June 20, 2013

Why host an au pair from Sweden?

A Cultural Care country spotlight

4 minutes
Cultural exchange

Curious about au pairs from Sweden? We always recommend that families be open to hosting the best au pair for their needs regardless of their nationality. But, it can be helpful to know more about an au pair’s home country and how that may impact their role in your family. Read on to learn more about Swedish au pairs!


Swedish au pairs are great because…
They speak English very well, and although they are recent high school graduates, they are highly educated and mature for their age. They are responsible, independent, and open to different family situations. They are also very strong drivers who 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 in the U.S.
  3. To gain an American host family

“Now, when the holidays are coming up I show my host family how Christmas is in Sweden. We have baked saffron buns, gingerbread cookies, a gingerbread house, and we’re also going to make a Swedish Christmas buffet and all cook the food together!” —Swedish au pair Erik about Haas family in California

Cultural differences


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. They like to be included as family members, but are also very independent and are used to balancing family and their social life.

Potential challenges:
Because Swedes avoid conflict, there can sometimes be problems 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.

English skills

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. Unlike other European countries, films and television programs are NOT dubbed, so there is a lot of exposure to the English language. Swedes generally travel a lot, so most Swedes have gotten used to speaking English when they travel.

“Emma has felt like a part of our family since the first zoom connection. It’s been fun to learn about her culture and celebrate new holidays. We attended a Julboard celebration at Ikea with her and had my daughter dress up for Saint Lucia day! Emma goes above and beyond in taking care of our children—she is incredibly patient and calm and has come up with fun scavenger hunts, set up fun outings with other au pairs and children, and shuffles them to sports!” —Host mom Angela in Minnesota about Swedish au pair Emma

Driving skills

Typically au pairs start driving around age 16 and obtain their license at 18. 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, in addition to driving several hours with your parents. The process of taking the exam begins with a theoretical course, which is very extensive, and a physical test, including practice on highways and in snowy and rainy conditions.

Childcare experience

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.

Family life

In Sweden it’s common to have 2-3 children, so most au pair applicants have siblings. Everyone in the family helps out with chores and often eats 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 spends time together after a divorce.

When talking about cultural differences, understand that while we can make generalizations about au pairs from certain countries, all au pairs are unique and have their own personalities, journeys, and cultural perspectives. Our country spotlights serve as a great way to start a dialogue with your au pair or prospective au pair about their home country and continue to learn more about their unique culture!