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Cultural shock as an Au Pair - How to cope with it

by Felicia on Sep 24, 2019
Cultural shock as an Au Pair - How to cope with it
As a cultural exchange, the Au Pair program requires a great effort from both the Host Family and the Au Pair, they must be willing to open their horizons and embrace a new experience. As for all the unfamiliar things, nobody says it will be easy, but nobody says it will be this hard. Follow our tips about coping with that threatening ghost called cultural shock

What is a cultural shock?

Cultural shock is the feeling that a person can experience when moving to a new place, especially to a new country. In the Au Pair program two different worlds are about to meet, and of course the Au Pairs are more likely to deal with cultural shock, since they are far away from home. 

How to recognize it?

Cultural shock is a feeling and it can be translated into bad mood, sadness, loneliness and homesickness, especially during the first days after you’ve moved. Usually it doesn’t last long, because everyone needs time to get used to the new environment, but in the worst cases, the cultural shock can seriously impact on everyday life.

What are the causes?

There can be plenty of them.
  • Sometimes even the very different climate can influence your mood, especially if you come from a very sunny and warm area and you are moving to a cold and rainy one.
  • The food, of course. New culture means new food and sometimes the shock could be really big (insects for lunch?!).
  • The foreign language. As an Au Pair you are required to speak at least a foreign language. And even if you are constantly watching TV series in the original language, it’s always different to talk with native speakers. Accents and dialects can be hard to catch and not understanding a word can be very frustrating sometimes.

The four stages of cultural shock as an Au Pair

There are plenty of studies about the cultural shock and the Oberg model offers a clear explanation of the four typical stages.
  • The Honeymoon stage is the idealization phase, where everything looks so beautiful and fascinating. As an Au Pair though, it’s unlikely to experience the Honeymoon in the first days, because they are the hardest ones. In fact, when arriving to the Host Family home, the Au Pair has to familiarize to their new room, the schedule, the job and the language. 
  • If the first impression about the new environment wasn’t positive, the negation phase might step up.  Basically you’ll see every single negative aspect of the experience and you will exaggerate it, evening losing a pen will be a tragedy. We hope that you’ll never step into this phase, but it can happen and we just have to understand the best way to avoid it and fight it! 

How to cope with it?

In order to fall into the adjustment and adaptation phases, you will need to open up! Talk with the Host Family about your feelings, let them know if you find difficult to handle things and don’t feel ashamed. You can try to talk with your friends and family as well, they will encourage you no matter what. If you miss home so much, cook your favourite dish, focus on your job and go out and make friends! A good company will help you and everything's gonna be alright

Conclusion

Cultural shock isn’t negative as long as it can be overcome. Moving in a foreign country is a courageous life experience where you can really learn a lot about the world and yourself. Going away from the comfort zone is not easy but doing that means being able to open your mind and it’s a good way to feed human curiosity. New experiences are the greatest life-teachers! 
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Some Thoughts...
Olga
Oct, 18, 2019 - 10:10 am
If it , I must going away from the comfort zone!
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