Addressing a Vast Gap Between Ethical Standards: Yours vs Your Au Pair’s

by cv harquail on March 25, 2016

There are “cultural differences” and there are “philosophical differences”. With cultural differences, it’s less about “right” or “wrong” than about how folks prefer to do things.

With philosophical differences, it’s all about right and wrong.


So how do you manage when you discover that your au pair thinks something is perfectly fair to do, but you believe its absolutely wrong?

(If it were me, I’d give my Au Pair a quick lesson on John Rawl‘s theory of the Veil of Ignorance. )john rawls

This Ethics911 HostMom wants our advice:

I like to know how other host parents respond when there are conflicting ethical perspectives and what different cultures consider as stealing.

My au pair is interested in getting a credit card. We explained to her about the pros and cons of using a credit card, debit card, or cash in day to day life in America. What is troubling is what she said towards the end of the conversation. She said that it would be possible to charge up a lot right before she returns to her home country at the end of her au pair year and then not pay the bill.

Her rationale is how will the credit card company come after her since she would have already left the country by the time the bill is due. We told her that she will have a credit record tied to her social security number and if she ever comes back to the US, she may have problems waiting for her. I cannot tell to what degree she said this as a joke but the mere act of saying means that she has at least thought about it.   

Another example is when she was interested in a new smart phone. She asked if she can get a new smart phone through my phone plan and pay for the monthly installment charges. Cost would be cheaper than buying a phone without a 2-year plan commitment. (Note: In our situation, we pay for the au pair’s phone plan but she provides her own phone.)

She said at the end of her au pair year, she can just take the phone back to her home country and stop paying the monthly charges. Again, her rationale is how will they come after her. I told her that if I get her the phone using my plan, the phone company will be coming after me because I am the account owner. She would be leaving me with her debt. There was no way I would agree to this.

I believe if she had to pay for her own phone plan, she would consider getting a discounted or “free” phone and skip out on her obligations at the end of her year.

She also does not see anything wrong with copying copyrighted software, music, video, or books that she did not buy herself.

We told her this is a form of stealing – that people worked very work to make these things and deserve to be paid for their work.

(We’ve discussed this on AuPairMom at When Your Au Pair Streams Movies – Illegally)

Our Au Pair doesn’t see the harm in this form of stealing when she is able to save her money. She calls it “sharing” not “stealing”. I drew the parallel about whether it is right if she worked and I don’t pay her for it because it would save me money. She said she understood what I mean.

But then recently, I borrowed a video from the library and mentioned that I was only allowed 7 days before needing to return it. She suggested that I could save the video to my computer so I can have it for as long as I want. Clearly, copying is not considered stealing to her, even after we had lengthy talks when she first arrived.

I have to also mention that this au pair has never stolen any valuable items from my home. I believe that she considers taking something belonging in someone’s home or in a physical store is equal to stealing and she will not do that. She is also very good with the children. My issue is that she does not consider situations like skipping out on debt obligations and copying also as stealing.

I am disturbed and troubled by what she had said and done. This is a reflection of her morals and ethics that could apply more broadly to other things and affect my family directly.

This is eroding my trust in her as an individual and a role model for my children.

I understand the concept of what is considered stealing can be influence by the accepted norms and behaviors of the culture from the au pair’s home country but at what point is this beyond culture and about individual ethics?

(I am deliberately not calling out the country that this au pair is from because I do not want the discussion to be reduced to stereotyping any particular country or culture.)

Have other host families experienced this? How did you handle this?

See also:
When Your Au Pair Streams Movies – Illegally
My Au Pair is Stealing Little Items: Should I rematch?


Mimi March 25, 2016 at 3:32 pm

To my knowledge, I have never dealt with anything like this with my APs while they were here. The closest we came was an AP who didn’t want to take classes and thought she would be saving us all money by waiting until it was too late. When the LCC heard this from another AP, she threatened to send her home if she didn’t register by a certain date. We have had conversations with all our APs about pirating music and other forms of fraud and I have made it very clear to them that there are often consequences beyond what they realize.

I did recently discover that the IRS is trying to contact AP#5 (who went into rematch in 2014). I’m not sure if she failed to file a tax return (which would seem the most likely reason for them to call, knowing this AP) or if there is some other issue, but the woman calling told me she would be denied any future visas and could be denied entry into the country without a resolution to her issue (which the caller wouldn’t share with me). This surprised me because I didn’t think the IRS was savvy enough to know who to go after in these cases, but apparently they are. (Now that I think about it, she wasn’t a very honest person in many subtle ways, but we didn’t know until she left about the extent of her deceptions and hopefully the IRS calling us is all we’ll have to deal with…?)

I believe the issue you are describing is likely rooted in cultural differences, but it could also be her personality and/or family morality at play. It’s hard to tell without knowing the country. You are right to be concerned about how your children may perceive what the AP thinks/does, but I think it’s also possible to lessen the impact on them. If something like this is so ingrained in someone, explaining it to them repeatedly isn’t going to affect their behavior overnight. I would be extremely uncomfortable keeping an AP with this kind of attitude because of the possible repercussions when (not if) the AP makes a poor choice without understanding the consequences for others.

Emerald City HM March 25, 2016 at 4:59 pm

Short of something that directly affects us (downloading pirated movies, cops showing up at the door, having to pay for a phone after they leave with it), how we handle it is to generally leave it be. However, my children are at an age where they certainly would not understand credit cards and other things like that. When they reach that age I hope that we manage to instill in them that we pay for items. I also do believe our au pairs have never crossed this line. I did have an iPhone charger cable I loaned to our 3rd au pair because she lost hers and she took it with her, but I honestly believe she didn’t realize I intended to loan it to her, her English was that bad.

I did happen to recently ask our AD about au pairs getting credit cards because our current one had his debit card cloned and that was a mess at his expense. Plus the banks do not offer the same protections as credit cards do if the number is stolen. I believe the agencies discourage credit cards specifically due to the type of situation you listed.

I’m not sure there is much you can do, it is sort of a line that she has in her mind. Some of it may be related to age and knowledge, I certainly have grown up and changed my mind on some things since college, when I started paying my own way and realizing the repercussions of actions.

Old China Hand March 25, 2016 at 6:38 pm

We had a very cultural issue about taxes with ap2. She was one of the most honest and trustworthy people I have ever met but it was a total disconnect for her that taxes and paying taxes is part of honesty. In the end I got her to agree to pay them by telling her all the things she had used that she hadn’t paid for if she didn’t pay taxes. She cried and paid them. At one point she called the agency and they had to nerve to tell her that host parents pay taxes for Au pairs. I was so angry. There was a lot of hurt and accusations and misunderstanding surrounding the taxes but the heart of it was a cultural difference and not knowing what taxes are about. I now go through the hassle of withholding for our ap so that the filing is to get money back. It was awful.

