Invasion of Privacy: Time for rematch?

by cv harquail on October 19, 2011

Here at AuPairMom we get some very interesting emails from host parents and au pairs facing challenges in their relationships. Sometimes these questions are easy to answer, other times the whole group of us has to band together to come up with useful advice.

Sometimes these emails make me sad — so much struggle, such disappointments.

And then, some emails completely weird me out…. like this one.


Let me just tell you that, in my private reply to this host mom, I used the word “Eeeew” almost two dozen times. There was nothing else I could say.

Thankfully, we can turn to your, dear readers, for some ideas about how this host mom might respond.

Privacy: Yours and Hers

The host mom with the dilemma below is suffering from a violation of her privacy. Thank goodness it wasn’t the most direct kind (e.g., interruptus, reading her journals, eavesdropping) but it was pretty invasive.

This ‘disturbed host mom’ is especially upset because privacy is important to her– she’s gone out of her way to respect her au pair’s privacy, even when the situation itself has pulled back the curtain on the au pair’s private life. And we all feel more upset when we work hard to give our au pairs (or anyone) a certain kind of respect that is not returned in kind.

Dear Au Pair Mom-

We have an au pair that has been with us for about 3 months. We got off to a rocky start, but with lots of communicating about openness and trust, things have greatly improved over the last month.

Our au pair is 19 (20 next month) and has a boyfriend from home. They have been together for 3 years. During the interview process, she denied having a boyfriend. This was good for me, as our previous AP had many emotional issues stemming from the relationship with the boyfriend back home and I did not want to repeat that drama. I am a stay at home mom, and the constant weeping and depression (boyfriend was cheating, etc) was too much to be around all day. So, when the new AP arrived and started talking about her boyfriend, I was NOT happy.

I mentioned this to her, and she kind of shrugged and didnt seem too concerned with being caught in a lie, but I let it go and moved forward.

AP settled in to her new bedroom. She has a lock on her door, as well as her own ensuite bathroom and wi-fi for the laptop we gave her. She Skypes with her boyfriend all night long, after she is through working. In other words, she has plenty of privacy.

I have two small children who still nap during the day. If they are napping and she gets everything picked up and a load of laundry started, she is free to use the computer for a few hours while they nap.

The first boyfriend/computer related issue occured while we were on a family vacation. We took one of the kids to dinner and left the baby with AP. We got back to the condo a bit earlier than planned, to find ourselves locked out. After a few minutes of pounding on the door, she opened it in a robe, with full makeup and hair done. Strange, but whatever.

After walking into the room, I found that baby was sleeping, but his dinner mess had not been cleaned, the bathtub water had not been drained, and his (AND HER) clothes were strewn on the floor. When I saw her undies on the floor and Skype open on her laptop, it was clear what was going on.

Again, I told her that the computer was to be used only when the kids were asleep and everything was cleaned up. She admitted that she had been taking photos for her boyfriend, but again I dropped it, not wanting to know any more. Since then, she has gone around the house (when we are gone) taking “sexy” photos of herself and putting them on Facebook for her boyfriend. I don’t think it occurs to her that I check her page on occasion!

Fast forward to last night:

We got home from a long weekend away, only to find a pile of black hair on my bedroom carpet. Interesting as my family are all blonde.

Then, in my bathtub, several more black hairs! And on Facebook, a picture of her IN MY BATHTUB!

It appears that after enjoying a nice “Soak n Skype”, she tried to clean her hair out of the tub, but dropped it on the floor on her way out (duh).

I am extremely upset with this invasion of my privacy, but is it cause for a rematch? It’s hard on the kids and I don’t need the headache, but I am not sure that I can get over knowing that she is continuing her sexual relationship with her boyfriend in my private space. Please help!

Thanks!!!!!! Disturbed Host Mom

Readers, once you, too, have squealed EEEEwwwwwwww!!!!!, please share your insights.

Image: Gatsby in the Bathtup Attribution Some rights reserved by Alicia Nijdam


AuPairToBe October 19, 2011 at 9:08 am

I also have a boyfriend here on my home country, but there’s no reason why for me to take photos, or take photos on the Host Family tub (OMG). And even if I had some problem with my boyfriend, I wouldn’t let it affect my work while I’m taking care of your children. I think it’s a serious case of REMATCH. If I was a host mom, or any kind of employer, I’d ask for rematch. Because it’s way too disgusting to see her hair in my tub, or get home and realize that she was taking sexual photos of herself, in my house, near my kids (those being sleeping or not). For sure, that girl do not have a self esteem. How could a girl in pain (maybe depression), keep the job as a nice environment to the kids?

German Au-Pair October 19, 2011 at 4:40 pm

I think you are mixing up two different stories here ;) the au pair with the naked pictures is not the same au pair with the boyfriend trouble.

HRHM October 19, 2011 at 9:33 am

I think the first thing to do is aknowledge that there is a HUGE cultural and personal variability between tolerance of displayed sexuality & nudity and also with regard to what is private or not. Having said that, I too would be icked out about her hair being in my tub and room.

She may see it as being a bathtub (I’m assuming it’s a nice big whirlpool as opposed to her little standard one?) and she feels no compunction about using it (anymore than she would using the phone in your room if it rang while she was walking by the door) because it’s not like she was looking through your stuff etc. So it’s up to you to explain to her that she is not to enter your inner sanctum unless she needs to put out a fire in there, upon penalty of death. Once she understands that your definition of privacy is tighter than hers, further violations would certainly be grounds for rematch talks.

IMO the bigger issue is that fact that she blatantly lied prior to match and seemed unphased by being caught straight out of the gate. From previous experience, this would be a non-starter for me and she would have likely been in rematch already – but then again, I’m scarred! LOL

It also seems that she is somewhat preoccupied with her relationship and also firghteningly unaware of how to set her privacy settings so that only her boyfriend can see her nudie shots (gross!) A very unjudgemental conversation about internet privacy and the permanancy of those photos is in order. Does she realize that you (and HD??) can see her pix? Maybe once she does, she’ll tone it down a little.

