Not only do au pairs are bringing their cultures to their host families, but au pairs are also experiencing real American culture during their program year. Hear from host dad Chad about how Louise from Brazil has been experiencing American culture and how they share their new perspectives!
What are some examples of Louise experiencing American culture?
For Halloween we love carving pumpkins, and Louise had never done it before! In fact, Louise was surprised that all the pumpkins she saw around our neighborhood were real. With newspapers down and Hocus Pocus playing on the TV, Louise carved her first jack-o-lantern. With pumpkins carved, we had to show Louise the American tradition of trick-or-treating. My favorite childhood movie was Jurassic Park so obviously Marco was a dinosaur for Halloween. My wife and I were Dr. Grant and Dr. Sattler from the movie. Louise borrowed a dinosaur onesie, and the four of us with some friends walked around our neighborhood. I think Louise especially enjoyed this American tradition as she has a sweet tooth that exceeds anyone I've ever met before.
For Louise's birthday, we gave her two tickets to see the Nutcracker (she practiced ballet for over ten years). We assumed she would take one of her au pair friends. A week or so later, when we asked whom she was taking, she matter-of-factly said, "Michelle." My wife was touched. The night of the ballet, I had to put on my Big Dad pants and the girls went out on the town. With Christmas coming, we wanted to order an embroidered stocking for Marco to match Mom and Dad's. Without question, we had to order Louise one, too. I had the package addressed to Louise and when it arrived at our condo she was surprised and confused. She opened it up and was very excited for her own stockings.
The three of us exchanged presents at Christmas. Louise was excited for her AirPods and coffee shop gift card. We were touched by her gift of two personalized ornaments for our tree (Louise liked how we had ornaments from different travels and life events). What all these stories show is not just how wonderful Louise is as an au pair, but also as a member of our family. We continue to be amazed and grateful for how this exchange program changed our lives.
How has Louise shared their language and culture with your family?
We've learned a lot more of Louise's home country of Brazil. She's from Rio Grande do Sul, the southern-most state in Brazil, in the city of Caxias do Sul. And while I default to thinking of Brazil as either made up of rainforest or gorgeous beaches, it actually has mountains, plains, and more. Her region is known for its beef. I'll go ahead and skip the story of the night she tried to teach my wife and me how to samba. At family dinner (when the three of us eat together) we learn more about each other’s lives, families, and past. During a few of these meals, Louise has cooked some Brazilian meals for us that she grew up with.
One of the main reasons Louise wanted to become an au pair was to improve her English. As someone with an amateur passion for the English language, I enjoy helping her and correcting slightly off phrases she'll use. She's teaching us some Portuguese. I like to greet Marco in the morning with a ‘bom dia’. I'm terrible with languages, so I think I've accumulated less than ten words, but I'm still working on it. We purchased a children's book in Portuguese for Louise to read to Marco (as far as I can tell, it tells the story of a naughty cat that keeps eating this boy's food). Louise recently purchased The Hungry Caterpillar in Portuguese, so Marco now has two non-English books.
How has being an au pair helped Louise?
It's obvious Louise loves babies, especially little Marco, but she also wanted to be an au pair to prove to herself she can strike out on her own. As a young woman, it's an adventure in another country. Louise is thoughtful and strong-willed. She's contemplative and deliberate with how she's plotting out her life. When someone is about 10 years younger than you, it's funny to harken back to where you were in your early twenties. Sometimes you forget life's big decisions back then. Our experience with Louise and the au pair program gives us that chance to step back and get another perspective. Or be reminded of a lost perspective. Also, not to be cliché, but the American lifestyle, especially in the San Francisco Bay Area, is so busy. Hectic. At times the epitome of a rat race. It's refreshing to live with someone from another culture that is family-focused. It's good to be reminded to cherish the simpler things and that traditions are sometimes more important or powerful than the latest and greatest technology, way of thinking, or hot new restaurant. We've had a great time with Louise joining our family.