Our first ap had issues with understanding copyright. I have found out since about things she did that violated copyright. We now have a handbook section about it and try to explain it. But it’s hard to overcome the cultural perspective and norms. I don’t bother with material from their home country since it probably isn’t copyright protected anyway.

I guess the moral and point is that I would approach it first from a factual stand point. Then I’d try to make her feel guilty to get the point across. Then if she seemed to understand but not agree, I’m not sure I’d be comfortable with having her as an ap.

WarmStateMomma March 26, 2016 at 5:16 pm

After hosting 3 APs from China and an exchange student from Vietnam, we’ve realized that theft just isn’t considered immoral there. You wouldn’t steal tangible goods in those countries but intangible appears to be free game. None of them have even known that it’s illegal to steal IP – to the point they’ve all believed it’s not illegal to steal IP in their home countries. We’ve had chats about the difference between laws the government enforces and ones it ignores, but no one seems to believe stealing IP is a crime. Current AP uses illegal downloads of Monkey King episodes but those were produced by the Chinese government so I look the other way (what’s good for the goose…).

Any other theft would cause a major issue for us. I just wouldn’t be able to trust someone who was comfortable stealing and I certainly wouldn’t want her passing on her point of view to my kids.

Old China Hand March 29, 2016 at 6:03 am

That’s basically where I stand on copyright… Too hard to deal with for China produced content.

The high schoolers from China (not Chinese) living with us last summer were a bigger problem as one of them brought Chinese copyright morality to American content.

Frustrated Host Mom March 30, 2016 at 3:02 pm

We had a lot of issues with Chinese APs. I understand this thread is not about singling out a country but to put things into context, it is very cultural. For some of our Chinese APs it is so bad to the point that we think they are even lying to themselves. They certainly wouldn’t think stealing tangible goods, for the most part, is acceptable but beyond that is almost all acceptable. Almost all of my last 8 Chinese APs believe smuggling into US is ok, staying beyond their visa terms is fine and working in the black market to earn a living here illegally. Streaming video is a norm and not one single AP would NOT do it. A lot of my APs lie to us but I just can’t understand why they never thought that we know they are lying?

Frustrated Host Mom March 30, 2016 at 3:05 pm

Oh and I know a lot of APs who would say they extend their second year for, say 12 months, but in fact, only plan on working for few months until they would like to take off and do their own thing. In case you are considering Chinese AP, they almost all want to go home or take off just before Chinese New Year. CNY is very important to them and after CNY it’s the prime time for looking into new jobs. Beware host parents.

WestMom March 25, 2016 at 6:41 pm

I can’t say that I experienced this type of ethical differences while AP was living here with us. But I have heard some interesting excuses for why certain behaviors were ‘acceptable’. Like AP1 who ‘arrange to be laid off’ her job 4 months before coming to us so she could have the summer of, yet collect unemployment. Or AP5 who was concerned about filing her taxes because her parents were still claiming her as a dependent at 23yrs old in her home country. That same AP asked us for our music library one week after she arrived so she could copy all our music. I don’t think it even crossed her mind that our music collection was legally acquired for 1000s of dollars over decades.

I know you don’t want to tell the home country of the AP, but I really think it’s hard to take that out of the equation… I have found that people from more social countries (and I am from one…), tend to have a harder time understanding the value of certain things/services, and don’t always fully think through the consequences of actions on the collectivity (like asking for unemployment when you should really not be entitled to it in the first place).

The other aspect beyond country is also family culture. My parents are straight as arrows. Always pay their share, never ask for anything, never cheat the system. On the other hand… my in-laws will do everything they can to save themselves a dime. Free cable box? Bring it on! Speeding ticket, clearly your fault? Lie through your teeth that you are rushing to the hospital to see your sick grandchild. Trying to get rid of extra garbage? Grease the hand of the garbage man, or course. It is so foreign to me. I know the for 20yrs now, but they have known for years now that these types of discussions should not be done in my presence.

In your case, tough one. It’s happening in your home and you disagree of the behavior. You don’t want this to set the model for your children. Not to say that YOU will probably be the one taking calls from debt collectors once she leaves. She honestly sounds like she is not even aware that what she is doing is ethically wrong. I think it’s worth having a sit down and explaining why you are concerned bout those behaviors and why you ask they these should not take place while under your roof. I would probably apologize for being so straight and square, and blame it on the fact that our culture condones these behaviors (which is not necessarily true, but still….). You might not be able to change her view on things, but you can certainly ask her to respect your ethics while in your home (and using your network, mailing address, car, etc.).

Anonymous in CA March 25, 2016 at 7:12 pm

Assessing integrity. Will put that in my interview questions!

This is so timely because it is helping me articulate something that has been gnawing at me – what we the adults (including AP) demonstrate to the children as acceptable behavior really does matter – they copy what they see. And I want my child to act with integrity and to understand the difference between right and wrong – it’s my job to teach him and the AP needs to be on the same team as I am in this regard. It goes to a core value.

To the point about wanting to know the country the AP in question is from…I don’t know that I agree. Only because I think this attitude of playing the system, or if I don’t get caught, etc., exists all around us – I’ve seen it in friends and colleagues, who are American and otherwise honest people…except when they’re not because they feel entitled. I had a friend lie about being divorced so that she could stay on her ex’s health insurance…she saw absolutely nothing wrong with this because, as she argued, it would cost her a fortune to self-insure. An American friend of our AP recently taught her about a little “swindle” he pulled to get a new computer. I was horrified. Anyway, the point is… this exists everywhere and knowing the country of origin maybe really doesn’t matter.

AlwaysHopeful HM March 25, 2016 at 7:36 pm

Agreed. I’m in a similar situation with our au pair, who is a rock star in many other ways. There are some areas, though, where we starkly agree to disagree. Much of it is the influence of family and culture, and some of it I view as a form of immaturity. I have been clear on where I stand on these issues where we disagree, and he seems to comfortably understand that while in our home, he must adhere to certain standards, and must respect the values I want to instill in my child. Honestly, I view it as a part of cultural exchange. For us, it goes beyond stealing-type behavior (downloading movies and such) and includes perspectives on politics, religion, male/female roles, and a whole host of other things. We’ve had some really interesting discussions, none of which have been unpleasant. Bottom line– you’re free to think what you think and (when you return home) do what you do, but in our home, folow my lead!

HRHM March 25, 2016 at 7:17 pm

I agree that the country of origin has to play at least a partial role in these attitudes. I had one AP from a Balkan state who told me that in her town people were more likely to buy a new outfit than to pay their bills. This is just culturally engrained in her. I had another AP who stole a bunch of stuff from me to gift to her family, when caught she told me I wasn’t using it anyway (um, maybe because it was hidden in your bags?). My current AP comes from a country that was a previous Soviet block country and we often talk about how attitudes in her people are very skewed toward every man for himself and how people view honesty as being a sucker.

