Curious about South African au pairs? These incredible young people travel across the world to join American families like yours—and they bring a lot to be excited about! From delicious recipes like Malva pudding and Bobotie to a diverse regional culture, welcoming a South African au pair offers a unique cultural exchange experience for the whole family. Read on to learn more about this amazing group of au pairs!
Did you know that South Africa has 11 official languages?
Zulu: Hello | Sawubona
Afrikaans: How are you? | Hoe gaan dit?
Xhosa: I am excited to meet you! | Ndiyavuya ukudibana nawe!
The average age of South African au pairs is 20-24 years old. These au pairs tend to take part in the program after leaving high school while they are deciding what to study or after university before they settle into their careers.
“Our children love Samone her like she’s another parent to them. She loves to speak Afrikaans with the kids and the youngest is even picking up on some and speaking it back! She tells us about her family’s traditions and incorporates some into our own traditions—she has been nothing but a joy to have around.” —Host dad Carey about Samone from South Africa
South Africans have an average English level of 7, as English is a first language in South Africa and is taught in school from 1st grade. They do not have to take the English test during their application.
It’s common for South African au pairs to have experience traveling long distances and on highways. However, they drive on the other side of the road and aren’t used to driving in winter conditions, so it’s important for them to practice with their host family once they arrive in the U.S.
South African au pairs often have large families where they may take on a parental role and look after their younger siblings, nieces, or nephews. Many are already comfortable cooking, changing diapers, helping with homework, and taking the children to and from school.
South African foods include biltong, boerewors, vetkoek (fat cake), curries, and malva pudding.
“Uri loves sharing her culture with us, and our FAVORITE way she does this is with her cooking. Our children had never had curry before Uri came into their lives, and now it’s their favorite dinner!” —Host mom Morgan about Lavanya from South Africa
An important holiday
South Africans celebrate Heritage Day on September 24th by remembering the cultural heritage of the many cultures that make up the population of South Africa. The day is usually spent with a large group of friends by either meeting up for a lunch or having a braai (barbeque) at a friend’s house.
I wish my host family knew…
“…South African au pairs think it’s important to have time off on their birthday and major holidays.”
“…some South African au pairs may appear shy or introverted in the beginning as they adjust to being away from home and getting to know their host parents.”
“…we have many diverse cultures in South Africa, and communication styles can also vary.”
Cultural Care Tip
Most South African au pairs have never left South Africa prior to their trip to the U.S., so this is a big step that they will try to make the most of. Many South Africans value resilience and will do their best to work through difficult times, so it’s important to check in with them often, especially early on.
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!