Au Pair Asks: How Do I Ask Prospective Host Families About Guns in Their Home?

by cv harquail on June 17, 2013

Following on our earlier post about guns in the home, here’s a different take on the issue.

An au pair candidate writes to ask–

How do I ask possible host families about whether they have weapons in their home?

When I replied this au pair’s email, I mentioned to her that she’s the first au pair ever to bring this question up! (And after 6 years of this blog, it’s hard to find a situation that’s completely new.)

Why is it that au pairs haven’t raised this question before?

Is it a function of cultural differences?

The United States has the highest gun ownership rates in the world and the second highest rate of gun deaths among industrialized nations. 

With all the gun-related death news in the USA these past 12 months alone, you’d think the issue would be on au pairs’ minds.

But then again, we never think that an accidental, hand gun- related  death will happen to anyone we know.

Weapon-Free  Au Pair writes:

I plan on going to the USA to work as an Au Pair and have one question and would love to hear the opinion of host families about this issue.

I’ve just started thinking what is really important to me in a host family and what is not so important.

<However, there is one issue which is really important to me. I don’t think I want to live in a family that owns one or several weapons.

Also, I have been hearing of accidents where kids accidentally shot their brother / or father. I know these horrible accidents are exceptional cases and I am also sure that 99,9% of all weapon owners safely lock their weapons away but I would not feel comfortable living with a family that owns weapons.

Well, I have been wondering if it is possible to discuss this topic during interviews with families, if so when?

I worry that I would not make a good impression on families if I asked them if they have weapons and that it might decrease my chances to find a family – even if the family I am asking does not have a weapon and is pro gun control.

Do you think it is appropriate to ask such a question or would you be offended if an applicant asked such a question – no matter if you have a weapon or not –?

I really don’t want to start a conflict on aupairmom about weapon laws in the USA.  My concern is much more personal — Guns are not something that I can feel comfortable with, even if the family is super, super safe with them.

How can I ask this question, and when, without turning families off?

Host Parents, how should this au pair raise the question about guns? 

Has *any* au pair ever asked you about guns?

See this chart that compares gun ownership and gun-related deaths across industrialized nations:    On Guns, America Stands Out  NYT

Image: AttributionNoncommercial Some rights reserved by theclyde


PA AP Mom June 17, 2013 at 10:38 pm

I think that the AP could definitely ask the question either in emails exchanged with prospective host families, or during a phone call/Skype session.

CA Host Mom June 17, 2013 at 11:15 pm

I agree. Ask the question.

I, as a gun-owning HP, would NOT be offended if I was asked that question. It might have surprised me a bit (before reading these posts) but I wouldn’t be offended at all.

It’s a good idea that you find out ahead of time, especially since it is an issue that seems really important to you. People are within their rights to legally own firearms in the US, but that does not mean that everyone else has to be comfortable with it.

Absolutely ask the question, if it is important to you.

HRHM June 18, 2013 at 7:00 am

Ask. If the family is unhappy that you ask the question, then you don’t belong with them anyway. I doubt that not wanting a gun-owning family is going to eliminate a huge sector of the pool, regardless.

Momma Gadget June 18, 2013 at 8:55 am

I think Au Pairs should ask questions on issues that are important or would make them uncomfortable living with a family for a whole year… BEFORE they match with a family.
If the question is posed in a neutral way, it should not cause offense-“I hear many people in the USA own guns. Do you keep guns in your home?”. You don’t need to get into a debate over it.

AnotherSeattleHostMom June 18, 2013 at 2:12 pm

I agree you should just ask….if someone gets offended I imagine you wouldn’t want to live in that home anyway :)

We have had an issue come up with our AP recently regarding guns. We are not gun owners and don’t anticipate that we would ever be. Our AP has just started dating someone and she told us on one of their dates he took her to the shooting range and she is planning on going back and doing more shooting because she liked it so much. That’s fine…no problem with that…but then when the boyfriend came to dinner he told us he has a concealed carry permit and is always carrying a gun. Again…no problem…but don’t really want him in our home with a gun when we aren’t around. Our AP does some date nights for us where kids are asleep most of the time so we’ve said she could have a friend over to watch movies or something. In the past it was her AP girlfriends (who presumably don’t carry guns) but in the future she wants her BF to come over and we aren’t comfortable with that (and she understands but is disappointed and I think he is offended…oh well).

Point is for us that we are going to add this to our handbook…that guests in our home can’t have weapons (especially guns) with them when we aren’t home. We already have a rule that we have to meet and approve any guests who will be at our home when we are not. I’m fine if her boyfriend wants to come to dinner or come watch movies while we are home but we are completely uncomfortable not being home and having someone in our home with a gun. Especially someone we don’t know well enough to know if he is a responsible gun owner…

Should be working June 18, 2013 at 5:37 pm

Eeps! Never occurred to me to have this rule in the handbook!