I’m sure there are people with questionable ethics from any country and so even avoiding the bad egg countries you can get one. On the same hand my current AP knows the attitudes of her countrymen are wrong and is nothing like that (as far as I’ve seen in almost 2 years)

One way to at least pre-vet the country when choosing (and this may prompt conversations during the matching process) :

WestMom March 25, 2016 at 7:45 pm

wow for Veneziela and Ukraine…

WarmStateMomma March 26, 2016 at 5:19 pm

*My current AP comes from a country that was a previous Soviet block country and we often talk about how attitudes in her people are very skewed toward every man for himself and how people view honesty as being a sucker.*

HD and I majored in Russian. This was a very common sentiment among people we met over there. It’s so bad that we never once considered hosting from FSU au pairs even when we were choosing what language we wanted to share with our kids.

Seattle Mom March 27, 2016 at 11:52 pm

I’ve used the Corruptions Perceptions Index professionally and never thought of using it while vetting au pairs.. such an interesting idea! Of course, I steer away from the countries that tend toward the bottom of the list.

TexasHM March 25, 2016 at 8:40 pm

Ok I was going to opt out of this one for a host of reasons but HRHM’s post aligns with a point I have been told directly and seen in action. I think here it appears that while yes, it is probably a cultural difference, it is one that is so engrained that potentially the morality of the individual in the culture cannot be changed and even disinterested in the potential collateral damage. It’s one thing to not know that being super direct in the US is rude (your hair looks horrible), it’s another to find out that here that is hurtful and then decide to do it anyway because you are unphased by the consequences unless it directly impacts you.

So, the one and only burnout AP we have had was an eastern european. We do not screen by country, we look for traits and good fit. Upon arrival not only was she not the person we interviewed, but she didn’t think it was a big deal. She openly admitted that information in her profile or during interviewing wasn’t entirely accurate but she didn’t see that as lying (you didn’t specifically ask…) or always had an excuse. After she left we found out all kinds of things she was doing/hiding and saying and the girl was only here a few weeks. I talked to an eastern european coworker and as I was explaining the situation she said “wait – is she from X country?” and was correct without me having disclosed it. She went on to say that in that country lying by omission isn’t at all considered lying or deceitful and is actually lauded. As in, unless someone paints you in a corner you lie. Whatever it takes to get what you want/need and everyone does that so no one has a right to be hurt or offended and if you are, it’s because you aren’t savvy so it’s your own fault. It was bizarre to see her reactions when I would outright ask her why she misrepresented something like never having really lived away from home (even though she said she went away for college – that really meant she drove to and from college and home). She looked at me completely confused as to why I cared and why it mattered. When I expressed my frustration and asked why she deliberately misrepresented (she admitted doing it on purpose) she said “because I liked your family and wanted this job”. No remorse.

I have another coworker from a previous Soviet country (different country but bordering our burnout APs) and when I asked him if he would even consider an AP from his home country (he vehemently said no before I could finish) he explained it to me like this:

Ex-Soviet or really communist nations in general use propaganda to control their citizens. The brain washing is so prevalent and so prolonged there that unless those citizens have had outside exposure they are taught to believe that not only they are the best and brightest (so they should have no desire to leave the country or listen to outside media that is jealous) but that the country is powerful and successful and give them an inflated sense of self. He said if I asked an AP from his country if she could drive the answer would be yes even if she had never sat behind the wheel and she wouldn’t consider that a lie. I asked how that was possible to think and he said she would think “well if I got in a car I am sure I could figure out how to drive it” so it’s not a lie. Plus, as previously said, honestly is not valued and is actually seen as a weakness in his culture and you would be taken advantage of for being honest and his fellow citizens would say you deserved to being taken advantage of for being honest (because everyone knows that is stupid and no way to get ahead). I had a candidate from this same country I was interviewing at the time actually flare up at me for asking “so many questions” (20 btw) and say “I already told you I am a fantastic and very qualified AP candidate. I don’t need to answer all these questions, let’s just Skype and figure out dates.” She literally thought that I would agree and match with her based on that (and she didn’t even have a full agency profile! Just 3 paragraphs on APWorld!).

Here is my long winded point. I have talked to two coworkers from countries in this region and they told me the same things. Yes, it’s cultural but you can’t change someone’s feelings about honesty being right or wrong when their whole lives it has been taught differently and they have never suffered for it (in fact they prospered). Telling an AP from this region that pirating movies is harmful to the people that made them would have zero effect (my HM friend actually had an AP from this country and had this conversation – she was unphased), they would stop doing it because you as their employer demanded it but they wouldn’t suddenly care or feel bad about doing it.

And it doesn’t make them horrible people or bad APs. It just makes their cultural ideals SO drastically different from yours that you are highly unlikely to change their position. They may accommodate your requests as an employer but they aren’t going to change their entire paradigm because you told them it’s wrong and they should. BTW – this same culture would NEVER steal something from your home because as the OP said – that IS actually stealing and despised culturally whereas lying on a resume is expected practice and totally ok. I would wager a large bet I know exactly where the OP’s AP is from based on a couple of the examples – I’ve heard the same tune many times. Those APs did work out by the way. They worked hard and did their jobs and finished their terms (and usually stayed after illegally but thats another conversation) so it’s not to say it can’t be done. But the HFs did have the same concerns and it didn’t matter how many conversations they had, the behavior would change but not because they agreed or truly cared or felt guilty.

As such, this region is not a good fit for us because we harp on honesty in our household (and lying by omission is punished as lying) and lying is on a very short list in our handbook of things that will spur a guaranteed reset/rematch conversation with LC in our household and I don’t think it’s fair for me to rematch on an AP for something that she doesn’t truly believe is wrong and has been taught is ok her whole life. It feels like setting her up for failure and would cause me angst – I HAVE to be able to trust the person caring for my kids and living under my roof – period.

Interviewing for integrity isn’t enough – because they would say they have integrity and be insulted by your insinuation that they don’t. The problem is their definition is so different than “ours” that you are trying to figure out if you are aligned or not. For all you know this AP thinks you are lying to her about the consequences of her ideas (credit card bail, pirating, not paying taxes, etc) because YOU have an ulterior motive. No joke. It happened with our burnout. Every time I tried to be direct and communicate to find a solution she was searching for my angle and couldn’t believe I didn’t have one so would then assume my angle and tell LC or whoever would listen that nonsense! It was impossible (for me) and exhausting. OP you have to decide if you can tolerate it for the rest of the term and how important your definition of ethics is to you. I promise she doesn’t think she is unethical and likely her countrymen don’t either. You are the outsider judging her cultural norms which is also why she doesn’t feel ashamed or guilty. We spend decades teaching our children our ideals, you aren’t going to reprogram hers in a few months!

