How To Help Your Au Pair Create a Happy Social Life

by cv harquail on February 14, 2013

While we all want to avoid getting the “Party Girl” Au Pair or the “Frat Boy” Bro-Pair, we want our au pairs to establish their own happy social lives.

au pair, social lifeAnd, when we parents are older, busy, and/or not-very-into-whatever, we don’t always have ways to help our au pairs use their off-duty time to build their own community of friends.

There are, however, some tried and true ways to meet other “young people”.

You might suggest to your au pair that s/he try these when they first arrive.

  1. Take a class. Not just an academic class, but a one-evening class in Adult School, or similar.
  2. Join a church or faith community.
  3. Find a town sports league and join a team.
  4. Join an ESL class just for the opportunity to chat with other people new to the area.
  5. And here’s my best idea =>
    Use “Meetup” to find interesting groups in your area that meet regularly and are open to new members. (Look at this one I found specifically for folks New and Not So New in Limerick, Ireland!)
    If you don’t have a group near you, help your au pair create one using Meetup or an analogue strategy like a handbill posted at the local cafe.

We host parents can also help out with activities like:

  1. Introduce your Au Pair to the Au Pairs or nannies of family friends. Take your Au Pair to school pick-up and introduce him/her to other adults there.
  2. Ask your LCC to suggest a specific other au pair or two whom you can invite to your house for coffee, to meet your au pair.
  3. Throw a welcoming party, inviting that fun barista that chat with on Saturday mornings.
  4. Find a promotion on gym memberships and sign your au pair up for a Zumba class.
  5. Email an au pair parent host blog and ask for suggestions. (See below, and thanks Keith!)

Okay, so these suggestions aren’t earth-shattering… but they are a place to start.

What else would you recommend for helping your au pair make a social life?

Dear Au Pair Mom —

We have had our Au Pair for 2 weeks now and I have to say she is great!

We are looking for ideas to help her with socialising. Does anyone know of a blog or Au-pair network that can help them meet other people around their own age?

Our au pair is 21. She’s very friendly and wants to meet others but doesnt know where to start. Unfortunately, her agency isn’t that knowledgeable about our area and doesn’t seem to have any other girls near us that she can meet up with.
(We are in Limerick, Ireland.)

Any ideas from parents or au pairs would be great. Thanks so much.

Many Thanks for your time.


See also:
Second Jobs are not a Social Life
Your Au Pair’s Friends: Key to Her/His Happiness?

=>>  Nannies and Au Pairs Meetup Groups, worldwide list


Image: Handmade Butterfly Tea Party Dress, available from SweetJunebilee on Etsy


CA Host Mom February 14, 2013 at 7:05 pm

Great post! I love these suggestions – MeetUp is really neat!

Also, we have found that our APs have used Facebook extensively to meet and communicate with new friends in the area. Our agency (CC) seems to have bunches of FB pages out there that the APs can subscribe to.

AnotherSeattleHostMom February 14, 2013 at 7:08 pm

I think there are lots of different Facebook groups for au pairs that go across agencies. Our AP mostly made her AP friends from cluster meetings but has a few from other agencies she met on a Seattle Au Pair Facebook group. They post to go on vacation together or even set up playdates with kids of similar ages?

Emerald City HM February 14, 2013 at 9:32 pm

Is there an equivalent to Groupon in Ireland? I’ve seen things like wine tasting art classes at really reasonable prices on there. My coworker even did inexpensive SCUBA lessons.

Taking a Computer Lunch February 14, 2013 at 10:23 pm

I am very fortunate to have an excellent LCC, whom works very hard for the APs in her cluster (it only takes their finding a few friends outside the cluster to realize that she’s excellent). Because the majority of the APs in our cluster arrive between June and August, for the past several years she has organized a “Fight Homesickness” event for the APs in the cluster – a movie (and shows them how to navigate our subway system), a trip to an amusement park, or some other group event that allows them to get to know each other.

