Do you send a gift basket to your new Au Pair at Orientation? (Poll)

by cv harquail on February 22, 2011

Here’s a poll to follow up on my vdiatribe…..

What do you do about gift baskets at oriention?

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{ 25 comments }

AFhostmom February 22, 2011 at 10:39 pm

No gift basket here, but we also felt a lot of pressure to pay for the NYC tour, so we did that ($65), and had several emails with ideas of what to send. We settled on a personalized land’s end bag in her favorite color.
Then when she got here I had bathroom stuff waiting for her. Tampons, shower gel, a shower basket, toothpaste, shampoo, etc. All of it (except the basket) was “wrong” but strangely I never got any of it back. I did take her shopping ONE TIME to buy the “right” stuff. Sigh.

NOVA Mom February 23, 2011 at 7:10 pm

We are similiar to AFhostmom. No gift basket because it is too much for her to travel with from orientation to our house so we pay for the NYC trip. I also purchase bathroom stuff, but I decided to ask them what type of shampoo etc to purchase. I also take them to the store once they are here so I feel there is alot of effort on our part to make sure she has the “right” stuff.

emmiejane February 24, 2011 at 10:54 am

We also bought the NYC tour. We didn’t want to send one of the CC baskets, they seemed impersonal. I didn’t realize, but I’ve seen it posted here since, that I would have been able to send my own care package to the training school. We paid for the tour, and then had a basket in her room. She loved it. The favorite thing seemed to be the slippers.

Taking a Computer Lunch February 22, 2011 at 11:23 pm

I usually purchase a fruit, veggie, cracker and cheese platter for my incoming AP and her roommates. Most of the time the hotel accommodates my request. My notecard usually reads “Welcome to the US X and her roommates – please wait until X arrives to help yourself.” I have never yet had an AP arrive before the kitchen was closed and all the bag lunches were gone. Haven’t yet figured out which APs get there on time. This year HD took over the ordering. The hotel wouldn’t deal and he was convinced by the nice basket lady that APs don’t want healthy food, they want chocolate. Not so. Personally, I try to avoid baskets – it’s just one more thing for the AP to schlep to their destination.

I try not to get involved in the mania of over-gifting. However, I do stop by Target and pick up a selection of $1 samples, including lotion, shampoo, conditioner, tampons, pads, disposable razors, etc. I tell the AP to put anything she doesn’t want into the medicine cabinet in the laundry room. I usually stock the AP room with stamps, a good telephone card (less of an issue now with Skype), a subway/bus pass, a notebook, office supplies, bus schedules, maps, tourist brochures, etc.

If I can get the AP to tell me what she prefers to eat for breakfast and lunch, I try to stock the fridge and pantry appropriately.

PA AP mom February 22, 2011 at 11:37 pm

We have done the CCAP gift basket in the past because we wanted them to have the NYC tour.

This time, we will purchase just the tour from CCAP and make our own “welcome basket” at our home.

Dorsi February 23, 2011 at 1:12 am

We do a big toiletry gift bag — I figure they are all traveling with sample size stuff and I always love to get new fun bath supplies. One of the nice lotions and potions stores has their big annual sale right before my AP comes (a benefit of being out of cycle??) so I always shop and get them a half dozen or so things — still not cheap, but I am sure much cheaper (and nicer) than anything I could have sent to the hotel.

NoVA Host Mom February 23, 2011 at 2:01 am

We do the “gift box” thing, including visitor guides (free) about our area, a phone card (the AP’s we have had come into the country with their own have had troubles using those), and mittens (warm-country APs), and a few snacks. We do purchase the NYC trip, as well. I just figure it’s something nice to do and can set things off on the right foot. Sometimes it works (our current AP) and sometimes it doesn’t (our first, the Princess). I do have a few personal items at the house (to keep from having to transport), but mostly the pads/tampons. I figure they usually travel with toothpaste and shampoo that they like. If not, they likely picked it up in the local Target during orientation.

Tristatemom February 23, 2011 at 9:31 am

We have not done the gift basket because of the additional weight the AP has to carry home. We give a map, phone card, starbucks card, flowers and framed picture of the family as a welcome gift. Regarding the NYC trip, when I wanted to offer this to our incoming AP she told me that APIA offered the trip as a bonus when she signed up with the agency so I didn’t have to pay.

