Host parents are often asked why they’ve chosen an au pair from a particular country, and whether an au pair’s home country matters.
How do you answer that question, without sounding like you’re stereotyping too much?
When it comes to having preferences for countries, we feel very comfortable prioritizing home countries based on language— if you want your kids to practice their Spanish with your au pair, it doesn’t make sense to look for au pairs from Thailand. And, we feel reasonably comfortable using home country as a proxy for religion— if you are Jewish family and you want an au pair who will keep kosher, it makes sense to look first at candidates from Israel, simply because Israel has a higher proportion of observant Jewish families than other countries.
But what about distinguishing between countries, based on what you’ve heard about au pairs from ‘there’?
Are all those Brazilian au pairs spoiled princesses? Based on my one experience, I’d avoid Brazil the next time.
Then again, we had a great Swedish au pair, and I’d look for another Swedish au pair. But, my sister’s Swedish au pair left after 4 months in the middle of the day after having 10 guests visit her in NYC. Worse, 6 out of 6 Swedish au pairs in her cluster last year left before their 12 months were up.
A host mom candidly emailed:
I wish there was a way to have a discussion about au pairs and nationalities and preferences without it getting negative or unhelpfully critical. The reason I bring this up is because the agency I use seems to have a lot of Brazilian au pairs but my husband and I are dead set against getting one because we have heard so many negative things, especially about their interest in partying. But at this time almost all of the au pairs in the agency pool are Brazilian.
I’m willing to be convinced to consider them but so far have not read anything compelling me to do so.
Do you think a blog post such as “Tell me which nationality is your favorite source for au pairs and what characteristics make you feel this way?” would lead to a positive discussion about nationalities generally that I can glean something from?
Bottom line, we will continue to look at candidates and try to evaluate our fit with them based on the information we have available– but in the back of my mind, I still wonder whether I should preference some other countries. We’re not interested in looking at another agency because we have been happy with au pair care and our local contact person is great.
Do you have any thoughts about this?
Host parents: How much does home country matter when you look for an au pair?
- Does home culture matter much to you when you look for au pairs?
- Which nationality is your favorite source for au pairs?
- What characteristics make you feel this way?
Note: This is not an invitation to trash or defend au pairs from Brazil, or Sweden, or anywhere else.
Let’s focus on whether, when and how cultural stereotypes matter, and what to do about that.
[Note: We’ll talk about the role of socioeconomic background in upcoming post…]
Image: Brazilian Girls from rooshv