In my experience, APs are extremely exhausted in their first weeks with us – not only are they homesick, but it’s really tiring listening to another language all day. While I encourage them to do things with us and to attend AP events, I cut them slack on joining teams, taking classes. That said, my best APs have taken the opportunity to organize other APs in the cluster – host a movie night, organize an impromptu dinner party.

In the United States, it is probably easier to help your non-self-starter AP find a group of friends – because the agencies provide cluster meetings. I don’t know how it works in other countries. However, there’s a university in Limerick – encourage your AP to take advantage of some of the social clubs. I traveled with a group of Irish engineering students on the cheap when I lived in Ireland – and I’m a historian. I also enjoyed the traditional music clubs, and singing in seisuns, even though I can’t really carry a tune. It was a great way to meet people. When I lived in Ireland pub quizzes hadn’t caught on the way they had in England. When I visited England I enjoyed participating – I found it a great way to learn something about the culture – even if I didn’t know many of the answers.

What I have found, every time a new AP arrives, is that I’ve forgotten how new my country is to them and how lonely they are at first. Most will join every family event quite readily. With a little luck and effort they build a body of friendships that takes them out of the house when they’re off duty.

Relax, though, if she’s only been with you for two weeks – especially if English isn’t her native language. Point out sections of your newspaper that list events, give her a bus schedule and a map, or stop by the Uni and see if there’s a paper or a list of events there to give her. If there’s a FB page or other social media site for APs in Limerick, encourage her to participate. She’ll get there – especially as the days grow longer and the air warms – she’ll be out the door before you know it.

Host Mom in the City February 15, 2013 at 8:47 am

We have had two au pairs. Our first was very social and made a great group of friends almost immediately. She met most of her friends through her au pair cluster (which I guess you wouldn’t have the benefit of in Ireland?). Our second is definitely an introvert (like me, so I can understand). I admit I did worry after her first and then second month when she didn’t seem to really click with anyone. But now we’re well into our year and she has made two “best friends” that she spends most of her social time with.

The experience made me realize that (obviously) there are going to extrovert au pairs and introvert au pairs. They are all going to find friends, make friends, and organize their social lives differently. I myself was never a person that had a big group of friends that spent all their time together – I’m more of a one or two best friends and a bunch of acquaintances kind of girl myself. It also takes me a long time to make friends, but I do get there.

All that to say that while it’s great you’re thinking about it, I wouldn’t get nervous about it yet. Two weeks is really early. If she’s been here three months and doesn’t have any friends, then maybe start to get worried. But even then, she might just have one or two.

DCAuPair February 15, 2013 at 10:51 am

I think also make sure your au pair knows that she is welcome to invite friends over to your house (if she is). I don’t mean house parties or anything, but a couple of friends over for coffee during her free time or so.

When I just arrived, I was very cautious not to do anything that might inconvenience my host parents, such as inviting people to the house. Once I got to know them better, and started to feel like it’s my house too, I got over that. I still ask them, but I know they are fine with me having friends over now and then.

I think it’s important for the au pair to know that, because it can get tiresome (and expensive!) to always meet up in public places. This is a bit unrelated, but the topic did make me think if this :)

Host Mom in the City February 15, 2013 at 11:33 am

This is a great point, DCAuPair – if you want your au pair to have a social life, you need to give her the space and time to do so (and let her know).

spanishaupair February 15, 2013 at 1:50 pm

For me to find friends, has always been the best facebook, there are lots of facebook groups of aupairs in different places, and always asking for go out, trips, or playdates with kids.
I agree with the meet up is great help also. And of course if you know any aupairs nearby could be great to introduce your aupair to them, I have never had that luck.

Emerald City HM February 16, 2013 at 12:57 am

This just made me think of a question I had for other host parents. How do other host parents feel about play dates? I mean in general, I’m ok with the concept and I think it’s a great idea in theory but I’m not sure I’m comfortable with an au pair meeting up with someone they messaged on facebook with my kids.

