Tag Archives: culture

Where to Au Pair: Halifax

Halifax CitadelThis week’s edition of our ‘Where to Au Pair’ series will take us to Nova Scotia, one of the three provinces in eastern Canada known collectively as the Maritimes.

What the Maritimes may lack in city size and population when compared with their ‘big sister’ provinces such as British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario, as this article explains, they make up for in stunning natural beauty.

Let’s zoom in on Halifax, Nova Scotia’s capital, and find out why it might be a great location for your future au pair placement in Canada!

Halifax Waterfront1. Proximity to the water

If you are used to living by the water, or have never had the chance to do so, Halifax boasts one of the most impressive waterfront walks in Canada.

While a Google Image search alone doesn’t even begin to do it justice, Halifax’s waterfront consistently ranks at the top of everyone’s list as one of the top things to do in the whole of Nova Scotia.

Halifax Public Gardens2. Public parks

Right in the heart of Halifax lies the famous Halifax Public Gardens, purportedly one of the finest examples of a Victorian Garden in North America.

Talk about a perfect place to stroll with your au pair kids or on your own to find a quiet escape from the bustle of the city!

Halifax Beaches

3. Access to beaches

You guessed it, proximity to water means proximity to beaches.

According to the article aptly titled ’25 things about the Maritimes that make the rest of Canada jealous,’ you are never more than an hour away from a glorious, saltwater beach.

Talk about some picture-perfect, Instagram-worthy views, too.

Halifax Festivals

4. Arts and culture events

The list of arts and culture events (from music and food festivals, to fundraising events and pride parades) is jaw-droppingly long for a capital city in such a small province, which leads us to hypothesize that there would never be shortage of fun and exciting things to do during your au pair placement!

Family service Halifax

5. High quality of life

The quality of life in Halifax is unsurprisingly high, as any Halifax local (‘Haligonian’) can attest to.

And frankly, how could it not be, given its idyllic location, its thriving arts and culture scene, its enviable of manicured public parks and heritage buildings hearkening a not so distant past, and the unbeatable access it provides to the rest of the naturally beautiful province and the Maritimes as a whole.

I don’t know about you, but as a Canadian, but I’d be hard-pressed to think of a location in Canada I want to visit more than Halifax, Nova Scotia, and the rest of the insatiable Maritime provinces.

Many thanks to the following useful articles and webpages:

Visit Halifax

Destination Halifax

TheLoop.ca

Where to Au Pair: Saskatoon

SaskatoonThe largest city in Saskatchewan, Canada’s central prairie and boreal province, Saskatoon was founded in 1882 and has been a cultural and economic hub ever since.

A vibrant city with a rich cultural and historic heritage, Lonely Planet ranks Saskatoon as the top place to visit in Saskatchewan, we thought it would be perfect for the next edition in our Where to Au Pair series.

The following are some of the reasons to consider Saskatoon for your au pair placement:

Saskatoon Meewasin Valley

1. Natural diversions

The South Saskatchewan River winds through downtown Saskatchewan, affording its citizenry with easily accessible riverside paths which are perfect for both winter and summer strolls with the family or a midday escape from the bustle of the city.

In the same vein as the natural diversions provided by the river, in the Meewasin Valley there are 60 kilometers of trails popular amongst walkers and cyclists that are lined with picnic areas.

Given the photo above, it shouldn’t be surprising to find out that Meewasin comes from the Cree (First Nations) word for beautiful.

Boomtown

2. History

Neighborhoods like Riverdale and Nutana boast scattered heritage buildings that recall their amalgamation into the rest of the early town of Saskatoon.

Saskatoon also boasts Canada’s longest indoor street, known affectionately as Boomtown (pictured above), a recreation of the town Saskatoon was at the beginning of the 20th century.

This site is part of Saskatchewan’s Western Development Museum, a four-museum network with various locations that recall and display records of the social and economic development within the province.

Saskatoon also has a significant Indigenous population which the city honors in part through the Wanuskewin Heritage Park just northeast of the city centre.

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3. Youth culture

Saskatoon is also home to the University of Saskatchewan, one of the top research universities in Canada and the largest in the province with just under 24,000 students.

Not only that, the median age in Saskatchewan (35.5 years) is four years younger than the rest of Canada, meaning about half of the population is under 35 years old. And given that nearly half of the province’s population resides in Saskatoon, the chance that you as an au pair would be able to connect with people your own age is high.