Now we ask more behavioral/scenario interview questions and try to find someone that aligns with our ideals as well as has the skills we need. Yes, it adds yet another layer to the interviewing process and takes more time but makes our lives WAY easier in the long run. Fool me once…

AlwaysHopeful HM March 26, 2016 at 11:56 am

Totally agree that you are not going to change the au pair’s world view in a year, but you can make inroads. And more importantly, for the au pair year, you can insist that the au pair adhere to your standards during that time, and not communicate contradictory views to your children. However, if the au pair is also willing to cheat you (as may be the case here, given the credit card scenario), that is more troubling, because you can’t feel confident that she is just looking for an opportunity to get ahead, no matter who she hurts.

In our case, our au pair is very loyal to our family, understands my perspective, and is careful to hide his contradictory views from my son. My son has a mind of his own (good and bad!) and while he picks some things up from the au pair, he disregards others. For example, au pair rarely eats vegetables, but my son loves them, and that hasn’t changed, even though we share dinner nearly every night.

Our au pair has lived abroad in the past, so he is very adaptable. The way that he describes his country gives me the impression that there is a “crabs in the barrel” mentality. He also remarks that people in his country are very unhappy, just surviving. I’m hopeful that we show him a model of how honesty can coexist with success. We are not rich, but we are comfortable. We have difficulties, but we are happy. Children are treated with respect. I think this experience has been an eye-opener for him, but I don’t believe he necessarily believes our way is “right.”

FWIW, our 2 rematches were with Eastern European au pairs who lied about things that could harm our family, showing a lack of respect for our home. I don’t worry about a similar situation with current au pair.

Mimi March 26, 2016 at 12:31 pm

In all of this, I can’t help but wonder if the DiSC profile could offer insight into country trends or indicate which APs would be more open to understanding this issues. I think one reason why our successful Eastern European APs have been good for us is that they are all high C. This is true of all our successful APs but not of our rematch ones.

AlwaysHopeful HM March 26, 2016 at 10:11 pm

Ugh. I meant to say, our two rematches were with WESTERN Europeans, not Eastern.

DCBurbTwinMomma March 26, 2016 at 6:44 am

This hits home. My husband is a copyright, patents and trademark judge and feels strongly about pirating anyone’s works of art. We have a subscription service for our music that streams music to every room in the house as the user wishes. So the AP can listen to her home country’s radio or a popular artist at will in her room while we listen to whatever in ours. However, there is no downloading or ownership. We actually pay for having a non-family guest member on our family plan. We discuss ethics due to my hub’s high scrutiny job and how we want our AP to model behaviors. From past experience, we run into this in small ways–jumping a turnstile in the NYC subway, taking more than one newspaper from a newsstand box, sharing admission bands to get other friends in for free. This models to my children that stealing is valued.

This past weekend, the family took a trip to NYC and since our AP was going to have a few days of free time with her own hotel room, we encouraged her to bring a friend. This friend wants to become our AP upon our current AP’s departure and knew she was being observed. When she attempted to steal from the chaotic M&M store in Times Square (it’s hectic and I can easily see how someone would forego the long line and claim to have purchased their candy from two floors above). When we got in line, she followed with a sigh and pout. Then she proceeded to gorge on the candy as to avoid paying the full price by weight…,,purposefully. In front of our kids!! I explained to her why this was stealing and that she was exhibiting the type of behavior that is unacceptable around my kids or the many others. She knew at that moment that she was not going to get the job and tried to explain. I shut that down quickly because I don’t have to be generous to an AP candidate who was staying on my tab (travel costs, lodging and food plus tickets to the Natural History museum). Ugh! I’m just glad this came to light now because she was a strong contender for my Sept opening slot.

I think I’m going to add ethical scenarios to the questions I pose the AP candidates.

Nicole March 26, 2016 at 9:49 am

I am glad to see someone finally posting something about morals and ethics. One of my biggest struggles as a host parent and community counselor was trying to instill this in Au pairs, especially during tax season. Most chose to not save for their taxes or even pay their taxes especially if they were at the end of their program. When telling an Au pair she needs to mail the government $300 her attitude is “it’s not my country”, they can’t find me once I’m gone.

TexasHM March 26, 2016 at 1:53 pm

That’s an interesting point I hadn’t considered. I’m pretty sure all of our APs have paid taxes and when other HFs bring the topic up they are shocked and often remark that most/none of their APs have ever paid taxes. It’s explained in orientation, we remind them of it in general and explain its calendar and due in April and offer to help if they can’t find the form or have a question but otherwise they’ve just done it. It’s never been even a question or conversation and we don’t require or enforce it. It hadn’t dawned on me before that there might be a correlation but it makes sense!

I screen for empathy actually in interviewing which I think might be helping me in this area. If someone is empathetic they can easily put themselves in another’s shoes and I’ve done that because I want an AP that’s flexible, doesn’t get sucked into the negativity and family comparisons and that will understand and not make my life difficult when life is difficult. I think a pleasant side effect is empathetic people are also probably less likely to pirate, steal, skim or otherwise skirt the rules because they would think (and care) about others it would impact. Interesting!

azmom March 26, 2016 at 3:42 pm

So, the AP feels like it is okay to steal, but only from large companies? I mean, does that mean if she doesn’t feel you can go after her she also could steal from you? Or, because she has a relationship with you it is okay? I mean you can try to teach her the economical impact of stealing, but then again, there are adults who go into debt “knowing” they can file bankruptcy. But, since that is “legal” – is it less wrong? I don’t know – I’d feel uncomfortable knowing she’d purposely buy things that she doesn’t intend on paying for.

Full Circle March 26, 2016 at 7:26 pm

Interesting discussion. I think the “once I leave” attitude is common among many au pairs from many countries. Latin American countries can also struggle with honesty but mostly because they have struggled so much that there can be a sense of “if I can get an edge here or there” it will balance things out. But they also have an easier time with empathy. I love the parallel that TexasHM suggested between empathy and ethics/morals/integrity. I have screened for empathy also because I think that is definitely a trait I want in the person caring for my child.

A couple of things to consider: credit card applications (at least as far as I know) all ask if you are a US Citizen. You technically can’t really have a US credit card without being a citizen or permanent resident for the exact reason she wants it. People can take off and leave the debt behind. I would point this out to her. Maybe the idea of deliberately lying on the application, which also asks for your income btw) may sway her. But maybe not. The other thing is that I think maturity plays a big role. It’s hard for her to understand the consequences of her actions for herself and your family. Yes, if she were to apply for a visa, move here, take a job, etc. All of that would be impacted by these decisions. And she probably doesn’t understand that. She also does not fully understand the American system regarding credit worthiness and how this can impact her. Many young Americans don’t either. Throw in there the fact that it’s all new to her, and she’s completely blind to what she’s really doing. One last point I would definitely make to her that is she is in the US and while that may be ok in her country/culture, it is defeitely NOT ok here. It’s illegal to obtain a credit line or loan with the intention of never paying it. And while she’s in the US she needs to follow US laws. Period.

