We all know that getting an Au Pair is a great solution to childcare: it gives your family the opportunity to have an extra set of hands in the house to help look after the children and run the household more smoothly.
Having said that, one of the main aims of the Au Pair program is also to encourage cultural exchange between different nationalities. Indeed, the Au Pairs take part in this experience as they are interested in living in a foreign country, getting to know its culture, customs, tradition and language. The cultural exchange, though, can go both ways, as the Au Pair could bring her own culture and language into the Host Family.
Exposing your children to another culture and language will help them develop into more rounded and open-minded people: building a close relationship with somebody from a foreign country will give your kids a bigger understanding and appreciation for other perspectives and viewpoints, which will be a great advantage in their future adult life.
Not to mention the great linguistic benefit that this experience will generate, as the Au Pair could definitely speak or teach her native language to the children.
If all this sounds interesting to you, keep reading! In this article, we have gathered different strategies and techniques to help you integrate the Au Pair’s culture and language into your family life!
How to integrate the Au Pair's culture
There are many aspects that can be considered part of the culture of a country. In a family environment, food and domestic traditions are the easiest ones to actually carry out and experience.
As one of the Au Pair duties is to cook meals for your children, you should encourage her to cook or bake some typical dishes of her Home Country. This way, your kids will get to experience different flavours, which will definitely expand their culinary taste and their appreciation of other cuisines. This doesn’t mean that the Au Pair should only cook what she already knows. Indeed, as said previously, the cultural exchange goes both ways, so your Au Pair will probably also want to learn some typical recipes of the Host Country.
Cooking and baking could also become an activity that the kids and the Au Pair do together – and you, as parents, could also join in! It is a great way to bond and to make the Au Pair feel welcomed in your family.
In some particular occasions, for example the Holidays, the Host Family is encouraged to involve the Au Pair in the family traditions and to teach her about that particular event.
In order for the cultural exchange to be complete, you should encourage your Au Pair to share her own traditions, which could be related to a public holiday or even a holiday that is not celebrated in your own country. You could ask your Au Pair to involve your children by preparing some craft activities to do with them, or teach them some songs or games.
How to integrate the Au Pair's language
More and more families are now raising their children in a bilingual environment, even parents that are native of the country they live in. This is happening because many people are recognising the benefits of being exposed to more than one language from an early age. You can read more about bilingual education here
Hiring an Au Pair will definitely facilitate this process, as your children will be in close contact with a foreign language for most part of the day. The exposure can vary from total, which means that the Au Pair will only speak in her native language with them, or partial, where the Au pair will spend only some time teaching the language. This could be done in many different ways: games, activities, songs, etc.
Remember to make sure that the Au pair is aware that you would like her to speak her language with the kids. We always recommend to specify this in the description boxes of your profile, as some Au Pairs specifically go to a foreign country to learn the language spoken there and would like to practice it for as much time as possible.
In addition, make sure that your future Au Pair knows that you would like her to share her culture with you, so that she can bring something typical from her own country which will help her do so.
So what are you waiting for? Start this amazing intercultural adventure by signing up as a Host Family and creating your profile to find the perfect Au Pair!
If you’re an Au Pair that has experienced any of these situations, we would like to hear more! Send us your story to firstname.lastname@example.org!