My Dream Experience as an Au Pair in Canada
By: Aline Mory
My relationship to my host family
From the very beginning I’ve felt taken to the heart of my whole host family and I also took them in my heart immediately. But even though I didn’t believe it could happen, we definitely still lived through the four famous (gentle) phases of culture shock.
The first few weeks were like the very classic honeymoon phase: Everything was new and exciting, we enjoyed the summer break in the pool, with the bigger family, at Lake Eire and Lake Huron, I got introduced to everything in the household I should know and I even got some driving lessons to get used to the cars of the family. We were setting up my bank account and changed my phone number and after getting tested by the kids, I also had a great start of work. Through a funny coincidence I met my first new friend (a German student who was there to meet her uncle and aunt and to do an internship at a Canadian hospital!) in Canada at my fitness club during a free trial we both took in punch classes! Long story short it all went perfect.
After two months of being there, the culture shock was there but it actually hit me quite differently: I wasn’t homesick and I didn’t compare the Canadian and the German culture. There were just some things going on in my life like the divorce of my parents back home, a sinus infection which hit way more severe being abroad and forced me to go to the hospital and get some strong medicine after I finally knew how bad I actually felt. The weather changed, my German friend went back home because her internship was over so I practically had to start again with finding friends and I badly needed somebody to talk to but instead of talking to my lovely host parents I chose to isolate myself a little bit because I was so embarrassed and overwhelmed and sadly I couldn’t combine my role as a family member with the one as an employee in this situation so I basically didn’t want to get emotional in front of them being my employers which was a sad thought because I knew how kind they were to me.
“My host mum even decided to give me good night hugs from now on and I have to give her my full credits for that
because these hugs helped more than you could ever imagine.”
Still needing somebody to talk to and not being able to meet my best friend in Toronto as planned because of my sickness, she came to visit me for a weekend and even though it was a nice weekend with long talks it led to a discussion with my host family because my friend spontaneously wanted to stay for Sunday’s dinner after originally wanting to be gone in the morning. Feeling super bad about me not communicating well with my host parents at the beginning I finally told them everything on a walk (my friend was gone earlier) and they were extremely understanding and told me they were always there for me. My host mum even decided to give me good night hugs from now on and I have to give her my full credits for that because these hugs helped more than you could ever imagine.
I still don’t know why I didn’t talk to them earlier but even if it hurt to live through such bad times (in a normal state I would have never isolated myself so much!)
I definitely learnt my lessons on this weekend in October:
a) Having friends over in your host family is way different than at home. You have to talk about clear dates and food and you can’t just “disappear”.
b) Communication is really key no matter how emotional you could get or how less you’ve figured out by yourself because it always helps you more than isolation,
c) Bad times are normal in your life but so important because you can grow from them especially if you forgive yourself and if you don’t take it (too) personal.
d) Your host family really is your family and is there for you whenever needed (I mean at least it was the case for me. I hope you’ll also get such an amazing host family as an Au Pair) and most importantly:
e) Always listen to your intuition because it truly tells you what is right for you 🙂
“I enjoyed my time in Canada and my Canadian family so much that I didn’t even realize how I was fully used to the Canadian way of living until the last minutes of our car ride to the airport at the end of my time as an Au pair.”
As the time went by, I was finally feeling completely healthy again and I was entering the adjustment phase. My relationship to my host family was good again since the important talk we had after our culture shock phase but we grew even more together through all of the big celebrations and holidays like Thanksgiving, Halloween, some birthdays and Christmas. Additionally, I started to have more and more social interactions outside of the family through one of the Canadian nannies of my lovely host aunt (her nannie even invited me to her own Halloween house party!) and through becoming a member of the London Youth Symphony Orchestra with a rented violin which was also kindly arranged by my host aunt who knew how hard but important it was to find friends abroad since she had been a student in Austria for 8 months once. I also found two amazing and close Canadian friends on bumble bff and I must say it was quite funny but also completely perfect to go on little “dates” with potential and then real new friends!
The “feeling at home phase” probably started around February 2020 and I think that even if it sounds bad because so many people had to suffer because of the corona virus, the whole lock down situation helped my host family and me to grow fully together through all the time we spent together. I enjoyed my time in Canada and my Canadian family so much that I didn’t even realize how I was fully used to the Canadian way of living until the last minutes of our car ride to the airport at the end of my time as an Au pair. I actually had quite a little culture shock being back in Germany at the beginning of July 2020 because I realized even more how much I was used to my new Canadian life. But after a few weeks and still having almost daily contact with my family back in Canada I passed this shock too after realizing how easy it was to combine my “two lives”.
What my day-to-day looked like
Following my contract I worked 32-42 hours per week and since my host parents are teachers I worked from Monday to Friday from 8 am to 4 pm (basically 8 hours a day).
Starting my work day at 8 am, I took over breakfast time with Audrey while her mum went on her way to school. If William was awake in this time I got him out of his crib while Audrey was brushing her teeth and then we all went to the nearest bus stop at around 8:30 am so Audrey could go to school. If William wasn’t awake at this point, I just walked Audrey to the close bus stop having the baby monitor with me but later we even had a neighbour picking Audrey up so I didn’t have to leave the house anymore when William was still sleeping.
After William’s breakfast at around 9 am, we either started bath time and played in- or outdoors afterwards
until 11:30 am or we played first and started bath time just before nap time. At 11:30 am, we typically had our lunch and after bringing him up at 1 pm-ish for nap time and singing, reading, playing and of course snuggling him to sleep I did some jobs in the household like preparing dinner, sweeping the floor, setting the table, tidying up the family room, folding the laundry and other little tasks around the house. William often slept until 3 pm and when he was ready for me I got him and after a little snack we got Audrey from the school bus or waited for her until she was there with our neighbour’s children which was at around 3:50 pm. Then we were playing a bit and when my host parents arrived at 4 pm, I was done for the day. I used my free time to go to the gym and the orchestra, meet my new friends or videochat with my German family and friends but I also spent a lot of time with my host family.
In the first few months, William had music class on Mondays between 10:45 and 11:30 am and gymnastics on Thursdays between 10 and 10:45 am which he loved. So I was driving and joining him on these days and it was a lot of fun for both of us! Later on, he switched from music class to dance class on Tuesdays but that basically didn’t change our routine.
Aline continues in Part 3. She talks about her experience being an Au Pair during a pandemic and the life lessons she walked away with. You can go back to Part 1 here.