May 22, 2013

Why host an au pair from Germany?

4 minutes
Cultural exchange

Why host a Cultural Care au pair from Germany?
The next country in our series of spotlights on Cultural Care’s au pair recruitment countries is Germany! Again, while we always recommend that families be open to hosting the best au pair for their needs—regardless of her nationality—it can be helpful to learn about how an au pair’s home country can affect her personality and skill sets. Marc Jacshinski, Cultural Care’s Recruitment Director for Germany (pictured below), shares why he thinks families should consider an au pair from Germany.

German au pairs are great because…
They are very mature and reliable. Germans learn early to stand on their own feet, especially when it comes to fulfilling household duties. They are responsible caretakers with a lot of childcare experience, and also are strong drivers. German au pairs are very open to other cultures and look forward to the opportunity to travel abroad.
Describe German au pairs in 5 words:
dependable, confident, efficient, tolerant, mature
Top 3 reasons Germans want to become au pairs:

  1. To grow/mature as a person
  2. To travel the U.S.
  3. To gain an American host family

Cultural differences that are positive:
Already at an early age, Germans learn early to take on household responsibilities and duties. Also, they are independent and mature and have a “get the job done-approach”. Germans tend to perform well in structured and efficient environments. Overall, they are usually well-behaved and have good manners. They appreciate to be seen as a “3rd parent” and are willing to take on that responsibility.
Cultural differences that could prove challenging:

  1. German communication is very direct in comparison to the American way of addressing things. Sometimes things come across much more blunt or forward, than we really mean them.
  2. German au pairs like to be seen as 3rd parent and are willing to take on that responsibility. Since the German education focuses a lot on being independent and responsible, au pairs may struggle with being “treated like children”. Because Germans have a lot of freedom in terms of curfew times, travelling with friends, etc. German au pairs might find it difficult to adjust to early curfew and other restrictive family rules.
  3. It might be difficult for German au pairs to adjust in a surrounding that doesn´t have a daily schedule, or in an environment with less structure.

In all these cases communication is key. If families expect au pairs to follow certain rules/procedures, it will be important to sit down and explain to the au pair why exactly it is important to do so and what exactly the expectations are the family has in reference to the au pair’s job. In knowing these expectations in advance, German au pairs can adjust accordingly and adhere to the family’s lifestyle and preferences.
How do au pairs from Germany typically learn English, and what are their strengths and weaknesses regarding written and oral mastery of the language?
In Germany every student starts to learn English as one of two mandatory foreign languages at the age of ten, the very latest. In general the standard of English is pretty high, but due to the lack of oral practice and listening comprehension (movies and TV series are all dubbed in German) usually the au pairs have small issues in expressing themselves, but do understand a lot. That being one of the main reasons to spend a year in the U.S. most au pairs pick up quickly and get quite fluent after the first weeks, though.
Typically au pairs start driving around age: 
Au pairs in your country can obtain a driver’s license at the age of:
What are the steps involved in obtaining a driver’s license? The process to receive a driver’s license is extensive and consists of:

  1. A theoretical test with 30 questions randomly picked from a catalog of almost 1,000 total questions.
  2. 28 hours of compulsory training for the theoretical part
  3. At least 5 weeks of practical training including an average of 20 hours with general practice in addition to 12 hours of special training including driving on highways, autobahn and at nights finalized by a 45 minutes practical test.

What types of vehicles and in what conditions do au pairs from Germany have experience driving?
Most families in Germany have at least two cars and many au pairs even buy their own car after getting their license. Due to weather conditions in Germany they are experienced in driving under rainy/icy conditions.
Typically, au pairs from Germany have experience:
Driving smaller vehicles, driving in the snow, Driving on highways, driving on country roads, driving alone, driving with children
Typically, au pairs from Germany do not have much experience:
Driving larger vehicles
Au pairs from Germany typically get their childcare experience by:
Babysitting younger siblings, babysitting extended family members, babysitting children of family friends/neighbors, working in a kindergarten, working in a daycare center, coaching children’s sports teams, working as a camp counselor, or tutoring.
In Germany, school from the age of 6-15 is required. Students can either attend public or private school. The educational system is divided into three broad levels: primary, secondary and tertiary. Primary and secondary are common throughout the country. Tertiary can consist of technical and further education or university. There are two semesters per academic year, the first starting beginning of October and the second starting in spring. Most young people want to travel as au pairs do so as a gap year after finishing high school, and before they proceed in further education or in finding their first job.

The average German family has 2 children. After leaving school at the age of 18 or 19, they oftentimes leave their parents for study, apprenticeship or work, so most of our au pairs have not had any experience of living away from parents when they apply to the program. In most families both parents have a job and therefore family time is very limited, but even so much valued. Au pairs are expected to cook for themselves and take on household responsibilities at an early age and are used to contributing to keeping up the household and family routines.
The diet in Germany varies. Some au pairs may be considered vegetarians, though they certainly are comfortable and willing to prepare meat.
The majority of German au pairs have daily use of a computer and have their own cell phone.