When you consider working as an Au Pair, you should be aware that there will be cultural differences. Every country is different, but so is every family in the country of your choice!
What you might not have thought of is what I didn’t think of when I started applying as an Au Pair: you and your future Host Family might not share the same religious beliefs. Should you become an Au Pair for a family of a different religion?
Here’s what I experienced as a Christian Au Pair in a Jewish Host Family.
As orthodox Jews, my Host Family followed a kosher diet. In the kosher diet, you have three categories of food: meat, dairy and pareve (neutral). Meat and dairy are never to be mixed!
My Host Family had two different sets of plates, pots and pans. There were also two ovens, two sinks and two dishwashers. It took some getting used to, but after a while it was completely normal for me.
Since meat and dairy should not be mixed, not everything you find in stores is kosher. Fortunately, in many US-States (New York included) there are special symbols on the packaging. This made grocery shopping a hundred times easier.
You might have heard of Sabbath before, but do you know what a typical Sabbath looks like? Jews are not allowed to work during Sabbath. It starts every Friday at sundown and ends on Saturday at sundown. Not working doesn’t only mean they don’t go to work. It includes physical activities like riding the bike, running errands, using the car, using electronic devices and even touching money.
In daily life this means that during Sabbath you are not allowed to turn on or off any lights (my Host Family had a timer for this), you are not allowed to cook (they had all their meals prepared before the sun went down) and you are not allowed to drive or be driven anywhere (if you want to get somewhere you’ve got to walk).
At first, I was really overwhelmed by all of this. But by the end of the year I actually appreciated this electronics-free time.
Two of my Host Kids, Marc and Elliot, had to wear special religious clothes everyday. They had wear what they called a “tzitzit”, a kind of undergarment, with specially knotted tassels. They also had to wear either a kippa or at least a baseball cap on their heads. As a girl, Rose didn’t have to wear any of these things.
This one might be obvious, but still: Jews do not celebrate Christmas. When I was in New York, Christmas was during the week of Hanukka. There were menorahs all over the house and every night one additional candle would be lit up. Seeing the kids get all excited and saying their prayers (in Hebrew) while lighting their candles was beautiful to watch.
Even though I did not meet Santa Claus that December, I can confidently say that I really enjoyed my time there.
So, to answer the question “Should you become an Au Pair for a family of a different religion?”: why not? Sure, it took some getting used to not being able to turn off the light on Friday evenings, but after a while it became normal. I’m glad I decided to become my Host Family’s Au Pair regardless of their religion. I would have missed out on some amazing people in my life otherwise.
So don’t be scared. If you like a Host Family for who they are as people, don’t let something minor like their religion push you away from them.
I hope I was able to help you.
As always, stay tuned for more!