Holiday Gift Ideas: What could an Au Pair give to an ‘Host’ Uncle? Housekeeper?

by cv harquail on December 4, 2011

I’m so impressed that there are still 19, 22, or 29 shopping days left (depending on the holiday you celebrate), but many of you are already getting organized!

Right about when I posted the call for general gift ideas, we received this email from Au Pair MMC.

Her gift-giving situation adds four challenges–christmas flirtbuttons etsy.jpeg

  • She needs a gift for an extended family member who lives with the host family.
  • She needs suggestions for exchanging gifts with a family that is rather formal.
  • She wonders what to get the household help (if anything?). And,
  • Her family might have high expectations….


Here’s MMC’s email– what ideas can we offer her?

I’m very confused and over-whelmed right now, trying to figure out what gifts to give to the adults in my host family household. In this family’s culture, I’m tiptoeing on the fine line between employee and family member. That’s generally difficult in a country and culture that has a very strict division between the two, as this culture does.

Christmas is coming around soon, and I have no idea what is appropriate or expected of me for gift giving. Of course, I want to get presents for my boys, but I have always felt awkward about buying presents for married or attached men i.e. my host dad. I feel very inexperienced in manners and etiquette in this area.

Also, my host-mom’s brother also lives with us. He’s near my age, and we watch soccer and drink beer together and similar casual activities. I don’t know if I’m expected to get him a present also if I get one for everyone else. We also have household help that I’m very friendly with, but I don’t know if I’m expected to also get something for them.

My family is very kind, but they are a German-Dutch blended family. The German part is a little more formal, but my host dad is Dutch and is more casual. I don’t want to do anything untoward, but I’d like to get everyone presents.

Another problem is my host-family really has a lot of money, and it seems like they have everything they need. I want to get them presents they will enjoy, but I feel like nothing I can get for them will be good enough.

I would appreciate any suggestions. Thank you!


Pia aupair December 4, 2011 at 2:34 pm

How about you make them something with emotional value?
the two year i spent with my hostfamily i made them a calendar. have of the month i created collages with picture i took of their kids and the other half were crafts that i did with the kids.
one year i did a photo shoot with my kids… dressed them up as little angels… too cute… then i just bought a frame and gave it to my hostparents.
or for my HM b day i took canvases and created pictures with my kids handprints… like butterflies and flowers but not like the typical children’s picture… more professional looking.
maybe u can get something typical from your culture for the brother… just sth small.
i got my extended HF like grandparents etc german candy that they really enjoyed.

DarthaStewart December 4, 2011 at 11:22 pm

I would do something from the kids- if they have a garden, maybe a stepping stone? or handprint tiles/coasters? Or a mouse pad with a picture of the kids?

AnonHM Europe December 5, 2011 at 4:47 am

I assume you are spending the Au-Pair Year in Germany/Netherlands? I don’t think the “uncle” will expect a gift from you, neither will the host-parents. But be prepared to receive gifts! The houshold help will most likely receive a small gift form the host-parents but she will not expect a gift from you. (Except you are really close, then: If you happen to make Christmas-Cookies with the kids you might wrap some nicely and give it to the household help – from you and the kids). For the “uncle” you could get a mug/scarf/T-shirt of his favorite soccer-club. No perfume, aftershave etc! Ask the host-mom, or the household help for their advise about what to get for the family. You could should ask about their plans for Christmas (in Germany presents are mostly exchanged on Christmas Eve, mind!): When and what you will eat, how people will dress, how the evening will proceed (Sometimes people your age will go out (disco!) at about 10 pm, after the small kids are in bed…)
Have fun and enjoy!

FirstTimeAuPair December 5, 2011 at 10:28 am

I want to give some really special to my hostfamily because they’re so wonderful to me. For my hostchild (an almost four year old girl) I’m making a storybook. I’ve bought an empty book and which I’m going to write a story in based on herself and her family which I hope she’ll like.

Both her grandmother’s are coming and even though I’ve asked if I should give them something my hostparents have told me that’s not necessary. I’m really not sure what to give my hostmum/dad though.

Taking a Computer Lunch December 5, 2011 at 11:48 am

As a HP, I don’t expect a big gift from my AP. Over the years we have received few gifts relating to the kids, but often a gift that fills a gap – an ice cream scoop, a handcrafted wine stopper, etc. that tells us that the AP paid attention to the household and to our own personalities within it.

AupairAbroad December 5, 2011 at 12:44 pm

I’m also and au pair in Germany and honestly think that all host families don’t expect a fancy gift from their au pairs…if they do, they’re probably first time host families with unrealistic expectations. I’d like to think host families would appreciate a small token the au pair put thought into. After all, they know we’re not made of money, that’s not what the au pair program is for! Try incorporating your own holiday traditions into gift ideas. I make homemade gifts with the kids; they feel important for helping, and if they’re any flaws in the gift, well, that’s self-explanatory then.
For example, my family always has carmel corn during the holidays, so I’m planning on making a batch and wrapping it up in individual bags for everyone we’re celebrating with. I’ve met the grandparents a few times, so I’m additionally going to have the kids help me make them pomadors (oranges with cloves stuck in that you hang up). I’m going to do a black paper sihouette cut out of the kids’ profiles and have them help me make decorative frames, so the parents will have something nice they’re most likely hang up and keep around :)
Be creative, have fun, personalize it as much as appropriate, and try not to stress!

Should be working December 5, 2011 at 1:07 pm

I agree with all these posters that when it comes to gifts for HPs, good thoughts and hand-craftedness are the only criteria. I treasure the things AP made with kids for me much more than any any ANY presents I get, because they are one-of-a-kind and are about ‘us’. Maybe Germany/Netherlands would expect more, but in my experience Germans in fact expect less. Thought and nice wrapping are more important than money spent. Probably Netherlands is the same–Protestant sincerity and all that (I mean this respectfully).

CaliHostMom December 5, 2011 at 3:26 pm

You could find a quiet time when the HM is alone and ask her for advice. This will help you gauge her expectations. Say that you have a few ideas for gifts for HD, HK and uncle and you want her opinion if they are appropriate. If she says “Oh don’t get us anything”, reply back and say that you would like to get them at least something because you enjoy Christmas giving, but you will do it within your own budget.

I think consumables are a good idea, too. For example, if the uncle likes beer, and you are old enough to buy, you could get him an assortment of good beer from your home country.

Some Christmas gifts from past APs that my family has cherished:
1) An advent wreath with candles for the table (homemade with real-looking but fake evergreens)
2) Christmas ornaments hand-customized with the name of each person in our family — we use them every year and always remember that AP!
3) A tiled sign for our house with our family name on it (it hangs by the front door) (this was a craft project mosaic kit)
4) Kitchen tools we obviously needed (not costly…little things like better tongs)

mytwinsrgr8kids December 5, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Best gift for me – a Christmas ornament representing the au pair or her home country. For the kids, something fun they can do together with the AP (craft, board game, ticket to local event). Please, please, please don’t spend a lot of money on anything!

AuPairUSA December 5, 2011 at 7:21 pm

Thats gonna be my second Christmas with my HF. My HM always showed me she didnt expect any gifts, since I was in my home country and was wondering what to buy to give them when I got here. Last year I bought the kids non expensive toys and chocolates for my HP. The whole family was here and everybody got me something, but I didnt buy anything for them. This year I got my HP a Christmas candle (they light up candles everyday) and something for their wine glasses, simple and something they always use.

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