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Adapting to Au Pair Life

Tips on Making Your Big Move Easier

Viva España.

‘The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.’ - Albert Einstein.

Adaption. It’s something that we all have to do in life. Whether you are adapting to a new school, job, city, or person, it is an aspect that we cannot avoid. I would say that, overall, I am a fairly adaptable person. In new situations and surroundings I do tend to initially freak out and feel nervous, however this normally settles after a few days. As mentioned in my first post, I moved to Spain in 2017 for almost a year, and I began work as an Au Pair. Prior to my move, this was the extent of my Spanish vocabulary:

  • Hola
  • Adiós

  • Por favor
  • Gracias
  • Hasta la vista

As you can see, I did not know much Spanish at all, despite buying my trusty dictionary and attempting to gain badges on the Duolingo app. As a result, it was essential for me to adapt to my new language and culture. Without further ado, here are my tips for adapting to your new life as an au pair.

Decorate Your Room

This is essential. In order to adjust to your new home, you need to make it feel exactly like that. Don’t live out your suitcase. Ask you host family if it’s ok to put picture on your walls, hang some fairy lights, get some plants. Just make it feel cosy and homely, as if it is truly your own. You will struggle to adapt if you feel like you’re just lodging in a box room for a year that isn’t really yours.

Hang out with your Host Family

This is pretty self explanatory. You’re living with a new family who have welcomed you into their home. They want you to be part of their family and to fit in! So make sure you spend some time with your host family, making memories with them.

I’m not saying that you have to spend every moment of free time at the weekend spent with them, but it is important to converse with your host family and not spend all your time in your room. If your host family invites you out with them to the beach, or an activity, try to balance your time to ensure that you can do these things with them and feel part of the family.

Make Friends

I think this is maybe the most important factor when moving abroad to Au Pair. If I didn’t have my friends with me in Spain, I’m not sure that I could’ve stayed for the full year. It’s good to make friends with other Au Pairs as they understand what it’s like to be in your position, to be living with a family that you don’t know too well, in a country you’re not used to.

Of course, you shouldn’t limit yourself to only be friends with other Au Pairs - in this day and age it’s very easy to meet other young people at a language class, or even when you go out at night!

Practice the Language

If you want to chat with the locals and order a coffee without using Google translate, you’re gonna have to learn a bit of the lingo. Many host families pay for their Au Pair to attend language classes which is a bonus as they can be pretty expensive. This is also a great way to make friends!

If your city has a university, it’s worth checking out the Erasmus programme there. In Spain, I was able to be part of the Erasmus network despite not being a student - you just need to be young and from the EU! This is a great way to meet other young people and practice your language skills as there are often events held specifically to do so.

Other ways to practice the language include using apps such as Duolingo and listening to language learning tapes.

Keep Home Comforts

One of the key things I learned whilst adapting to Spain was not to be afraid of buying the things that I know and like. When I first moved to Cartagena, I drank green tea despite that fact that I didn’t even like it (me and green tea now have a much better relationship). One day, it occurred to me that British sections exist in supermarkets and that I could buy my favourite English Breakfast tea. At first, I felt like a fraud - why should I be drinking British tea when I was living in Spain? I got over this relatively quickly and after drinking my usual tea for a few days, I began to notice how comforted I felt whenever I drank it. The simple act of drinking tea that reminded me of home enabled me to feel more at ease in Spain. I soon realised that I did not need to abandon every aspect of my ‘old life’ in order to adapt to a new city,

A similar situation happened to me with cereal. I woke up one morning craving Weetabix, so off I went to the local shop only to see that the price of the cereal was almost double what I would pay back home in the UK. I literally stood for a few minutes in the shop just staring at all the boxes of cereal, deliberating what to do. And do you know what I did? I bought the overpriced Weetabix because I knew that in order to adapt to my life in Spain, I had to stop comparing it to my life in Scotland. So this is one of my top tips - don’t not buy something you want just because it is cheaper back home. You are not home. You are elsewhere. And elsewhere, things might cost more, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy it.

Check in Back Home

Just because you’re living abroad, doesn’t mean you have to live under a rock. Keep in touch with your family and friends back home. Tell them about your day. If you feel like you have to limit your contact back home in order to fully embrace your new life, then you’re wrong. It’ll only make you feel homesick and will hinder your adaption. Whatsapp, Email, Facetime, Phone, iMessage, whatever method of communication you prefer, use it.

~~~

I hope these tips about adaption are helpful, and give an insight into life as an Au Pair. Thanks for reading!

~ Amy

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