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10 Communication Challenges Families Have with Au Pairs

Communication is more than just talking. We communicate all the time through body language, writing, tone, and other forms of communication. Here are ten common communication challenges families have with au pairs.

  1. Language – The simplest thing comes first. Does the au pair even speak your language? Learning English isn’t easy, and not everyone can do it. If you hire an au pair with limited English, be prepared to communicate some other way.
  2. Body language – Different cultures mean different body language. This may seem trivial to you now, but if you somehow offend your au pair or vice versa, it won’t be.
  3. Moral – You want your children to have your moral standards, but how do you communicate that with an au pair that doesn’t speak your language and has her own moral code?
  4. Cultural – Some places it is okay to stand close and speak, others like their space. Some countries like to eat as a family, others eat alone. If you want a certain tone in your home, then you will have to find a way to communicate that to your au pair.
  5. Tone – Speaking of tone, tone of voice is important when it comes to communication. Some languages don’t have tones, and this can affect how you communicate. Think about it- how do you know they are asking a question if their voice doesn’t rise?
  6. Grammar – Like language, but even more complex. You think improper grammar doesn’t hurt anything? Think again. “Time to eat children” is very different then, “Time to eat, children.”
  7. Slang – You say it without even thinking about it. But they don’t get it. That means you have an issue on your hands. Not cool.
  8. Idioms – Like slang, but even harder to explain. Try explaining, “cut the mustard” or “raining cats and dogs” some time.
  9. Writing – The au pair may speak English alright, but can she read and write it? If not, leaving a note for her is futile. As are any directions for food or other products. Oops.
  10. Complex directions – A map or other complex series of directions is hard for even a native to keep up with. You really expect your au pair to remember exactly how many seconds to heat baby’s bottle after you pour in exactly three teaspoons of formula and mix with only so much milk, making sure it is not expired, and, by the way, he’ll only drink out of purple bottles?

Don’t give up hope. There are ways to work around this. For instance, an English au pair wouldn’t have most of these problems, though I’m sure there would be others that would pop up unexpectedly. Communication is difficult at the best of times, but with a little effort on both your parts it is not impossible.

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