Do you set restirctions of meeting the other au pair or nanny first? Or requiring the playdate is in a public location? Do you require the kids are near the same age?

We haven’t had au pairs that have done playdates yet, but I feel it’s inevitable in the future.

Taking a Computer Lunch February 16, 2013 at 8:25 am

In my opinion, play dates are great for everyone. They provide an opportunity for APs to interact with other APs, nannies & babysitters, and kids to play with other kids. When child #2 had his 3rd birthday party, half of the kids he wanted to attend were other HK he had met on play dates. Those friendships continued for a couple of years – even after that AP left. It provided us with a rare opportunity to meet other HF outside of an official AP-HF function. The kids played well up and down ages.

Letting the APs organize activities with their friends worked far better than my attempts at booking play dates with children of my friends – they were less enthusiastic about hanging out with parents – I think they felt watched.

Our 1st AP was very enthusiastic about taking child #2 to music & art programs our county offers for parents/nannies/APs of preschool children. She often conversed with other adults, and enjoyed getting out of the house in a structured activity.

Most of our APs have been social and extroverted, and I have come to know their friends – they were often in our home on weekends and evenings. Most of them had a level head, a few were flaky. My APs were happier – and believe me, when it comes to a 45-hour work week a happy AP makes everything run more smoothly.

cv harquail February 16, 2013 at 10:56 am


We have a post on playdates, Help Your Au Pair Evaluate Potential Playdates, with a lot of info on this topic. I will also set up a post for next week where people can address your questions about how playdates can/should work…

Emerald City HM February 25, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Just wondering if this post might be coming soon. :)

I read through the other post and I’m more wondering about play dates when the kids are much younger. As we have an infant and toddler. The facebook meeting thing still really worries me, because anyone could be posing as an au pair and join some of the groups.

So yeah I guess I’m curious how these essentially work for other families and au pairs.

Old China Hand February 15, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Our cluster is really small (3 APs in the entire metropolitan area) and we are on the far edge of it. To the best of my knowledge, our town has no other APs. Our AP doesn’t drive. So I have been setting her up with college-age students and recent graduates that I know. It helps that I’m a professor. Through their help, our AP has gotten permission to audit a class, is taking informal English classes at the library 3-4 nights a week, and is taking some informal student-taught classes (swing dancing and Korean). She’s also been going to contra and blues dances and a Chinese family is taking her to church with them. So even though I don’t think she feels like she has “friends” yet, in the sense of a best friend to hang out with anytime, at least she is keeping busy. I think it’s helping her to feel more adjusted. But I’m now keeping my eyes open for the 2.5-3 month depression culture shock time. I think that if you have a way to introduce your AP to other people her age, even if they aren’t APs or nannies, it can really help.

HRHM February 17, 2013 at 7:41 am

I had a similar issue in a small PA town. I was working at a huge hospital and found foreign residents that happily included her into their very busy social life – after all what group of young doctors wouldn’t like to help out the pretty new girl! :)

SKNY February 17, 2013 at 8:45 am

this is my biggest problem. We have moved and are now the only host family in our cluster. Our agency hired a LCC specially to keep us in the program.
We live in a very small rural area upstate NY, there are very few foreign people in this county (no one in our town – other than me and au pair), and the closest cluster/au pair is about an hour and fifteen min away. Since moving here we have had the hardest time keeping an au pair for a year. The first lasted 6 months, the second arrived in August and is getting married in March.
I am very nervous about choosing one that will stick out. It is We do offer car and allow our au pairs to drive to other locations (up to 2 hours away), we offer cell phone, most weekends off… But still they don’t want to be in rural NY without any other au pair to hangout with.
I have a feeling that the only getting married in March might be the last one… :(

himynameisflo June 27, 2013 at 9:54 pm

Don’t be so sure, some of us would love being in upstate NY but can’t find a family!! :)

MailysFormerFutureAP February 15, 2013 at 5:36 pm

I would really recommend Au Pair Circle !!! A great way to meet au pairs from other clusters.
Then, Facebook groups, if you cant find any, create one, i did it when i was in Michigan and invited all au pairs in knew, who invited some of their friends and through that i found one of my best friend because she was on a hunt for friends as well and found the group.
Lastly, forums, I know for french au pairs there is a forum au pair in the usa which gives informations about the program but also has list of the members depending on where they have matched. A great way to connect with APs from other countries that are in other clusters than yours but still close.