Anna October 19, 2011 at 11:48 am

I think that the real issue is not her vibrant sexuality and her continuing relationship with her boyfriend, but two other things:

1. She lied to you. You cannot trust her with your children either, since she doesn’t think lying is a big deal. You have a baby who cannot talk – you cannot trust her to be alone with the baby because you don’t know what truly is going on. I had an au pair who was a lier… I started noticing that my baby was playing in the crib for hours quetly after waking up… hmmm…

2. It looks like she can really lose her head and sacrifice her relationship with you, and her position here as an au pair, for her boyfriend. She is really into it and if she doesn’t sleep nights (and her performance in the morning suffers, whatever she might say), and she cannot keep herself off skype during work hours, she cannot control herself. Think about what might happen if she breaks up with the boyfriend back home and finds a local one… your children will become an afterthought at best, the lying will intensify, and her performance will suffer even more (that’s what happened to our 19 year old au pair who lied, also lied about boyfriend back home during interviews, and thankfully we rematched – a bit too late but not a moment too early)

Should be working October 19, 2011 at 12:16 pm

How happy is the OP with the AP’s performance otherwise? If the OP is very happy with the AP’s dealings with the children, and overall happy with her performance in the household, and satisfied with the member-of-the-family/independent-adult balance, and thinks the AP is a safe driver and responsible, then it is worth restricting this to a serious discussion and limit-setting about privacy. As HRHM says, there might be cultural differences to consider here. And a one-time slip-up with baby mess is not grounds for rematch. And even the bathtub thing could conceivably be seen as bad judgment (same with Facebook) but not the end of AP capability.

BUT if the OP is less than satisfied with the AP’s performance as an AP, then this is a good time to rematch. When things start to feel wrong to an HM, it’s often the beginning of the end, and no reason here to drag things out. Isolated annoying things are not reason to rematch; if this feels like a confirmation of some inward sense of the HM that this AP lacks good judgment, pay attention that feeling and go to rematch.

Disturbed Host Mom October 19, 2011 at 1:09 pm

Hi there! It’s the OP. Just wanted to say thank you for your input and advice, and share a bit more information…

1). Although the Facebook pics are sexy (think cleavage just shy of visible nipple), they aren’t nude. In the bathtub pic there were bubbles covering her private areas. Yes…bubbles in the whirlpool tub…don’t get me started!

2). I don’t know if she went through my personal items but I feel as if she has. My rules on privacy have been made very clear from the beginning. She would never use my bathroom while I am home, or going to be coming home, so to me this is just as sneaky as looking through my drawers, if that makes sense?

3). Yes, she’s a liar, but in my heart I believe she did it out of desperation. She is from a very poor family in a third world country and this opportunity will improve their living conditions immensely. She’s messed up so many times, but after each time I have had to speak with her, she really does try to make improvements. She is also great with the kids. When they are awake, I have no doubt that they are being entertained and taken care of. It’s just this breach of trust that has me thinking about rematch.

I have yet to approach her on this subject. I was kind of waiting for your advice. Right now I am leaning towards a serious discussion about privacy. I will also be letting her know that this will be her final chance before rematch. Will wait until tonight to talk with her, so please keep your good advice coming until then! Thank you!

momto2 October 19, 2011 at 1:20 pm

Does the host family have an established rule about areas of the house being off limits to the AP? We feel that there is no need for our AP’s to enter the host parent’s bedroom or bathroom for any reason. If there is such a rule for you, and the AP clearly crossed that boundary, (and in such a blatant fashion…..this wasn’t an emergency, health or safety issue), that would go to trust, for me personally. Coupled with the lies about having the boyfriend and the lack of concern about the impact of lying to you, I would have a hard time trusting her. I am not one to rush into rematch either, but trust is a huge issue for me.

Taking a Computer Lunch October 19, 2011 at 1:40 pm

I agree with cv – eeew!

And I agree with other HMs – you have a trust issue here. She was prancing around your vacation condo, having ignored her job. Your baby is not going to be able to tell you whether or not he was ignored, but she failed to clean up after him before engaging in her nightly routine of entertaining her boyfriend (we had a whole conversation about Skype and entertaining men several months ago – it’s around here somewhere). Personally, if I were you and I had come home to a mess, then I would have had a chat right there and then about priorities. She’s not living with you to keep her boyfriend entertained until she returns home – she’s living with you to care for the children, attend classes, and explore American culture. She can go home and entertain her boyfriend. What she does on her own time in her own space is her business, what she does on work time is another matter. My guidelines say, limit telephone conversations while you are working to making plans to chat/meet/Skype later.

If you think the relationship is worth saving, then you need to call her on the hair on your bedroom floor and the dirt in the tub. Don’t tell her you saw her on FB, or she’ll block you from seeing those images in a NY minute. Talk to her about privacy goes both ways, and you don’t want her in your space just as she doesn’t want you in hers. (And I’m sure she doesn’t.)

Me, I think you’re protecting this young woman because you feel sorry for her. Don’t. There are plenty of poor women who work in this country who are respectful of space boundaries and who work hard to care for children. My advice – plan to drop in a few more times on this young woman – come home early when baby is taking a nap, come home unannounced at strange times. And if it isn’t all good, then it’s time to call the LCC and have a chat. When it’s time to rematch, then pull the FB card with the LCC present. My guess is that she’ll be able to entertain her boyfriend in person.

franzi October 19, 2011 at 2:04 pm

i am with the other posters and believe your problem is one of trust. add to that i have the feeling you feel sorry for her situation (in some weird way because you said you preferred an AP without a boyfriend).

what i personally could not get over is the fact that she neglected her duties (which i believe you were very clear about, over and over again). you do not know what goes on when you are not home and you do not know if your kids are possibly in the room (sleeping) when she is doing whatever she is doing.

do not play your facebook card but take screen shots of her facebook page (in case she makes the pictures private).

there are many APs out there who take their job seriously and don’t “entertain” their boyfriends while on duty. get ready to move on to find another AP who is with you for all the right reasons.

Melissa October 19, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Major EWWWW factor! I agree that trust is a big issue, but for me, her seeming lack of judgement would be a HUGE concern. Although discovering that she was having a sex chat via Skype with her boyfriend would gross me out (she is a grown woman and is free to do what she wants in her private time, but I would just rather not be aware of it), what would really irk me is that she exhibited extremely poor judgement by doing it while she was supposed to be fulfilling her au pair duties. I would be annoyed if she didn’t clean up the mess and was just surfing the internet, but to be all made up and barely clothed, on Skype, while you were out to dinner ON YOUR VACATION, knowing that you could be home any minute, well, that’s pretty appalling to me. Either she is downright clueless, has very poor judgement, and/or cannot control herself. And taking sexy pictures and posting them on Facebook is just tasteless, but taking them all around YOUR HOUSE is rude.
The bathtub incident would put me over the edge. If these were the only incidents and there was absolutely nothing else amiss, I would have a very direct and firm conversation with her. But, you mentioned that she messed up so many times, and that you’ve already had to have multiple conversations with her regarding improvement. Maybe part of it can be chalked up to cultural differences, but if you’ve already made your expectations about privacy clear to her and she still overstepped them, clearly she is not very perceptive, or she just doesn’t care. I wish you the best and hope you can resolve it, but unfortunately, I think this just sounds like there’s more drama and frustration to come….

