Category Archives: Tips for Parents

Finding the perfect match

Go Au Pair uses a mutual matching process to help host families and au pairs find the best fit.  To get the most out of the tool, it’s important that you spend time narrowing your options and especially interviewing au pairs.

Many au pairs are infant qualified, have driver’s licenses, or speak multiple languages.  On paper, it can be difficult to know whether one au pair will be better for your family than another.  The answer?  Interview.  Not once, but two or three times.

If you are able, use Skype or another video conferencing tool, so that you can see your potential au pair.  So much of his or her personality will be lost without the visual element–facial expressions and body language will allow you to experience your au pair’s sense of humor and warmth.

When it comes time to choose your au pair, you may find, as many host families do, that something just “clicks,” with a certain candidate and many of the must-haves on your wishlist feel a bit less necessary.  Learn more about trusting your gut: read When Matching Trust your Instincts.

keep calm and follow your instincts

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More on Culture Shock

A few months ago, I talked about Food and Culture Shock.  While I believe that a lack of familiar foods is one of the most pronounced ways a traveler feels homesickness and culture shock, culture shock goes beyond that.

What is culture shock?  Culture shock is a term used to describe the disorientation someone feels when they leave a familiar social environment.  In the case of an au pair, that environment is their home country.  Experts have identified four phases of culture shock, and an au pair may experience one phase or all of them during her stay in the U.S.  As you prepare for your au pair’s arrival, be ready for the first few months:

In the “honeymoon phase,” your au pair is enamored of her new situation, taking in the new sights and sounds of her host city and her new home.  All of the new experiences are so exciting that it is difficult for the au pair to leave the fascination behind and be objective.

Once the new wears off, your au pair may begin to notice and experience some anxiety about the differences in her culture and the Midwestern culture of Indianapolis.  For example, the welcoming, friendly attitude most Indianapolis residents have toward complete strangers on the street might go against the social traditions the au pair is used to.  What felt in the first few days after arrival like the city was rolling out a red carpet for an honored guest might begin to seem like an imposition, especially if your au pair is an introvert.  Additionally, the language barrier may lead to misunderstandings that can become a major frustration, and this is typically the period when homesickness begins to set in.

Help your au pair navigate the “negotiation phase” by keeping the lines of communication open.  Welcome questions about American and Midwestern culture, be open to learning about the au pair’s home country, and try to find common ground by doing activities that highlight it–share a traditional meal from each culture or encourage participation in a local activity that will help your au pair find friends to both distract from and share in the homesickness.

Would you like to learn more about the Four Phases of Culture Shock?  Click here to read more.

Food Culture Shock – Finding Familiar Foods

Food is one of the best tools in your arsenal to combat homesickness.  Au pairs, if you’re feeling a little lost without the comforting home-cooked meals you left behind, check out these local resources.

Saraga International Market – Saraga carries food from all over the world at two locations in Indianapolis.  Hard-to-find fruits, vegetables, staples, and spices are almost always available on their shelves.  And if you aren’t a cook, they have a pretty impressive array of global ready-to-eat entrees, breads, and side dishes.  I personally sneak off to Saraga for frozen, ready-to-warm garlic naan, but they have everything from bulk rice to duck eggs to British teas.

For German cuisine, try Heidelburg House german bakery for springerle (they also have a restaurant!) or Claus German Sausage, which stocks freshly-made meats and charcuterie, specialty breads, mustards, and other staples.

Asia Mart Grocery caters to clients from Thailand, China, Japan, Korea and the Phillipines.

There are a wide array of international markets that specialize in specific parts of the world, and I’ll update this page as I learn of more.

Have you found one that you love?  Let me know about it below!

