Traveling to another country can be challenging, especially when you’ll be spending your time living with a host family and caring for their children. Au pairs come to America to experience American life in exchange for providing limited childcare, and doing a little research about American customs, daily life, and history beforehand can help make adjusting to this new culture a little easier.
America is rich in history, and knowing a little about pivotal historical events can help you to better understand the principles, laws and customs the country was founded on. Dates, milestones and facts are important to learning how America came to be as it is today.
- The assassination of President Abe Lincoln—The untimely death of this United States president was devastating to early Americans, as cited on Listverse.
- The signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776—This is arguably one of the most important dates in American history; learn more about it from Gilmer ISD.
- The Revolutionary War—Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History discusses this war, which was fought from 1763 to 1783.
- The American flags official colors are Old Glory red, white, and Old Glory Blue—You can learn more historical facts from List 25.
- The American Constitution was signed on September 17, 1787—History has many facts regarding the Constitution.
- The word “America” was first applied to the new world after Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci in 1507—More important dates can be found on Teen Web.
- America’s first president was George Washington in 1789—A detailed timeline of important American dates can be found on Dates and Events.
- President John F. Kennedy, considered one of the most beloved presidents of all time, was America’s 35th president in 1961—Find all the other presidents on Fact Monster.
- December 15, 1791 marks the ratification of the Bill of Rights—Timeline defines this as one of America’s most important accomplishments.
- From 1775 to 1783, the American Revolution occurred—More information about American wars can be found on American History.
From political figures to popular figures, this list covers just a few of the many famous people who live in the United States. Everyone on this list played an important role in the history of America and embodied the drive to be the best, a desire that has become indicative of American culture. Read more on these 10 sites to learn about some of the important people who have helped shape America.
- Elvis Presley—Hailed as the king of rock and roll in America, Presley is just one of many famous men in American history listed on Emsworth.
- Neil Armstrong—Famous Persons of the Past and Present pays tribute to the first man to walk on the moon.
- Susan B. Anthony—Kidport examines Anthony, who fought tirelessly both for women’s right to vote and African Americans right to vote.
- Martin Luther King Jr.—He was a key figure in changing and improving the rights for African Americans using peaceful means, according to Teachers.
- Amelia Earhart—Mr. Nussbaum takes a look at the many accomplishments of Earhart, from setting multiple aviation records to attempting to fly around the world.
- Oprah Winfrey—She is part of the Top Living Influential Americans list found on The Atlantic, and is considered one of the wealthiest people in America.
- Thomas Jefferson—Freedom Shrine looks at the man who was not only the third president, but also the main author of the declaration of independence and the face of the two dollar bill.
- Steve Jobs—You’ll learn all about Jobs, who was co-founder, CEO and chairman of Apple Inc. and a major inventor and pioneer of the personal computer era, on Ranker.
- Sitting Bull—How Stuff Works takes a look at one of the most famous Native Americans in history.
- Harriet Beecher Stowe—This author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin was instrumental in advancing the rights of African Americans, as listed by Quizlet.
Spending a year in America means you’ll get a chance to indulge in plenty of popular American cuisine. Typical American fare is rich in flavor, and there are regional specialties to be found across the States. To truly experience American culture you have to try at least a few of these dishes once.
- Twinkies—CNN lists this snack as one of America’s guilty pleasures.
- Corn Dogs—An American invention, this portable food is a favorite of children that is commonly seen at fairs, says Business Insider.
- New England Clam Chowder—Today Food explains that even though this soup, which is commonly found in Massachusetts, wasn’t invented there, it’s become a popular American staple.
- Chocolate Gravy and Biscuits—This southern favorite is a decadent breakfast item that made Delish’s list of all-American foods.
- Chicken Fried Steak—Considered cowboy comfort food, this southern classic is extremely popular in Texas, explains American Food Roots.
- Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza—While Italians may have come up with the pizza, Americans came up with the deep dish pizza, states Deadspin.
- Coddie—This less expensive version of the crab cake is made of cod fish instead of crab meat and is a staple in Baltimore, according to the Baltimore Sun.
- Whoopie Pies—Huffington Post pays tribute to these sandwich-like cakes.
- Mac and Cheese—A favorite food among American children, PBS Food lists it as common American comfort food.
- S’Mores—Chocolate, toasted marshmallows and graham crackers form America’s favorite camping dessert. You can find directions for how to make this campfire classic on What’s Cooking America?
It’s not uncommon for hit music to see international fame, so many of these songs may already be familiar to you. If you’re joining a family that has tweens or teens, knowing some of the top pop songs can be beneficial. Know these songs well enough to sing along and you’re sure to forge a bond with the tweens and teens in your host family.
- Roar by Katy Perry—This popular song is a top Billboard hit.
- Royals by Lorde—This single has appeared on Top 40 Charts for 126 weeks and set a record for the youngest artist to have a number one single.
- Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke—This tween and teen favorite was on the USA Singles Charts for 28 weeks.
