Finding the perfect host family can be a tricky task, considering the fact that you’re not able to meet and interview them in person before you actually move in with them. But don’t worry, in this article I’m going to help you find the right questions to ask.
Your au pair year should be a happy and exciting time in your life. It would be so disappointing if your excitement gets interrupted by the uncomfortable feeling that you might have picked the wrong host family. Please talk to potential host families several times before you make a decision and only match with them if you have absolutely no doubts.
When you talk to a potential host family, be confident and ask whatever questions come to your mind. Don’t be afraid that they won’t like you because you’re asking challenging questions – they will most likely be happy about you taking your research so seriously. Answer all of their questions truthfully, no need to impress. I know we may want to show our best and sweetest side in situations like this, but it’s better to just be your usual self. You will not be able to hide your true personality and flaws from your host family for an entire year. They will get to know you very well within a short period of time. And we’re all human – Nobody is perfect!
Think about what you want to achieve in your year in America. What do you want to learn? What is important to you? Would you rather be treated like a family member and spend a lot of time with your host family or keep your distance and be more independent? Would you be okay to have a stay-at-home parent around all day? Do you prefer to watch young children or teenagers? How many children do you feel comfortable taking care of? It’s good to have an idea about your ideal host family before you start your matching process.
If you’re talking to several host families at a time, take notes to help you remember all the details of your interviews.
Ask if you can contact previous au pairs of the families to get a better idea of what living with them is like.
Go over the host family’s information and details of your interview with your parents and friends at home – ask them for their opinion.
If you are like me, you might get overly excited and just hope for a host family – any host family – to say “yes”. But it’s really you who should choose – this is your year!
If the host family you are talking to is not the right fit, you will feel it in your heart – trust this feeling! Don’t worry, there will be another family you will interview and they will be a much better match than the last one you talked to. Don’t be afraid to say no!
Here are the most important things to talk about in your host family interviews:
How will I fit into your family?
Why do you want an au pair and not a nanny / daycare?
Will I be welcome to have dinner with your family in the evenings?
Is there a special diet that your family follows?
Are any of the kids allergic to certain foods? (Also tell them if you are!)
Will I be invited to join you on day trips or weekend activities?
What does the family do in its free time?
What are the parents’ personalities like?
Can I still hang out in the living room when you have guests?
What are your religious views and how will they affect my daily life?
Are there any house rules or a curfew that I should know about?
Do you have a family handbook? May I read it before I make a decision?
Watching the Kiddos
What are your kids’ personalities like?
What are the kids hobbies / after school activities?
What are their favorite games / toys?
Do they have any kind of special needs?
Will I speak English with the kids or do you want me to teach them my mother language?
Do the children help in the household? What are their chores?
Can I involve the kids in organizing their rooms, cooking, etc.?
How do you reward the kids for their help?
How do you discipline the kids in your family?
How can I deal with the kids when they throw tantrums?
Does your child ever get violent / hit / bite? How should I handle situations like that?
Will I be allowed to take the kids to parks / playgrounds / museums, etc.?
What will my usual work day look like?
Is there a set schedule for each week?
Which housework do you expect me to do?
Will I cook for the kids or even the whole family?
Will I be working on weekends? If so, how often?
Will I be alone with the kids or will one of the parents always be home / work from home?
What happens if the parents come home late from work? How often does this happen?
What is your area like?
Is there a public transportation system?
Are there any libraries, coffee shops, shopping malls, etc. around?
What is the closest big city and how can I get there?
Are there any colleges around where I can take classes to get my credits?
Do many au pairs live in your area?
How many au pairs are in your cluster / au pair group?
Your new Home
What does the living arrangement look like?
Where is the au pair room located in your house?
When in the basement, does it have a window / natural light?
Will I have my own bathroom?
Will there be a cell phone available for me or do I need to bring my own?
Can I invite my friends over?
What if I have a boyfriend / girlfriend, can they come visit?
Are there any clothing rules or a dress code in your house?
I have a piercing / tattoo. Is this okay with you?
If friends / family from my home country visit, can they stay in your house?
Will I be driving the children to school / after school activities?
Will there be a car available for me to drive in my free time?
Are there any rules / restrictions about driving the car in my free time (like driving at night, driving with friends, driving into city centers, trips to places that are a little further away)?
Are you still in contact with your previous au pairs?
Did you have any issue with one of your previous au pairs? How did you handle it?
What did you like / dislike about your previous au pairs?
Can I talk to your current au pair?
I’m wishing you all the best in your matching process and hope you will find the best host family you can imagine!
It is so much fun to experience the American culture by living with a local family and so refreshing to see the world through your host children’s eyes. You will learn to take on many new responsibilities, yet at the same time feel like your adult life is on hold.
This is your chance to spend the perfect year full of new experiences, travel and friendships. Make sure to do everything you can to find a great host family that matches all your expectations.
How many host families did you talk to before you matched? What made you realize that they are the perfect fit for you? I can’t wait to hear from you!
Do you need help packing for your au pair year? Check out my packing tips for your year abroad here.
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