MidAtlantic Host Family June 18, 2013 at 5:57 pm

I know there is a separate extensive handbook post and comments, but if you add everything to the handbook like this, won’t your handbook get too cumbersome, especially for someone whose first language is not English.

I would deal with this on a situational basis that will rarely, if ever, come up.

AnotherSeattleHostMom June 18, 2013 at 9:12 pm

I agree…can’t put everything in the book but this one seems important so it’s going in!!! :)

LookingFowardToBeAP June 24, 2013 at 8:31 pm

Maybe you can have a short vertion to send first to candidates and when you close the match with someone u show the extense one… just a thought

(of course the first one should have every important thing for the daily life, and the second one things like this that are very rare but its good to think of in advance)

Seattle Mom June 18, 2013 at 7:53 pm

I agree with all of the above- just ask! I don’t think most people would be offended, as long as it was worded in a neutral way.

I wonder what % of U.S. host families have guns in their homes.. I guess this is not the kind of data that the agencies will want to track and publish :). My guess is that it’s a small number, but I may be really naive.

Spaniard AuPair June 19, 2013 at 11:45 am

My english isn’t so good but I want to say my opinion. I have read about this blog in one Spaniard au pair blog – this one:

I think her opinion is the opinion of the most part of european au pairs about guns, if you want to read.

Is dificult to speak about guns, because we have any idea about it. In our country, we don’t have guns, and is so unconfortable speak with the families about it, it’s like ask you “Well, and you are as suspicious or obsessed for have guns in home?”. It’s not a normal question for us, and it’s not easy.

I think, if you have guns, is a important information to include in your family handbook.

Momma Gadget June 19, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Communication is key to a successful Au pair/ Host family relationship. As an adult you will find many instances ( in life) that you will need to overcome your own discomfort, and bring up subjects that may be difficult.
Because it is not a ‘normal” question in your country/culture does not make it wrong to ask. Obviously there is enough of a difference in firearm ownership between the USA and Other countries to raise questions and concerns with Au pairs.
Not every family ( I know very few who do in my area)in the US keep guns. If it is a genuine concern of yours- You will be living with this family for a year-then you owe it to yourself to ask ( not accuse).
For the record: We are not “gun” people either. It would earn an AP points with us for asking, and show us that this is a subject we have similar views on.

hOstCDmom June 20, 2013 at 9:05 am

Agree re earning points- our current , fabulous AP, asked us whether we own guns (we don’t), our views on homosexuality and what we instructed out children in that regard (we are fine with it and teach our kids that; she explained she did not want to live with a homophobic family), whether we or our children had friends of other races (we do!) (are white and so is she) and whether we would be ok if she had an friend or boyfriend who was brown or black (we are!), and asked what our religious practices were (holiday only), and whether she would be expected to participate in them or actively instruct/further them with our kids (she said she would never contradict us or undermine us but she was not comfortable teaching or furthering a particular religious worldview). These questions were AWESOME! Her asking them confirmed for me that she was the perfect AP for us!

Emerald City HM June 20, 2013 at 12:44 pm

Where do you find candidates that ask questions like this?!?

We usually get questions that really make us wonder what they tell these girls about the program. The most frequent question being, “Will I have my own room?”

Our incoming au pair did ask us why we chose her and I thought that was an excellent question to ask before she made her decision, but we didn’t end up interviewing her until we had already interviewed at least 10 girls and were nearly just getting annoyed with the pool and the process in general.

Do you specifically look for older au pairs?

Seattle Mom June 21, 2013 at 2:11 pm

Wow, I’ve never had a candidate ask such questions- I would be thrilled!

American Host Mom in Europe June 24, 2013 at 11:23 am

Wow, I’d LOVE to find a candidate who’d ask such great questions. I wish more of them had ANY questions.

HRHM June 19, 2013 at 2:26 pm

We have guns in the house and it is NOT information we disclose to anyone voluntarily, although if an AP asked, we would answer honestly. Realistically, our firearms are kept in an area where they are never seen and there is no ammunition in our house. The last thing we want is curious kids or APs (of their friends) going looking for them, so we don’t talk about them.

Our current AP probably doesn’t even know they are there and she’s been with us 11 1/2 months. We don’t keep one loaded and propped by the front door, or where it in a holster on our hip. :)

Angie host mom June 20, 2013 at 8:12 pm

If we had guns I would not put it in the handbook, myself, because it wouldn’t relate to the au pair’s job or home life and neither they nor the children would have access to the weapons.

