Help Your Incoming Au Pair Visualize Her Adventure

by cv harquail on March 18, 2014

My au pair is doing a project for the agency and has requested photos of us, neighborhood, etc.  Should I send her pics of our house and her room?  

Absolutely! Send photos!

il_570xN.371048289_qvj1It’s understandable that your new au pair wants to be able to visualize where she is going to be. I think it’s fine to send your au pair some photos of your house, her room, the kids, the closest cafe, etc.

You might also add some links to your town’s website, to the town library, the local counselor’s blog if she has one, and so on. This can be a nice part of on-boarding and orienting your au pair.

Anything that you do to help your new Au Pair get excited about coming to your home helps to amp up the anticipation — and maybe even make it easier for her to leap into the adventure.

The odd part of this request is the language of ‘doing a project for the agency’. I’ve never heard of something like that. I wonder if she’s writing an article on becoming an au pair, or if this is a mis-translation of some other instruction she’s been given. You might want to ask a little more about it, in a conversational way.

The only situation where I’d feel concerned about sending photos is if I felt that the au pair was trying to compare host family situations to see which one was cushier or more glamorous…. Since you have already matched this is probably not what’s going on, so if it were me I wouldn’t worry. But, if you’re bringing this up because you have other concerns, let us know.

All the best, and welcome to the adventure!


WarmStateMomma March 18, 2014 at 3:21 pm

This sounds legit to me. Our incoming AP also has to do a project for her agency (APC). The agency materials make offhand reference to this project, but they don’t directly address it in anything distributed to HPs. I don’t know what’s involved in this project beyond it looking like a collage or scrapbook, but at least APC does require one.

Our AP has not asked us for any photos, but she’s probably able to pull photos from our HF profile on the agency website. (I pulled some of her family photos from the agency website and had them printed and framed for her bedroom.)

valc March 19, 2014 at 8:11 am

Sweet welcome gift! Very thoughtful!

HM Pippa March 18, 2014 at 4:02 pm

Another easy way to share information with your incoming AP before he or she arrives is to create a custom Google map. You can add pins for your house, the kids’ schools, after school activity locations, cafés, rec centers, Costco, Starbucks, parent workplaces, restaurants, etc, many of which can include links to websites associated with those locations. Many locations have pictures already associated with the maps. In addition to visualizing the spaces, the AP can also get a sense of distance and direction of frequently visited locations (or appreciate just how long your commute really is!) Through control of share settings, the map may be as public or private as you wish.

WarmStateMomma March 18, 2014 at 5:03 pm

I’m looking for the Like button again. HD loves technology and this would be a good task to get him involved in the AP process.

Should be working March 18, 2014 at 6:51 pm

Oh, man, where has this idea been hiding??? This should be in the handbook and everywhere–home, school, karate, pottery, gymnastics, my workplace, kids’ friends’ houses!! I hope the learning curve on how to make one of these and save them is not too steep.

NNTexasHM March 18, 2014 at 9:50 pm

What a FANTASTIC idea. Well done, HM Pippa!!!!! I will definitely use this going forward.

Emerald City HM March 19, 2014 at 2:53 am

This is great!

AmericanAP in Germany March 19, 2014 at 6:15 am

This is an amazing idea! As an aupair, I would definitely appreciate this. Fun and informative!

German Au-Pair March 18, 2014 at 4:40 pm

It is called the pre-departure project. APC requires people to do that even though after putting much effort in it, I learned that no one cares. (The best 5 usually win an extra trip to NYC ). APs are also encouraged to give the project to the HF.
It contains information about the HF, the location, the developmental milestones the kids are in, crafts ans snacks, motor skills and how to help children develop them, holidays, make believe and imitation, sharing and cooperation, language development.
I still have mine and it is beautiful and has 42 pages and I was so bummed out that my HF really didn’t care about it. So if she has a good one, please do acknowledge it.

WarmStateMomma March 18, 2014 at 5:11 pm

German AP – Thanks for the explanation. I’m eager to see what she put together. It should be a great way to start the conversation about some important topics. I wonder why APC requires APs to do the project but doesn’t tell HFs about it.