SK Vibe Music Festival

4. Arts and entertainment

Saskatoon boasts a whopping 65 annual events and festivals that take place year round, even during the sometimes harsh winters!

Tourism Saskatchewan claims that the province’s community spirit is ‘legendary,’ so it’s definitely worth checking out!

For a complete list of things to do and sites to see in Saskatoon, check out their website!

Sources

Tourism Saskatchewan

Tourism Saskatoon

Wikipedia.

 

Differences Between a Nanny and an Au Pair

Drawing together

This is probably the most common question we get from families who are interested hiring a caregiver for their children through our agency.

While there may be a general consensus (at least in Canada, where we are based) of what a nanny is and what her job entails, the notion of what an au pair is and should be is significantly less understood, which is why we tried to address that in one of our recent posts.

Unfortunately for some au pairs or other types of caregivers, a misunderstanding or miscommunication of exactly what their job entails can lead to a feeling of sourness or negativity for a large part of their placement. In fact, just as the question of the difference between nannies and au pairs is the most frequently asked question here at International Nannies, so too is the confusion between these two positions the most common cause of discord in these types of caregiver placements.

Woman having a conversation with her therapist on couch in office

That’s why it is our goal in this post to clear up this confusion in the hopes that it doesn’t occur in your placement.

Whether you are an interested host family or a prospective caregiver candidate, all we want here at International Nannies is for you to have a successful placement. There are such valuable experiences to be gained from cultural exchanges like these, which is why we will do our utmost to ensure that this can happen for you in the most positive and stress-free way possible.

Young asian woman with cute caucasian toddler boy1. How many hours are nannies and au pairs expected to work?

This is one of the first questions we ask interested host families when it comes to determining whether a nanny or an au pair is right for them.

In Canada, in general, while both nannies and au pairs can work full-time (which is 40-44 hours depending on the province), nannies tend to work almost exclusively full-time while au pairs are flexible to work either part-time (approximately 20-25 hours) or full-time.

2. How much does it cost to hire a nanny versus an au pair?

To hire a nanny in Canada, the host family must effectively sponsor their nanny’s trip to and life in Canada, from their visa paperwork and travel expenses to their healthcare and room and board.

The process of hiring an au pair is much cheaper; the host family only pays for the matching process that our agency undertakes. The au pair pays for their own flight and the Working Holiday Visa they must obtain to be an au pair requires them to undergo a medical exam, obtain a police clearance, and demonstrate proof of healthcare coverage.

In addition, host families who are looking to hire an au pair have the option of deducting a small sum for room and board from their au pair’s minimum wage pay; to find out more about room and board deductions and au pair pay stubs, you can refer to our Au Pair Brochure which is available for download on our website.

Baby

3. How long does the hiring and matching process take?

For nannies, the process is a lot longer, due mostly to the extensive paperwork involved. Daunting as it might seem at first, another service we provide is the completion of the Labour Market Impact Assessment required to hire a nanny in Canada, which can save you loads of time!

The process of hiring an au pair, on the other hand, usually takes only between 5-16 weeks.

During our high season, we can receive up to several au pair applications per day, which is part of the reason why it is much easier and much faster to hire an au pair. That being said, we always recommend that our host families start the application process as soon as possible in order to ensure that they are able to hire an au pair to start on their desired start date.

Charming woman doing the housework

4. Do nannies and au pairs provide housekeeping?

This is the factor that people tend to be most confused about. As mentioned above, nannies almost exclusively work full-time, and a large part of that full-time work involves general housekeeping.

An au pair, on the other hand, as is common practice in the international au pair industry, is only expected to perform housekeeping duties that are directly related to the care of the children. This includes cleaning up after the children, preparing their meals, and helping with their laundry and general upkeep of their rooms and play areas.

If your family requires any more housekeeping than that, an au pair is probably not the best option for you, and a nanny might be a better option (or, as an alternative, an au pair or part-time babysitter in conjunction with another person in a general housekeeping role).

At International Nannies, we do our best to make this particular distinction as clear as we can for both our au pair applicants and our interested host families.

However, at the end of the day, if there is any confusion between a host family and their au pair, we always encourage that both parties establish clear and open lines of communication from the beginning of the placement in order to avoid further conflict in the future.

Babysitter

What Is An Au Pair?

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Source: http://www.smartaupairs.com/aupair/tips.aspx

Almost all of us can recall a time during our childhood where our parents hired a babysitter or nanny to come watch us and our siblings for the evening while they enjoyed an evening out.

