G U I D E L I N E S
The Danish YWCA thanks you for your inquiry regarding a Danish au pair. In our experience the majority of arrangements are successful. We should, however, like to offer some guidelines. These might be helpful, especially in the early stages of the relationship between a family and an au pair.
To take in an au pair is also to take on the responsibility for a young person. For many au pairs this is their first time away from their family. Therefore, please keep in mind that your au pair may feel a little homesick sometimes, especially in the beginning. She/he will need time to get accustomed to how your family works, the new surroundings and a different culture. A newly arrived au pair is in all probability not familiar with British norms, values and traditions. This can easily lead to misunderstandings of cultural as well as linguistic character. We therefore ask you to be as understanding and as patient as possible.
Furthermore please keep in mind, that many au pairs have reached an age where they seek independence, but at the same time have a strong need for a safe and secure base. During the au pair’s stay, your family will to a large extend constitute this base. It is therefore important that you help her/him adjust to your family and the British way of life in general. It is also of great importance that you remember that the au pair’s position in the house should be that of a daughter/son rather than that of domestic help.
The host family is normally expected to assist the au pair in finding a suitable English course or other leisure time activities. Your are also encouraged to help her/him in getting signed up for a doctor, National Insurance etc. as well as in building a social network. At the Danish YWCA we keep a list of all the Danish au pairs in the London area and on a monthly basis we hold an au pair event. In addition to this we also hold two weekly events for all the young Danish people who live in London, including the au pairs.
In order to make it easier for the au pair to socialize and make plans with her/his friends, go sightseeing and to concerts, cinemas, etc. please try to make your arrangements in advance if you need your au pair to baby-sit.
In general it is a good idea to organize a fixed schedule for the au pair’s duties. Of course both you and the au pair need to show flexibility, but having some guidelines on the divison of responsibilities within the household, may help prevent many misunderstandings. You should also explain your house rules to the au pair, and please remember to pay her/his pocket money on time.
If things do not go smoothly at first, we advice both the family and the au pair to give the other part time to adjust to the new living environment. After all, you all need some time to adjust to each other, and please keep in mind that the au pair has to adapt to a different culture and to communicate in a foreign language.
Despite all precautions taken a perfect relationship cannot be guaranteed. As mentioned, most problems occur due to cultural and/or linguistic misunderstandings. Very often these can be solved simply by conversation. Do pay attention to the fact that the au pair, especially in the beginning, may be shy. You are therefore encouraged to take the initiative to solve the problems that might occur.
If you experience problems that cannot easily be solved, we are at your disposal and would gladly like to help you work out the issues. In general, we are here for both you and the au pair and please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or concerns.