- Wake Me Up by Avicii—Let’s Sing It ranks this song in the top 10 chart in the U.S.
- Applause by Lady Gaga—A chart topper for America’s Music, this popular song is loved by tweens and teens alike.
- Highway Don’t Care by Tim McGraw—This country song was ranked number three on Taste of Country, and features Taylor Swift and Keith Urban in addition to McGraw.
- Life is a Highway by Rascal Flatts—Great American Country included this song in its top 20 road trip songs of all time.
- God Bless the USA by Lee Greenwood—Country Music ranks this song in the top four patriotic songs ever written.
- Mine Would Be You by Blake Shelton—He may be a judge on The Voice, but this popular country artist hasn’t forgotten his roots and is still putting out songs that are topping the Country Top 40.
- Independence Day by Martina McBride—This song is listed by The New 103.7 as one of the top songs about America of all time.
American Video Games
Video games are an important part of the lives of kids today, especially American kids. USA Today reports that 91% of kids ages two to 17 play some form of video game on a regular basis. These 10 games are among the most popular kid video games.
- Pokemon X—Amazon ranks this video game as one of its top sellers. Similar to previous Pokemon games, this one allows you to feed and care for your Pokemon.
- Guitar Hero—Forbes lists this music-based video game as a favorite among kids and adults alike.
- Just Dance Kids—According to What to Expect, making video games a family activity can help kids reap the benefits of video games without the negative consequences.
- Minecraft—Tween US recommends this game for tweens because it encourages the player to create a virtual world and work on a team to achieve a common goal.
- Dance Dance Revolution—The Washington Post notes that this game is one of the top games that kids are playing.
- Re-Mission 2: Stem Cell Defender—This video game helps cancer patients visualize what is happening inside their body, according to Scientific American.
- The Magic School Bus: Oceans—USA Today lists top video games for young kids by age.
- Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask—This game, which makes kids and adults use their deductive reasoning, made Nintendo Life’s list of top 10 3DS video games.
- Animal Crossing Wild World—Children’s Technology Review has rated the top 100 video games for kids, and this one made the cut.
- Wii Boxing—Since video games have been blamed for an increase in childhood obesity, games that encourage exercise have surged in popularity. This game is one of the most intense, according to Journalism NYU.
Some of these games might be familiar to you and some might not. These sites explain the American version of the games so you’re ready to play with your American family. Brush up on the rules of these games and you will be all set.
- Tag—American Profile explains this game that requires three or more players. The object is to have one person who is ‘it’ tag another player, who then becomes ‘it’.
- Hopscotch—Using only chalk to draw a board on the ground, hopscotch is simple to play and good exercise, describes Spoonful.
- Giant Marbles—Just like its miniature counterpart, Giant Marbles requires a big circle with balls in the middle and a big basketball, says She Knows.
- Hula Hooping—The Coca Cola Company makes some suggestions for traditional playground games to get kids moving.
- Four Square—For this game you need a ball and either a four square court or a piece of chalk to create your own. More rules for the game can be found on H2G2.
- Kickball—Played like baseball, this game allows the “pitcher” to roll the ball over home base. The player who is up then kicks the ball and runs to first base. More playground games can be found on Wise Geek.
- Capture the Flag—This game works best with a good sized group because you need to divide into teams and try to grab the other teams flag without being tagged. Geek Dad explains the details of the game.
- Red Light Green Light—Bright Horizons points out that many playground games contain learning opportunities, such as learning to follow directions in a sequence with this game.
- Duck, Duck, Goose—A simple group game where kids sit in a circle and one child who is ‘it’ walks around tapping the kids on the head and saying duck, duck, duck until they finally say goose and get chased around the circle. More details can be found at Let Children Play.
- Bouncing Boxball—This modified version of table tennis is played outside and uses hands instead of paddles, explains Education.
It’s important to make sure you are aware of the laws surrounding au pairs, J1 visas and being in America. Many families will also need you to drive, so it’s crucial to be aware that an international driver’s license isn’t always enough and to know the traffic laws in America. Read more about American laws in these 10 sites.
- J1 Visa—According to Work Permit, au pairs need to have a J1 Visa, be between the ages of 18 and 26 and live with the host family.
- Proficiency in spoken English—Legal Information Institute indicates that au pairs in the U.S. must be proficient in spoken English to qualify for the J1 Visa and the au pair program.
- College courses—Au Pair Mom explains the school requirement of the au pair program, which requires that au pairs take at least six hours of college courses.
- Minimum of 32 hours of professional childcare training—J-1 Visa details the requirements for participating in the au pair program and the training that is required.
- DS-2019—Travel State Gov explains what a DS-2019 is and why it’s necessary for you to have one.
- Legal drinking age—Read more about why the legal drinking age is 21 on Choose Responsibility.
- Medical Insurance—According to Insubuy, medical insurance is required for au pairs under a J1 visa.
- State and Federal Taxes—The IRS explains the tax requirements for a J1-visa visitor. If you make over $3300 in a year, you will be required to file your tax form and pay taxes.