Amelie au-pair October 19, 2011 at 4:27 pm

Wow… I couldn’t even use my host parents’ toilet without feeling weird about it! I did use it a few times, though, because it was right next to the baby’s room, and mine was on a different floor.

But, as most commenters already mentioned, I think the biggest problem here is that she is skyping with her boyfriend when she should be working! And, although I think it it is ok for the au pair to use the computer to check e-mails or Facebook, if I were a host mom, I wouldn’t let my au pair Skype when the kids are napping… it can get very distracting (also, I’d feel very weird if I knew my au pair was taking sexy pictures in the living room while my baby is sleeping next door)!!!

German Au-Pair October 19, 2011 at 5:00 pm

While I personally don’t think it’s gross in general, that she is taking sexy pictures of herself for her boyfriend, I think it’s absolutely disturbing that she cannot control that need until she has her private room at your home again but has to do that ON VACATION with the sleeping baby in the room. That is just so extremely weird that I’d seriously question her judgement.
I personally don’t think that she using your bathroom is a huge deal. Unless you explicitly told her, that you do not want her in your bathroom. You just said you made your privacy boundaries really clear but did you actually say that you do not want her in your room?
The fact that she wouldn’t do that when you’re home or about to come home doesn’t mean that this thing was sneaky. Of course she wouldn’t do that when she had to expect you walking into you bathroom. So to me that doesn’t really lead to sneaky. She probably thought, that it wouldn’t harm you if she used that oppotunity alone at home when she cleaned up her mess. (Too bad for her that she failed to do so…)

I wouldn’t rematch based on this incident but I would try to think about reasons for keeping her -besides her poor situation at home. If you cannot come up with some GOOD reasons, I’d rematch. Not based on her using you bathtub but because she demonstrates extremly bad judgement having hot skype talks with her boyfriends right next to her baby. That would totally gross me out.

Melissa October 19, 2011 at 5:17 pm

I think the bathtub thing is clearly sneaky. I understand needing to time it to when the host parents are not there, but she could have said something along the lines of ‘while you’re away this weekend, would you mind if I used your tub to have a relaxing bath?’, or at least mentioned that she used it when the host mom returned. If the AP didn’t see it as a big deal, then she should have mentioned it. And I do see it differently than running into the host parents bedroom to pick up the phone if it rang. An AP is not naked and taking pictures of herself to post on the internet while she is answering the phone! I wouldn’t mind at all if my AP wanted to use the big tub in my bathroom, but turning it into something very personal and of a sexual nature by taking pictures to send to her boyfriend is just disrespectful and immature. That should be done in her own private room.

Reb October 20, 2011 at 11:21 am

Melissa, only a though, perhaps she did not tell the HM she had used the bath tub BECAUSE she did not think it was a big deal?

I do believe HM need to have a conversation with the au pair about her priorities. She is only young and maybe her boyfriend is pressuring her into doing things that are not appropriate?

I agree with Melissa that sexual pictures etc SHOULD have been done in the au pairs private room, BUT I do not think it will help the AP or HM to say what should not have been done and what should have happened.

HM, my advice would be to have an honest conversation with the AP, on an adult level, discussing how you felt when the AP did these things, and also discuss what will happen in the future, if that is a rematch or an action plan (privacy rules and working on honesty issues) can only be decided by you (how you feel and if you trust her).

Remember telling the AP what she should have done will not solve anything, only make her defensive and revert into a “child” state.

Good Luck

OhPleaseNotCaliforniaOrFlorida October 23, 2011 at 1:30 pm

There is no reason for an au pair to enter the “master bedroom”, unless it is an emergency or to get the kids out of there. Using the host parents’ bathroom is unacceptable and does not need to be said clearly. Au pairs don’t want the host parents to use their bathroom or enter their room, either.

Gianna October 19, 2011 at 5:40 pm

I think FB is one thing and I would try to avoid Facebook issues period unless you want her to start playing games. The bathroom issue is something else again. Maybe others will disagree with me but since it seems that you do not want to humiliate her or engage in argument, I would write an email ( it will have a date and a time ) and say that if you know she used your bathroom and this is private space. It is not to happen again. I would also say that if you come to the conclusion that your child is neglected, you will move to rematch immediately. I would say that we do not have to talk about this again. If there are no further incidents, we will we move forward. But if it does happen again, there will be no third chance. Then, if it does occur again, you can show the email to the LCC. If things improve , neither of you has to mention it again. Just a suggestion. Someone once told me to use this in cases of sexual advances at work. You send a private note asking that specific behavior stop immediately. If it stops, you all move on.If it does not stop, you take stronger action

Angie host mom October 19, 2011 at 5:42 pm

Rematch. While frankly the tub thing isn’t as ewww to me as to others (the kids use my tub all the time, have puked in it and peed in it, so I don’t really see it as a sacred place, just something that needs scrubbing once in a while!), the boyfriend will always be more important than you.

almost leaving au pair October 20, 2011 at 2:31 pm

yeah rematch I agree with almost every comment here. However, i have a suggestion for @disturbed host mom….3rd world country!! this sounds so offensive and for your information in the “3rd world countries” expression it is considered a really rude and despective and racist way to refer to them” also I want you to know that the fact that we don’t have SOME stuffs that you have here it does not make us poor. I don’t know how and who you are but because of the way you wrote your post I can assume that you are one of those egocentric americans who believe that everything outside USA is jungle!!…..I am not saying that all americans are like that but I have had the misfortune to meet people who treat me like an idiot because I am not american. EXAMPLE: Oh..I can’t believe that in your country (a south american one) you have microwaves!! or the other that once my host dad’s friend told me….WOW I thought you wanted to stay and get money cleaning houses, but when you said you wanna go to medical school i could not avoid laughing, Do you at least have good education there?? SERIOUSLY!! what can i say, in “the first world” kids don’t study not even the half of what we do…but because you live here you considered yourselves smarter than everyone…… Sorry If offeded someone’s sensitivity but it make me really mad when I found that racist comments!!!!

Ann October 20, 2011 at 3:10 pm

Thanks for saying this. Even if it might be a little bit too harsh ;)
But, yes, I agree with you!

Disturbed Host Mom October 20, 2011 at 3:59 pm


First off, please accept my most sincere apologies to anyone I may have offended by using the term “Third World Country” in my post. It was/is never my intention to hurt anyone, or to appear as a “racist” or the “egocentric American” you accuse me of being.

I can see how the term may offend some people, and from now on, I will use words that are less upsetting. But you should know that the term “third world country” is widely a widely used one, not only in America but in many countries, as well as mass media. Is everyone who uses that term to be judged so very harshly and called a racist?

I have travelled extensively through Central and South American countries, and the beauty of the region, along with the warmth and kindness of the people I met there are why I always select Latina (can I say that?) au pairs to care for and to educate my children. In other words, I am not an “egocentric American” who believes everything outside of the USA is jungle.

