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Au Pair Program and Religion: Learn about Fitri's experience

by Genesis Rivas
Au Pair Program and Religion: Learn about Fitri's experience
You probably already know that one of the main objectives of the Au Pair program is to promote a linguistic and cultural exchange between both parties involved. Although the topic of cultural exchange sounds very exciting, in practice it can be a bit more complicated than it seems. Especially when it comes to aspects that may be extremely important to people, such as their religious beliefs. 

Religion can define the traditions, diet, community to which they belong, and even the moral compass of many people. It can even be the filter through which they understand the world.  Regardless of how significant religion is to you, it is imperative that you develop a sense of tolerance, respect, and understanding of other belief systems before becoming an Au Pair. 


Are you a little concerned that your religious leanings may cause friction with your Host Family? Don't worry. We had an interesting interview with Fitri, an Au Pair from Indonesia who worked with Host Families in Europe. Read on and learn more about her experience.
 

1. Could you talk a little about your home country, your culture, and the importance of religion in it? 
 

I come from Indonesia where we have many cultures as we have many islands and different races, also there are 6 official religions recognized by the government – Islam, Christians (Protestantism), Catholic, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. Over 200 million people (86,7% of the population) are Muslims in Indonesia. In the place where I grew up, religion it's really important. Muslims often go to the mosque, most of them are men, but it is also open to women. Some women wear Hijab. Young kids go to the Islamic school for studying basic Islam and learning how to read Arabic so that they can read the Holy Book Al-Quran and practicing the prayer. This is what I did when I was younger. 
 

2. During the first interviews with your Host Family, was the topic of religion an issue you felt was indispensable to discuss? Do they practice any religion? 
 

Being a Muslim, I talked a lot about my religion with my Families in Belgium and Germany. They are Muslims too, but they do not practice the religion as I do. So it was indispensable to make it clear that for me, it is essential to wear the hijab, pray, and fast.  I also worked as a babysitter before with non-Muslim parents, but they were really open-minded and let me practice my traditions as long as it did not interfere with my performance. I remember that when I worked in Bali as a babysitter for Italian and Russian families they even let me pray with the kids (so the kids could watch me because for them, it was interesting). Sometimes the parents took care of the kids for about 10 minutes, so I could focus on my prayer. I am flexible and so far the kids were nice. Now I do an apprenticeship (Ausbildung in Germany), I work with colleagues that are non-Muslim, but they are charming and even one of them reminds me to pray sometimes. My boss let me pray in the workplace. 
 

3. What was the cultural-religious aspect that impacted you the most during your Au Pair experience? 
 

The cultural-religious aspect that impacted me the most was when I fasted during Ramadhan. I really felt lonely here, as in my country I always did that with my family and I would gather with my friends to fast together. 
 

4. How did you handle the issue of religious differences, was it complicated, or do you think everything flowed smoothly?
 

For me, it was not really complicated as I was honest with them about myself in the first place, so then they could understand me. But for sure in the case of praying, I really needed to be able to manage the time for doing it and working, as I need to pray 5 times per day.
 

5. Did the Host Family give you the opportunity to express your beliefs and traditions? 
 

My Host Families and employers are open-minded and easygoing, so I did not have any issues with them. 
 

6. Did the Au Pair experience change your belief system at all? 
 

No, the experience did not change my belief system at all. 
 

7. Do you have any advice for those Au Pairs who, like you, might face religious differences when living with their Host Families?
 

I would like to advise for Au Pairs that are worried, please be yourself and don't panic. Tell them about your religion, so that you can avoid any misunderstanding. If they're good Host Families, they will accept you for who you are, no matter what your religion is. They will respect you. 

 

We are glad Fitri has found an environment that promotes freedom and tolerance, both with her Host Families and in her workplace. To give you some extra help with this topic, here are some tips that you can consider: 


1. We have filters that indicate the religious inclinations of each user of our platform. Check them before adding a Family as your favorite. 


2. Schedule at least 3 video calls with the Host Family before deciding whether to work with them or not. Use these calls to talk about topics such as your diet, work schedule, salary, free time, and traditions. 


3. Promoting a cultural exchange does not mean that you must adopt new beliefs or pretend that you do. Use this experience to learn more about other cultures, but don't feel forced to change your value system. 


4. The same is true in the opposite case. In no way try to convince the host parents or children to follow your religion. You can share your customs, but remember not to try to impose them. It is important that you discuss with the parents what kind of traditions you can teach the children. 


5. Finally, open your mind. The world is a wonderful and diverse place, and being an Au Pair is all about discovering new things. Learning about other people's cultures doesn't necessarily mean that you have to change or hide your own. Quite the contrary. Make the program a place of exchange and mutual recognition. 


Do you have any stories or tips to share on this topic? Let us know in the comments.

 
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