- Driver’s Licenses—The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement explains how you go about getting a driver’s license.
- Seatbelt Laws—The National Safety Council explains the state-by-state requirements when it comes to seatbelts.
American Holiday Customs
Spending a year in America allows you to experience all of the different holidays the country celebrates. Different cultures in America celebrate different holidays, so while one au pair may experience Christmas, another may observe Hanukah. Some holidays are really big affairs, while others are just an excuse to take a long weekend. Read through these 10 articles to learn about different American holidays.
- Thanksgiving—This holiday is held on the last Thursday in November and is typically celebrated by eating turkey and all the trimmings. Learn more about Thanksgiving on Holidays.
- Christmas—Learn more about how Christmas is celebrated on How Stuff Works.
- Valentine’s Day—February 14th marks this holiday that is dedicated to telling your loved ones how you feel. More details on Valentine’s Day traditions can be found on Time and Date.
- St. Patrick’s Day—Yahoo News explains more about the holiday in the U.S., which is typically celebrated by wearing green and eating and drinking green foods and drinks.
- Easter—Indobase explores both the religious and non-religious celebrations surrounding this holiday.
- Memorial Day—Originally, this holiday was to allow people to pay their respects to those who died in service to their country, but now it’s mostly celebrated with picnics and barbeques to kick off the summer, explains Communities.
- Independence Day—Learn more about this July 4th holiday, which is typically celebrated with picnics, barbeques and fireworks, on Independence Day Fun.
- Labor Day—The first Monday in September marks this holiday that symbolizes the end of the summer. Read the history behind this day on U.S. Department of Labor.
- Halloween—Celebrated on October 31st, this day marks a day for the kids to dress up in costumes and go trick-or-treating. More details on what trick-or-treating is can be found on Parents.
- Mother’s Day and Father’s Day—These two days are set aside to honor Mom and Dad, and you can learn about their history on Immihelp.
Educational TV in America
Depending on the parents, the kids you care for will probably be allowed to watch a little educational television. The programs listed here teach everything from the alphabet to the habitats of alligators. Most of the shows listed are for preschoolers, but others are for older elementary kids. Several of the shows that made this list won awards for outstanding children’s programming.
- Sesame Street—This children’s show has been on TV for 44 years and has strived to teach young children numbers, letters, Spanish and more, according to PBS.
- Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood—Created for the preschool set, Mr. Rogers has been on the air longer than any other children’s show, indicates The Top American.
- Bill Nye the Science Guy—Just as you might think, this show teaches children about science in a fun way, explains Edudemic.
- Clifford the Big Red Dog—This show is still airing in reruns, indicates TV, and is aimed at preschool children to teach them morals and good behavior.
- Myth Busters—Created for an older audience of 4th through 6th graders, this show examines popular myths like swimming after you eat, explains Education in America.
- The Magic School Bus—This show is based on a children’s book series that allows kids to look at educational questions in a new way. Read more on Ranker.
- Arthur—This series promotes literacy and examines how Arthur and his friends handle social problems, says WMHT.
- Word Girl—Not only is the hero on this show a girl, but she wins battles by using her brain and her large vocabulary, says Common Sense Media.
- Wild Kratts—This more recent show first aired in January 2011 and features two brothers who have special suits that can change them into any animal. TV Tropes says kids can learn more about animals in this fun-filled way.
- Jane and the Dragon—Books by the same name inspired this series that teaches kids simple lessons while still entertaining them, explains News Max.
These movies may have gained worldwide recognition, but they got their humble beginnings here in America. Most of the movies on the list are older movies that represent America in one way or another. The one constant in all of these movies is that good continually triumphs over evil – a popular theme in American films.
- Grease—This movie may have come out in 1978, but BuzzFeed notes that many American references have come from the film.
- Raiders of the Lost Ark—This film is a 1981 classic about a college professor turned archeologist who gets into all sorts of trouble, indicates IMDB.
- Star Wars—There were several chapters to the saga, and this movie is an iconic movie in America, as shown on Filmsite.
- Field of Dreams—This movie was about a farmer who built a baseball field in the middle of his corn field because he heard a voice telling him to do so. Learn more on Time Out.
- The Wizard of Oz—Since its creation in 1939, this movie about a girl in Kansas that ends up in a new world called Oz has been shown at least once a year, according to AMC.
- Harry Potter—There were many movies about Harry Potter, but Chamber of Secrets was a bit more kid-friendly and made the top 30 movies on Famous Why.
- The Breakfast Club—This teen movie came out in 1985 and has been referenced in many other movies since. Read more about the movie on List Verse.
- The Godfather—An American mob boss passes the business over to his son, who isn’t that thrilled about taking over; learn more on Examiner.
- Hunger Games—This more current film features the courage that Americans love to cheer about. More background on the movie can be found on NY Times.
- Gone with the Wind—Maybe the most quoted movie of all time, you can read more about this iconic southern film on TCM.