Pauli June 19, 2013 at 2:24 pm

I FULLY AGREE ON THIS. The au pair MUST ask if the HF own a weapon. I didn’t ask and my HK shot a 22 rifle. Luckily, nothing happened to anyone and he just got grounded. Days later, he shot his own finger with a BB gun.

Angie host mom June 20, 2013 at 8:13 pm

Sounds like a rematch situation since you were obviously uncomfortable with the guns when you got there and didn’t feel like they were safe – did you rematch?

Angie host mom June 20, 2013 at 7:58 pm

I would guess this would go under the category of questions a prospect would probably ask our current au pair rather than us as HF. I think it is important to give a candidate the chance to ask any questions that they aren’t comfortable with – like is the HM or HD crazy? Do the kids behave? Are you overworked with a chain around your neck or ignored and treated like a servant? Is it a safe environment?

Granted, for an au pair going into a house as the first au pair, they don’t have an outgoing au pair to ask – but it is harder to ask the HF than an au pair.

I think the question should be broader than if there are guns in the house and should address how safe is the environment and the house and the family?

Seattle Mom June 21, 2013 at 2:18 pm

If someone asked any of my APs whether we have guns in the house, she probably would say “I don’t think so” – but she wouldn’t know for sure unless we told her- so to me it makes most sense to ask the HF that question, if you really want to know. (We don’t have guns, but the subject has never come up with any AP)

If the answer was yes, we do have guns, I think then it would make sense to talk to the current/former AP to find out whether it has had any impact on her job/life.

For all important questions, I would MUCH rather the new/candidate AP get her information about specific questions like this directly from us. Otherwise it becomes a weird game of telephone. That was one of the myriad problems with our rematch AP- she got all her info from the outgoing AP and treated it like gospel to the point where she would use it to argue against what we were directly telling her we wanted her to do.

I do think it’s important to get a “general sense” of how things are with the kids, house, family, life, etc from the outgoing/former AP- but if there’s a specific question, including about guns, it’s best answered by the parents themselves.

angie host mom June 24, 2013 at 5:32 am

I meant they would ask the au pair, not should…..yes this causes issues. Especially when they ask about hours and duties. But better to let them ask anyway and then set expectations that all au pairs are different and family needs change.

NoVA Twin Mom June 20, 2013 at 8:39 pm

While I completely understand the wish not to be in a house with a gun (because I felt the same way until I started my current job), I think an important part of the question is WHY the host family has a gun if they do. If one of the host parents is law enforcement (or some military), that weapon may be part of their job.

I work for a law enforcement agency, but as a civilian. While I don’t have a gun – at work or at home – many, many of the people I work with do. I trust them completely, but it’s because of the training I know they have with that weapon. And, frankly, because I know the huge issues it would cause them if something happened because the gun was stored or used improperly. That weapon will either be safely on their person or stored safely at all times.

I do need to say that being in law enforcement or military does not automatically mean that the family will have a gun in the house. Many, many members of the military do not bring guns home. I imagine some members of law enforcement have figured out a way not to have a gun in the house.

But I feel like I need to defend the people that have guns as a part of their jobs – so suggest adding a follow up question if you hear a family HAS a gun to ask why. Of course, if you’re just not comfortable with the idea of a gun in the house, then a family with a gun – for whatever reason – isn’t going to be a good match.

HRHM June 21, 2013 at 8:44 am

In addition, depending on where you live, hunting is a huge part of the culture and the HPs may have rifles for small or big game hunting. Actually, regardless of where you live, since my DD’s godfather lives in Newark, NJ but travels all over the planet to hunt.

There are a myriad of reasons why people keep firearms, some pretty obvious (work, hunting) other a little more subject to personal opinion/attitude (personal protection, zombie apocolypse) and I agree that the reason for having the guns, how they are treated (deadly weapon vs casual prop) and the family’s attitude are far more relevant than the actual presence or abscence of the guns themselves.

Seattle Mom June 21, 2013 at 2:25 pm

Excellent point- I think it would be important to learn from a gun-owning HF how they keep the kids safe from the guns, and what their attitude is about letting kids use the guns. It feels crazy to me even writing this, but there are plenty of stories about kids getting hold of family guns & using them- if I were going to live with a family from a strange culture I had never met and know little about, and knew they had both kids & guns it would be important to know how they deal with it.

I personally do not like guns but I have spent plenty of time in my uncle’s house, and he owns many guns. He frequently has his grandchildren there spending the night, and I would spend the night there with my kids. But this is because I know and trust him to take all the necessary precautions. Although I think if I ever do spend the night with my kids I will check ahead of time and casually ask how secure his guns are. If this question offends him (it might, knowing him) I just won’t stay there- to me that would be a sign that his political views trump my need to ensure my kids’ safety.

