A Year In America: Interviews With Au Pairs

May 9, 2012
By Ariella Frank BRONZE, Upper Montclair, New Jersey
Ariella Frank BRONZE, Upper Montclair, New Jersey
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

For part of an assignment in class I had to enter a contest. I have chosen to interview my au pair, Nina, and two of her friends, Lea and Theresa. The interviewees are all au pairs that have come from Germany to live and work in the United States. Nina and Lea came to the United States using an agency called Cultural Care. Theresa used a similar program called Au Pair in America. I realize that some grammar may not be correct, but remember their first language is German and they have only had to speak English all the time for about ten months.

Ariella: “What is the differences and similarities between life in Germany and life in the United States?”

Nina: “A big difference is, that the a lot of moms are mostly working half-times so that they take care of their children in the afternoon. We are also used to come together in sports-clubs for the whole year, not just for fall or spring. Actually I can’t really say, that there are similarities. Almost everything is different.”

Lea: “It is kind of different, but I think it is pretty much because being an au pair is so different from going to school in Germany! I can not really say how it is different or similar.”

Theresa: “It is hard to describe.”

Ariella: “Why did you come to the United States?”

Nina: “The typical answers like: to get to know a new culture, to improve my english, to get more independent. But I think the best thing is to get to know sooo many new people and make friendships that will be for a lifetime!”

Lea: “I came to America to learn a better English before starting university in Germany and to not need to get up every morning to learn all day long.”

Theresa: “I wanted to go abroad after finishing high school. For enough to really be on my own but in a country with a similar culture to Europe, so I decided for the au pair program in the United States.”

Ariella: “Are the families different than in America?”

Nina: “In Germany mostly all of your relatives live close by, so you can visit everybody more often. So it’s usual that the grandparents often take care of the grandchildren. I think that’s a reason why we don’t have as much au pairs and babysitters in Germany.”

Lea: “Every family is different. It doesn’t matter if here or back in Germany. But when I compare my host family to my family back home then I can say YES! The relationships between my family members and the time we spend together is totally different.”

Theresa: “Yes, but also n Germany there are lots of different kinds of families.”

Ariella: “What do you think about the different food cultures?”

Nina: “Oh I miss German food so much. I’m glad to live in a family with a healthy nutrition, but the food of my mom is the best ever. In Germany, we eat a lot more potatoes in maybe 300 ways of cooking! That’s so good! But it is interesting to see how the people eat here.”

Lea: “I can definitely say that American food is ok but you get the best food in Germany. No other country has so many ways to cook potatoes and potatoes are, and will always be the most delicious food!”

Theresa: “I recognized that we use a lot more potatoes in Germany than here in the US.”

Ariella: “What are your plans after you finish your year being an au pair?”

Nina: “I want to study media-and communications science. Before the university starts I got an internship at a German TV-channel. Hopefully I’m gonna get a nice view into the media-sector!”

Lea: “I’ll go back to Germany in July and will start university in October. In the meantime, I will go a visit some of the bigger cities in Germany and of course, I’ll go and meet Nina in Lette!”

Theresa: “I plan to bring monarchy back to Germany because I think it is really sad that we don’t have a royal family. I will be the princess, by the way.

Ariella: “What is the differences and similarities between school in Germany and school in the United States?”

Nina: “The school structure is completely different and also the schedules. We don’t have A or B days, everything is mixed up. We can choose between 4 types of schools after elementary school, to which one we go to depends on your grades and the decision of our parents. I mean of course we all get homeworks and have to do projects, but I think that’s the only similarity.”

Lea: “The only similarity is that we all go to school, most of the rest is different. In Germany nobody cares if you’re on time or 5 minutes late for school, when school ends we just go home. Nobody checks if their is somebody who picks you up.”

Theresa: “In the United States the kids start learning letters and stuff earlier than in Germany, but I know too less about school in the US to make a statement.”

Ariella: “How did you hear about being an au pair?”

Nina: “My cousin was an au pair here 10 years ago. Her stories were so interesting for me (as a 10 year old) and since that age I also wanted to become an au pair.”

Lea: “In the last 2 years of school we got information about different things that you can do after your “Abitur” and one of it was about being an au pair. And because there was nothing I wanted to do right after school I decided to go to America.”