CO Host Mom February 23, 2011 at 10:07 am

I have a gift basket in her room when she arrives. It is primarily composed of items from the dollar store and the Target dollar bins, with a few “nicer” items I’ve picked up. I include bath products, chocolates, note cards, pens, a daily planner, a book or two (Chicken Soup for the Women’s Soul is my go-to book), a coffee mug, an aluminum water bottle, and then a stack of travel guides and brochures for our area. Plus I add a card with a message about how happy we are she has joined our family.

Calif Mom February 23, 2011 at 10:50 am

We do try to call them at the hotel. Worst case, we leave a message to make them feel appreciated and to reassure them that we really will be there to pick them up.

I think the gift basket thing is a total rip-off, and I resent it. Last time I actually warned the AP before arrival that the agency has pressured parents to do this, but we would rather spend that money on travel with her later on. (You can pick whichever entertainment your incoming AP seems to value most. With this one, it was definitely travel/sightseeing.)

We usually have the kids work on a room-wide welcome banner for a couple days before AP’s arrival. It’s a great project to keep the kids busy with while I’m without AP help, and it’s very personal for both the AP and the kids. I’ve noticed that they sort of process the transition while painting, planning out what they want to include, etc. The kids like to research the AP’s country’s flag and official birds, flowers, etc, and pick a theme. Last time they painted two bouquets of flowers — roses from the USA, and flowers of her country. Those banners never get taken down, the APs really love them. It does take some work/supervision from Mom, but it’s a very good thing. When the kids were younger, it was simpler, with me doing the lettering and the kids putting handprints on it in the colors of the AP’s flag, things like that. It has turned into a “transition tradition” for my kids, which is very helpful. (I do sometimes wonder what it’s like to grow up with a series of young women who drop in, become such a big part of your daily life for a year or so, and then move on. I hope it helps them later in life, rather than depresses them. 6 months after her favorite AP left, my first grader is still profoundly sad and sends her emails. Thank goodness for FB and google translate!)

I actually don’t buy toiletries, because I’ve noticed that APs are almost as excited to peruse the drugstore/Target and pick out their own bathroom stuff as they are to see local tourist attractions! I do take them to do this on their first full day so they don’t have to worry about running out of things, and I probably pitch in some $20 or so to get them started. That way I avoid the “everything I bought is wrong” issue altogether, plus I’m so busy in those days before they arrive that I usually don’t have time to make another run to the store. I do stay nearby in the aisles to answer any questions, depending on how comfortable AP seems. I remember being overwhelmed in a pharmacy in Paris once… (Also, girls from many parts of the world would never dream of using tampons, and I don’t want to accidentally offend get into that kind of a personal choice that early in the relationship, unless the AP asks for help.)

In the AP room I put a new, fun, maybe personalized keychain with the house key, car key, library fob, and discount card for Filene’s (which they come to appreciate later on). Also give them a ‘starter’ Starbucks card (the universal solvent!) and obligatory local brochures and a laminated, purse-size map with key locations marked on it with tape flags (our house, the school, the drugstore, the grocery, the pool, the library, our fave gas station). I also have a list of websites for our area that will be most helpful to them, which hooks them up with the college, the bus schedule, more maps, local dance classes and gyms, and Yelp.

Next time, I want to include a list of APs who live in our neighborhood, since they are with many different agencies and will never meet each other at cluster meetings. If I have time/energy, I may host a neighborhood-wide AP party to help the girls who live close to each other find each other (yes, totally selfish–I want them to have an easy time making local friends and sharing rides). Since it will be summer, they won’t naturally meet each other at after-school pick up until September. And there is more than one pool in our area, so that makes it harder, too. My au pair was very shy about her new role at the beginning, and it took her awhile to get the courage to ask a girl like herself she heard at the pool talking with an accent whether she was an au pair. A neighborhood AP party might be a great way to speed up that process and show our new AP that we appreciate her.

MexAuPair2B February 23, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Calif Mom I sooo love reading your comments I hope to find a host family as aware as you of what an au pair program is and means, I´ll be joining the au pair troops in august and this website is very helpfull. Congrats on the great spirit!!

