Jana Puttlitz spent her first 12 months as an au pair in Minnesota. She had never heard of Minnesota before and certainly did not know where to find it on a map, but she didn’t let that stop her from matching with the Peine family who live in it’s capital. She listened to advice from Cultural Care staff in Germany and is glad she did. “I’m so glad Cultural Care always told me to look for a great family and not the state or place because I don’t think I would’ve ever thought of going to Minnesota for a year. It really isn’t about the place so much but more about the family and I LOVED it there—the state and also the family.”
The Peine family in Minnesota was the perfect first host family for Jana.
Minnesota, a midwestern state, has earned the nickname, “Minnesota Nice” which refers to the stereotype of its residents to be mild-mannered, helpful and generous hosts. Jana found this to be very true of the Peines. “I found the best host family I could’ve ever asked for. My two host kids were only 2 months and 17 months when I arrived and I still love and miss them so much that we try to FaceTime at least once a week. My host family and their extended family is huge and we came together pretty much every week and for every holiday. I had the very best time there.”
Jana made the decision to extend for another year and decided to match with a family in California since she didn’t have the opportunity to travel there during her first year. Shares Jana, “I wanted to experience a different side of America.” So in March 2015 she moved to Los Altos, CA to care for her new family’s four children. “I enjoy my experience with my new host family, too! It was really hard to get used to it in the beginning but I do have a really good time here as well.”
Selfies with her boys.
Still, she misses her first family a lot. Recently, Jana returned to Minnesota to surprise her family and celebrate her 21st birthday. “I decided to surprise them and just book a flight to Minnesota so I could see all of them and also see my boys again. I was so excited the night before that I woke up at 4.50am and couldn’t go back to sleep! It was a great weekend and I’m already planning my next trip there to attend my host mom’s cousin’s wedding in November. We are all so close, they really are family to me.”
German au pair Jana Puttlitz (first row, center) celebrating her 21st birthday with (from top left): her host mom’s cousin Jennifer, her host mom’s sister-in-law Katie, her host mom’s mom Deb, one of her host mom’s sisters Allison, her host dad’s sister-in-law Katie, her host dad’s cousin Jill, (and in the bottom row) her host mom Annie, and one of her host dad’s sisters Stasia. Phew—that’s a whole lotta family!
Jana’s Instagram account is now filled with photos of her new life in CA with just a sprinkling of memories of time spent in MN. But she will always call MN home: “I remember last year when I got here people would always ask me how I feel and if I was homesick and I never got why they asked me. Like, I wasn’t homesick once, from the very first second I got here I felt like home and I thought that was normal and that everybody would feel like that. But now I know that it’s not. I realized even more how lucky I was and the fact that maybe I would’ve never met them is so weird that I can’t even think about it. This place makes me feel like home more than any other place I’ve ever been to.”
Au pairs, what advice did you get about spending a year in the U.S., and how has it helped you? Share your story here.