Tag Archives: travel

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.

 

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.

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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.

 

Ways to Cure Homesickness

This blog post is a follow up to one we wrote back in September called Signs of Homesickness. If you have not already had the chance to read this blog, go ahead and give it a read now. 11055286_852724174811348_151014661267300399_nDon’t worry, I’ll wait…. Welcome back! I hope you found that blog post of be an informative and useful tool to help you process being away from home and in a new culture. Now that you know the signs of homesickness, we want to be able to help you deal with homesickness. As the previous blog mentioned, homesickness is “the distress or functional impairment caused by an actual or anticipated separation from home and attachment object such as parents.” This is a very normal thing that happens to people who travel. We just hope these tips can help you manage your homesickness so that you can continue to enjoy your Canadian life!

1. Share your home life with your new life

Sometimes when were in a new surrounding we want so badly to be present and find ways to fit in that we forget about our own past life and experiences. It’s important to remember where you came from and talk about things that can connect your home life to your Au Pair life.

Talk about your family, school, traditions and culture with all of the new people around you. Don’t be afraid to show pictures or bring up a conversation about politics and how they differ from country to country. Anything that will make a connection between your home life and your new life.

2. Make yourself busy by creating a routine

Your host family will provide you with a weekly schedule of when you need to provide childcare and light housekeeping but make sure you add your own flare to the schedule. Wake up 15 minutes early to stretch or enjoy a coffee, walk to the library the first Tuesday of the month to get a new book, sign up for a weekly spin class.

By making your schedule your own and creating routine, you’re committing yourself to your new home and finding your own community.

3. Write!!

Get a journal and start to write every day. Okay, maybe you don’t have time to write EVERY day but try to write a couple of times a week. Don’t just write in the super exciting new things but also write about the not so positive experiences so you can reflect back on them and see how much you’ve grown!

You should also write about all of the reason of why you decided to come to Canada. This will help to remind yourself on any bad days when you feel the homesickness creeping up of why you picked up and left everything familiar to be in a new and foreign place.

4. Make a “To-do list”Mom and daughter working

Climb a mountain, eat poutine, play hockey! Canada has so much to offer and it’s yours for the taking. Make a wish list or bucket list of all the things you want to do while you’re in Canada and work towards getting them done. By doing this, you have the opportunity to work towards something rewarding. Also, you could share you list with others engaging them to work with you on achieving these goals and inspiring them to make their own. You may not reach everything on the list but you will have done more than if you did not make the list.

5. Get creative!

Get your creative juices flowing! Create a video of your new neighbourhood, write a song about the new places you’ve seen, write a blog! Like creating a “to-do” list or something to work towards will help get your mind off of being away from home and help exercise your creative brain for when the kids need a new idea.

6. Do not develop FOMO

We are in a generation of connectivity.  No matter where we are or what we’re doing, if we have a cell phone in our pocket, we are connected to the world. Although this can be a great way to stay in touch with loved ones, it also creates a new phenomenon called fear of missing out (or FOMO).  FOMO is the feeling of anxiety that occurs when you think you will miss out on something exciting or huge if you don’t attend. For example, “I’m super tired but if I don’t go to the party I might miss something really important.”  This is developed from always checking social media, calling home frequently and Skyping with friends. Although these can be great ways to stay connected, in moderation, it’s important that you keep your mind in one spot. When we can constantly check in to see what our friends and family are up to this can cause us to desire to be back home rather than making your own adventures where you are.

What is important to remember is that your home is not going anywhere. Your work permit will run out eventually and you only get this one opportunity. Make the most of it and get off social media (after reading this blog of course)!

7. Do something you love

Bring your hobbies overseas with you! This is another great way to connect your home life to your Au Pair life. Like to run? Join the local running group. Passionate about music? Join the local church choir. Love reading? Join a reading club.

OR start something you’ve always wanted to try! This is your opportunity to grow as an individual, to broaden your skills and talents. Luckily as an Au Pair, you do not have the time consuming responsibilities of owning a home, car or running a family on your time off. Use your free time to engage in your passions.

8. Make your new home a home

It is important to your host family that you feel comfortable in their home. If you’re hungry, go get a snack out of the fridge. If you need to do your laundry, don’t be afraid to ask how to use the machine. If you need a listening ear, engage in a conversation.

You should also find ways to make your space your own: put up pictures, make a reading nook or just add some special mementos to your room. Some Au Pairs will only have their room as their own “private space” so it’s important to make it a special, comforting space where you can retreat to at the end of a long working day.

Traveling Woman9. Talk to those in similar situations

Lastly, find others around you who are travelling and away from home. This may be another Au Pair, a member of your community or even your host parents. Open up about being homesick and you’ll quickly find out that it is just a part of being abroad and it is totally manageable.

Top 10 Ways to Communicate With Your Host Family

Thelpful-tipshe relationship between a host family and an Au Pair is a unique one because a balance needs to be found between being a part of the family and being an employee. The best way to find this balance and to make a successful placement is by having open communication. Frequent open communication between you and your host family allows for any issues to be resolved early and to help build a stronger relationship.

1)      Take the Time to Get to Know Each Other: Ask lots of questions, engage in conversation, and be curious! The best way you can build a relationship with someone is by getting to know them better. Both you and the host family need to be able to respond to one another in a way that fits both your cultural habits and your individual personalities.

2)      Don’t Wait: In order not to appear pushy, demanding or needy, some people try to be patient about their wants. As a result, they wait to ask for what they want until there is a lot of pressure built up behind the want. It’s always better to ask whenever you feel a want rather than saving up and asking only for the really important things.

3)      Choose the Right Time: Although we want to talk about our problems right away, we need to respect the other persons time as well. Ask the host parents when an appropriate time to talk would be. You want to choose the right time to have an important conversation so that there won’t be any distractions and it will be quiet.Au pair and child

4)      Practice Active Listening: This goes beyond just listening. Active listening means being attentive to what someone else is saying. The goal of active listening is to understand the feelings and views of the other party and to give them our full attention. So, make eye contact, use non-verbal hand gestures, restate to show that you are listening and give feedback.

5)      Do Not Assume: At the root of every misunderstanding is an assumption. We assume that people interpret things the same way we do. We assume when people communicate with us, relying on our past experiences and on our own limited frame of reference. We have equal responsibility to understand and to be understood.

6)      Don’t Generalize: Avoid using words such as “always” or “never”. These overstatements, or exaggerations, are usually inaccurate and they tend to provoke other people to “destroy” your argument. There is usually no factual evidence when someone overstates or generalizes.

7)      Be Specific: If you want to clearly get your message across to someone, you must be specific when talking to them. A big mistake that many people make when asking for what they want is asking in a way that is so vague and general that the other person has no idea how to fulfill your request.

Of-non-professional-nannies8)      Use “I” Language: Using “I” at the beginning of your sentence allows you to stick to what you know and take responsibility for what you say. “I think..”, “I believe…”, “I feel…”. These statements allow you to focus on what you are thinking and feeling rather than trying to get someone to guess how you are thinking or feeling. Remember: you cannot get in trouble for feeling something.

9)      Watch Your Body Language: When communicating with someone, be aware of your body language. You want to be standing/sitting with your arms and hands uncrossed, keeping your body facing them and maintaining eye contact. Standing/sitting straight up shows you’re alert and try to resist the urge to yawn, finger/foot tap or fidget around.

10)   Use Key Phrases: Try to use phrases such as “When you do this…I feel this…”or “I have some feelings to clear…” or “I appreciate you for…” These phrases can help you show gratitude or concern in a specific way. Again, using “I” at the beginning of your sentence shows that you’re taking on responsibility for the situation.

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.