5kids=aupair February 23, 2011 at 11:41 am

I had no idea this was such a big deal. Our agency tells you not to send anything. I’ve always just had some things waiting here for our APs. Mostly a sweatshirt and/or t-shirt for the local university, Bath & Body Works toiletries, hand-sanitizer, maps, college brochures, a piggy bank, treats and snacks, etc. I also include a fresh flower bouquet and balloons in her room and the kids make posters to take to the airport.

Only once did I think ahead enough and I sent a care package to the AP’s house before she left. I thought it would be fun for her to share American treats (mostly candy and snacks) with her friends and family at her goodbye parties. It cost almost $40 to send it, but she and her family really liked sampling the goodies. We ended up rematching, but I’ll do that again for the next out-of-country AP we get.

NOVA AP Mom February 23, 2011 at 11:44 am

We buy the NYC tour ($65 and seems to be greatly appreciated), and call to welcome her, but don’t send anything else to the hotel. When she gets to our home, there’s a “gift basket” I’ve assembled with stamps, postcards from our city, a journal, photo book, local guides, travel coffee mug, etc. The bathroom is stocked with hotel samples for shampoo, conditioner, razor, etc. that she can use until our first shopping trip, and we also have a bathrobe for her (not to take home, though) as we figure bathrobe might not have come along in the luggage (not much allowed).

CO Host Mom February 23, 2011 at 1:29 pm

We do the bathrobe thing, as well. The last three APs have used it and appreciated it.

Taking a Computer Lunch February 23, 2011 at 1:31 pm

It’s a good idea and something that wouldn’t fit into most AP suitcases. I keep a winter coat, a rain jacket, some Polartec jackets and assorted other gear that other APs have left behind for the AP to use or not use.

CaliHostMom February 23, 2011 at 1:07 pm

10 years ago, I used to send a gift to orientation. For all of the reasons listed here by others, I quit doing that. Here is what I do:
1) After match is made, I send a tour book to her while she is still in her home country. Amazon.de is great for this in Germany.
2) Call her at orientation and mail her a welcome letter with a Visa gift card for buying food at the airport, etc., and a couple of family photos.
3) Have my kids hand paint a cute welcome banner to put on the front door of the house or in her room.
4) Provide flowers and a modest assortment of knick-knacks in a small pile or basket such as sunscreen, flipflops, locally made chocolate, BART cards, etc. Sometimes I make print-them-yourself ‘business cards’ for the AP with her new address and cell phone number, her home country address, e-mail.

I avoid buying toiletries because people like to choose their own and also the AP bathroom is filled with stuff previous APs have left behind.

Taking a Computer Lunch February 23, 2011 at 1:29 pm

I go through the AP bathroom and remove any opened toiletries, tampons, lotions and creams. Anything that is usable goes into a drawer in The Camel’s bathroom vanity for guests to use and I buy fresh for the new AP. Anything that had a finger dipped into it (like Noxema) goes into the trash. I figure I wouldn’t want to use it after someone else, and neither would my AP.

DarthaStewart February 23, 2011 at 7:08 pm

I do the same thing wrt taking out the old stuff, and putting in new.

HM Pippa February 23, 2011 at 2:44 pm

We sent our first AP a few books about our area before she arrived: a guidebook to our area in her native language, a picture book of the area for her family, and a city guide in English (all ordered from amazon.de). She celebrated her birthday just before she arrived in the US, so these were “birthday” presents. We had amazon gift wrap them and add a card. The package was delivered (coincidentally) during her birthday party. She and her family were surprised and delighted, and it established good will that lasted the year (and beyond).

We also bought the CC gift basket for our first AP, and felt uneasy about it because it didn’t feel like a choice, and it didn’t feel personal. She used the water bottle all year, sent the cap and tshirt to goodwill untouched. When we switched to another agency for the second au pair, I was grateful that they don’t sell or allow welcome baskets.

For our second au pair we made our own gift basket with maps, local chocolates, city-embossed pen, keychain, area guide books, local art calendar, personalized sticky notes (from vistaprint), etc. We also had business cards printed with her name, email, cell phone, family address and names of the kids. We got 250 of them for the price of shipping from VistaPrint. She really loved them. And when she flamed out two weeks later, she had a lot of fun ripping them to shreds. We found the card confetti and everything from the basket but the chocolate broken to pieces in the bottom of a trash bin.