NoVA Twin Mom June 24, 2013 at 8:36 am

HRHM – your reference to zombie apocalypse, in addition to being completely on point for the discussion, MADE MY DAY. Thanks!

HRHM June 24, 2013 at 9:12 am

Glad I could brighten your world! :)

MidAtlantic Host Family June 24, 2013 at 4:32 pm

You mean every American family isn’t preparing for the zombie apocalypse?

Host Mom in the City June 20, 2013 at 10:41 pm

Definitely ask. As someone who finds gun ownership completely incomprehensible, I would welcome the question and take it as a good sign. This post has encouraged me to talk to my au pair about this topic, so thanks.

LookingFowardToBeAP June 24, 2013 at 8:54 pm

What about asking if any of the host parents has been in jail or prision…? I think i’d had a hard time asking this and it is something i’d like to know

CA Host Mom June 25, 2013 at 12:11 pm

The application process for host families (at least the one we went through) included a criminal background check. We were required to submit to that check in order to host an Au pair in our home. I imagine it is a requirement of most agencies.

I suggest that you ask your agency contact if the same is true for host families in your agency.

LookingFowardToBeAP June 30, 2013 at 11:06 pm

Thanj you!
I didn’t know that families had to do that too, can I ask what agency are you with?

Host Mom in the City July 1, 2013 at 8:09 am

Cultural Care began this requirement within the last year or two, but I don’t think Au Pair in America does one. I’m not sure what exactly the background check looks at – would it be criminal histories and that sort of thing? Of course that would be important to know about and I think agencies should do thorough checks on all program participants. But I wouldn’t base my agency decision on who does background checks.

I would imagine that most families would pass the background check. There seemed to be a big call for checks on families after a case a year or so ago where a man was taking advantage of au pairs – in that case, these were au pairs who had skipped their visas and the man was not a host family. What you really want to know is whether or not the family is going to follow the rules and intent of the program and provide a private comfortable room for the au pair. And of course, that’s something the background check won’t reveal.

We’ve been with both CC and APIA agencies and both have done pretty through questioning of us and checking out our house and our au pair’s room, which made me feel good. Our LCCs have come to our house at least twice – once before we matched and once a few weeks after our au pair’s arrival. They have also both checked in every month to confirm that we were following keeping our hours under 45 and always paying the stipend on time.

Au pairs can (and should) also ask potential host families any questions they have. We’ve interviewed dozens of au pairs and very very few of them have any questions at all, which really surprises me. I am very impressed by the ones that ask questions which show they have thought about what they want out of the year and what type of family they would work best with.

Agencies do background checks and interviews on au pairs, but that doesn’t mean I don’t extensively interview them on my own topics of interest. Au pairs should be encouraged to do the same, background checks or no.

HRHM July 1, 2013 at 4:30 pm

I also know for a fact that CC may ask, but they don’t verify. I know of a HM in our cluster who got arrested for a DUI last July, charged and convicted in October, has been on “probation” with a blower in her car and when she was asked “Has anyone in the HF been charged with a crime?” answered no and is now interviewing for her next AP despite all of the above. I can see her conviction online, so you know they could too if they bothered to check. It just happens that she is one of my neighbor’s bosses and the tongues in a small town will wag.

Swiss Aupair Patty June 26, 2013 at 8:34 am

I practice Sport Shooting with different guns and I was afraid to talk about it with my future hostfamily! I’m doing this sport since I’m 12 years old, for almost 10 years, and for me it was no option to stop it while being an Aupair. Because one year without practice would not be good for my skills. Going to a Sports-Club is also an easy way to meet people from the country where you are. And it’s a very common sport in Switzerland. I think Switzerland is nuber 2 or 3 in this “gun owner” list, so here it’s really not a big deal if someone does it.

So back to my problem: I was afraid what a hostfamily will think about it. My first HF’s (in Norway) reaction was very surprising to me! I told them AFTER matching process, because I was just too afraid about not finding a hostfamily when they know that I love shooting. But they were like: “Oh Hostdad did that also years ago, we have a “gun cabinet” and if you like to, you can bring your own guns, it’s absolutely no problem!” (I wasn’t thinking about bringing my own guns, because of a lot of paperwork). I was so glad! It was really a great year for me and I made a lot of new friends in this club and I’ve seen a lot of the country while travelling to some events.