Kelly Hand February 15, 2013 at 11:53 pm

Although I know how much au pairs love to connect with other au pairs, it’s also great for you to help them to meet more American young people. When I was a counselor for an au pair program, I had some host parents who introduced their au pair to all the young people they knew, including young professionals they worked with. For au pairs with a specific career goal in mind, an internship or volunteer position may also be a great idea. Here in DC, there are a lot of au pairs who have found opportunities at non-profits or at their countries’ embassies. Of course, it helps to have host parents with connections. When I was an au pair in France, I met some older friends (a couple with kids) who introduced me to many of their friends–a great way to meet a broader cross-section of people. If you include your au pair in your social life, they may find that your friends will introduce them to some of their friends . . .

Gianna February 16, 2013 at 5:05 pm

If you have a previous aupair who is leaving on nice terms , she can be more help than anyone in introducing your new aupair to friends . Even if you have no overlap, the departing aupair can leave a list of names and phone numbers. If you do have overlap that can be one of the things that the outgoing aupair does in that first week. I have found that most aupairs are very thoughtful about helping the new aupairs make friends.

Taking a Computer Lunch February 17, 2013 at 4:55 pm

I have found that friends of our most beloved outgoing APs reached out to our incoming APs during their first weeks. Some connections worked, others didn’t. When friends expressed guilt at not wanting to spend time with the incoming AP, I told them that I appreciated their effort and it was up to the new AP to make a life her for herself.

Everyone, extroverted or introverted, made a year for herself on her terms. Some took longer than others.

Anna February 17, 2013 at 1:02 pm

I found that there is only so much you can do to help. If your au pair is outgoing and likes to meet new people, she will find ways to do so with minimal help from you. If she is not, she will be bored sitting at home with no friends she personally “clicks” with in her au pair cluster consisting of more than 30 girls.

I did actively help my au pair once to find friends. I called up my LCC and asked her to put her in touch with other au pairs who live nearby from her country. She said, oh another host parent just called me with the same problem – lets put these two girls together. Well the other girl turned out to be mentally ill and so shy she wasn’t even taking kids outside to play when directed to do so by her family. She went home really soon after that. If somebody cannot find a social circle and needs host parents help, usually there is a reason….

Emmiejane February 17, 2013 at 1:34 pm

This issue hits close to home for me. We live in a mid-size western city, having just moved here from pittsburgh. Our Latin au pair in Pittsburgh had instant friendships in our large au pair cluster, many from her home country. We really did nothing, and she quickly formed a large social circle. Our second au pair, also Latin, joined us in our new city with a much smaller cluster of mainly German au pairs. She is also quieter and more introverted. She is a wonderful au pair and truly loves our children and our family. We have tried to work with her in terms of classes, church groups, snowboarding classes etc… In order for her to build a social life. However, she has had a very difficult time. She has decided not to extend with us due to her lack of social life but instead try to go to a larger eastern city. Also, she told us that the lack of Latin people in general where we live has been hard for her. I feel badly that she has not been able to really connect with any people her age. I also recently learned that at the cluster meetings most of the au pairs just speak in German and shut her out. I am sure it is not necessarily intentional, but it has been hard for her. Due to all of this, as we look for another au pair, we have been looking to other nationalities-despite the fact that we have loved our Latin au pairs. Also, we realize that with the smaller cluster an outgoing personality is more important. This city is not rural, and I am hopeful that we can find a better fit, but I do think it is going to take more intentionality when picking the au pair in considering how she will build a social life ins this particular place, whereas there were several agencies with large clusters in pittsburgh, as well as tons of international students, and it was truly much easier.