Our third au pair, who arrived two weeks after flame-o, got the short end of the welcome basket stick. We were a little burned out. The kids made a (little) poster, we put flowers and balloons in her room and I printed out a couple dozed self-made business cards for her. Recycled the maps and books AP2 had not destroyed.

AP4 will arrive in about a week. She’s already been in the US for 3 months, so we’re going to keep our basket of goodies local and geared toward getting her established with classes and friends quickly: maps, list of other au pairs, gift certificate for photography class at local art center, euro-treats (kinderschoko, good bread, nutella), Starbucks card, iTunes gift card, and geocaching starter pack for our area (not sure what that will look like yet).

Steff February 23, 2011 at 5:24 pm

My take on the whole gift-baskets is pretty much the same “logic” I have with the small gifts APs take to the hostchildren and hostfamilies overall at the beginning of the year. It’s a nice thing you want to do for that person(people) you are going to spend the next year or so with.
The way I see it, it’s just a way of start off the year with the right foot, you know? Being nice and polite and trying to make this other person feel okay about this new beginning.

:: On the one hand, I don’t think it’s too fair when agencies “expect” HPs to purchase their own gift baskets for the au pairs, but then again, they are in fact an agency, and in the business world, I bet that if you see an opportunity to make some extra $$, you might as well take it. Eat or be eaten… something like that’s the say …whatever, the thing is I guess, they want to take the most advantage they can get, so I don’t know, as long as purchasing said baskets aren’t “obligations” in all the sense of that word, I guess there’s nothing to do against it. Take it or leave it if you will, I bet there are families that actually need those if they want to be “nice” with new AP, don’t have time/ don’t want to make their own, and well…guess don’t mind either spend a little more…

On the OTHER hand, I don’t think that ‘the basket’ per se is what matters in the end, but mostly the thought behind it (if that makes any sense) The fact that someone you are going to live with for a whole year was kind enough to have something nice ready for you. The posters from the kiddies, all the goodies and thoughtful things you’d mention already sound more than just generous and kind for me.

Gosh, I never thought I’d quote my mom but oh well… the whole “beggars cannot be choosers”…I guess that applies here somehow. Little, big, elaborated, simple “Welcome” sign…whatever, I guess the thought is what really *should* matter in the end :)

The OP February 24, 2011 at 11:52 pm

Well, I’m glad to hear I’m not totally off base with what I’ve been doing. The CC gift baskets seemed cheesy to me so I haven’t done them, but I do leave a collection of things in the AP’s room. The one thing I haven’t done that I think I might do is to send something up the the school. I just need to figure out how to do that! I loved the idea of sending something to the AP’s home after the match, but I’ve missed the window this time. Perhaps in the future…

I was getting nervous reading what a lot of you posted about paying for the NYC tour, but you must be with different agencies I guess. My last 2 APs got the tour without me having to do or pay anything extra. Maybe it’s just included in my big fat bill. Who knows. When I have some free time maybe I’ll look into it. Meanwhile, I will just hope this new AP gets the tour and I’ll focus on sending her a card and some little treats next week while she’s at the school.

Taking a Computer Lunch February 25, 2011 at 12:14 am

My recommendation – if you send something to the AP’s home, make it something she can use in her home country that you don’t expect her to pack with her. The weight limits are so tight that APs have to be judicious about what they bring to the US.

Dorsi February 25, 2011 at 1:45 am

I totally agree– I did this wrong the first few times. Sent guidebooks about the area to my new APs before she got here — they never brought them with. Now I send small souvienier type things that she will enjoy eating, looking at and leaving with her family (magnets, candy, etc.).

Taking a Computer Lunch February 25, 2011 at 8:01 am

I have taken to emailing links to various community activities as the AP with whom we have matched shares her hobbies, dreams for travel, education plans, etc. It’s free and much easier for me to find than she.

Chev February 25, 2011 at 6:29 pm

The NYC trip for CC is something the AP pays for at training school, AP’s can also purchase the Top of the Rock along with the tour or just pay to catch the bus to and from the city. But if they’ve purchased the trip and then you buy them a gift basket with the trip in it they get their money back.
My HF bought the big CC gift basket for me and while it was nice to get it and made me feel like they’d taken the time to think of me – they were busy giving birth to twin preemies before i came so we didn’t communicate a lot in the last month before i came – I would’ve been fine with not getting it.
They also had a starbucks card and local magazines and toiletries waiting for me when i got to the house :)

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