 

Food Culture Shock – Europe v. the U.S., pt. 1

Years ago, I participated in a year-long cultural exchange program in the U.K.  I’m a picky eater, and at the time, loved my food plain (no condiments, no fancy spices).  England was the perfect locale for me because the food was, no offense, pretty dull.  But, after a month or two, I began to notice a distinct lack of foods that I took for granted when I lived in the U.S.  I started to crave brand-name, sweetened peanut butter, my mom’s homemade chicken soup, grilled cheese sandwiches, and maple syrup.  The peanut butter was nowhere to be found, there was no cheese like the stuff at home, and I looked for months trying to find a good substitute for the Polish egg noodles that are the centerpiece of Mom’s soup.  Every time I pondered a grilled cheese and chicken soup, I’d get a little more homesick.  Thankfully, after a lot of trial and error, and a care package or two from home, I was able to find the familiar flavors I loved, and fill in the gaps with some new local favorites.

Food has a lot of power.  The smell of a familiar dish can trigger an intense memory, and the lack of familiar foods can really begin to drive you crazy.  This is a series.  In this post, I’m going to tell you a little about the differences you’ll see in American groceries and food habits.  Then, in subsequent installments, I’ll show you how Indianapolis’ history of immigration makes it a great city for finding some of the familiar foods you miss.

One of the first things visitors to the U.S. notice about food is probably the relative lack of small specialty shops compared to their home country.  For good or ill, the typical American diet includes a lot of packaged, processed foods and meals at restaurants.  Most grocery stores multi-task as pharmacies or general retail outlets, stocking fresh, frozen and packaged foods as well as a small selection of  medicines, toiletries, gifts, and office supplies.  Larger retailers (locally, you’ll find Target, Walmart, Meijer, Kmart) also include pets, clothing, electronics, garden supplies, and furniture among their merchandise, and some even have banks, hair salons, and portrait studios inside.  It can be overwhelming, even if you’ve lived your whole life in urban America.

Indianapolis does have local food shops that specialize, like bakeries and butcher shops, but they are concentrated down town.  If you miss the shopping experience of your home country, a great place to get fresh artisan-quality foods is the farmer’s market.  Markets are held year-round in various parts of the city and boast seasonal produce, specialty baked goods, and sustainably-raised meat and poultry.  Click here to see Indy’s most popular markets.

The other major difference you’ll notice between European and American food is regulation:  foods banned in the E.U. are permissable in the U.S., and not all of them are required to be labeled.  If you’re concerned about genetically modified foods and additives, it takes a little savvy shopping.

  • You’ll find food dyes in the “ingredients” list on the side or back of the box.
  • BPA is still used in the U.S.  It’s used by some brands to line the interior of food cans.  Plastic storage containers and packaging not intended for infants and children are not required to be labeled if they contain Pthalates or BPA, but most manufacturers now boast “BPA-free!” on labels if they’ve removed it from their products.
  • The U.S. does not prevent the washing of poultry in chlorinated water.
  • Farmers may use pesticides, antibiotics, and bovine growth hormone.  The “Clean 15/Dirty Dozen” is a list of the least and most risky fruits and vegetables.  If you are concerned about pesticides in produce, consult this list to help make an informed decision at the grocer.  Public outcry about antibiotics and growth hormones has resulted in some companies ceasing their use.  As with BPA, companies are generally keen to label their products when they are free of these additives, as it is a major selling point.  But, be careful, because non-regulated marketing claims can be misleading.  For example, a certification system exists for organic food and only certified growers may use “Certified Organic” on a label; in contrast, no reliable certification process exists for the use of the word “natural” on labels in the U.S.
  • Genetically-Modified Organisms are not forbidden in the U.S., and they are also  not required to be labeled.  There are a few Organic brands that undergo a third-party certification process and can boast that they are GMO-free.  Corn, soy, and beets are the most common GMO crops in the U.S.  Otherwise, it can be tricky to avoid GMOs, especially in convenience foods.    Here are some tips.

All these concerns aside, there’s a lot to love about American cuisine.  Next time, we’ll look at the great food in Indianapolis (both ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook) that can help you battle food-induced homesickness.