AP#1 departs on Thursday and her successor arrives later the same day, so APs are on my brain all week and I can’t stay off this site. :)

As an aside, do you have any other tips for making AP#2 feel welcome? We framed her family photos and found a gift related to her art hobby, but there’s probably something like asking about the project that we would have overlooked.

German Au-Pair March 18, 2014 at 5:41 pm

The pictures and a gift that shows you have been listening are great. My HF did the same. If you have done anything to the room before she came, tell her. My HF re-did the room and they appeared very excited which made me feel welcome. They asked me what kind of pizza I like during orientation and the pizza was ordered while I was being picked up from the airport. It made me feel involved and it was also really casual and a safe food choice. Not too overwhelming, very American but also very similiar to what I knew from home at the same time.

I would only ask about the project if she gives it to you (I know some don’t put that much effort in it and she might be embarrassed).

I appreciated that my HP gave me some time on my own in my room and communicated that I probably needed that but could come down any time.
One thing that was a HUGE help for me personally was that my HD offered to let me drive the car around the neighborhood the very day I arrived. They let me pick if I wanted to do it the same day or the next. It was a great short drive and I got to see my new area and got a glimpse on where my new life would happen. The next day, even though my HM had the day off, they left me alone in the house to get to know everything. They also assigned me the “homework” of going some place -anywhere- with the car on my own because I said I was scared of that. I really was but this little push helped me so so much and made me so confident. They said if I needed another round with them, they would do that, but I’d have to try on my own first. Of course my driving skills were already pretty high and the area was calm and easy to drive in.

I don’t know how old your children are but if they could craft a nice “X’s room” sign for her, I’m sure she’d love it. My kids gave me the tour of the house so we could already have some giggles but they also gave me space to let everything sink in.

Hah. This makes me feel so nostalgic.

WarmStateMomma March 18, 2014 at 6:16 pm

We were planning on pizza, too. It’s something she recognizes and she sent her topping preferences already.

We won’t let her drive until we’ve seen her behind the wheel and added her to the insurance, but I can appreciate your experience and I’d feel differently about an AP with a license from Germany.

The plan on Friday is for her to sleep in and then we will go grocery shopping/Target to get anything she needs/wants/forgot. Maybe I should come up with a couple of errands to run without AP#2 so she can have a bit of time alone….

The baby is too young to make anything (about to turn 15 months), but HD and I are excited about getting to know AP#2 and really want her to feel like she’s part of the family. She must be pretty nervous about moving in with a pack of strangers who have expectations and different customs.

Do APs generally want to see area attractions the first weekend, or have more time alone at home? It will be AP#2’s first international trip and I think she’d prefer to feel like she “saw/did something” before being thrown into child care. We have plans for Sunday afternoon but HD and I are not agreed on whether to pack the weekend or leave it quiet for her. Of course, she’s too shy to state her preferences at this point.

German Au-Pair March 18, 2014 at 7:09 pm

I understand the driving part. I had been driving for 3 years every single day at home so my HP were comfortable with that. My HM took me to the zoo with kids the very first weekend and I had already reached out to some au pairs before I arrived so we went to the movies. If you are the kind of person who wants that kind of relationship with your au pair (we had more of a professional relationship) and she hasn’t reached out to anyone yet, you or both of you could take her out to the movies. (If her English is good enough already).
I think for most au pairs I know a mix was best. Getting out, doing something fun, maybe something very American, seeing your new home but also some down time to skype and sleep and settle in.

It sounds like you’re giving it a lot of thought and I’m sure with that kind of concern and warmth whatever you do will make her feel welcome.

When you think about what you want to do, think about what you’d want your own child or friend to tell you on the phone. “My HP really tried to make me feel welcome” is the best start.

WarmStateMomma March 18, 2014 at 7:28 pm

Thanks! She hasn’t been able to talk to other APs in the area because they all connect through a Facebook group. Her country blocks FB so she isn’t connected with them yet. I’m active on FB and will help her get set up, but I don’t want to friend her because she needs a private space to be a young person as HD and I did in our 20s.

