June 20, 2013

Why host an au pair from Sweden?

4 minutes
Cultural exchange

The next country in our series of spotlights on Cultural Care’s au pair recruitment countries is Sweden! 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. Victoria Svensson, Cultural Care’s Recruitment Director for Sweden (pictured below), shares why she thinks families should consider an au pair from Sweden.
Swedish au pairs are great because…
They speak English very well and although recent high school graduates, they are highly educated and mature for their age. They are responsible, independent and open to different family situations. Also, they are very strong drivers, especially since they are used to driving in winter conditions.
Describe Swedish au pairs in 5 words:
Honest, helpful, liberal, punctual, athletic
Top 3 reasons Swedes 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:
Swedish au pairs are generally well-behaved and not very confrontational. They avoid conflict and tend to look for solutions that appeal to both parties. Swedes are eager to learn a lot about American culture and share their own. Swedes like to be included as family members, but are also very independent and are used to balancing family and their social life.
Cultural differences that could prove challenging:
Swedes avoid conflict, which sometimes can lead to problems being hidden under the surface. Also, Swedes can be a little more reserved when it comes to sharing emotions with people they don’t know well, so in order to get an honest answer you might need to ask more than once how they are doing or what’s on their mind.
Sometimes it’s confusing or surprising for a Swede to have rules such as curfews, since an 18-year old is considered an adult in Sweden, and usually lives a very independent life. It’s important to take the time to explain why rules and mutual trust is important in a new environment.
How do au pairs from Sweden typically learn English, and what are their strengths and weaknesses regarding written and oral mastery of the language?
In Sweden children learn two foreign languages as a mandatory part of their education and one must be English. English studies start at age 8-9 and we start studying another language at age 12. In contrast to many other European countries films and television programs are NOT dubbed, so there is a lot of exposure to the English language in this way. Swedes generally travel a lot, so most Swedes have gotten used to speak English when they travel.
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? 
Most Swedes start driving by practicing with their parents. The majority of Swedes also take driver’s education classes prior to the driving exam. It’s common to take at least 15 driving classes, besides driving several hours with your parents. The process of taking the exam begins with a theoretical course, which is very extensive and covers all from driving laws to taking a risk course (which includes driving on an ice track to prepare for such conditions). The physical test (1.5 hrs) includes all kinds of different traffic situations, and you need to pass them all in order to get your license.
What types of vehicles and in what conditions do au pairs from have experience driving?
In Sweden, most families only have one or two cars available, so typically au pairs borrow the family car, after getting their license. Most Swedes are used to driving on highways, country roads in smaller cities. They are also very used to snowy, rainy and icy conditions.
Typically, au pairs from Sweden have experience:
Driving smaller vehicles, driving in the snow, driving on highways, driving on country roads, driving alone and driving with children.
Typically, au pairs from Sweden do not have much experience:
Driving larger vehicles
Au pairs from Sweden 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 Sweden, school from the age of 6-15 is required and most students attend public school. The educational system is divided into three broad levels: primary, secondary and “high school”. Primary and secondary are mandatory. During high school you can choose to either study social science or science which prepares you for higher studies. You can also attend a vocational school, where you still get prepared to attend university later in life, while also learning a profession, like nursing, child minder or hairdresser. Most au pairs take this year as a gap year between high school and university.

In Sweden it’s common to have 2-3 children, so most au pair applicants have siblings. It’s not common to have people work in your home. For example, gardeners, cleaners, nannies, etc, are unfamiliar to most Swedes. Instead, there’s always something everyone in the family help out with. Also, it’s natural to eat together as a family after work/school. Many families in Sweden are “untraditional”, such as divorced families. However, it’s not uncommon that everyone gets along well and spend time together even after a divorce.
The majority of Swedish au pairs have daily use of a computer and have their own cell phone.