But now, I’ve the same problem again! I would like to be an Aupair in the US, but not sure what US-Hostparents think about that. Could you may tell me what you think about it? Would you be afraid of it? Even if I would not bring my own guns? How should I tell a family that I do that kind of sport, without make them feel uncomfortable?
I will definitely tell them before matching, but I don’t want to decrease my chances to find a family.

Thank you for your answers

Momma Gadget June 26, 2013 at 9:40 am

Although I said before we are not gun people, My Uncle is a competitive sharp shooter. I understand the need for practice to keep your ‘edge’.
If it is important to you to be able to practice your sport while you are in the USA then you should absolutely disclose it to your family. Infact, this seems like such an important part of who you are as a person, I would put this in your dossier.
It is not just about just finding “A” family in the US, it is about finding the “RIGHT” family in the US.
Honestly if I saw in you profile that you were into shooting, I would release your dossier… we do not allow guns in our home- not real fire arms,not airsoft, not paintball, not even nerf guns…
There would be other families who are into shooting or hunting that would be thrilled to have an Au pair who was into similar sports… especially one who could help impress upon young ones the importance of responsible gun ownership & safety etc…
If you do decide to put in your profile about your shooting, I would be sure to include your views on safety.

Host Mom in the City June 26, 2013 at 9:47 am

Agreed with the above. You want to find a family that is a good match for you, which would include needing a family that supports this part of you. We too are not a gun family, so we would pass on your application. If I matched with you and then found out you were spending all your free time shooting guns, I personally would be concerned and irritated that you didn’t disclose this. But that’s just our family – you wouldn’t be a good match for us necessarily, but if you’ve read anything about U.S. news, you’ve seen that there are a huge number of gun-rights supporters in the U.S. I’m sure you’ll have no trouble finding a family that is a good match.

Tristatemom June 26, 2013 at 10:13 am

If you went to a club to shoot and see this as a sport (i.e. not a way to defend yourself), we would probably be ok with it and see it as a productive way to keep yourself busy in your spare time. However, you could not bring ANY guns to our house. I would carefully explain your hobby in the application and emphasize the sport aspect (sort of as if you were shooting arrows (I know there is an offical name for that sport but I am blanking right now)).
Btw, stress that you had a successful AP experience before, that is an asset. Good luck to you!

Swiss Aupair Patty June 26, 2013 at 11:54 am

To me it’s definitely a sport and I would never bring any weapon to a hostfamily. Childrens safety first! Even if a weapon is locked somewhere, ther is never a 100% chance that the children can’t get it. I’m active in clubs here, and I teach children/teens from the age 10-20 how to handle pistols an rifles. I also go to a lot of events. I grew up with it, it’s like a “tradition” in my family. I never saw it as a way to defend myself or something like that. In Switzerland it’s also not allowed to carry a gun if you are not a police officer or something similar.

Host Mom in the City June 26, 2013 at 12:20 pm

Like someone else above said, I would just make that clear in your application and stress your knowledge of safety. Under hobbies or where ever, you could say “I am an avid sport shooter, which is a very popular hobby in Switzerland. I have been active in clubs here for over 10 years and will definitely want to keep up my skills during my au pair year. In recognition that some host families may not be comfortable with this sport, I want to make sure it’s clear how much I value safety and that I see this sport as tradition in my culture. When I practice, I use the weapons offered at the clubs, and will not ever have a weapon at the host family’s home or in any way discuss or expose weapons to my host family and their children. I am happy to discuss this hobby with you during the matching process so that you can feel absolutely comfortable.”

CA Host Mom June 26, 2013 at 12:30 pm

Though I own a firearm and keep it locked in a gun safe in my closet, I wouldn’t want my AP to bring firearms into (or keep them at) our home. I would consider your application like all others, though. So it goes to show you that there are families that would be totally fine with it.

I think it’s fantastic that you enjoy this hobby, and have been so committed to it for so long. I would like to see details about it in your profile, and I agree with the other HPs who said that you should absolutely emphasize the safety aspect of it so there is no room for a host family to assume that you are not completely safety conscious.

It’s neat that you teach children, and that you are active in clubs. As a HP, I am much more interested in candidates who have hobbies and interests, even if they are not the same as my own.

My advice is similar to what others have said – don’t sacrifice the opportunity to find the ‘right family’ for you just to increase your chances of finding any family at all. Just as Momma Gadget said above, there will be the right family out there for you and you will be so much happier there … Good luck.

MidAtlantic Host Family June 26, 2013 at 6:10 pm

I think it shows a tremendous amount of responsibility to be trained and significantly experienced at showing children to safely use firearms. Some less successful au pairs have trouble crossing the street with kids – let alone supervising them while using firearms. Regardless of your intent to continue the sport, this is something I would include in your application.

