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Au pairs and host families

Au pairs and host families

(Text: Linn Stalsberg Photo: Werner Anderson)

Advice and tips to au pairs:

  • Use the time up to your arrival to get to know your host family and read about Norway and Norwegian culture. This will make the transition easier for you.
  • To start with, you are bound to be unsure about your role in the family. You are neither guest nor employee and it can be difficult to distinguish between work-time and private life because you are living with your host family. The children, for example, may want to be with you during your time off. You will have to discuss this with your host family in order to find a solution that both parties are satisfied with.
  • You are to be looked upon as a family member and you must behave like an adult daughter or son, that is to say help with washing and tidying around the house, laying the table before meals and clearing away afterwards. This should happen without anyone having to ask, just as if you were at home with your own family.
  • If you get homesick, talk with your host family and let them know what you are thinking and feeling.
  • Be active in relation to the things you are supposed to do. Don’t wait for the family to ask you to do something; take the initiative yourself when the need arises.
  • Don’t just put the children in front of the TV; be creative and find things to do together with them.
  • You should get a weekly plan from your host family detailing your tasks and when you can have time off. Sometimes, however, plans have to be changed suddenly and, since you host family expects you as the au pair to support them and help them in their daily life, you have to be flexible. This also means that you will have to work in the evening occasionally.
  • Your contract with your host family applies to both parties and both must follow it. If you experience anything you feel is abusive or unpleasant, seek help! You can contact lawyers and organisations that can help you through this website. You can also come into contact with other au pairs from your home country.

Advice and tips to host families:

  • In order to find the right candidate for your family, it is important o be clear about everybody’s needs and expectations. What are the needs of your child/children in terms of supervision? How important is that she/he knows how to do housework or make food? Be as concrete as possible regarding what you expect the au pair to do. Do you get on best with people who are very social and have lots of leisure interests or people who like to stay at home?
  • Ask the au pair about bringing up children and tell her how it is done in your family. Clear up questions relating to eating sweets, watching TV, setting boundaries and so on. It may well be that you have different views in this respect, but this also provides a unique opportunity to learn from each other.
  • Ask about the au pair’s expectations regarding her host family. Does she/he know anything about Norway. Does she/he want to stay for one year only or has she/he considered staying for two? What has she/he thought about doing when the au pair period is over?
  • Seek out information about the au pair’s home country, religion and food culture. Be aware that your wealth, and the poverty from which she/he often comes, affects the balance of power between you. This is something that the host family must be aware of.
  • When you au pair has arrived, it is your responsibility to help her/him find their role in your family and in your daily life. Talk together under way and put aside time for regular meetings where both large and small issues may be raised.
  • Respect the contract and remember that although the au pair may say yes, she/he may not think that what you are asking is ok. It can be difficult to say no as an au pair and most will want to go a long way for their host family to be satisfied. Bear this in mind when asking the au pair to carry out their work tasks.

Source: Atlantis Utveksling