Many of us even worked as babysitters or nannies back in high school, eager to make some quick cash and find some sort of independence while we still lived under our parents’ roof and abided by their rules.

But how many of us here in North America had the opportunity to be an au pair while growing up?

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Source: http://www.antlerlanguages.co.uk/au-pair/

Some of us, including myself, hadn’t even heard the term au pair, until we had the chance to travel or study abroad and familiarize ourselves with other cultures. Having worked as a babysitter and nanny for a number of families for almost ten years, I know for myself that I would’ve been exceedingly interested in being an au pair if I had had the chance either between high school and university, or after my postsecondary studies altogether.

Being an au pair is a unique opportunity to gain not only experience in childcare, but also to immerse oneself in another culture and, in many cases, become a part of a family. So how do you become an au pair?

To become an au pair, there are a series of qualifications you need to have. An au pair typically:

  1. Is between 18-30 years of age (though the majority are between 18 and 21).
  2. Has a high school education (or higher).
  3. Has some experience in childcare (typically as a babysitter or as a volunteer in an early childhood setting such as daycare or preschool).
  4. Has a valid driver’s license (though this is not always necessary).
  5. Is interested in both childcare and cultural exchange.

Our research shows that the majority of those who choose to work as an au pair do so as a gap year, either between high school and university, or during their university studies, not unlike those university students who choose to do a semester abroad during their university studies.

Both studying abroad and being an au pair are incredibly valuable experiences to have as a young adult, yet it is only in the past couple of decades that young people are choosing to be an au pair for a year either instead of or in addition to studying abroad.

Young mother on a swing with baby

So why should I consider hiring an au pair?

It has become increasingly difficult to find suitable caregivers for children these days, due in part to the financial burden it can pose upon a family, but also to the somewhat daunting challenge of finding a kindred individual whose personality meshes with your family’s.

This is where we come in.

internationalnannies-logo

One of the services we provide here at International Nannies & Homecare Ltd. is a comprehensive au pair placement program.

Our placement coordinators work with families all across Canada and match them with a carefully-screened au pair candidate from different countries around the globe. We get to know your family and assess your childcare needs, and then proceed to match you with one of the dozens of au pairs whose applications we continue to receive every day, especially during our peak time, June to September.

We take on the often burdensome task of finding a suitable caregiver (in this case, that of an au pair) so that you can spend more time with your family.

Parents giving piggyback ride to children

So why might an au pair rather than a nanny be more preferable for a given family?

  1. Because an au pair can work anywhere from 20 to 44 hours and is paid at minimum wage (province-dependent), having an au pair can be cheaper than having a nanny.
  2. There is significantly less paperwork involved in contracting an overseas au pair than there is for a nanny, which allows for au pairs to be processed by us and other agencies within 3 to 16 weeks as opposed to 7 to 9 months.
  3. An au pair is more likely to be interested in more than just childcare: they are interested in a cultural exchange, that of their native culture and that of their host family’s.

Is an au pair the right option for my family?

For more information, please check out our website http://www.internationalnannies.com or give us a call at  1.800.820.8308.

 

No More FOMO: An Interview with Letitia B.

Letitia CollesumWe’ve all heard the saying, “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.” Right? Well what about, “You don’t know what you’re not missing until you return.” Through my experiences, I’ve noticed so often that young adults are afraid to leave their home, friends, family, boy/girlfriend because they think that they will miss out on some big event that will happen while they’re away. There is such a culture of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) that people don’t take chances anymore. Everyone is sitting idle by their phone waiting for the next best thing to happen but aren’t willing to take their own leap into adventure! Here’s the thing: when you travel and come back home, things usually stay the same. And if there is a major event, you’re only a Skype call away.

Recently, I’ve had the chance to talk to Letitia B who was just an Au Pair in Italy! Letitia is a 19 year old from a small town in South-Western Ontario. I was able to ask her a bit about herLetitia Italy experiences as an Au Pair, what the best/worst parts were and why young adults should take the plunge into traveling abroad!

1) Can you please tell us a little bit about your experience as an au pair?

I spent January  to May in Italy, living with the sweetest and most incredible family in Turin, a big city in Northern Italy, bordering Southern France. I was looking after and teaching English to two wonderful and very unique girls.

Valentina, the older sister, is a very independent, free-spirited and an intelligent 5 year old. While Viola, who is 3 years old, is a more affectionate girl who loves to joke around and make everyone around her laugh. The area they lived in was really great too, the mountains were an hour drive north and the seaside was an hour drive south.