Theresa: “When I was small I watched the movie ‘P?nktchen und Anton’ (German) where a girl has a really great au pair. It was the first time I heard something about it.”

Ariella: “Did being an au pair influence your career decision?”

Nina: “I just realized how much I to missed write articles and to interview people. So it just reenforced my decision to do do something with media/journalism.”

Lea: “No, not at all. I still want to do what I wanted to do before I came to the US for my au pair year.”

Theresa: “Not really.”

Ariella: “Are any of the stereotypes about the United States and Americans true?”

Nina: “When I came here I thought that the americans are just watching TV the whole day and they are just eating fast food. Maybe it is like that in some families, but I’m glad that the families I met are completely different.”

Lea: “Some are true. You have access to wireless lan on every second corner, almost everywhere you go you can watch TV, and you can find fast food restaurants everywhere. But the stereotype that all Americans are fat isn’t true at all. I think that especially here are many people very skinny.”

Theresa: “Some are some aren’t. For example that the people really work a lot is true.”

Ariella: “Was speaking English all the time hard?”

Nina: “Not really, you get used to it really fast. But sometimes I got confused with both languages and started to talk a mix out of both languages.”

Lea: “At the beginning it was really hard especially talking to people you don’t know. But it got better by the time and right now it is completely normal to talk English all the time. Actually my German got worse in this year!”

Theresa: “Not really. I had a pretty good English Education in school, but it was tiring during the first weeks.”

Ariella: “What would you say is an average day for someone in Germany? How is this different from your average day in the United States?”

Nina: “It depends in which age you are. But the time schedule is almost the same. But in Germany we had to go to school earlier, so you can be happy to sleep so long!”

Lea: “In the morning you get up, grab your bag for school and maybe (if there is enough time) you make your breakfast. You go to school and either you buy something for lunch in school, or you’re already back home for lunch. In the afternoon you do your homework and then you do whatever you want to do.”

Theresa: “Depends on which age group you are in. My days over the last years were influenced by school in the morning and free time in the afternoon. That’s different now.”

Ariella: “How long did it take for you to learn English?”

Nina: “We learn English since 4th grade in Germany. But I was not really good (maybe I was also too lazy to study more.) So I wanted to improve it more and I think that worked out (hopefully.)

Lea: “I learned English in school for 7 years before I came here. It was ok to talk a little bit but here it got better. So all in all about 8 years.”

Theresa: “I started in 6th grade, so I had 7 years of English education in school. But I was a fast learner.”

Ariella: “What benefits do you find in speaking more than one language?’

Nina: “We will definitely have better job opportunities cause almost all of the companies in Germany want to have co-workers who can speak more than one language.”

Lea: “One big benefit is that I need a better English for studying and it is great to go out in America and talk German all the time and nobody understands you but you’re also able to talk to other people in English.”

Theresa: “When you speak more than one language you can communicate with people from other countries and learn about other cultures.”

Ariella: “Do your family and friends notice a change in you since being an au pair?”

Nina: “I would talk more (I mean I talked a lot before but they recognized a change) and a friend who visited me said I would be a lot more confident!”

Lea: “They just said I grew a few cm and in the 9 month her in the US that I became more mature than I was before. But they didn’t say that I really changed so much.”

Theresa: “They didn’t tell me.”

Ariella: “Do you think it was helpful to be with Cultural Care/Au Pair in America?”

Nina: “It was better to be with an organization as on your own, yes! But my LCC (the coordinator) didn’t know anything when we asked her something. That was kind of annoying! It was a good opportunity to meet people in the beginning.”

Lea: “It was very helpful to be here with Cultural Care. Especially in the beginning it was very helpful because I got to know many, many people because of the organization.”

Theresa: “It was very helpful. Especially in the beginning to get some contacts and get some help.”

Ariella: “Are the American universities harder or easier than you expected?”

Nina: “Definitely easier! I was in an art class and the level was really low. Even it was just a community college I expected it to be a little harder! When the university in Germany will be as easy I’m the happiest person ever.”

Lea: “I didn’t go to any real university here in America and didn’t go to university either. So I think I can’t say anything about it.”

Theresa: “Since I just took part in an ESL course it was a lot easier than I expected because almost all the other students in my class had worse a English education than we have in Germany.”

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