Angie host mom June 26, 2013 at 1:23 pm

Broadening this a bit, we’ve had au pairs who have “hid” important things about themselves because they were afraid they wouldn’t find a family.

In some cases, it just causes a level of angst – in one case because we knew a personal fact about an au pair who never chose to reveal it so we never talked about it, but she would get this deer in the headlights look every time something around the topic came up. It wasn’t a big problem but it did make everybody kind of uncomfortable.

In another case, it was a real problem, because the au pair was really unhappy that she couldn’t be herself because she had not been truthful during the interview process.

You don’t want to go to a host family that doesn’t want you. This is the hard part to keep in mind when you are looking for a family and afraid you won’t match. We also don’t want an au pair that doesn’t want us, so we try to be honest about our own limitations. It’s better to not get the call in the first place from the host family that doesn’t want you than to start the process and back out later. Put your gun hobby in your profile, and the only families who will back out will be those who you dont want to match with anyway.

Reasons to select Au Pairs June 27, 2013 at 8:13 am

Really, I would not feel comfortable living with a family that owns weapons.

Northeasterner June 30, 2013 at 3:31 pm

Honestly, I’d be thrilled to be asked that question by a potential au pair. It would show that she/he and I are on the same page when it comes to guns and gun safety, and would make me feel more confident that she/he wouldn’t invite someone carrying firearms to our house, or bring my children to a home where guns are present. It would be a big plus, so definitely ask!

Gun-owning families would not want you as an au pair, but you would be uncomfortable with them anyways, and non gun owners may be very happy that you brought up that question.

HRHM June 30, 2013 at 8:32 pm

Actually, I’m a gun owner and I would not decline to accept an au pair who had reservations about being in a home with guns based on that alone. If an AP asked, I would answer honestly and leave it up to her as to whether my answers were adequate and negated whatever fears she might have. Certainly the fear of the unknown is probably the most common reason why APs from other countries would be uncomfortable with guns. There are plenty of families in the US just like mine who have guns for legitimate reasons (cops, military, hunters) and keep them in a very safe way, that makes their presence (the guns that is) no more dangerous than the can of gas you keep in your garage for your lawn mower.
I get it that this is a very emotionally charged topic, but we should all be careful of hyperbole.

Northeasterner July 1, 2013 at 1:13 am

I’m sorry that I caused offense! I meant what I said as a logic statement, not as hyperbole.

The reason I said that gun-owning families wouldn’t want to match with the OP is that she seemed VERY firm about not wanting to live in a home with guns. Here are her original words: “However, there is one issue which is really important to me. I don’t think I want to live in a family that owns one or several weapons.”

That’s where my statement came from — if it is very important to an au pair not to live in a gun-owning household, then a gun-owning family will not choose her. My statement wasn’t an accusation that firearm owners have some sort of prejudice against supporters of gun control, just that they are unlikely to toss their guns out based on a potential match’s preferences.

I do want to caution you, though, against interpreting a potential au pair’s no-gun preference as a teaching moment. You may be a safe gun-owner, but you have no way to prove that to someone about to put herself in a very vulnerable position to come live with you. It would be much more prudent to match with an au pair who is comfortable living in a gun-owning household than to encourage someone to ignore her instincts when she is already so averse to firearms. You may end up with an au pair who is even more anxious about her new living situation than an average brand new au pair would be. Why throw in that extra complication?

wallabe July 3, 2013 at 10:12 am

Interesting. We are not “gun people”, however, my husband is in law enforcement and owns guns for work. As soon as he comes home, the guns are unloaded and locked in a safe with the ammunition locked in another spot in the house. However, I can see how just having a weapon in the house could make someone uncomfortable, regardless of how secure it is. We never officially disclosed that we have guns in the house during the matching process, because we just presumed potential APs would expect that we did based on my husband’s job. I realize now, that this is not the case in many countries and, in the future, we should probably disclose the fact that we have guns in the house during the matching process. I wouldn’t want to find a great AP and then have her be uncomfortable in our home.

Aupair2013 July 5, 2013 at 5:54 pm

I To be honest, I would not mind to have HP with guns at home, in fact I´d feel more safe knowing that if someone sneaks in the house at night with a gun or whatever at least you would have a chance to defend your home…

but I think kids should know where the guns are and explain to them that they are NOT toys and under any circumstance are able to touch them.

And I say that they should know about them cause I´ve heard a lot of times on TV: kids found a gun, one of them shoots brother/sister cause they thought it was a toy, ending up on a parents that will never forget that was their fault.