I’d be firm and tell her that’s a no go for us. I would not want to deal with any of that and would second guess her ability to make the right call when it comes to other issues I am not aware of.

DCBurbTwinMomma March 26, 2016 at 7:50 pm

Non-citizens can easily get credit cards. My Au pair has one (and pays her bills), not unlike my last au pair who remains in the US as a non-citizen who has many credit cards.

Former Au Pair March 26, 2016 at 8:53 pm

I can’t believe nobody has commented on economic status affecting these cultural differences yet!

So many billionaires and huge corporations commit huge tax frauds every year that people on the lower end of the income scale really do get screwed over by paying their fair share of taxes.

Think of au pairs from 3rd world countries who may be sending money home to support their families. $300 is a huge deal for them to pay in taxes at the end of the year. I can sympathize with why they may not want to pay taxes.

However, companies like Walmart who pay their employees so little that they all qualify for government subsidies are truly despicable, albeit perhaps they haven’t broken any laws.

And if an au pair who is from a poorer background, downloads an album from say an artist like Taylor Swift who already has more money than any person ever needs, how is that wrong?

If the au pair is affluent and has the means, than yes, of course it would be morally wrong to skip out on taxes, file share, etc. but many au pairs come from much poorer backgrounds than most American host families.

WestMom March 28, 2016 at 1:38 pm

We have not commented about the economic status of the AP because it is irrelevant. No one is above the law because they are poor. It’s also ok for Taylor Swift (despite being very rich) to choose not to scale the price of her music based on people’s income. She is not a government. If we used your train of thought for defining what is ethically ok and what is not, the world as we know it would collapse.

WarmStateMomma March 30, 2016 at 5:33 pm


Besides, digital entertainment isn’t a life necessity.

I just helped my AP with her tax return. She worked 40 weeks last year and made $8k (plus room, board, travel and gifts). She only owes $403 in taxes because the room, board, travel and gifts are tax-free under a quirk of US tax law for APs.

So her tax is $10 a week, or 5% of her stipend. It hurts when you pay it all at once, but 5% is a pretty low tax rate for the luxury of living in a developed country.

Seattle Mom March 28, 2016 at 3:27 pm

Income disparity is a problem, but I don’t think that condoning stealing is the solution to that problem. It just makes things more expensive for everyone else (including credit!) and that hurts honest poor people disproportionately.

Also the lack of IP enforcement in certain countries has held back their economic growth. Even though Asian countries are growing by leaps and bounds there are a lot of tech companies that won’t touch them with a 10 foot pole, and that isn’t helpful. I know CEOs who won’t sell their technology to China because they have heard stories about companies copying their IP and selling it within weeks- they don’t trust that there’s any enforcement or regard for IP ownership.

Emerald City HM March 28, 2016 at 3:32 pm

As a consumer who pays close attention to where items are manufactured, this is a huge bonus to me personally as far as our buying preferences. I am fully aware the one reason DVDs and video games are not produced in China is due to this.

Seattle Mom March 27, 2016 at 11:59 pm

It doesn’t make it OK, but I am guessing that an au pair with no US credit history would not get much of a credit limit. Any credit card company that gives someone with no history a limit of greater than $300 is a sucker and deserves to get stolen from… wait… is that my Eastern European ancestry talking or what?

Full Circle March 28, 2016 at 2:38 pm

Haha!! Yes! Surely their credit line wouldn’t be thousands but a few months of good payment history can lead to a “nice” credit limit by the end of the year. And for extension au pair a couple of years is definitely long enough for a decent credit line. And I don’t know, like someone said above $300 is a lot of money to au pairs so getting a free pass on a few hundred dollars can be tempting. But some credit card companies are crazy! My roommate in college had an Amex that started with $300 (not her first credit card though). About 3 months in it went up to $700 then another 2 months and she gets a letter saying she had $2000 and the very next DAY a letter comes in announcing her $13,000 limit!!!! Not kidding! I was dumbfounded that they would give a college student who was babysitting for a living that much of a credit line. Crazy stuff! But that was also right before the whole housing and credit crash so maybe (I mean, hopefully) they changed their practice about that!

Seattle Mom March 28, 2016 at 3:21 pm

Yeah, I really don’t know what credit limits are like these days for people with limited income (thankfully!). I remember having a $200 limit on my first credit card in college, and I’m pretty sure by the time I graduated I could get a $2,000 limit even though I didn’t really have a job- just paying the bills got me there. I wonder if it would be the same today.

Taking a Computer Lunch March 28, 2016 at 8:29 pm

My Dad had to sign on to my first credit card application as a guarantor! Times have changed!

Full Circle March 26, 2016 at 8:36 pm

Oh you can get one as a non-citizen But if you look at the application it will either specifically ask if you are a citizen and/or say in the fine print that by submitting the app you certify that you are a citizen. No one checks it, or asks for verification. So non-citizens do get credit cards all the time. Which I think is fine unless you are especially doing so with the intent to leave debt behind. When I applied for my US citizenship they specifically asked me (in the application form and interview) if I had ever claimed to be a US citizen in order to obtain employment, loan or line of credit. Again, I doubt they bothered to pull my credit report to check.

Full Circle March 26, 2016 at 8:37 pm

I could be wrong and there could be cards out there for non-citizens though.

Anna March 26, 2016 at 9:54 pm

I was born and grew up in Ukraine, and my family are honest people, and I am a play by the rules person. There are plenty of honest moral people on Ukraine and other FSU countries who know right from wrong and behave accordingly even when it is to their detriment.

I have been hosting for 9 years and purposefully avoided former FSU au pairs because I knew that they were more likely to fabricate their application because of the desperate wish to get out and the ease of buying driver’s licenses and getting fake references. So the pool was riskier; while you could get an unbelievable gem who truly treated your family like hers (i.e. pitched in not only when there is something in it for her, like a dinner out, but in regular life, like taking out the trash… )

However I do know that there are very honest, hardworking, and good, big hearted people in my former homeland; there are now, and always were. In fact they are the majority; but the dishonest minority seem to be more successful and more likely to seek out opportunities such as au pairing abroad.
My next au pair is from Ukraine (summer arrival) and I hope I got one of the gems… I wanted to get an au pair so she could help teach my kids Russian (hubby is not a Russian speaker and my kids unfortunately don’t speak Russian but now want to learn…)

My current au pair is from Colombia and while she is a wonderful au pair and person she does struggle with the rules… as in bending the rules.

Seattle Mom March 28, 2016 at 12:04 am

This is my impression of eastern European people in general.. from knowing many friends from former Soviet countries growing up in NYC. One of my bestest friends is Russian, and her whole family is wonderful- I trust them completely. But I have come across some of the crooks through my work in the past on transparency stuff, and research that I did in Russia specifically. I have avoided eastern European au pairs… I am more critical of them when I read their applications and interview them, and have yet to find one who puts me at ease.

