We all want our au pairs to let us know if they have questions, concerns, or issues that are bothering them. But how do we want them to bring these issues up?
In our family, the informal-yet-scheduled-family-meeting is the best place to bring up any “issue” that goes beyond something like how best to load the dishwasher. Other times, a short note to give me a ‘heads up’ has worked to help me pay attention and prepare to discuss the issue.
Personally, I dislike that discomfort of feeling like something is wrong, but having no idea how serious it is or even what it is. I’d prefer a very gentle, open-minded invitation to talk about problems.
Any of the methods I can think of to start a conversation, though, require an au pair to be forthcoming with her issues.
Why? Because I’m really bad at mind-reading.
First let me say that your blog is a great way to prepare to be a good au pair and meet the hostparents’ needs. It really helps to see the other side of the coin and read all the views of the different parents. I think I will learn a lot to be a good au pair when I come to the US in summer.
In advance of arriving in the USA, I am little confused about the cultural differences that I should be expecting. Everyone tells me something different.
My question is whether it’s true that Americans approach any issues that might occur directly and “boldly”, or whether Americans try to find a way around discussing an issue directly.
My interviewer told me that American families often wonder why the au pair just doesn’t get their criticism — the reason behind that would be that Americans tend to not approach any conflicts directly. Instead they speak in euphemisms. On the other hand I have heard that Americans would be offended if an au pair waltzes in and just talks about any problems openly, directly and “boldly”.
Then, here on the blog I read a comment here that it’s the AMERICAN way to approach things directly and not waste any time with chit-chat but try to directly find a solutions. So, I am confused about what most host parents would prefer.
I’m asking about this because I personally am very good with dropping hints (that cannot be missunderstood) but I also like to approach things directly to find a good solution.
I really think that talking things out is already half of the solution so I thought, this might be the perfect place to ask such a question:
Is it wise for the au pair to politely but directly talk about things (not just a problem, but just everything that might occur in every-day-life) or is it better to slowly and carefully approach a subject?
Both would be bad: saying things directly and offend your family and make them think something seriously is wrong when it really isn’t.
And also tip-toeing around a problem which could lead to great missunderstanding when really both sides would have been fine with a direct conversations.
I know this depends on the character of the people involved, but I’ve been told by my agency that this is also a cultural thing.
By the way, I am from Germany, so maybe it helps know that to make a comparism.
Thank you for taking your time to read my not that important but (to me) really interesting problem.
Thanks for all of your advice, Heidi
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