My current au pair is poor. How do I know this? Because she tells me! She confides in me the financial problems that her family has, and how she is saving money to go to University so that her younger siblings will be better provided for in the future. This is one of the reasons she is getting another chance to stay as an au pair with our family. It is extraordinarily ignorant of you to make so many assumptions about who I am and what I am like. For you to fling such unfounded accusations at a person you do not know shows an incredible lack of maturity and self control.

And to cap off your judgmental rant, you do a bit of your own stereotyping, don’t you? First World kids don’t study half of what you do? I’d like to see your statistical proof on that! We consider ourselves smarter because we live here? I would really like to know how that’s a fact!

I am not trying to fan flames here, but I think there must be a better way of getting your point across without coming off as the ignorant racist you accuse me of being.

Anon October 20, 2011 at 4:12 pm

Well said Disturbed HM! I was so disappointed reading Almost Leaving APs comment because she could have shared a very valid viewpoint and encouraged readers of this blog to think about that term in a different way. However, her inflammatory language, ridiculous stereotyping and overall nasty tone completely invalided what could have otherwise been an intelligent comment.

On another note – we’d love to hear how your conversation with your AP went and what you decided to do.

Reb October 21, 2011 at 7:51 am

I suppose some people may find “third world country” offensive (as it is a classification of countries) and out dated. I think people call it developing countries these days? Correct me if I am wrong.

Political correctness (PC) have gone mad the last few years. On my current course at University this is very obvious. To give a few examples; you cannot say old people or the elderly because that may be offensive, you have to say older people.
You cannot say lady or ladies, you have to say women. You cannot say youth offenders, you should say young people who offend. To be honest, you cannot say many things this day and age without offending someone…

kat October 21, 2011 at 7:01 pm

i have to say i understand why ‘almost leaving aupair’ wrote her post. it easy for you to judge, because you have never been in these situations. you cant have any idea what it feels like to be considered something a lot lower than others just because you are from a different country, which your ‘oponent’ knows nothing about.
i have been there /i am from a socalled eastern europian country and work in western europe/ nad some opinions and assumptions are just so ridiculous, stupid and rude one can hardly believe it. you get hurt and sometimes it just comes out

Disturbed Host Mom October 22, 2011 at 12:00 am

Just deleted about 3 responses to this.

I am going to pretend that I am 19 and know everything again and just let it roll off my shoulders. Ahh.

Ok, moving on!

kat October 22, 2011 at 8:45 am

dont understand this post much. just wanted to say i am not 19, i am a lot older than this and i do not pretend that i know everything in the world. sorry if you got that impression.
obviously not all the people from the ‘west’ look down on people from the ‘east’ or ‘south’ or whatever, but there is certainly a lot of them.

momto2 October 20, 2011 at 5:22 pm

“Third World: a group of nations especially in Africa, Asia and Latin America not aligned with either the Communist (Second World) or the non-Communist blocs (First World); a translation of French ‘tiers monde’, to describe countries generally less economically advanced than the industrialized nations but with varied economies.” This term has been widely used for 50+ years to describe world economics. It has nothing to do with racism, and neither did the user’s post. [And besides, the term wasn’t coined by Egocentric Americans–it was the French.]

German Au-Pair October 20, 2011 at 9:00 pm

Being uneducated and naive about foreign countries is NOT a strictly American thing even though the stereo-type does have its roots…
When I say I’m German, many Americans ask me if I know how to speak German. And I’m like “No, at home I’m just silent, duh.”
But then again I saw a German, educated boy in 12th grade ask a Chinese exchange student if she knows what an apple is.
So when we complain about other people aksing stupid questions, why don’t we start with our own nation and then look at others? I think you’ll find that a lot of Europeans would be surprised that Africans or South Americans have microwaves and everything else mentioned above.
But it’s always easier pointing at the dumb Americans, right?

Also stereo-typing other countries doesn’t make you racist. It makes you uneducated about the world but not RACIST. Sometimes I think people from certain cultures see racism everywhere simply because they expect it to be there.
In Germany we have a saying: “You shouldn’t slip in every shoe just because it fits you.” I don’t know if the message makes sense in English ;)

Oh and by the way…complaining about people who stereo-type while stereo-typing yourself doesn’t make you seem incredibly smart. Just saying.

used to be an AP October 23, 2011 at 6:51 am

I absolutely agree with you, especially the last sentece.

Of course people feel hurt personally if others assume something because of their nationality. I was asked by an American once whether we had internet in Germany and she was also very surprised when I told her that earning $139/week for a year did not make me a very rich person in Germany. But she just didn’t know, I told and know she knows. End of story. Occasions like that can be used for learning about other countries and that is what the AP program is all about, isn’t it?

swedish sweetheart October 20, 2011 at 8:38 pm

I am not from a latino country but I completely agree with the au pair said that the term is offensive, maybe you are not one of those racist americans but I have to say I have seen how some americans refer to latino people. I have a lot of latin au pair friends and they are treat diferent because of the skin color or sometimes becasue of the accent and lots of things. I am myself from Sweden and I have been so upset when some americans believe that sweden is a poor country, or that we live in iglues etc… I have a lot to say to. I dont think that this au pair meant to be rude but I can understand her situation. I once was asked if we had coke in sweden!! makes me laugh sometimes people is just ignorant but as she also said not all americans. I also agree that kids in other countries study more, they here dont even have homework!! but it is a part of intercultural exchange..

German Au-Pair October 20, 2011 at 9:04 pm

I don’t know the circumstances of your hostchildren, but I have found myself thinking “wow, I didn’t have that much homework when I was in this grade!” while doing homework with my kids more than once.
And Germans pride themselves with their educational system (I never got why :D )

used to be an AP October 23, 2011 at 6:54 am

As I know work as a teacher in Germany, I cannot help but saying: While the German school system definitely has some serious problems, parts of it are excellent.

used to be an AP October 23, 2011 at 6:54 am

Sorry for going of topic. It should be “now” not “know”.

Disturbed Host Mom October 21, 2011 at 12:18 am

German Au-Pair made some really good points in her post just above yours…please read it!

I know that there are SOME racist, ignorant people in America. But they exist in Sweden, too. And while I find it very sad that your Latina friends are treated differently at times by Americans, it would also happen in Sweden, or Germany, or other Latin American countries for goodness sakes. I have had/known enough South American au pairs to know that certain girls from certain countries find themselves superior to girls of specific other South American countries. And it’s all silly!

But still, people have their hearts set on blaming the Americans for every stupid comment they have ever heard. Don’t believe me? Answer this question truthfully: if the ignorant American who asked if you had Coke in your country just ASSUMED that you did (let’s pretend that you did not have it), you would still be irritated, right?