When Illness Strikes and Avoiding Illness

Cold?

Photo courtesy of Flickr user foshydog

At least once during your year, someone in the home is likely to become sick, especially if there are school-aged children or the host parents work in a heavy-traffic environment, like a university, office building, or retail space.

All Au Pairs have basic traveler’s health insurance, with the option to upgrade.  It’s important to understand that this is not a comprehensive plan.  Without comprehensive insurance, routine care can be very expensive in the U.S., a huge change from what you’re used to if you hail from most European countries.

So, au pairs, if you are experiencing mild symptoms, going to a hospital or traditional physician’s office is probably not advisable.  You should never forego medical care, especially if you have an emergency.  Your travel insurance is designed for emergency situations–if you’ve broken a bone or have intense, persistent symptoms, do not hesitate to call a doctor or hospital.  If you are sneezing or have a mild sprain, though, using your insurance for non-emergency or routine care will cost you more over time than will paying with cash.

Most Walgreens and CVS pharmacies in Indianapolis have small clinics inside, where no appointment is required, that is staffed by nurse practitioners.  These health care providers can help diagnose common medical problems and prescribe treatments.  If you require medical tests, you may be referred to a laboratory–explain your lack of traditional insurance to the nurse, and ask that they refer you to a low-cost lab.

If you have a cold, you can care for yourself by using a humidifier, drinking plenty of fluids, and getting rest.  Homeopathic and natural remedies, including the Pelargonium syrup that is prescribed in most European countries for colds and other viruses, are less common in the U.S., but you can find them here.  Boiron products can be purchased in retail pharmacies, and a wider variety of homeopathic and natural medicines are available in health food stores, like Nature’s Pharm and The Good Earth.

Also note: some traditional physicians offer discounts for patients without comprehensive insurance, provided they pay in cash at the time services are rendered.  Ask before scheduling an appointment.

And of course, if you need help navigating your basic or upgraded travel insurance, or with navigating the complex network of providers available in the U.S., please don’t hesitate to contact me!

Some general tips for avoiding illness, so that you don’t need to seek out care:

  • Wash your hands, and make sure the children you care for wash theirs.  Do this especially after cooking, school pickups, and visits to crowded places.
  • Make sure you’re getting proper nutrition with plenty of vitamins (get as many as you can from food instead of supplements in pill or liquid form, as they are more easily absorbed when all-natural).  This will keep your immune system strong.
  • Especially during flu season, avoid self-serve foods (like vegetable trays or chips and dip) at gatherings, which could spread germs.  It’s also a good idea to use alcohol in moderation, as heavy consumption can weaken the immune system.
  • Some people (myself included) swear by a daily dose of Apple Cider Vinegar (with “the mother,” offered by the brand Bragg’s in the U.S.) for warding off and alleviating the symptoms of a cold.

Save money with Featured Country Au Pairs!

Did you know that Go Au Pair features a country each month?  If you are searching for an au pair, these country profiles offer great information, including demographic data and insights from families who have chosen au pairs from that country.

Plus, if you match with an au pair from the country in the month it is featured, you save $100 off your program fees.

This month, the featured country is Colombia, a Spanish-speaking nation, and the home to 2012’s Au Pair in Excellence Award winner.

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Are you prepared?

If you're    ready for a zombie apocalypse, then you're ready for any emergency.    emergency.cdc.gov

You may not have be prepared for the Zombie Apocalypse, but do you have an emergency plan and supplies ready in case of disaster?
You do?  Great!  And does your au pair know the plan?  Fire preparedness is pretty universal, but consider this:  depending on the climate of his/her home country, your au pair may not be familiar with the tornadoes, blizzards, and high winds, that hit the Hoosier State frequently, or our less-frequent earthquakes.
If you don’t have a plan, consider making one.  And whether you’ve just started your plan, or you’ve had one for years, be sure to practice the disaster procedures with your whole family, your au pair, and any other individuals who work in your home.