PhillyMom April 6, 2016 at 11:03 am

I had two absolutely outstanding Au Pairs from Ukraine, but when I pre-screen, I always inquire about the role of religion in their lives. Somehow I feel that if person goes to church on a regular basis and adheres to basic Bible rules :)) he/she may be more honest:)). Another stereotype:)). Even though our family is Jewish we strongly encourage our Au Pairs spiritual and religious growth regardless of their faith.

Anna April 6, 2016 at 1:29 pm

PhillyMom, we are also Jewish!!! And observant to boot.
Our incoming Ukrainian au pair is a religious Christian and religion is important to her. In fact when I asked her how she feels that we are Jewish and observant, she said it was a positive because it was a sign that we try to be moral and honest people.
We are the same about encouraging and appreciating practice of religion; many of our au pairs were Christians from South America and it worked out well – they appreciate where we are coming from and we have a common frame of Judeo-Christian stories and things we share about our beliefs. I felt how important that was when we briefly had a Thai au pair and that whole common layer was missing.

WarmStateMomma March 29, 2016 at 10:16 pm

I think an issue with finding an AP from a high-corruption, highly cynical culture is gauging whether the AP will come to feel that you are in the circle of trust (and thus worthy of deep, abiding loyalty) or a stranger or authority figure (to be suckered if possible). It’s just too hard for me as an outsider to figure out where a candidate stands on that.

TexasHM March 27, 2016 at 2:08 pm

Anna I would love to hear how you screen for gems, especially given your knowledge of that region. I have a fascination with Russian history – particularly around the monarchy at the turn of the century – and would love to someday visit and learn more but as you said, I have found that region to be very hard to screen and thus, riskier than other regions for us. I don’t for a minute believe that this challenge is exclusive to that region either, a couple other areas have already been mentioned that have similar reputations. We don’t screen by country or buy into stereotypes but we also have to be careful and have to take the culture into context and this program is challenging enough to screen for without adding in higher odds of misrepresentation and ethical gaps to bridge. :/

Anna March 27, 2016 at 9:06 pm

I don’t know how she will turn out… she is arriving end of June. I haven’t had a Ukrainian au pair before.
But I think the fact that I have four kids from 2 to 12 does some pre-screening for me. :)

PhillyMom April 6, 2016 at 10:52 am

Anna, where do you live? I have a Ukrainian Au Pair, and may be your AU Pair will need some advice from a person who’ve been in this country for 1 1/2 years?:)) . My Au Pair is phenomenal in every aspect.

Anna April 6, 2016 at 1:30 pm

I am in Maryland in the greater DC area… I know it is not that far from where you are (if your nickname speaks to your location), and I may even be friendly with your LCC (Polina?)

PhillyMom April 6, 2016 at 1:46 pm

I know Polina:)), but we are with APIA. E-mail me if your AU Pair gets lonely ( my Au Pair goes to NY all the time. My mom lives in DC, so we are frequent guests there as well:))

NoVA Twin Mom April 6, 2016 at 11:01 am

Not an au pair, but I had an incredible (and ethical) exchange student from Ukraine – there are exceptions to every rule and you may have found one! I SO wanted her to apply to be an au pair – but until recently she didn’t drive so couldn’t be OUR au pair. She also majored in business and has a great job in Kiev, something that is hard to come by there and she shouldn’t leave it.

Taking a Computer Lunch March 29, 2016 at 7:14 am

In the case of an AP intentionally set out to defraud – if you have a good LCC, I’d tell her about the issue – it might make a good monthly meeting topic(managing your money as an AP, why credit cards are a bad idea, why you don’t want your social security number associated with fraud, etc.) Au Pairs give each other bad advice all the time and listen to each other even when they have been given contradictory information from their HF. (For example, not paying a parking ticket might not matter to your AP, but in our state we cannot renew our vehicle registration until all outstanding tickets have been paid – and they double after a few days! Not paying taxes may not matter, until she wants to return to the U.S.) Now that I have teenagers, I see that the ability to see long term consequences are only marginally different between teenagers and twenty somethings!

Leaving the U.S. with credit card debt may seem like an easy way to get extra money, but depending on the size of the debt, it could follow your AP home. She should be positive that a U.S. bank wouldn’t garnish her future wages for a debt that will accrue with 20% interest!!

TexasHM March 29, 2016 at 11:21 pm

I asked my coworker from Eastern Europe about this and he wasn’t surprised by any of it with the exception of the credit card comment. He said that didn’t jive because most credit card companies are international (VISA is here and everywhere else) so assuming she could bail on VISA for example wouldn’t make any sense because that very well could impact her back in her home country and if she commits a crime (such as bailing on credit card payment) she would kill her chances of ever returning and not just to the US but many US friendly countries would also flag her passport and potentially bar entry so she’s either being very short sighted or is completely clueless. Just thought I’d share his feedback. ;)

LuckyHM#3 March 30, 2016 at 5:08 pm

I dont agree with the thinking of the APs in these cases but just wanted to correct some assumptions. Visa isnt a card issuer neither is MC.. they are just the technology platforms/networks that enables electronic payments, only Amex among the big 3 is self-issuing as well as providing the network. while the card acceptance mark like VISA allows cards to be accepted worldwide, it certainly is not transmitting your credit records cross-border. In most cases, its the banks that issue the cards and unlikely that Bank of America or Chase for instance would go chase one person up for unpaid CC bills in some random countries. Just wanted to put that out there

Seattle Mom April 1, 2016 at 5:50 pm

Also the banks don’t track this information- the credit bureaus do. As far as I know the credit bureaus work nationally, and they don’t share information across national boundaries even if it’s the same company (like Experian) and the same individual. Also some countries don’t even have any credit bureaus, so credit is only available to people with collateral assets (aka rich people). And there are laws governing the sharing of this information- to protect people’s privacy, and to protect credit companies from fraud.

I found Experian’s website where they list all the countries in which they operate, not as many as I would have guessed, not even all of Europe:

LuckyHM#3 April 1, 2016 at 8:18 pm

You are correct. Even in countries that have some sort of credit tracking like the UK and the US, the credit information is not transferrable for so many reasons including privacy/legal issues as well as the fact that the unique identifiers like SS# is the US is not applicable in other countries. For instance, in the US, you get a SS# at birth or once you apply as an adult as an immigrant. Your SS# follows you everywhere for school, work, credit etc. In the UK, you dont have anything like that. The closest you have is your N.I (National Insurance) # which is issued typically at age 16 when you are eligible to go into the work place, It is primarily a tool to track your work history and N.I & tax payments. You dont need it for school for instance. So John Smith from the Uk moving to the US is not trackable cross-border for credit purposes

massmom March 30, 2016 at 11:12 am

What about allowing hospital or medical bills to go unpaid? Near the end of her stay with us, one of my previous au pairs took an ill-advised trip to the emergency room on a weekend when we were out of town, and since then, she’s been getting insurance bills and hospital bills at our address. I’ve forwarded them on to her, and have started marking them as “return to sender”. Will this have any impact on her being able to come back to the country?

