Cultural Sense in the Au Pair Program

Common sense is a myth.

You are now a multicultural family! It is essential for host families to embrace cultural exchange in their household; to make an effort to practice cultural competency and mutual respect in regards to cultural differences in communication, language, food, holidays, religion, etiquette, social norms, hygiene, child care practices and more.

In cultural exchange there is no such thing as “common sense”, but rather, “cultural sense”, common only to those who share a given culture. Be patient, kind and empathetic as you and your au pair share your cultures and learn from each other during your program year. Host families should exercise their authority as the Host by setting a positive example and tone for a successful cultural exchange experience.

3 Ways to Practice Cultural Sense 

  1.  Talk about and demonstrate household table manners. Use of utensils and condiments, hygienic practices at mealtimes, helping ourselves to seconds, expressing whether we like or dislike dishes prepared, cell phone use, dinner conversation, and how we excuse ourselves are not common across cultures.
  2. “Please, thank you and excuse me” may be new phrases for your new family member. Model good manners and express your appreciation often to set a good example.
  3. Provide clear written and verbal instructions regarding child care expectations. Model your expectations and allow time for adjustment. Post visual reminders to help bridge language barriers. Au pairs need time to adjust to foreign parenting styles and methods of discipline they are encountering for the very first time in your home. 

Advice from LCs

NataliaLocal Coordinator and Former Au Pair
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“Have fun! Enjoy your time together and the chance to learn from each other’s culture and most important of all, keep an open communication policy. Communication is key to ensuring everyone is on the same page. Many of us come from different cultures and some things tend to get lost in translation or could mean different things depending on where you are from. One last tip is to show empathy for one another.”
JenniferLocal Coordinator
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“My best tip for au pairs and host families is to familiarize yourself with the cultural norms of each other’s home country. Oftentimes our background greatly impacts our communication style and misunderstandings can happen when we don’t factor in the cultural aspect. Also, it helps build a bond when you find shared interests you can participate in together, especially in the initial months as you adjust to having a new family member.”
FrancescaLocal Coordinator and Former Au Pair
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“Common sense is cultural, so always take time to pause, rephrase, and think out of the box.