Aupair again February 18, 2013 at 12:26 pm

Meet Up is awesome! I met one girl through the site and from that I gained a whole new group of friends. You just have to be prepared to put yourself out there.
Facebook is also another great way to meet people, there are usually Facebook groups for au pairs in the same area.

And if you’re really brave and live in a ‘college city’ just go to the campus one day and strike up a conversation with someone who looks approachable, or talk really loud… Americans love foreign accents and will more than likely start talking to you.

Ruth May 15, 2013 at 10:59 pm

This poses an interesting dilemma for us: we threw a party for our first Au Pair to meet other Au Pairs in the area and, before we knew it, she instantly had a great social life going out often with these Au Pairs and we loved it! For our newest Au Pair we invited a couple of Au Pairs who spoke her same language to brunch her second weekend she was here so they could meet. They are lovely Au Pairs we would be thrilled to have working for us. They hung out a couple of times, but she’s going on 2 months of being here and has every weekend off with full access to a car and barely goes out and this is after emailing a couple of the Au Pairs to let them know we would be gone for 3 nights and telling her they are welcome to our home, but I don’t think anyone came over. I did find out though that she has met someone who is not an Au Pair and, without knowing them longer than a week, had this person come to our house and pick her up. Given that my Au Pair dresses quite revealing and tacky, I’m not sure I trust who she is attracting as friends, let alone to have them pick her up at our house! I want her to have a great social life and I don’t want to be controlling, but when I pressed in and asked her about this “friend”, I’m getting very vague answers. How do you encourage your Au Pair’s social life outside of other Au Pair’s without worrying they might be attracting the wrong type of people and when is it appropriate to let them know where you live?

Taking a Computer Lunch May 16, 2013 at 7:16 am

There are many reasons why friendships don’t jell. In your writing here and elsewhere you have focused on your AP’s clothing, but it seems to me that something else is going on. Is she insecure? Is she rude? Is she extremely shy? Is she a negative person? There are many reasons why friendships don’t form.

For me, rule #1 is not to act as the social organizer. I am very fortunate to have an excellent LCC who goes the extra mile. Since most APs in my cluster arrive between late July and early September, she organizes as special “homesick” event – a movie night, a trip to an amusement park – so the APs from the cluster can get to know each other. She used to have a buddy system, where an AP who had been here several months would take a new arrival under her wing, but it didn’t always work well (I had some APs who embraced their role as buddy and some who did nothing at all).

Some APs are introverts. They don’t need to be surrounded by many friends and may form one or two strong friendships during the course of the year. They might be home by 9:00 and in bed soon after. That’s okay. You can encourage her to go out, but you have to accept it when she doesn’t. It’s her year.

In my experience, older APs tend to do less with other APs because they are not “girls,” they are women and the teenagers around them aren’t as interesting. My older APs have sought out friends from their country living in our area as well as Americans. Some of my younger APs have sought out Americans.

If you live in an urban area, there are plenty of APs from other clusters and other agencies for your AP to befriend.

What I don’t recommend, however, is treating your AP like you would your teenage child, unless you want a parent-child relationship (personally, that’s too much work for me). She is an adult, and part of growing into adulthood is making mistakes and learning from them. Unless you have evidence that her friends are dangerous and a threat to you and your family, then I wouldn’t worry about them picking her up at your home.

When trying to assess her new relationships, if you have concerns that she is making choices that could endanger her well-being, keep it light. Ask her if she had a good time. Ask her what she did. Don’t pass judgment, even if you don’t like her choices. In my experience, what APs do in months 1-3 don’t necessarily reflect what they’ll be doing in month 7. It’s all part of the learning process.