2) What did a typical day look like for you?

Both girls had school from 9:00a.m. to 3:00p.m. Monday through Friday, so this required me to wake up each morning between 7:00a.m. and 7:30 a.m., have the girls up and dressed by 8:00a.m. and we’d leave for school around 8:30a.m. My family lived just outside of the city, on the hills in a beautiful little  area called Cavoretto, which had a small school that was only 10 minutes walking distance from home. After dropping the girls off, I would usually go with my host mother, Francesca, to the gym, to the market or shopping. I’d walk into the city on Monday, Wednesday and Friday’s for Italian courses, and then stay afterwards to have lunch or hangout in the park with friends I made in class. Having friends from all over the world definitely enhanced the experience, I miss each of them so much! Also an an Au Pair you have weekends free to travel or do whatever you feel.

3) What made you want to be an Au Pair?

My older sister was an Au Pair in Hungary after she finished high school, and I knew that I didn’t want to start University right after graduating. I realized in October that I wanted to travel during my year off, started looking at being an Au Pair in November, and left for Italy right after New Years. I realize how spontaneous everything was, and I think that’s what made it so exciting, I can’t stand the anticipation of waiting!!

4) What was the best part of being an Au Pair?

Being an Au Pair is easily the best job in the world. It allows you to combine travel with work, you get to  explore another part of the world, hangout with kids, make some pocket money for your travels, and live with a really awesome family (most families are awesome because they’re willing to invite practically a stranger to come live with them and take care of their children.)

My family went to Oman for vacation in April, and I was able to go backpack around Italy for the few weeks that they were gone. It definitely showed me what the rest of Italy is like, I saw cities like Verona, Venice, Rome, Florence and Bologna. There are no tourists in Turin like there are everywhere else. It’s a beautiful and timeless city and remains my favourite in all of Italy!

Letitia Child5) What was the worst part?

I couldn’t say there was a ‘worst’ part. I was homesick, which did suck. I’m very close with my family and it was hard being away from them, but making new friends who are going through similar experiences and feeling like you’re a part of your host family makes the experience and transition way easier. It’s strange realizing, now that I’m home, I’m actually homesick from living there too:  my friends, the foreign city and the feeling of being on my own in a way. I guess I wish that my experiences weren’t just stories and that my family could have been there to live it all with me.

6) What advice would you give to young adults looking to live abroad?

Don’t be scared! You will regret not travelling and seeing the world. Even being overseas for a short amount of time made me realize how much of the world I want to see. The truth is, and I was told this so many times: is that when you come home it feels like nothing changed while you were gone, you haven’t actually missed out on everything like you thought you would. When you go abroad you will experience culture shock, and that’s inevitable, but the best thing you can do it just accept it all. Coming home brings on the reverse culture shock, and its’s so weird.

7) Now that you’re home, what do you plan on doing?

Leaving. I’m doing a year at Wilfrid Laurier University, then I plan on going to Australia or New Zealand to Au Pair again, and afterwards to backpack through Southeast Asia. School can wait.

8) Was being an au pair everything you expected it to be?

Yes and no. All of the expectations were the same, although I thought it would feel more like a job. I felt more like a family member than anything, Valentina and Viola were, and still are, my little sisters.

9) Are you still in contact with the family now and will you go back to visit?

I still talk to my family often, we Skype and text as much as possible. The father, Antonio, is a Geographer and recently got a job in Bolivia, so they packed up their stuff and moved there in the beginning of September (cool right?). They’re a really great family and have such a surreal and spontaneous lifestyle, I was so lucky to be a part of it. I ABSOLUTELY plan on seeing them again, I’d love to see how the girl’s English will improve.

10) Looking back at who you were before you left for your year abroad, how have you changed since?Letitia mitten

Again, all I want to do is travel now. My mom had to convince me to go to school this year. One thing I’m very careful with is spending and saving money now. I’m definitely more keen to spend my money on travel than physical things.

 

12 Reasons To Be An Au Pair At Least Once

 

I’ve heard every excuse in the book as to why people can’t be Au Pairs: it’s too much money, it’s scary, I’ll lose my job if I take that my time off work. I’m going to put an end to all of those nasty thoughts in your head right now and let you in on a little secret: You can do it! And here are some reasons why you should:

1) You get to travel inexpensively 

If money is an issue for you but you still want to get out and explore the world, then being an Au Pair is a great opportunity for you. You’ll need to save a bit of cash for your passport, visa and flight but other than that, you‘re ready to go!

