Adjustment Period and Settling In
Every au pair and family is different for what it takes to get the au pair settled into her American life for a year. Sometimes things become complicated with government offices, but I've done my best to put everything in one place for you to use as a reference point.
After your au pair gets settled in:
1) The next thing you should probably do is get a bank account. This account is an important document you will need to prove your au pair's local residency. However, some banks first require a social security card, check with your bank.
2) Social Security Id's. Wait 7 to 10 days before going to the Social Security office and when you do go, don't forget to take the forms that the agency has provided your au pair proving sponsorship and all her documentation.
3) Driver's License. I highly encourage the au pairs to get a local driver's license, not just use their International. There are a list of reasons why it can be useful, that usually overpower the desire not to deal with the hassle.
1. If it is lost, it is easier to replace than an overseas license,
2. If they stay a 2nd year, their International will have expired,
3. They can use it to show local residence so they can get discounts at some local businesses.
4. Some insurance companies demand a local license,
5. In most States it is the law.
Now that all the paperwork is out of the way, it is never too early to start discussing things like vacations, and school credits. Also homesickness can become an issue.
Homesickness - After 9 years and a few hundred girls, there isn't a formula for who will be homesick and who won't; or to what extent. The first few weeks are the "honeymoon" stage where au pairs are just so excited to be here, they haven't had time to think about home; but I've also had au pairs who are miserable from the time they enter the home. Out of the large number of au pairs I've seen over the years, only 3 have gone home homesick. So the good news is, they generally get over it. My best advice is to get them OUT of their room, OFF the phone and computer and making friends. This doesn't mean they shouldn't talk with their family and friends, they would be worse if they were totally cut off; however, the more they get out with the other girls, talk to people who've been in their situation, and HAVE FUN, the better they feel.
Host families should encourage them to call other girls, go out, explore, and call their local coordinator if they need help connecting with the others.
Though you might feel bad reminding them of home, DON'T. Ask them questions about their families and friends, find out what they liked to do at home, find out why they wanted to do this in the first place and remind them of their goals and dreams for coming to the US.
Cultural Differences - There will be differences, things you never thought of and the best advice I can offer is be open minded and COMMUNICATE. If your au pair does something you think is 'crazy' ASK why. It might be something that is completely normal in her family or cultural. Don't judge, just communicate and if it is something that may need some changes made, talk about them. And don't forget, you might do some things that are crazy to her. Encourage her to ask questions and to communicate with you.
In my opinion 95% of the problems you will experience can be solve with good communication.
Though these cultural differences may seem challenging sometimes, learning about our differences and embracing other cultures is the glory of this program. It can teach your children such a valuable lesson about people from around the world, the ways we are similar and the ways we are different.