It didn’t take us long to start seeing the fun side of cultural exchange. While it can sound like a hum-drum duty that goes along with hosting an Au Pair, the cultural exchange aspect can often be the brightest part of a placement.
Even though the primary reason families decide to host an Au Pair is for childcare, the cultural exchange benefits can be amazing as well. For our family of two boys under the age of four, immediately having a teenager in the house was certainly an adjustment. But, it also allowed for us to be able to introduce things we would find ordinary or mundane to a person who would get very excited about them.
This is when we first started seeing how there can be a really fun side to cultural exchange–in ways that have surprised even our crazy family.
Our first experience with the fun side of cultural exchange: Cheetos!
The very first thing I thought was fascinating and hilarious about hosting an Au Pair from Germany was her obsession with Cheetos. I mean, who doesn’t love Cheetos?
But in Germany, they are a very rare, very expensive, very coveted commodity that can only be found in select specialty stores. That being said, a lot of the girls from Germany start their first few weeks off by ingesting multiple bags of Cheetos. Our Au Pair would sit happily next to me on the couch each night with the bowl of Cheetos (which, by the way, totally sucked because I love them but am on a post-baby diet).
Another thing I never noticed, having lived in this country almost my whole life, was the fact that apparently, we like to tote “real” ingredients in our foods. Our Au Pair thinks it is odd and amusing how things are labeled “Made with Real Cheese” or “Made with Real Sugar.”
“What else would it be made out of?” she asks me.
Not only fun, but educational, too.
Never really thought about it much. Interesting how a different perspective can change your view on such ordinary things. So in addition to the fun side of cultural exchange, we have also had an educational & informative experience.
When we took our Au Pair to Target for deodorant, she was annoyed they only had a few spray options because that’s what they primarily use in Germany– not the roll-ons, which was very disgruntled to buy.
Later, she told me that she didn’t like the roll-on because it’s not sanitary to touch your armpit with the same thing every day. Again… never gave it much thought before.
We in America can be so ignorant sometimes. All of Europe uses the Euro and Celsius and Kilometers, but we can’t convert anything because we don’t have to.
When we were in Bath and Body Works (a store the German girls just love because they don’t have anything like it), and my Au Pair was trying to pay for her gallons of scented hand sanitizers, she exclaimed, “I don’t get your money!”
Later that evening, she showed me a picture of European money and explained why it is so easy to use and why our money is so difficult to figure out.
To that, I said with a smirk, “I didn’t come up with it…”
She even confessed to trying to figure out our money in her room after we went to bed, which I thought would have been amusing to watch.
Cultural Exchange Adds to Our Appreciation of Life.
In this country, we take so many things for granted. One thing, especially, being the sizes of our homes and the sizes of our rooms.
When our Au Pair arrived, she kept saying how big all of our rooms are, even though I feel like a house can never be big enough. I suppose that’s because homes and rooms in most other countries are much smaller than in the U.S. (Proof lying in the fact that the cord on my German vacuum is way too small to reach all of the areas on any one floor of the house).
In preparation for her arrival, I asked her what cereal she liked to eat for breakfast so I could have some for her when she came.
“One that’s not too sweet” she said.
I told her that I needed more clarification. But, I didn’t realize that in Germany, their cereal options spanned the whole of two feet of one aisle versus our entire aisle of options.
When she visited our grocery store for the very first time, she understood why it was so difficult for me to choose a cereal for her based on her advice of “not one that’s too sweet.”
As we continue beyond our first month of hosting, I look forward to learning many more fun and exciting differences between our cultures. Hosting an Au Pair from another country is an enlightening experience, and all Host Families should try to make the most out of the cultural exchange aspect (and explore the fun side of cultural exchange, too!).
Later this week, we’ll be enjoying “German Nite,” as our Au Pair is going to prepare a traditional German dish for our family.
To that I say, “Bring it on, and let the good times continue!”