Explaining “America” to Your Au Pair

by cv harquail on June 30, 2017

4th of July is one of my favorite holidays… all about family, community and abstract patriotic notions.

4th of July is also the holiday when I am most likely to embarrass my children– apparently, as they get older, it is no longer cool to have a mom who dresses up in red, white & blue and cheers wildly as the Big Apple LGBTQ Drum Corps marches down Valley Road.

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4th of July is also one of my 2 favorite holidays to share with Au Pairs.

Although many of our au pairs have preferred to high-tail it into the nearest city for more grown-up partying and fancier fireworks, often they’ve spent the earlier part of the day with us — usually catching the ‘exciting to me, kinda boring to them’ town parade.

On the 4th, even more than during other times of the year, I find myself fielding random questions about the USA. I also find myself offering up what seem to me to be wise insights about the ways that our country works.

(Some recent winners have included trying to explain how the electoral college works, why NASCAR exists, and why professionalĀ  soccer just hasn’t caught on in the US.)

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For us Host Parents, 4th of July creates an obvious opportunity for questions and conversations about being “American”. It’s a chance to catch up onĀ  some of the “cultural exchange” part of the au pairing experience.

So, over this holiday weekend, as you sneak inside the house for some quiet time at the computer and maybe a cold beer lemonade, how about you….

Tell us about a time you’ve tried to explain something really “American” to your au pair —

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

TexasHM July 1, 2017 at 6:07 am

Fun topic! The DMV/any government office processes tend to need to be explained every round. Immigration policies tend to be another.
The national anthem and Americans obvious patriotism (excessive often by AP terms). September 11th is another that tends to get discussed each year.
Holiday traditions especially the American ones – July 4th, Thanksgiving etc and I laughed because we absolutely have had most of the conversations CV mentioned above (election process, soccer) no NASCAR – I’d love to hear your answers to those too CV!

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txmom July 2, 2017 at 3:23 pm

We’ve “forced” ours to watch movies and TV symbolic of American culture: A League of Their Own, The Sandlot, The Goonies, Dirty Dancing, Friday Night Lights etc. We also make a big deal out of traditional holidays. This year we are hosting a big backyard BBQ for the 4th and our AP is inviting three other au pairs to join us. We also had an election night party.

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Chicago Host Mom July 4, 2017 at 10:40 pm

The Easter Bunny is the hardest. What does it have to do with Easter anyway?
Random, but I’ve also fielded questions about water towers numerous times and realized I have no idea why we have water towers or what they do (storage? Filtration? Pumping?). We learn a lot about ourselves and America in trying to explain cultural symbols and traditions to our au pairs. I have also gotten the message from several au pairs that Americans are perceived as a little over the top patriotic and operate under the assumption that everyone else in the world is paying attention to the US all the time.
We also “force” ours to watch select American “classic” movies (like A Christmas Story, and Ferris Bueller’s Day off – for context in Chicago of course).

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Taking a Computer Lunch July 8, 2017 at 9:20 pm

The medical care system. The few APs that actually went to a doctor we had to help file forms because the AP insurance is pathetic and the process to get refunds involved. We also had to talk a few women down from seeing a physician for nothing – because they couldn’t imagine the expense! At the risk of being unintentionally contentious, I’ll say that Planned Parenthood and CVS Minute Clinic were the best services for coping with most of my APs’ needs.

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