WestMom March 30, 2016 at 11:52 am

I have seen this with many of our APs, and somehow I give them a pass on this… Most people outside this country are NOT prepared for the ridiculousness of our health care system. We can warn them, but it’s not until they receive that bill that they fully realize the implications. Our last AP still receives these collection notices for $1000 worth of blood tests which she had done an in-network doctor, but the lab was not in-network. She sent receipts/letters and made calls multiple times to sort it out until she left. I take it the costs are super high in part because some people (like some APs never pay).

Our current AP bought supplemental insurance at home. She is experiencing ringing in her ear and called the insurance and they told her to go to the ER to get tested. Once she got there, they sent her to get an MRI. Now she has been referred to a neurologist. AP is convinced that the insurance company will pay for all this because they said they would, but I have sincere doubts that they will pay in full. More collection notices for us…?

Frustrated Host Mom March 30, 2016 at 3:13 pm

I understand the ridiculously high cost of our healthcare system but I believe so do the aupairs. I usually advise my aupairs early on when they join us and have them check their insurance very carefully. I tell them the experiences previous aupairs have and I forward their bills to them after they leave.

To me if they have been informed of the cost then it is their responsibility. However, I do think the greater problem lies with the insurance coverage itself, it’s so minimal! May be the agencies ought to do a better job in fighting for better plans.

Full Circle March 30, 2016 at 3:56 pm

Is the coverage really that bad? I’ll have to take a closer look at the policy. In my au pair days I think it was ok, although I isn’t know the US healthcare system and didn’t need to use my coverage for anything big so it could really not have been thy great. I think it’s a great point that we can’t expect au pairs to understand the high costs of our system. It’s really crazy and so different than many parts of the world. When I have family and friends visit us from abroad I always tell them to get travel medical insurance bc one ER visit will run them a couple grand. They almost always laugh and think I’m exaggerating.I wonder if it might make sense for the au pairs to purchase extra coverage themselves. At their age full coverage would run about $40-60 per month of coverage. Maybe less and it covers 100% of expenses (but no routine care). I must admit that I did not pay close attention to their health coverage (it’s our first year hosting) but if the agencies don’t offer similar coverage than what my family/friends can purchase online when visiting than its insane!

Full Circle March 30, 2016 at 3:57 pm

Darn auto correct :/

WarmStateMomma March 30, 2016 at 5:39 pm

APs don’t usually get health insurance in the US. Instead, the agencies offer them travel insurance. It covers just enough to patch you up to send you home (where appropriate care may or may not be available). The agencies often offer a top-up plan (CCAP charges $500 for this) to get some improved level of insurance – but I have no idea whether it covers anything meaningful.

I doubt APs would be eligible to purchase real health insurance for themselves in the US. At least 3 years ago, it was harder and more expensive for American women to buy coverage on the open market than men and APs skew female….

Full Circle March 30, 2016 at 7:53 pm

We are with CCAP and our au pair mentioned this extended coverage. I’ll have to take a look to see if it’s worth it. But you are right. It wouldn’t make sense to get a US plan, but there are many travel plans for students on F1 or J1 visas that meet State dept requirements and have very decent coverage (pretty much 100% of any incidence of illness or accident). I had that while I was on a student visa and it was much better and cheaper than what my school provided. It even covered physical therapy when I hurt my ankle so it was great. I’m glad I’m reading these comments so that I can look into it.

Should be working March 30, 2016 at 10:23 pm

Our AP got a travel insurance from her home country that served her well when she got hurt on a trip in the USA during her vacation. That insurance cost her extra of course, but it was very useful when she needed it.

Should be working March 30, 2016 at 3:27 pm

If it takes me hours and hours to understand, contest, and re-contest my bills with insurance, I can see why a non-native speaker might be daunted even more by EOBs (“this is not a bill”!), billing codes, procedure codes, and in- or out-of-network issues. If the AP was advised not to go to the ER/doctor, that’s a problem. But otherwise I guess I would give a pass on this too as less of an obvious ethical issue. If I can’t understand my bills, benefits and how to get things paid properly, why should we expect non-USA people to handle it.

Dorsi March 31, 2016 at 2:30 am

A friend’s Au Pair fell on NYE, walking in the city, slightly intoxicated, in heels. She needed some stitches in her face. Insurance wouldn’t cover any of it – there is an exclusion for any injury that occurs while using alcohol. It’s ridiculous.

Taking a Computer Lunch March 31, 2016 at 8:54 pm

As someone who paid for grad school by working as a registrar for outpatient clinics in a university hospital, I would always advise patients who did not have health care insurance to apply to the hospital’s foundation for coverage. Some would insist that they did not need it – but clearly had never tried to pay for advanced coverage.

When your AP gets sick, as a HP, you have to help her. The model of care in her own country (go to the ER) may be so different that she won’t realize it will bankrupt her in the U.S.). Most AP insurance will NOT provide coverage for any ER visit that isn’t a true emergency (burst appendix, yes; a touch of cold, no; broken bones, yes; twisted ankle, no). You’ll need to help your AP navigate filing for claims reimbursement, because this will be 100% a new experience (plus, with few exceptions, not her native language).

And yes, most hospitals have funds to cover expenses from patients who walk away. Don’t encourage your AP to be one – but it can happen.

Here’s what I encourage for health care: 1) CVS Minute Clinic – the best bargain going, 2) Free clinics (but what a wait!), 3) for “female stuff” – Planned Parenthood (hey, I used them until I had decent health insurance, it’s pro-rated, and probably the best bargain going for women’s health, 4) late night clinics – because they’re cheaper than an ER, and 5) doctors who will actually take your AP’s health insurance – good luck! The ER is for true emergencies only – the broken bone that has pierced the skin, vomiting that won’t stop, appendicitis, etc. Think outside the box for some issues – like a local dental college for dental emergencies.

Oh, and my rule has always been – if my kids make the AP sick, then I pick up the tab (after she has submitted her claim) for the remainder. It can be very expensive, so as a HP, best to know what the options are.

Seattle Mom April 1, 2016 at 6:01 pm

A few of my APs have had issues with this, despite all sorts of warnings. A couple of them went to the ER without telling us, and got a friend to take them. Usually for something relatively minor that could have been better (and more cheaply) handled at an urgent care clinic. Current AP is still getting bills- and in that case I caught her on the way out the door and told her not to go to the ER, that I thought she should sleep (it was 9:30 at night) and go to the clinic the next morning. The one AP who came to me for help, I researched where to take her that would be covered on her insurance, and I took the day off work and drove her there (with the kids). It was an urgent care clinic. The only thing that went wrong was that they gave her a tetanus shot which was probably not necessary and the insurance didn’t want to cover it- I called the clinic after the insurance refused payment (it was like $150) and they dropped the charge for the shot, since they agreed it was overkill.