Momma Gadget May 16, 2013 at 10:11 am

Great advice per usual TACL.
Ruth -That is so thoughtful of you to organize get togethers to help your APs settle in.
We have had many different scenarios-
AP #1 Only wanted to Socialize with fellow French APs
AP #2 had friends from all over, and has kept in touch and visited them all since returning home
AP #3 was often invited by AP2’s old friends, but was closer with the her church American youth group friends…None of whom kept in touch after she went home.
AP #4 flame out, only wanted to socialize with fellow Dutch Aps-
BP#5 had a healthy mix of AP friends, and met some Hungarian/American friends, but he really hung out with us more than his friends.
I should also Point out that the APs 2,3,5 were all establish in the US and came to us either as an extension, or from transition.So they were quick to try and make friends.
BP #6 ( hopefully our first successful out of country match) has only been here a month- He has gone out with other APs But at 25, I get the sense that they are a bit immature for him… the girl APs all are gaga over him, and the Male AP seems to resent the attention they give him. I just found out that my son’s coach ( female) asked him out… so maybe he will become more friendly with the residents here.
I admit I am disappointed that the other Bro Pair in our area and he don’t seem to mesh. It would be nice for him to have a good guy friend, as the girls are already throwing themselves at his feet.
Our LC is usually great. She organizes fun cluster events, and brings a couple of veteran APs to visit the new APs in there first weeks.
Beyond reminding him that he is off duty, and encouraging him to take the car to meet up with friends or take the train into the city, It is up to him to find his own way socially. He often joins our family on outings, or watching TV – I still worry that until he finds his own friends that he will feel isolated and lonely.

Ruth May 16, 2013 at 12:03 pm

Thank you TACL and Momma Gadget for your advice. I am trying to be the best host mom as I was a live-in nanny years ago and had 2 terrific families – one I still stay in touch with 20 years later but I think it worked better b/c I was an American nanny with an American family. I’m trying to find that connection and balance with our current Au Pair. I will admit, the first month, especially, is the hardest adjustment and we have worked through many things to get to a happy place that she is here. Although, I’ll never feel comfortable with her dress, period! ;-/

To my knowledge she is neither rude, unkind or any of those things. She is a smart, capable, sweet and attractive girl, but just doesn’t take the initiative and I don’t know why the friendships aren’t forming. I have definitely taken a back seat approach though after the first month (the first month we organized a brunch with other Au Pairs, Au Pairs came for movie night at our house, Another Au Pair offered to pick her up for her first cluster meeting when I asked if I could meet her half way – all initiated by me). After that first month, I’ve left her to figure her own course out and I’m sad she’s just not really doing much at all! Specifically, should I just let this “new friend” go and not be concerned who she might be attracting or, better yet, allowing them to know where we live? When I was a nanny, I was so involved in church groups where I met other people and I waited to get to know each person quite well before I let them know where I lived. Specifically, I dated a Dr. a West Pointer and I never let them know where I lived until I knew them better. Perhaps I just had a good head on my shoulders at 19 and 20. When someone dresses the way she does and then allows someone she just met to know where we live, that is not using good judgement in my eyes! Arrgh!! We do adore her, otherwise! Such a dilemma!

And, PS: I LOVE finding this blog and all the advice as I have been spending far too many hours reading past blogs in hopes of finding the right advice. Thanks to you both for all your posts – I’ve learned a lot from you and your approach always seems very fair!

Ruth May 16, 2013 at 12:08 pm

Oh, and PS: our LCC just does the minimum: organizes a Buddy for new Au Pairs (which none of these Buddy’s have ever followed through, it always takes an initiation from us) and she organizes her cluster meetings, which don’t seem too organized, in my opinion. For instance, meet at a huge park, meet at a huge baseball stadium in front of a statue. Really? I’m sure half the girls have no idea where to meet as I surely haven’t and I’ve lived here for 4 years!

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