One of the things I´m really worry about become an Au Pair in America is the easy access to guns and all the shooting at schools, cinemas ect…

I´m really thinking on the possibilty to get Stun Guns or tasers or any kind of spray so I can defend myself.

But all of that would not be necessary if you were not allow to have guns in the U.S.A

southafricanAP July 7, 2013 at 10:29 am

Hi everyone,
I don’t really know where else to ask this but it kind of relates to the topic of aupairs asking potential families questions.

I am currently in the matching process and just want to know if you as potential host families would find it rude if an aupair asked if you were Republican or Democrat.
The reason I ask is because I feel like I can loosely judge if my beliefs and opinions would match with the host family without asking a whole bunch of questions.
I would still ask questions afterwards but this way I get a rough idea of what the families believe in. E.g. Republicans are pro-life and many do not support gays or gay marriage and democrats are much more leniant etc.
(I don’t want to offend anyone in anyway, I am just using this as an example and I know that not everyone is like that)

Any answers would be greatly appreciated.


Host Mom in the City July 7, 2013 at 7:53 pm

Hi SouthAfricanAP – glad to hear you’re thinking about what type of family you’d match best with. Although I completely get why you’re asking the question, I don’t think I’d phrase it as a political question. First of all, there is so much variation on beliefs within those two parties. Some people feel very strongly against abortion and therefore associate themselves with republicans, even though they believe gay marriage should be legal, for example. It’s not as if everyone who associates themselves as republican is a totally anti-gay, religious, anti-immigrant, anti-abortion, small government zealot; or on the flip side, not every democrat is a pro-gay marriage, big government, atheist, pro-choice, feminist, embracing of all cultures and open immigration. There are also many Americans who are apolitical, so the answer from them wouldn’t mean much. So even if you don’t necessarily offend the potential host family, you might not get a true answer that gets to what you really want to know.

We’ve been through the matching process three times and I get why you’d want the information. We live in a neighborhood that is extremely diverse race-wise, culture-wise, religion-wise (or lack of), sexual orientation and family structure-wise, etc. I haven’t quite figured out a way to ask au pair candidates whether they feel that homosexuality is normal or whether they value diversity like we do. We are family that strongly associates with the democrat’s traditional views on things and agree that an au pair who strongly disagrees with our views would probably not be a good match for us or for our city. So again, I get where you’re coming from.

You could ask about diversity in their neighborhood or schools, you could ask about their religious beliefs or values. You could also look at the neighborhood in which they live. Voting districts that are strongly red are going to obviously have more republican-leaning families and vice versa. Although even that won’t be a true indicator since there is variation as I mentioned.

So really I don’t have much to tell you except to be careful about asking that question and assuming from the answer you get. I’ll be interested in hearing whether anyone has methods of sussing out these kinds of questions in host families or au pairs.

HRHM July 17, 2013 at 5:58 pm

I actually have a statement in my HF handbook that makes it clear that we think that all people, regardless of color, religion, gender and sexual orientation are equal. I suppose if that doesn’t tag us as bleeding heart liberals, nothing will! LOL

Taking a Computer Lunch July 19, 2013 at 7:08 am

I agree with HMitC, that if you’re asking about political party participation because you believe in a stereotype about people in those parties, that you will not get the answer you want. However, if an AP asked me anything about American politics, I’d be impressed. In the 12 1/2 years I’ve been hosting few of my APs have bothered to read the daily newspaper to which we subscribe, and even though we live near the U.S. Capitol, few have taken advantage of the front seat to American politics (except to go see the inauguration).

Nevertheless, if you pose some thoughtful questions that get at the information you want to know without stereotyping, then you will probably impress your potential HF. And if you were to do your homework about their community (it’s all available – just Google the town with the state) and ask thoughtful questions about politics in the community, the HF will see that you care about where and with whom you live.

Oh, and even though in the rest of the world red = communist, here in the United States on the political map red = Republican and blue = Democrat.

PassionateWorrier July 16, 2013 at 3:15 am

As a HF, I think you have to be aware that “gun ownership” might be a “cultural difference” that doesn’t come to your prospective au pair’s mind on first thought.

If the AP is not part of a family where guns are a topic (e.g. parent in law enforcement / military, hunting, sports) and comes from a somewhat sheltered background, she might not be aware how “easy” or “common” gun ownership is in the US. Carrying concealed might even be a concept that is totally alien to the AP – even if they consider shooting a sport (have seen in Olympics) or if they are aware that people hunt (living in the countryside, having seen people hunt).

If you own a gun, this might be a topic to talk to your AP about. Especially, the “what ifs”. What if you “forget” to lock your gun away, people make mistakes, how often do you find yourself wondering if have locked the door or not. What if you think the safe / cabinet is locked but it isn’t, a child gets into it and even if the ammunition isn’t stored with the gun and it isn’t loaded – what is the AP supposed to do? How is AP supposed to handle the situation?

