Far away from home for the holidays – au pairs talk about what it’s like

December 22, 2015

As an au pair, spending the holidays away from home often brings mixed emotions. There is excitement to be learning about new traditions and spending an important time with a new host family. But, of course, there is nostalgia for the foods, songs, traditions and people that have made holidays so much fun in the past. Below, a few of our au pairs share what it’s like to be in the U.S. for the holidays.


Sara with her host child and singing in a Lucia procession in the U.S.

I think it’s super exciting to celebrate Christmas in an American way (and I can’t wait to see if like what they show in the movies). Everyone here seems to be very much in the Christmas mood and all the Christmas decorations were out of the boxes so early in the season. Also in my host family’s house there is already 3 Christmas trees, and back home we just have one. I’m sure I’ll feel a little sad on the 24th when my family back home is celebrating the holiday, and I’m totally going to miss perunalaatikko from the Finnish Christmas table. But this is once in a lifetime experience so I’m happy to here this time.

My host family has been awesome with including me this holiday season. They’ve told me lot about the traditions here, and at the same time, they’ve showed me that they are interested in my culture how we celebrate Christmas in Finland. They came to see my Swedish choir concert and hung a Finnish flag ornament on their Christmas tree!

—Sara Hallikainen, Cultural Care au pair from Finland (living in Illinois)


Elena’s personalized stocking hung on the mantel; decorating the tree with one of her host family’s Christmas ornaments (all of which come with a personal family story)

Although I really miss my family and my friends back home I’ve really enjoyed spending this Christmas season with my host family. After we decorated the house together the Saturday after Thanksgiving we met in the living room and everybody got their stocking. My host mum bought a stocking for me too and we hung them up over the fireplace. Everyone in the family has one, including me!

We watch a lot of Christmas movies, bake Christmas cookies and do a lot of crafts. We have so many Christmas decorations up and really nice ornaments to decorate the tree. The ornaments on my host family’s tree all have a story behind them, which I think is a great thing to do because it reminds you the whole Christmas time of all the nice moments you had with your family.

What will make my Christmastime perfect is that my mother just arrived to spend two weeks with me and my host family!

—Elena Hassel, Cultural Care au pair from Germany (living in Virginia)


Schizelle helping her host family pick out their Christmas tree; a sweet holiday note from her host child

This time of year, you hear everyone talking about spending Christmas with their families, and those are the moments when reality strikes and you realize—wow—I am so far away from my family! Fortunately I am blessed with a wonderful American family and I will be spending this holiday with them.

I went with them to pick out and cut down our own Christmas tree and we all decorated it together with beautiful ornaments and chocolates. (In South Africa, we don’t have tree farms so this was cool.) We also went to see the Nutcracker and take a ride on the Train of Lights. They also put up a stocking with my name embroidered on it!

—Schizelle Van Wyk, Cultural Care au pair from South Africa (living in California)

Thanks to our au pairs for sharing their thoughts about spending this holiday season in the U.S.! Do you have a story to share? Tell us about it here.

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