Take my advice
Take my advice
Basic language skills are required for being an au pair
However, you should have some basic language skills before you travel, the main purpose of being an au pair is to improve your language skills.
If you don’t speak the language at all, or just barely, please take a course before you leave. It is in your best interest, and of course necessary to be able to communicate in everyday situations. Practice your English as much as possible before arriving.
Money /Personal documents
It is advised that you have a reasonable amount of money (at least 100-200 pounds) in case of any unpredictable situation, and your return ticket home. Keep all important telephone numbers with you, such as the phone number of your host family and the Hungarian embassy. Thus you will be prepared for any contingency.
While you are away and on your way to the host country, you need to pay close attention to your personal documents. Your passport is a very important document and should never be handed over to anyone.
As the day of departure is coming closer, you will need to sort out your wardrobe and select clothes that will be compatible with the climate and the job you are going to. Try not to overload yourself, since by the end of your contract you will have accumulated as much again. It will probably be a while before you establish a social life, so concentrate mainly on your working necessities. Some au pairs are happy to live in jeans, shorts and T-shirts, but you will have to adapt this according to your preference and that of your employers. Whatever you decide, try to look neat and presentable at all times.
Avoid taking electrical appliances because our system differs from Britain's and the plugs are not compatible. Also you might need your computer, and cell phone charger, so try to buy an adaptor before travelling.
You might also want to pack a few small items of sentimental value which will help make your new room more familiar and homely.
It is a good idea to buy each of the children a small gift to present to them upon arrival. These needn't be expensive; small souvenirs of your home town might suffice, and help to win them over initially.
You must pay for your own travel cost!
If you need, we are able to offer advice on travel, but mostly you will have to sort out your own arrangements. You should shop around for the best bargain, remembering that it is preferable to pay extra for a confirmed reservation on the outward journey.
Since the family may offer to meet you at the airport, last minute bargains and standby fares are not ideal. It is always better to have an open return ticket, so that you will feel more in control of the situation.
Most au pairs will be meeting the family for the first time at the airport or station in which case they should have detailed instructions about where to meet and how to recognise the family. It is important to consider your appearance when you arrive. Nobody expects you to look like a model from Vogue but try to make an effort. Choose reasonably smart but comfortable clothes that won't look too crumpled after a journey. Knowing you look as good as possible will promote a positive image and help boost your confidence.
Breaking the Ice
Don't assume that the task of breaking the ice is solely the family's responsibility. It is a good idea to give each of the children a small gift to present to them upon arrival. These needn't be expensive; small souvenirs of your home town might suffice, and help to win them over initially.
To overcome your own shyness, focus your attention on the children, especially if you don't feel at home with the language.
Children usually are curious about the newcomer, and they should start the conversation about you, your home town or your family. It is also a good idea to take and show some photos to them. It can be interesting and lead the conversation.
No one will expect you to be a great conversationalist, but some attempt at general small talk are advantageous. If the children are withdrawn at first, they will soon start to respond if you pay them enough attention. No matter how tired you are when you arrive, spend a short time socialising with the family before going off to your room. You will probably be given a tour of the house and be offered some refreshment. It would be unusual if you were expected to do any work on your first day but show your willingness to help even if you are very jet-lagged and ready to fall into bed. Families nearly always expect you to eat your first meal with them so you can get to know each other better. Providing you're not too exhausted, it's a good idea to unpack as soon as possible. A bare and unfamiliar room can be depressing to wake up to, so try to get it organised before you go to bed.
Your first day
Your main objective on the first day is to gain some idea of the family's routine and try to slot yourself into it as smoothly as possible. Don't attempt to reorganise anything at this point, even if you think it would be beneficial to the family. You need to find your feet before adopting such responsibilities.
Make a list of all the emergency telephone numbers and keep it handy
Learn how to operate household appliances
Ask for a set of keys to the house
Take note of any house rules
Establish when you can expect to be paid and how
Sort out which chores are to be allocated to you (compile an au pair schedule with the family)
You may often be left in sole charge of the children, so make sure before you accept the job, that you will be comfortable with this situation.
The Golden rule is never taking a risk. Small children have a habit of finding danger. If a child is out of sight and quiet, he/she is probably up to mischief.
In the beginning, the children may well have difficulty adjusting to you, and you will have to work quite hard to earn their trust and co-operation. One of the best things you can do is to be flexible and adapt as well as you can to the established routine. It will help the children feel more secure if you are consistent and continue the daily patterns they are used to. If the children are being generally difficult, try to avoid confrontations as much as possible by making it fun for them to co-operate instead. Make them feel important by saying how much you need their help to show you where everything is. Try to be tolerant and don't force the issue. Subtly involve them in play by doing anything that will attract their attention. It might take a lot of patience, but you will probably be rewarded for it eventually.
Different Culture / Homesickness
One of the hardest things you'll have to cope with in your first week is the culture shock. You will encounter unfamiliar attitudes, customs and even food. If you're lucky the family will make allowances for your culture shock, though ultimately it is you who must do the adapting. The more you know about the family ahead of time, the easier it will be to cope with the shock of your new situation (and vice versa).
Handling Homesickness and Culture Shock
There are a few key ways of dealing with homesickness and the “disenchantment” phase of culture shock. The “cures” are as diverse as the people who are in the au pair program and you'll soon discover what suits you.
Luckily, homesickness is usually mild and doesn't last long. And there are things you can do to make sure it doesn't spoil your fun. First, talk about it with people who care for you:
Talk about it with the people. Share your feelings with your host family so they understand how you are feeling. Talk to other au pairs who can empathize. Knowing you are not the only one dealing with this will ease your feelings of loneliness, and you might feel better when you cheer up someone else.