While not only getting free room & board, you’ll also be receiving some pocket money. This can go towards weekend trips, language courses or just treating yourself to some shopping.

2) Full immersion into a new culture

Your friend who backpacked across Europe in a month may have stayed in every hostel on the continent, but can they say that they know how to make a traditional gâteau au chocolat or can fluently have a conversation in Italian with a lady at the bus stop? When you’re living with a foreign family, their culture becomes your day-to-day. You will begin celebrating new holidays you never knew existed or adapting new ways of thinking. And these things will last a lot longer than the free pair of sunglasses for from the pub crawl.

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3) You’ll learn more about your own culture

As much as you are there to learn about your host family’s culture, they want to learn about yours too. You may find yourself saying things like, “Oh yea, I guess Canadians do say sorry a lot” or “Your milk doesn’t come in a bag?!” When introduced to a new culture, you will take a step back from your own and observe it from a third party perspective. You’ll gain a further appreciation and pride for your own country.

4) Learn a new language

If you choose to travel to a non-English speaking country, then you will have the opportunity to learn a new language. When surrounded by it every day, all while attempting to communicate, by the end of your year abroad you’ll be speaking, understanding and writing the language

Most host families want their children to learn English which is why they hire a Canadian Au Pairs. You can come to the agreement that the parents will speak their native language to you and you will speak English to the kids. Doing this will increase your brain activity as learning a new language is like aerobics for your brain!

5) Teach a language

After some time there, you will feel the pride of watching the kids linguistic skills grow throughout your time abroad. At the beginning, they may only understand bits and pieces of what you’re saying but by the end you’ll be discussing which cup is better: the purple one or the green one.       

Also, some Au Pairs tutor on the weekend to families in the community who want to learn/improve their English language skills. This is a great way to make some more connections in the community and earn some extra cash.

6) Study abroad

Something most Canadians don’t know is that in some countries, studying is free for locals and foreigners alike (check out Germany). If you’re planning on studying abroad where tuition fees are not quite as luxurious, then I go back to my first point: Free room & board. Many students balance part-time jobs and school to help gain experience and pay for their education. Why not do this in a new country where you can learn a new culture all while living for free? You’ll be the all-time traveling super hero: student by day, Au Pair by night! 

Traveling Woman

7) Gain a new family

Many Au Pairs leave their year abroad feeling as though they made deep connections with their host family. After multiple family dinners, outings and fun days in the park, it’s nowonder that some Au Pairs find it difficult to leave the family. Children develop at such a fast rate when they’re young and it’s amazing to watch them grow and learn every day. The Au Pair may leave feeling like the big sister in the family.

8) Make lasting ties across the globe

The great thing about being an Au Pair is that it gives you the opportunity to meet other Au Pairs. As this is a foreign program, you will likely get to meet people from all across the world! As if the host family isn’t enough to just call up the next time you’re in Italy, what about your new German friend? I’m sure she would love to have you for a visit. Or, take a trip down under to stay with your new Aussie mate. Or, have a weekly Skype chat with your new Danish pal. Making international friends gives you an excuse to pack up your bags again and explore someplace new. 

9) Personal growth

Living abroad leads to self-growth in so many ways. Just stepping out of your comfort zone and navigating your way through a new town/city/country will help you gain more self-confidence and self-reliance. On top of all of that,  if you’re learning a new culture and new language your views of the world will change and you will diversify your thoughts, values and experiences. 

10) Competitive edge on your resume

When applying for jobs, employers are looking for applicants that stand out from the others. Traveling can be a giant “ice-breaker” for the interview. Also, employers understand the benefits of having a group of culturally diverse employees in the workplace. Learning how to maneuver your way through cultural barriers and being able to adapt to cultural differences are huge skills which cannot be learned in the classroom.

11) The paper work isn‘t that bad

Alright, most of you who were not lucky enough to have foreign parents will have to get a visa. Believe me, it’s not the most glamourous process but, it isn’t impossible. To ease the stress and make sure it’s done correctly the first time, you might want to go through an agency to complete the grueling paperwork. A good place to check it is International Nannies

12) There’s nothing stopping you. Just do it!

School, friends, and boy/girlfriends will all be there when you come back. If you don’t have any kids and you’re not the president,  you don’t have any excuses! The world is out there just waiting for you to explore it and home will still be there when you get back. A year abroad is not that long, especially if it in one that will positively impact you for the rest of your life.