If you carry concealed and have a gun on your person at most times (as the AP’s boyfriend in one of the earlier examples does) and are not law enforcement / military (where an AP might expect that) I think it’s definitely an even more important topic to talk to your AP about.

a) Do they have a problem with it?
Give them a chance to make an educated decision for you as a HF. You don’t want them to run off after a month because they feel you haven’t been honest with them / are scared of having guns in the house / are uncomfortable.

b) Have they handled guns?

If not:
c) Teach them gun safety!
Not “don’t touch and stay away” but how to treat them if they see them sitting on the kitchen counter where you (or your buddy or your neighbor or grandpa or whoever) have accidentally left it or what to do if they see a child handling it.

When I was an AP (more than a decade ago, but still), it never came to my mind that my family might have a gun in their home. Gun ownership is such an alien topic in my country of residence that I never even thought of it. They worked at a bank! Bank people don’t own guns. Bank people are afraid of people who own guns and rob banks ;) [Now I know I lived in a no-issue state and thus at least assume they didn’t illegally carry concealed]

Neither do I know what my HF thought about homosexuality, abortion or any other political / religious topics. And I couldn’t have cared less. I went to stay with them because we clicked, had a similar sense of humor, the work they expected me to do was what I was happy with, and neither of the topics was ever discussed – I have to admit that I was not a very political person at 19. However, had I been enthusiastic about something, I would have made sure to ask. And had my HF had strong believes about something, I would have expected them to ask or to tell me (e.g. smoking / alcohol which we did talk about).

Strong beliefs (as long as it doesn’t turn into downright bullying but remains at the level of “let’s politely disagree about this for a year or so”) about something might make others uncomfortable but they don’t usually have a possibility of killing or doing bodily harm to someone else while mishandling a gun might.

monica July 17, 2013 at 2:51 pm

That is an very interesting topic.
When I started being an AP I would have never ever lived with a HF who
Owns a gun, no matter where and how safely its locked up.
Simply bc I’m German and weapons aren’t part of our society.
Now I’m a military wife and I can’t care less.
What I try to say is that just asking won’t offend anybody and gives an
Potential HS the fair chance to explain the situation.
Honesty IS ALWAYS the best thing especially straight from the beginning.

vdotw July 26, 2013 at 10:53 pm

We fully disclosed the fact that we have guns locked in a safe in our home. I asked our prospective APs if that made the uncomfortable. I certainly would not have faulted someone who said yes, nor would I be offended if one outright asked me about guns in my home. Our current AP wants to take a handgun safety class and go shooting once with an instructor. It’s obviously something very personal to each family and individual, but I believe communicating openly about a safety issue like this is a stepping stone to an open HP/AP relationship.

Anon August 20, 2013 at 8:03 am

May I suggest a better approach?
Most gun owners take their privacy very seriously. They do not make their firearms ownership public knowledge, in order to prevent theft, etc.
So, rather than “pry” into such a personal matter before even meeting them, why not simply add a statement to YOUR Profile that expresses your preference for unarmed households?
That way, prospective employers will know how you feel, and you will only be contacted by those without firearms.
In the event that they are Law Enforcement, etc. they would surely indicate that when contacting you.
This weeds out those households where you would not be comfortable, without requiring them to divulge such private information to a stranger.

Anon September 17, 2013 at 11:42 am

As a former serviceman, current Au Pair (to Europe), and gun owner, I wouldn’t find this question offensive at all. Being an Au Pair is a long term commitment, both for you and the host family. If someone feels uncomfortable around firearms, and it would make their stay uncomfortable, ask. If someone was very religious and wanted to be with a religious family, ask. It’s better to get these sort of concerns out ahead of time so that nobody is left feeling trapped once all is said and done.

If you chose to work with a family who owns firearms, ask that they teach you how to safely handle one, to keep yourself safe in the event you run across one and need to move it out of reach from the children. It’s a very hot topic in the United States, but anybody who would be offended by you inquiring might not be a good match in the first place. Maybe, if you ever felt comfortable, the host family could take you on a shooting trip. When I lived in the United States I would take my European friends shooting and most ended up enjoying it, you never know what you’ll take away from your time in the United States, whatever you may do, good luck!

Claudia October 12, 2013 at 10:42 pm

I asked my hostparents If they have weapons at home before I matched with them last year because, like the Au Pair in this case, I would have felt very uncomfortable about that. My hostparents weren’t offended at all. They obviously are not owing any kind of weapon though.

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