Personally, I think that asking questions about ones home country and culture is an integral part of the au pair program. It’s unfortunate that someone may get labeled “ignorant American” for trying to learn.

German Au-Pair October 21, 2011 at 1:32 am

I think we’re moving really off topic here but you are SO right!
If an American made assumptions about people from foreign countries having the same amenities as people in the US, they would say “Not everyone can be so rich and spoiled as Americans”. And it would be the same people who are complaining right now.
Most Germans I know think root beer is real beer. That will seem very weird to Americans. So when Germany -also a Western culture- doesn’t know rootbeer, it’s not THAT stupid to think, that a small South American country doesn’t have any coke.

Sometimes I find myself thinking “Wow, you are the most stereo-type American I’ve ever seen”. And sometimes I find myself ashamed of having to admit I’m as German as this very stupid person over there. It is NOT the origin that makes you smart or stupid.

Sorry, I may be a little too much into this topic but I really, REALLY hate people coming to other cultures and judging everything they see. They ignore the things that surprise them in a good way (why are they surprised? Because we ALL stereo-type!) and just jump on the things that scream “Told you so!”.
Why do people choose to spend a year abroad if they are not willing to experience the culture without searching for prejudices that are true as well as people who stereo-type them because they come from a certain culture.
I guess I will never get that.

Oh and by the way: I’m not cheering for America because I find everything so wonderful and great. I do see some things I find disturbing, weird, exaggerated. But then I look at my own nation (you learn so much about your origin when you live abroad!) and I find some disturbing things as well. It’s not about finding everything awesome. It’s about not thinking you are in a position to decide what’s wrong or right.

kat October 21, 2011 at 7:10 pm

agree on that – you do learn to look differently onto your own country, nation and home once you are/were abroad. because you found that things can be done differently, situations solved differently. then you go back home and realise that you actually might prefer some of the other culture behaviour. /and thats where you start beeing torn between the two countries ;)/

used to be an AP October 23, 2011 at 6:57 am

I totally agree with you.

JMHostMom October 20, 2011 at 10:10 pm

What I think we must remember here is the differences in culture. Some cultures just don’t view these types of issues- sex, exhibitionism, privacy, etc. as Americans typically do. I try to give our AP the benefit of the doubt with all issues based on that premise- that she was raised in a different culture and cannot read my mind to know how I feel about it.

That being said, my suggestion would be as follows:
1. Talk with her about the issues in a stern but loving way: internet sex, exhibitionism, your privacy, etc.
2. Talk to her about the importance of trust and honesty. She has broken your trust at least twice. She needs to be aware of that and aware that it won’t be tolerated.
3. All of these issues have revolved around her behavior with YOUR computer. I learned this lesson through our last experience and the advice of the good people here. If it were me, I would take away the computer until I felt I could trust her again and until I felt she could use it responsibly. My husband is clergy. So we have made it VERY clear (she knew before we matched) that the computer is not to be used to access inappropriate websites, post inappropriate pictures, internet sex, or any such things. But those are our rules. You have to make rules according to your comfort level. And I would give her specific tasks and ways that she could earn my trust back and earn her computer privileges back. Maybe she has to use it in a common area for a while, something like that.

Just my opinion. I won’t be offended if you don’t agree. And I don’t think you’re a racist. :)

Calif Mom October 20, 2011 at 10:21 pm

I stopped reading carefully at the very very very beginning of the description: “We had a rocky start, but…” IMHO, rocky starts rarely end well.

Anyone ever have a rocky start that they salvaged– or better still– turned into an excellent year?

Should be working October 23, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Oh, I really really like this question! CV, does it merit its own thread?

Disturbed Host Mom October 21, 2011 at 12:34 am

And….on to the real topic! :)

I did bring up the subject last night, and she admitted that she used my bathroom while I was away. We had a big talk about privacy, and I think it sunk in. From what I could see, she really did not think it was a big deal and that her idea of respecting privacy was not barging in while I am on the potty, or not rifling through my drawers, etc. It sounds as if she really just wanted to try out the nice big tub for a change (yes, she has the standard small one in her bathroom). I did not bring up the Facebook issue. Partly because the subject made me uncomfortable and partly because she had removed the photo (no photographic proof for the vault, now) in question.

I don’t know…I really think that she is trying so hard not to make mistakes…it’s very hard not to want to help her improve as an au pair! I’m also a total softie deep down, so I feel that after enduring a particularly harsh talking to, she deserves another chance. Especially when she can jump right back in with a determined attitude and no awkwardness!

I’m falling asleep and I apologize for any incoherent rambling! Just wanted to update and send big thanks for all of the advice and opinions. THANKS!

Should be working October 23, 2011 at 1:11 pm

No awkwardness and determination after a big talking-to do score points in my book. Please update us in a few weeks or months.

Tristatemom October 21, 2011 at 12:42 pm

Sorry for tagging my problem onto this thread but the question “rematch”? is on my mind. Our AP just returned from a play date where my little child (less than 2) fell into the pool!! She ran over and fished him out and he appears to be ok. Iam going to the doctor after the nap (already had apt for well visit).

How have you all dealt with a huge safety breach like this?? this AP is the best we had and we really like her. She has now shown 2 serious lapses of judgment: one involving her own safety when out and about and now letting my kid play next to a pool? She means well and is very loving and honest but am I wondering if I am being negligent by keeping her? Please, please give some advice of how you have handled life-and-death situations and particularly, if you kept the AP, was the rest of the year safe?

Should be working October 21, 2011 at 1:26 pm

I think you need to give more info here about the situations you mention. What was the 2-yr-old doing near the pool? What kind of playing was going on–was it pool-related? Was it a baby pool? Who was in charge of the playdate? Was the AP on duty? How far away was the AP? What was she doing while the kid(s) were playing at the pool? How did your AP describe her own reaction to the situation, and how did she depict what happened?

Same thing with the situation involving her own safety. Hard to offer advice without more specific info.

A child falling into a CLOSELY SUPERVISED pool does not, in my view (and I expect others to disagree with me on this), constitute a life-or-death situation–but depending on the circumstances it might reflect poor judgment on the AP’s part that might warrant rematch. But I would need more info to say more.

Tristatemom October 21, 2011 at 1:45 pm

Thanks for responding.

AP took our 3 kids (5, 2.5 and 1.5) to a play date to another home. Present adults were the mom, their AP, and my AP.
At a point, it was decided to let the kids play in the backyard. No pool games -we are on the east coast and it is a toasty 60 degrees today. The backyard has a large, deep pool. No fence, no barrier, no cover. My child ran towards the pool at some point during the playing. She saw him running and went after him. By the time she reached him, he had already “walked” into the pool. She scooped him right out and he was crying from the cold water. She didn’t call me from the house but came straight home and told me about it (I am at home today).

