At first, it can seem daunting to build rapport with someone you’ve never met before.
(Ha! I’m a poet, and I don’t know it. I’m strange, but that’s why you read my blogs, right?!).
Because I have several months between matching with my Au Pair (in May) and when she arrives in late September, I have a lot of time to make a personal connection with her. Sure, we had an instant connection on our first Skype call, but I can’t imagine severing communication from the time of match until picking her up at the airport; that’s just silly. I know I’m a people person, a life-of-the-party type. But even if you aren’t, here are some tips to help your family and your future Au Pair build rapport & start out on the right foot:
If you are technically-savvy and bold enough to be on Facebook, friend your Au Pair and keep her in the loop with postings of photos, videos, and posts about the daily craziness that is your life. She’ll pick up your sense of humor and other subtleties that she may not have picked up from your interviews.
My Au Pair and I build rapport by messaging at least every other day on Facebook. She comments on the photos of my ever-changing boys. I make a point to let her know that no subject is off limits and to ask any question that comes to mind.
My husband even likes to give her a hard time once in a while, but she gets our weird sense of humor so it’s all good.
Build Rapport As You Would With A Friend
Even though you don’t really know your Au Pair yet, that doesn’t mean you can’t build rapport by talking with her just as you would a friend. Imagine how you would feel coming to a foreign country, not knowing anyone, and living with people you don’t know. Now think about that situation a bit differently, adding in good rapport and knowing the background of the family you are staying with… maybe even being in on a few inside jokes.
Try to learn as much about your Au Pair as you can, and try to share as much as you are willing and able to as well. Ask about her favorite colors (you can incorporate them into her room), her favorite foods (make them during her first weekend), what she likes to watch on TV or what movies she likes, about her family and what she is doing before she comes to live with you.
I ask my Au Pair for as many photos as possible, and whenever my husband and I talk about her and formulate a scenario, I ask her, and she answers.
For example, we were sitting around one evening wondering what she would likely be doing during her weeknights off. I asked her, and she responded with, “Party hard… Hahahahaha just kidding, when I find friends I’ll try to meet?! I don’t know, I’m more of a ‘watch movies’ and ‘read books’ type most of the time… I know, boooring.”
It was great to know what she was thinking. A lot of the time, we are homebodies in the evenings because we’re just plain exhausted.
Discover What You Have In Common
Finding things in common is another great way to connect with your Au Pair before she arrives.
We both share a passion for photography. My Au Pair is into the arts and I am a graphic designer. So, I shared with her a catalog cover that I designed. I am excited for her to teach me how to make campfire bread when we take her north to the cabin, and conversely, I am eager to share my love of fishing with her.
Fun times are ahead – I can feel it in my bad knee (isn’t that what every old person says?).
It’s the little things that allow you to build rapport before and during your placement.
The word Au Pair is French for “on par,” suggesting that the Au Pair is a family member, an equal. Try to keep that tidbit in mind when communicating with your Au Pair before and after her arrival. Thinking of your Au Pair as a part of the family will help you maintain a good relationship; unless, of course, you don’t like your family!
(“You can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your family – but you CAN pick your Au Pair!” – how’s that for a marketing slogan?)
Communication is the key to any good relationship. When you talk about cultural differences, you may even be surprised how many things are similar.
I know our family can be a bit of an anomaly. But you, too, can build rapport and create a strong foundation for your relationship. Just imagine when your Au Pair arrives, feeling like you’re picking up an old friend. It’ll be a far cry from an awkward car ride home with a stranger.