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Au Pair Country & Culture Highlight: China

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Chinese young people have started embracing the idea of being an au pair over the past few years and the number of au pairs from the country are expected to continue to grow.  China has a rich and ancient culture, and by welcoming a Chinese au pair into your home you can experience this unique culture first-hand!

What are some useful things to know about Chinese au pairs?

Country Facts: China is the most populous country in the world with almost 20% of the entire population of the earth! The Chinese language is diverse in it’s many dialects, and although they fall under the same umbrella, Mandarin and Cantonese (along with numerous other dialects) are not necessarily mutually intelligible.

English: English is a required subject in China beginning in primary school and continuing through secondary school. Chinese students’ reading skills and listening comprehension are sometimes better than their writing and speaking skills. As a result they can be a little shy at first when speaking English but as they spend more time with your family expect their confidence to improve.

Driving: Obtaining a driver’s license in China can be very expensive. The process usually takes 2 or 3 months and drivers must pass both theoretical and practical driving tests. It’s important to note that the International Driver’s License is not available in China.

Communication Style: Communication styles between a typical American and a Chinese person can be different in terms of directness and interpretation of body language, but it is easy to bridge the gap and communicate effectively. When giving tasks, encourage your au pair to give feedback, as this can ensure that you are both on the same page.

Cooking: Vegetarianism is very rare in China, and most Chinese young people eat meals consisting of meat, vegetables, and rice/noodles. The type of cuisine varies in different regions of China. Wheat foods such as noodles and dumplings are more common in the north, while rice dishes are more common in the south, as is more spicy food.

Highlight: There are many festivals celebrated in China, and one of the most beautiful is the Lantern Festival (Yuan Xiao in Mandarin). The Chinese lantern festival traditionally ends the Chinese New Year period and is celebrated on the 15th day of the first Chinese lunar month (always between February 5th and March 7th). It is celebrated by lighting and watching bright lanterns, guessing riddles written on lanterns, eating tangyuan (ball dumplings in soup), and lion dances. The lanterns are found everywhere and can reach several stories high! They are often in the shape of animals and are almost always red to symbolize good fortune. Lighting lanterns symbolizes illuminating the future and giving birth. Lighting them is a way to pray for a smooth future and express their best wishes for their families. In Hong Kong some consider it to be like a Chinese Valentine’s Day, because watching the lanterns is a good way for boys and girls to spend time with each other.

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