Personal safety issue involved her walking by herself at 2am in a scetchy neighborhood.

My biggest issue is it possible to instill better judgment when it comes to safety?

Melissa October 21, 2011 at 3:09 pm

Based on the additional info you provded, I would say that the pool incident sounds more like a serious accident, versus negligence on the AP’s part. If she and the other AP allowed the kids to play outside by themselves, I’d be very concerned. However, since you said she was right behind your child when he stepped into the pool, it sounds like she was out there supervising, but he was just two steps ahead of her. It depends on how the backyard was setup though. I’m always super paranoid whenever my kids are in a yard with an unfenced pool and won’t let them play anywhere near it. If there was room to play away from the pool (side yard or something), she should have made sure the kids weren’t near it. If it was a really tight yard, that may have been tough. What did the other mother think? If she was there, she might be able to provide some insight into what happened. Then again, one of our APs had an AP friend whose host parents would let their 3 year old run around their back yard pool while they were inside the house!
I’d observe her closely for a little while though. Maybe let her take the kids to the playground and then go and watch whether she is actively supervising the kids or whether she is sitting on the sidelines, easily distracted, on her phone, etc.

azmom October 21, 2011 at 4:30 pm

We live in AZ and our rule is the kids do not go to any homes with a pool or guns. We did relax on the pool to say that they could go if they stayed indoors and the home’s doors were self latching. Unfortunately accidents do happen and it is not worth the risk. I would update the rules, have a talk about safety concerns and move on.

kat October 21, 2011 at 7:19 pm

whatever the situation was, one of my thoughts is it is not easy for an ap to install the rules when at other peoples houses.perhaps if she had her choice, she wouldnt let the kids run around the pool but it might have been something that is done at the house she was visiting and than it feels weird , esp if you are not the mother , and are from different culture, to say you dont feel its a good idea.
[btw i had my little cousin to break her arm while rollerblading in a situation like this ;(]

kat October 21, 2011 at 7:23 pm

and to me it also looks like an accident, cant say i see anything wrong with what the ap what doing.
and as to walking late at night by herself, did she know its a place she shouldnt be walking through that late? again, different people might have different ideas about what is safe and waht isnt, it might be a culture thing too. plus i personaly dont understand how it relates to her ability do her job /i do understand the way you see it, just dont see it the same way/

Taking a Computer Lunch October 21, 2011 at 11:13 pm

In my opinion, your AP behaved brilliantly. The other HM was there and didn’t discourage the kids from going near the pool?!? Make-A-Wish gave my special needs child an above ground pool and by law we must have the pool sealed off and a gate to prevent kids from running into the pool (kids must scale the fence).

As a HM with a pool I’m very strict- an adult must be sitting next to the pool at all times (even neighborhoods friends know this).

It appears to me that your AP was being especially vigilant given the situation – that she understood that the situation was dangerous for your non-pool savvy kids. I would call the other HM and ask for her side. She seems to be in error, to think it’s okay to let young children near a pool on the East Coast when it’s only 60F (chances are the water is substantially colder). Even the best swimmers need wet suits to swim in water that cold! Was she present? What instruction did she give to the children? to the APs?

Your AP cannot be expected to know how dangerous the water was. You don’t mention where she is from, but in the 7 APs I have hosted, only one grew up with a swimming pool. Take a deep breath, and explain to her that now that it is cold that pools are dangerous. Even if that pool is covered, without a perimeter fence it is too dangerous for toddlers and preschoolers to visit.

In my experience, it takes an adventurous sort to become an AP. That means that caution is sometimes thrown to the wind (in response to your remark about where and when your AP goes adventuring). Personally, my instinct is to take a deep breath and relax. I tell my APs two things: 1) be careful that when someone buys you a drink that you receive it directly from a bartender and 2) if you feel that you are in danger call me regardless of the time. So far, no one has ever called me in the middle of the night. And yes, some of their stories made me wince. And no, I do no share my own youthful adventure stories with them (the ones that made my own parents wince).

Disturbed Host Mom October 21, 2011 at 11:26 pm

Having a 15 month old and an almost 3 year old, I can safely say that if we didn’t have a fence around our pool, one of my kids would be getting wet every day, no matter how closely they were being watched! Although I would NOT be happy if it were one of my little ones that fell in, I would be more worried about the homes in which my au pair was taking the kids (her friend or yours?) to play. Not the best judgement on the part of any of the adults present — to have multiple small children and toddlers playing around an unsecured pool? It’s an accident waiting to happen, no matter how closely supervised the children are. Sounds as if she was on top of him as he was running (we have all been there, right?) and got him out right away. I would definitely not rematch because of this, but a talk about not placing your children in unsafe situations is clearly in order. Good luck!

used to be an AP October 23, 2011 at 7:06 am

To me it sounds like an accident and the AP reacted very well to it. She got your child, came home right away and told you what happened. Maybe you could just tell her that you would prefer it if your children weren’t allowed to play near a pool because it is getting cold, not all pools are secured by a fence etc. I really don’t think it was her fault and it is really difficult for an AP to tell another mom that the AP kids are not allowed to do what the mom’s kids are doing.

AFHostMom October 29, 2011 at 11:03 am

For what it’s worth I agree with this string of posts as well. I don’t see a safety issue from your APs behavior, and I wouldn’t expect a call at work under these circumstances.
Our pool is gated but not fenced, and our au pair is not comfortable taking the kids out there during the day even though it’s OK with us. It sounds like you might just want to clarify your preferences for playing at other houses and maybe add something to your handbook.

Sweet 16 Tatiana. October 22, 2011 at 11:32 pm

Ok. I do not know if anyone will read this or if this issue is still in discussion, but I just have to speak out and defend my own culture a little bit here. I am a Latin girl (and no, I don’t think this term is offensive in any way – to think about it… it’s kinda pretty, the way the word sounds.) and perhaps a future au pair (that’s why I’m on this website – I’m putting my hands on all I can about the program). The girl who made the problematic comment does have a good point, but she just didn’t know how to make it in a good way. She spoke in a way a little haughty and aggressive – but that is understandable, since she was angry. But for me, if someone wants to make a point – and do so in a way that people understand and accept – that person has to do with, at least, patience. And good grammar. Haha. Well, let’s go! About the term “third world”: Yes, it can be a bit offensive. In fact, it’s kind of arrogant. But it was a way to the world and especially to the media to separate the wealthy developed countries and the poorest, least developed countries. But that “first world, third world” thing has always been confusing to me.
I don’t understand how a country like Brazil – yes, I am Brazilian – can be placed alongside countries like Haiti, which has no type of structure, be it economic, social or whatever. And where the hell is the second world anyway? Haha. About the fact that Americans are arrogant: Let’s face it, some of you can be too arrogant and extremely racist. Some of you do see the Latin countries like jungles. And yes, I agree with the Almost Leaving Au Pair on one thing: U.S. children do not study so much things like us, Latinos. Not exactly ” not even the half”, but yes, it can be kind of impossible to believe, but is the truth. At least in high school. I’m sure that higher education it’s different, not that here is inferior to there. And yes, I have some proof of that – not statistics, but from my point of view: I’m 16 and I’m a senior in high school. My school receives exchange students. I met two Americans who have told me that they have studied much more here than ever have studied in the United States. It’s not a matter of the education is one of higher quality here, but in greater quantity, bigger variety of subjects and stuffs like that! Got it? I hope I have clarified some things and I hope that some Americans open their minds and see that we are not animals in the woods, but the racism of some of you made the world see us like that!

