Culture shock is something that almost all Au Pairs will have to face in the beginning. In order to adapt faster to the new life, you should prepare yourself with necessary knowledge about the life and people of the place you are going to.
The most common problems that Au Pairs have to face come from the difference in climate, food, language, and values between their home countries and their Au Pair countries.
Here are some stories shared by real Au Pairs to help you have a better picture of culture shock:
Many Au Pairs feel that their mood are affected by the weather. For example, you have to get used to the boring grey cold in winters in England, the heat and harsh winds in Melbourne, or you may be amazed by the beautiful sky of Toulouse, France…
You may need some time to get used to the unfamiliar foods: your host family may have so different taste and a very strange way of cooking. If possible, suggest your host parrents to cook something familiar to you.
Using a foreign language all the time can drive you crazy. You will miss your mother tongue, which is so familiar to you since you were born. Moreover, the accent of people where you come to may be so strange to you that it may take you some time to catch up with a very simple conservation.
If you are from a tropical region, you might feel very inconvenient with the big and heavy clothes for cold winters. New clothes may not be a big problem, but you may not feel very good at the beginning.
The social behavior in the new environment may make you feel surprised, confused, or even offended. Many Au Pairs were shocked at the inhospitable and busy lifestyle, this feeling is stronger in big cities like Paris, Sydney or London. Or you may find yourself startled to see a couple kissing in a public area, etc.
Manners and Etiquette
Other than physical elements that you can feel right at the moment you take your first step on the new country such as the sounds, smell, and temperature; there are always intangible things that will affect you later on. Every culture has its own rules of behaving and responding to others and to other forces from outside.
It may take some time before you realize these differences, but soon you will. And they will make you feel lost and frustrated. They might be the difference in priority, in dividing times and spaces, etc.
Generally, you should be in time for everything and try to inform other people if you cannot come on time. But there are some exceptions: if you are invited to dinner at 8 p.m., you should probably come around 8:10, but don’t be later than 8:20. Life may be much more complicated, but you can always live it in your own way.
Although you can get used to tangible cultural differences such as food, clothes, behaviors, the ways people from other cultures see the world may be very hard for you to accept. Culture is formed by sets of values, standards, assumptions and believes. Sometimes you may be surprised or even disappointed when you realize that people don’t have the same priority and value as yours. Don’t judge until you have considered every aspect of the problem and find the logic behind. Instead, try to understand why someone does something basing on their cultural values. This will not only help you see how other people think about your behaviors, but also show you the reason why they do what they do. And when you have proper understanding of both cultures, you may decide what is good and bad for you.
Common cultural shock
The different stages of cultural shock may happen more than once during your stay. For example, in times of family reunion such as holidays or gatherings, you may find yourself feeling lonely and homesick although you have got through the homesickness several times before. Cultural shock is hard to fight, but you may find it easier to go through this obstacle by sharing your stories and feelings with other people.
Some effects of cultural shock
Cultural shock may be troublesome. It may affect your health, you may have a stomachache or a headache, this is not serious but you will have to pay more attention to your health. When you think too much about it, you cannot concentrate in other things such as your work and studying. Some people may become more emotional or bad-tempered.
There are so many difficulties, and you need careful preparation to help you deal with them. MY AUPAIR organize monthly orientations and seminar where former Au Pairs can share their stories and experiences of living a new life in a strange land. We provide everything you need to know before coming to another country.