I’m now realizing that I don’t have much in my handbook about healthcare- I basically say “talk to me if you need to go to the doctor.” I think I need to scare them more about the cost of the emergency room, and how little their so-called insurance covers. Then they might actually talk to me so I can help them figure out what to do.

Frustrated Host Mom March 30, 2016 at 3:49 pm

For me whether it is ethical or not depends on the intention of the aupair. Some of my aupairs intentionally lie about medical illnesses so that they can get the American healthcare they don’t get back home. Then they purposely do not pay the bill. To me this is unethical. However, if the aupair really needed the medical attention and tried all his/her best to deal with the bill until the departure date then I don’t think it is not an ethical issue.

Seattle Mom April 4, 2016 at 6:44 pm

Yeah, that’s pretty much how I see it. If you really need to go to the doctor because something bad happened and you didn’t plan to come here just to freeload off our hospitals, then it’s understandable that you would go get treatment first and figure out the money later. And if you get a bill that is just well beyond your capacity to pay you’re not going to go bankrupt paying it, especially if you know you’re leaving the country and there’s not much they can do.

LuckyHM#3 March 30, 2016 at 5:27 pm

Thankfully, we havent had to face any of these ethical dilemmas with our APs. No one has tried to get a credit card or even had to go to the hospital.. Infact, I just wrote a check for current AP to pay her taxes and she gave me cash in return bacause she doesnt have a checkbook I guess we’ve been lucky and always interesting to read so many views.

However, all the ethical issues that have been listed here are asa prevalent among US citizens as any other countries. Do people here not really know young people in late teens to 20s who apply for extra credit with no intention of paying it off or any thought of the impact? Sometimes, folks just think that their debt mysteriously disappear? Do people not know folks who are always thinking of how the play the system, who plan to get fired or laid off so they can collect unemployment even though they never had any intention of staying long at that job?
Do people not know folks in your workplace who are as unethical as anything you can imagine and will back stab anyone to get ahead?

All in all, I believe that people are good, bad and ugly irrespective of where they come from but really about the content of their character. Yes, I would that things are more prevalent in some countries perhaps because they are not typically considered bad and not punished vs some other countries where there might be more punishment for it, what happens then is that folks in the latter country just work harded to game the system if they are unethical.

Seattle Mom April 4, 2016 at 6:48 pm

I do know local people who have done shady things to “game the system” and I try to avoid letting them in my social circle- definitely wouldn’t want them taking care of my kids either! My husband knows someone who intentionally doesn’t teach summer classes so he can collect unemployment (they are adjunct professors)- he told my husband he should do that too! Of course last summer my husband almost lost both of the classes he had been promised due to low enrollment, and he realized he could collect unemployment and get some projects done at home instead. He emailed his department head to let her know that it’s ok if she has to cut his classes, he’ll just collect employment. And like magic, within days, the threat of losing his classes was gone.

Au Pair in NZ March 31, 2016 at 8:21 pm

Ugh I remember this one time when I took a trip with some of my other au pair friends… We had tents and stayed in campsites along the way. On the second night, we ran into some other au pairs that we knew. We were chatting about how the prices had gone up for Labor Day weekend… One of the girls said, “wait, you actually pay for campsites?? We always arrive late at night and leave early in the morning so we don’t have to…” I just gaped at them and said slowly, “But that’s not honest.” You could have heard a pin drop after that… hehe. It was probably ~$15 a night per person…which isn’t a ton, but honestly, if you can’t pay that much, maybe you shouldn’t be taking a trip in the first place?? It’s someone else’s livelihood… They depend on that income, you know? It really bothered me as an American, but then I wondered later on if stuff like that was less of a big deal in their culture? I know I wouldn’t want my au pair teaching my kids that’s okay…

Seattle Mom April 4, 2016 at 6:57 pm

Wow, this would really bug me. I don’t know about NZ, but in the US the parks do not get enough funding to meet operational costs- they get by on those fees for camping, it’s the only way to pay for the parks. And they still don’t get enough money.

NZ HM March 31, 2016 at 9:12 pm

Slightly off topic though related: lately there has been a lot of stuff in the news, on forums and facebook groups discussing how a lot of German backpackers, incl. aupairs since a lot of them come here on a work and travel visa and not specifically to be an aupair (they might only decide half way through their time here to look for an aupair position), get into trouble stealing, squatting, camping illegally and generally trying to get everything for free while at the same time complaining a lot about their low wages and the cost of living and travelling… Often questions are posted on backpacker facebook groups with someone asking whether they need to pay fines (for illegally freedom camping, for parking, for speeding, etc.) before they leave the country…

Mimi March 31, 2016 at 9:41 pm

Camping was always big in Germany and although wild camping is not legal, if you’re remote, invisible, and well-behaved, nobody’s going to arrest you. If you get caught, you pay a small fine and it’s no big deal. I can see where that attitude in the parent’s generation can go wrong with a more entitled mindset in the children’s generation.

NZ HM March 31, 2016 at 9:52 pm

I agree!

Freedom camping just in a tent or simple campervan (primarily meaning no onboard toilet) isn’t really allowed anywhere in NZ anymore, mostly due to campers behaving badly and leaving a mess… What gets me most is not so much people trying to get away with it but the general surprise that most display when fines are issued for something that they should know was illegal (like sleeping in your car, van or tent next to the ‘no overnight camping’ sign). I am quite straight and generally like to operate within the rules of the law but if I do choose to break the speed limit, I think it’s important to be aware of the consequences and own up. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the same rules apply here to elsewhere/ their homecountry: if you break the law, you usually have to pay or get punished in some way.

Turning into a long post because this is a real bug bear for me: a while ago three young German tourists where caught with a ‘stolen’ rental campervan that they just took from the airport car park (keys were in the van) as they arrived in the country. Their excuse: they had been told other backpackers just left cars they couldn’t sell at the airport for someone else to take and use, and since this one had the keys in the ignition… ????

Mimi March 31, 2016 at 10:01 pm

That actually happens a lot. I worked for a car dealership in college and we used to get cars from airport auctions all the time and some of them had keys in the ignition or in the cup holder in the car and were unlocked. If a vehicle has been in the lot unmoved for over a year, and if they could not contact the owner with police help, it goes up for auction. There were always 10-15 cars coming from Logan (BOS) and I can imagine the NY has even more.

WarmStateMomma April 1, 2016 at 3:11 pm

I worked for a guy who travelled so much he forgot he left a rental car at the airport. The rental company called him when the car hadn’t been returned for 30 days and he had no memory of that car. They eventually found it in the airport parking garage.

Comments on this entry are closed.