We are going to the rodeo on Sunday – which is pretty American and a big deal in our city. HD and I are not in agreement about Saturday, but hopefully she will give us some indication on Friday of what she’d enjoy. We like the zoo here and it’s something that works perfectly for the baby.

IamAuPairMama March 19, 2014 at 8:38 am

Our first au pair is arriving this Thursday and we are also planning on rodeo Sunday with her and our infant son. I wonder if our au pairs will know each other?

WarmStateMomma March 19, 2014 at 12:38 pm

Is your family with APC?

IamAuPairMama March 19, 2014 at 1:13 pm

Yes! I imagine we may meet soon. At the airport? Our au pairs will probably fly together.

WarmStateMomma March 19, 2014 at 1:44 pm

She’s going to arrive around 6:15 into Bush. DH is meeting her because he works downtown and will be a lot closer to the airport. Bedtime is 7:30, so AP and baby will most likely meet on Friday morning instead of Cranky Pants Hour. :)

Email me warmstatemomma @ gmail if you’d like to meet up at the rodeo or some other time.

German Au-Pair March 18, 2014 at 7:18 pm

Oh also (we really need that edit option): a lot of “first times” are great. I had my first Mexican food with my HP on my first weekend. It has become my personal American comfort food.
I would not leave the second day without any activity to look forward to because even though I appreciated the time to rest, I was also so excited for something to happen.

WestMom March 18, 2014 at 8:25 pm

What’s the pizza thing? You send pizza to orientation?

CAmom22 March 18, 2014 at 11:03 pm

I think WarmStateMomma was responding to German Au-Pair’s comment about how her host parents had her favorite pizza delivered for dinner for her first night with the family (they ordered it when they picked her up from the airport).

WarmStateMomma March 19, 2014 at 7:22 am

Yes. I emailed AP#2 last week to see what she likes on her pizza. The flight from AP training to our city arrives in the evening and we have a 15-month old, so a late dinner in a restaurant is asking for trouble.

APC did not invite anyone to send gifts to training and we didn’t send one (we read about that here), but we told AP#2 to do the NYC excursion the agency offers and we’d reimburse her for it.

German Au-Pair March 19, 2014 at 3:12 pm

You don’t have to pay for the NYC tour, do you? I thought that’s only the case with another agency?

WarmStateMomma March 19, 2014 at 4:15 pm

@ German: as with the project, the tour details are not provided to HFs. I assumed there would be a fee, but maybe that’s not the case.

German Au-Pair March 19, 2014 at 4:23 pm

Ah. We didn’t have to pay, I think CC au pairs have to pay for the tour. But I’m sure she’ll appreciate the idea of you offering to pay for it.

Angie host mom March 18, 2014 at 7:13 pm

Ah yes, the APC “project.” First au pair was miffed we didn’t ask about it (because we didn’t know about it), then we went through it together. Second au pair was miffed because we did ask and she didn’t know she was supposed to do one (same APC agency, don’t know what happened that year). Since then with new au pairs we have asked if they did one and the kids and I have taken the time to review them with the au pair in the first week – the amount of time dependent on how much time the au pair apparently put into it. I think they require it to just get the au pairs thinking about the job rather than because of the finished project.

Texas5TimeHostMom March 19, 2014 at 1:25 pm

Yes, the APC project…I had NO IDEA. Our first Au Pair came to us out of rematch, so she didn’t have one for us. The second one was a flameout after 10 days, I discovered the project in her room after she left :( Now I make a special point to ask about it, because I know they put a ton of effort into it and for some bizarre reason APC doesn’t tell host parents about it.

I made a small welcome basket for our current au pair and will keep that tradition – some basic toiletries, little items, things my four year old helped select. It makes the run to Target a little less urgent especially because I coach them all to not bring large bottles of shampoo, lotion, etc!

I am Au Pair Mama March 20, 2014 at 9:31 am

Warmstatemama, tried to email you but bounced back saying email address doesn’t exist. I can be reached at

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