Crazy MisCommunication with your Au Pair

by cv harquail on November 28, 2009

Ah, the fun of mis-communicating– it adds a special zing to the parent-au pair-child relationship, no?


Whether or not it’s due to a language barrier, there are some times when you discover what you think your au pair thought you said isn’t actually anything near what you think you thought you said, or vice versa. At these times, you might ask yourself, “WTFH?”

Or, your au pair says something to you and you respond with a blank look, then blink, then blink again, for reasons neither of you can comprehend.

We had a Random, Crazy and True Story about an Au Pair accused of putting toothpaste in the dryer, when she actually had put it in the drawer.

Are there any times when weird mis-communication baffled, affronted or entertained you and/or your au pair? Do tell!


My Own Toothpaste by Ernst Vickne on Flickr


Elle November 28, 2009 at 1:12 pm

On my first day I sat to dinner with my HF and I heard my HM ask me if we had any frogs where I grew up bc the older kid was into them. I answered yes, of course, I came from a sub-tropical environment and we had them everywhere. I told her that when we first moved in we used to find them in the bathtub, in the pool, my dogs would chase them around the yard, and the little ones would climb on the windows. I had absolutely no idea why HM was looking at me with such surprise and disbelief until I later asked why the older kid is into frogs and she said what about frogs? She’s into crocs! Crocodiles. We don’t call them crocs back home, I thought we were talking about frogs!

Mass Mom November 28, 2009 at 11:37 pm

Here’s one- one morning I went to get my hair colored, and during that morning several of my friends called the house. Our Austrian au pair told them I was out, and that I went to the “Saloon” rather than the “Salon”. My friends called my cell one by one, asking what had happened that I needed a beer at 9am at the saloon!

sweetcookie November 29, 2009 at 6:09 am

This is funny, but my ex-hostmum would call me a stupid aupair if that happend with her.

franzi November 29, 2009 at 1:50 pm

precious! i had a friend who always made this mistake. funny every single time

pb mom November 30, 2009 at 12:37 am

I had just finished showing our new au pair from Mexico how all the various appliances in the kitchen worked, the dishwasher, garbage disposal, oven, etc… The au pair nodded and seemed to quickly understand everything I was saying then the au pair got a fork out of the drawer and asked, “What is this?” Thoughts of a very long year rushed into my mind as I tried to digest what kind of culture doesn’t use a fork and whether I had made a terrible mistake matching with this au pair. Then I came to my senses and realized the au pair was asking what the word for fork was in English.

anon November 30, 2009 at 5:39 am

If I’m being honest, “I tried to digest what kind of culture doesn’t use a fork and whether I had made a terrible mistake matching with this au pair” comes across as being quite ignorant. Even if she hadn’t known what a fork was, how does that reflect on her abilities as an au pair?

Anonymous February 16, 2010 at 6:12 pm

Not to be rude but there are many many cultures that don’t use forks such as China or Japan.

Likes pb mom's story March 6, 2010 at 11:20 pm

Come on, that’s a funny story.

Anon Nanny June 7, 2010 at 1:26 pm

Don’t worry pb mom, I laughed :D

HM to 20 November 30, 2009 at 1:08 am

As a HM of 3- one with special needs, I was excited to have found one that was fluent in sign language until she arrived and I learnt swedish sign is totally different than American Sign Language – so she thought it would be cool to teach son all her signs and they could have their own special language; just one of many reasons she was soon on her her way home- especially since bulimic behaviors were not one I wanted her to teach my pre-teen daughter…. there. one sentence and yes it’s true.

Another CA Mom November 30, 2009 at 4:57 am

Our current au pair arrived last spring, and I didn’t quite have my head back into “slow down when I talk” mode again, after 21 months with our previous au pair. So – there I was, showing our au pair (about 2 weeks in) the fancy new cloth diapers I had just purchased for the baby, massively over-talking about the snaps, etc. – while she nodded in agreement.