Disturbed Host Mom October 23, 2011 at 10:46 am

Sweet 16….having met two Americans makes you expert on the arrogance and racist of Americans? Or is that just what you have been taught. I do not know of ONE single person who thinks of, or would ever refer to South Americans (or those from any other country) as “animals in the woods.”. That is YOUR disgusting, hateful phrase…stop trying to blame someone else!

I am assuming since you think so poorly of us racist Americans, that you plan on being an au pair in another country? If not, I think that you have a lot of growing up to do before your arrival. I agree that some PEOPLE (notice I didn’t call out any race or country!) need to open their minds….and if your comments are indication, you are one of them.

On education: I’m interested in knowing how many classes you take each day. When I was in high school (20 years ago), I had 8 different classes (subjects) per day and they varied each semester. I had 2.5 hours of homework each night, and the kids today have it much harder. I would say they are doing at least 3.5 to 4 hours a night. That seems like a lot to me!

On “third world country.”. I see your point and I totally agree with you. I like the term “emerging nation” much more. I also agree that countries like Brazil should not be lumped together with less developed countries like Haiti, etc. I just wish the second part of your post was as well thought as the first part!

If you do come to America, I really hope that you can forget what you have heard about Americans and open your heart to your host parents and host children. After a lifetime of hearing negative stereotypes about Americans, it’s easy to pre judge. But if you can find it inside yourself to forget about what you think you know, you will probably be pleasantly surprised by how openminded, loving and generous Americans can be.

Mum October 23, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Well, my German school leaving certificate counts as a 2 year college degree in the US so yes, indeed, school education is a lot more demanding than in the US in most parts of the world. Living in the States now for 3 years I can say that I have met the same mix of people nice and not so nice that I have met everywhere. One thing that annoys me is when Americans assume (and clearly have been taught to believe) that the American way is the best in the world when in fact other countries have much better political systems, better health insurance, better school systems and better social structures let alone more political freedom and equality.
I think a lot of Americans think that the US are the best there is, just for lack of knowledge of other countries. If you grow up in Europe you see a lot of countries that do it better than your own, and the US ranks at the bottom of health, education and freedom, food safety and environmental protection as well as workers protection and maternity leave…….
So as far as stereotypes go, as I said people are basically the same.
The one thing that I learned is that most Americans I have met so far are in fact ignorant when it comes to the simple truth that the world does NOT consider them to be the best. Most Americans think, that the world looks up to them.
Its actually scary a little bit, and I wonder who teaches that kind of ignorance.

kat October 23, 2011 at 4:55 pm

i think that is very nicely written.

Reb October 24, 2011 at 4:43 am

Very well said!

4 ever mom October 24, 2011 at 10:48 pm

it is not ignorance, it is called patriotism and Americans are well known for it. We are not perfect and not have perfected the system, but as any other culture we are not going to walk around acting like the underdog or unbelieving in our countries efforts for improvement. It is an age old debate regarding democracy and change. But ignorance not, Patriotism yes. Patriotism comes in many shapes and forms and varies vastly amoungst cultures, which I see you acknowledge. But let us not confuse the two. Only communist and dictators go around acting like they are #1 and always rightous in their ways. Hope I am clear on this from an American point of view here.

Should be working October 25, 2011 at 4:57 pm

Ahem, this comment is sure to provoke some criticism on several grounds. My own is that there is no single “American” perspective, far from it, and there are many Americans who are extremely critical of America, and many whom 4ever mom might consider unpatriotic, and many who might consider themselves unpatriotic as well–and who also consider that ‘patriotism’ is itself nothing good, but instead something ideological. So count me out of the “we” here that 4ever mom refers to. Also the reference to communists and dictators being the only self-righteous ones: I disagree thoroughly, on more grounds than I can list here.

4 ever mom October 25, 2011 at 8:20 pm

You can count yourself out of anything you want. I am not so concrete as to think ALL americans feel this way, or view the country the same . I would rather over generalize popular opinion than have Americans called ignorant because we are American. ignorance is an attitude not an ethnicity. By the way the other point is…..thats the beauty of this country…you have the right to your own opinion. Anyway back to topic…..

HRHM October 26, 2011 at 9:34 am

I would second the notion that “patriotism” and the blind assertion that American it the best and has no faults are not one and the same. I consider myself VERY patriotic and I know full well where we, as a country fall short. Having said that, the most beautiful thing about being an American is that we are free to go almost anywhere on the planet to see how others live and then move there if we feel it’s a better place. So I guess most Americans who think it sucks have moved elsewhere by now and the ones you meet here either figure it’s the least of all evils overall, or are too lazy to go somewhere else. LOL

But seriously, having been to many different countries (thanks US Navy!) and worked with literally hundreds of foreign nationals (while trying to learn about their lives at home), I choose to live here and love the US, warts and all.

hm Pippa October 29, 2011 at 4:12 pm

“Well, my German school leaving certificate counts as a 2 year college degree in the US so yes, indeed, school education is a lot more demanding than in the US in most parts of the world. ”
Not every German school leaving certificate counts as a 2 year college degree. Only if you were permitted after 4th grade to attend a Gymnasium and completed the Abitur (after 13 rather than the 12 years of US education) do you have an education equivalent to a 2 year college degree. US secondary education is comprehensive: it educates students at all levels. Within a single school, some American students complete high school barely literate, some are focused on vocational skills, and others take advanced courses that give them college credit. The US school systems don’t divide our children into college bound and non-college bound in the 4th grade. Good luck to a Turkish student who struggles with German, and consequently all the other subject matter taught in German–the chances of her getting to university in Germany are pretty slim. There are strengths and weaknesses to both systems.

