunity.
- In the United States we celebrate holidays that are either unique to this country, or are unique in how they are celebrated. Share your celebrations and give the au pair the opportunity to experience our holidays.
- Your au pair may be of a different religion than you, but even if she isn’t, her holiday customs may be different. Find out what they are, enable her to share them with you, and accommodate her whenever you can in her own celebration.
- Explain customs and habits to your au pair that may seem routine to you but might be different for her. Don’t assume that she will know how we do things or understand what we do.
- Encourage the au pair to tell you what seems strange to her. Encourage her to ask you questions about how we do things in the U.S.
- Include her as part of the family’s activities but accept when she wants to go out on her own.
- Investing time and energy in cultural exchange may someday culminate in a memorable trip to visit the au pair in her own country.