Ten minutes later, I find the baby has her diaper on backwards. I’m sure our au pair though I was totally insane! We had a good laugh – and that’s how I knew we were going to work out, just fine.

Oh – and with our first au pair – the poor thing! She headed back to the midwest for us at the holidays. She had only been with us about 4 months, and her English wasn’t too strong yet. We were staying at my sister’s house for the first half, and that first night, I attempted to tell her that she was welcome to have some private time in her room; she certainly didn’t *have* to hang out with us (thinking she might appreciate a break). The poor thing interpreted what I said to mean that she wasn’t allowed to come upstairs. We didn’t figure this out until about a month later!

PacificNW_mom November 30, 2009 at 3:03 pm

We were having friends over for a barbeque and I put aside some marinated shrimp in the fridge for a friend who would arrive late so that we could cook it when she arrived. Later, I walked into the kitchen to see our friend eating the raw shrimp and chatting with our au pair! Our au pair had given her the shrimp saying that it was saved just for her! No one ended up getting sick, by the way!

aupair March 6, 2010 at 6:43 pm

that is so funny :)))

maleaupairmommy November 30, 2009 at 6:18 pm

One of au pairs had visited Seattle with my husband for the day. We were eating dinner with my family and as he described the city he kept saying how he saw all the “condoms” that there was lots of “condoms” everywhere. My mom was like, “What??” We all finally realized he meant condos. Life is fun with an au pair.

Host Mom in CT December 1, 2009 at 7:50 am

Our neighbor’s Swedish au pair took the family car out for the evening, with permission to stay over at a friend’s house in the neighboring town and did not turn up the next morning as agreed. Eventually there was a phone call from her, saying that she over an hour’s distance away and was “in Yale.” There was much confusion, as Yale University in New Haven is only about a 25 minute drive. Eventually, it was determined that she was in jail, not “Yale.” (She had been pulled over for speeding and turned out to have been drinking while under age at the University of Connecticut; a good 80 or more miles from where she was supposed to have been.)

LVMom December 1, 2009 at 5:46 pm

My lovely Swedish au pair had spent some time away and upon returning I was looking forward to her stories so I said “dish” meaning as we all know “tell me your stories” she took it as “do the dishes” and promptly got up to do them. I laughed so hard I almost cried . . . .

aupair March 6, 2010 at 6:45 pm

omg, poor girl :))))

MTR December 1, 2009 at 10:13 pm

My Au Pair had a cold and I was checking up on her via email to make sure she was taking her madicine and holding up ok with kids. Her reply to me was: “Yes, I am great, feeling much better, just a little constipated. Kids are fine, don’t worry, Love AP’s name”.

My response to her was: “I hope you meant that you are congested, but if you need tummy medicine, it is in the cabinet.”

OMG, she was so embarassed, but we both had a good laugh when I got home form work.

Nanda (Future AP) December 1, 2009 at 10:27 pm

I don’t know from where your AP is, but it seems to me it was a language trick, a fake cognate, because “constipado” (very close to the word constipated) in Portuguese means that the person has a cold. Might be something like this…

But it is funny anyway! LoL

MTR December 2, 2009 at 12:19 am

That is exactly what she expalined to me. She is from Brazil. :)

We still had a good laugh over this.

TX Mom December 2, 2009 at 11:15 am

How did you find out she got married, I’m curious.

IMO, Call your LCC now and get ready for a new AP!

Anonymous February 16, 2010 at 5:38 pm

I’m an American au pair working in a Germany. Of course I was speaking the native language. I was trying to tell the Mom that a bit of urine leaked out of the baby’s diaper and got on his “mattress” and that I cleaned it with some water and wash detergent. Well, when you say the word “mattress ” incorrectly it means “concubine”. She laughed and corrected me and I realized that I said it wrong but didn’t understand her explanation of what a “concubine” was in German. I had to run upstairs and translate it and then came down dying of laughter.

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