Mum October 31, 2011 at 2:55 pm

Having moved here with my children from Europe I can say that the US system has one strength: language for foreigners. In all other subjects, teaching is behind European standards by years, and an almost insane testing culture creates children who no longer think, but cram. Multiple choice is unheard of in Europe, its still coming up with the answer without a trigger word
My children, both normal students in Europe outrank every US student in every honor class without even trying hard. Its what I hear from my European friends, too. So there seems to be a different academic emphasis. I have to say, my children are happier here as they do not have to work so hard and can pick hobbies as subjects.
I have a hard time letting go of my European standards (right or not) and am so taken aback when I see that even University students get a set booklist and a list with tested material, that even college students know which PAGES they will be tested on. Where I grew up, in university you had a lecture, but basically EVERYTHING was fair game in an exam. Your only hint was that for Internal medicine, you would need an Internal medicine book. But no professor would tell you which one, let alone tell you which pages to read. It was assumed that you were a student, so you would take care of it.
Its a little too narrow minded here, and these MC tests are the worst.
My children are very happy here and I am certain will be able to pick a career they love. Its me who is trained by a different system who has a hard time giving up my academic standards. Its even worse with my French and Irish friends. They have the most rigorous education system in Europe and ALL my French friends have the children attend French schools because they feel the US system is so wishywashy.
As you said, its all depending on how you grew up and I doubt my children will feel that they got a bad education. Its enormously different than what I grew up with, and thats my problem, not theirs.

Sweet 16 Tatiana. October 23, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Okay, Disturbed Something … When I read your comment, I thought about putting some very derogatory words here. Please, let me explain: The term “animals in the Woods” may have been exaggerated on my part, yes, sorry about that. But honestly, is how some of you – Americans, Europeans, Martians, whatever – see us. And for God’s sake, I did not mean that in the literal way! I’m not trying to blame anyone, I’m just writing things here that I noticed, I heard of, and it does not mean they are the most pure and full truth, please! And yes, I was taught to do SOME Americans that way. But this only proves that there are actually some of you that think and act that way? And I’m using the Americans because, well, you guys are Americans. (: But sure, some Europeans also may see us like that. I don’t know, I haven’t met any European lately.

I don’t know if I’m going to be an au pair, I just want to do an exchange program, to experience another country, another culture, another way of life. I want to meet different people and different places. The Au Pair program seems ok to me because I love and I work with kids. But this is by no means a certainty. I was sorry I posted a comment here… You are probably finding me a child who does not know half of what she is talking about, haha.

Since you’re so curious to know … I get 7 or 8 classes a day – depends on which day of the week. There are times that I have classes on Saturdays, sometimes not. I usually study at home around 4 or 5 hours a day, and it also depends on the day. See? Perhaps it’s not so different! And, just out of curiosity, the way young people are selected to higher education in America is very different than Brazilian’s. So, don’t you think that would matter the way the educational system goes?

You got me all wrong on the school stuff. I don’t ONLY met two Americans. That is just in my school. And, actually, I have a friend that made his High School in America and he, in fact, told me that same thing. I’m not trying to say that we are better in anyway, I don’t believe that such a thing exists! There are factors in America that are in so many ways better than here and there are things that are the other way around. I just stated one thing that I OBSERVERD and that is not exactly a master true, for God’s sake! Again, my opinion is not completely made up about this. How could it be, since I only know the educational system of my country and not yours? So I cannot judge or some how put a stereotype at this at all, sorry if I gave that impression.

And certainly, if I one day go to America – an Au Pair or not – I’m going with my mind open, I will judge each person for what it is and not where it comes from.

I’m beginning to think that this kind of discussion does not lead anywhere, haha.

German Au-Pair October 24, 2011 at 12:06 am

This discussion can never lead anywhere.
You (not ony you but everyone) say something like “Amercians are evil” and then again “But some Americans are not evil, I know that” and also “But I know, that some Europeans are evil, too.” It’s like a circle and proves exactly what has been said above: it is not one specific culture that behaves in a certain way.
Nobody will deny that most stereo-types have their true roots. Many Americans do seem to think that the world evolves around the US. And we think that’s weird and chuckle everytime we see a patriot.
But I would bet that Americans think it’s unbelieveable that Germans simply CANNOT be patriotic because our generation still LOVES to take the blame for World War II -and WWI. At school we basically get taught “Well, WWI actually might has been Austria’s fault, but still somehow it’s our fault”. When teachers talk about Germany’s history they tell us that WE did all those horrible things. And really, they built those lessons in a way that every single child feels responsible when it leaves the room.
This is not any less weird than America’s widely spread patriotism. So who are we to judge? (And this is one example…I bet almost every country has stuff like that, that really doesn’t put them in a position to judge anyone!)

The thing about the American educational system is something everyone has heard before. I’ve been told about this by a friend who did a High School Year, too.
I wouldn’t say it’s the quantity but the quality. As far as I can tell (correct me if that doesn’t apply to all schools) in Middleschool there is one subject called science. Children get taught about Physics, Biology, Chemistry there. In Germany we have different classes for all those subjects which allows us to focus on one thing at a time. Same thing with “Social Studies”. We have Politics, History, Geography. Maybe that’s a factor?

Taking a Computer Lunch October 24, 2011 at 7:37 am

The problem with generalizing about American education is that there is no “American” education. The United States is a Republic, and as such, each state is responsible for the education of the students who live there. But, because, in general, our education system is funded through property taxes, students who attend public school in wealthier school districts tend to get a better education than those who do not. Why? Not only are there more monetary resources in wealthier areas (more property taxes paid) but parents living in wealthier areas are more likely to donate to their schools to improve programming. That being said, highly motivated children, regardless of where they live, can excel in the United States.

Having being exposed to a variety of education systems, the one thing that strikes me about the U.S. is that if one has the resources (either due to parents’ income or one’s own income), there is always a second chance. Doing poorly on exams in high school in the United States does not freeze one out of a college education. The Community College system offers recent high school graduates, immigrants and American adults the opportunity to improve their education. I have several friends who now hold PhDs who nearly flunked out of high school, but when they became highly motivated they had a second chance to do well and succeeded.

The bottom line is that while American education, for most students, is more general than in most other countries, it is not a closed system. My guess is that far more people living in America (after all they’re not all citizens of the U.S.) have some exposure to college than in any other country.

Is it a perfect system? No. If you read a newspaper (either online or in paper form), then you’ll understand that there is an incredible amount of debate, as well as emphasis on improving the success of all students.

AFHostMom October 29, 2011 at 11:38 am

“My guess is that far more people living in America (after all they’re not all citizens of the U.S.) have some exposure to college than in any other country.”

Yep, in my opinion this is one of the best parts (probably the best) about our education system. And one reason why au pair programs work so well here. Community colleges are pretty unique to the US.

NHM October 26, 2011 at 11:14 am

it is exactly this open policy that I admire about the US system (schooling and many other areas). There are always chances to try something.

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