Guest Blog from Au Pair Evelien

Evelien is a 19 year old Dutch au pair, who started her placement with her host family in Surrey in October. Here she shares two of her blog posts, describing her experiences of two key events: Halloween and Bonfire Night!

1st November 2016

Hey everyone,

This blog post is about a holiday that I thought was only celebrated this big in America, but I was wrong: in England, they celebrated just as big.

It all started two weeks ago, my host mum was talking about home decorations, carving pumpkins, and she told me that I had to have an outfit.

I still hadn’t found anything to wear the Friday before Halloween, so I went to town with my friend, Gemma. All the shops were full of Halloween decorations and different kinds of outfits. Eventually I found a nurse (or waiter’s) dress that wasn’t too expensive and it looked quite okay, so I bought that one.

halloween

On Saturday, I went to an event called “Pillage the village!” in Reigate with my host family. All the shops with the black and orange balloons outside participated. It meant that we could trick or treat at those shops. After visiting a lot of houses, we went to a super scary Halloween house too. The children were so scared that one floor was enough for them, so we went on to a nice little restaurant and had some food.

pillage

It was time to go home now, to carve the pumpkins! Before we got started we made some sketches, and then we had to clean the pumpkins. What a work! Carving the pumpkins was quite some work too! It was harder than I thought it would be, but these are the results:

pupkins

The next day, it was time to make the front yard Halloween-proof.
We had orange spider webs, spiders, rats etc. to decorate the yard. It was super fun to do and in the dark it looked super scary!

The first Monday after the midterm break, we went home very quickly to put on our Halloween outfits again, this time to go to a friend’s house. They threw a Halloween party with Halloween food and stuff like that. After having our “fingers with blood” and “dead body pudding” we went outside to search for pumpkins at people’s houses, where we could trick or treat.  The children were super excited, that was so nice to see! Even the children who are usually quite shy, were now the first to ring the doorbell!

When our buckets were full of candy, it was time to get home.

What a nice first experience of celebrating Halloween! I loved it (:

Lots of Love,

Evelien.

 

8th November 2016

Three days ago it was Guy Fawkes Night. This is an event in England were they celebrate that the parliament wasn’t attacked in 1605. In these days there were plans in London to destroy the parliament. Today they celebrate this with campfires and lots of fireworks.

On Friday I picked up the boys from school, we went to The Bicycle Shop; this is not only a shop but also a café. After a coffee, my host dad arrived and we went to the Fish and Chips Shop. There I had a real English dinner!

After dinner it was time to go to school to see the fireworks. It was an amazing, lots of different colours and music all on. They made a real show of it 🙂

fireworks

The days before and after I still heard fireworks at night on the streets.

Last Sunday, I went to Brighton with three of my friends. In the morning somewhere around 10 o’clock we took the train and after 30 minutes we were at Brighton!  Brighton is a amazing city, everywhere wall paintings, nice little shops and lots of second hand shops.

The atmosphere in the city is chill and calm, nothing needs to happen and everything is okay. It’s a bit like a student city.

First we went to The Lanes, these are small streets with little shops. Not the big brands but little private shops. It reminds me of some streets in my hometown. We went to a big second hand shop were we saw a photo booth we needed to take a crazy picture in there!

lanes

We walked on, then we saw a fudge shop, on the windows were stickers of prices. This was something we really wanted to taste. It was out of this world so delicious. We had three different flavours, sea salt, vanilla and strawberry.

fudge

After The Lanes it was time for the Pavilion building. This is a big concert building that looks like a fairy tale one. It looks like Aladdin could live there 🙂 We could see a little bit inside and after that we went to the big garden behind the building. There we have had lunch and we went to the most famous place in Brighton, the Pier.

When we walked on the Brighton Pier and we ate our fudge, but this was not a good idea. We were attacked by some seagulls, super scary! They took the fudge out of my hand and bit me. We ate our fudge quick and went to the arcades. Of course we needed to try this! We spent too much money but we got two little key rings 🙂

pier

We walked to the end of the Pier, over there it looks like a fairground. Attractions everywhere, but we spend already too much money so we went back to the station.

Back in Redhill we wanted pizza, so we went to a pizza place and had a lovely pizza. Super end of the day!

pizza

Lots of love,

Evelien

If you would like to keep up with Evelien’s au pair experience, you can read her blog here.

evelien

Tuuli & Chloe from Smartaupairs visit Partners in Holland & Germany

Tuuli & Chloe, the head consultants from Smartaupairs visited some of our top Dutch and German partner agencies over the course of Wednesday – Friday last week.
What is a partner agency you might ask?
For an au pair agency like smartaupairs, a partner agency will the agency abroad whose role is to vet the au pair and to ensure correct understanding of the program, before sending the applicant profile over to us in the UK. A significant amount of work goes into applicant preparation before any potential host family will be able to see the application.
It is incredibly important for us to maintain strong relations with our partners abroad. For one, they are in the key position of vetting the au pairs. Secondly, it is important for us to be able to provide any feedback we have received from our families to the sending agencies and similarly take on board any feedback from the agency/au pair perspective. All of this is incorporated in the continued process of program review and improvement for all parties.
We really are lucky to work with such wonderful partners abroad and hope to meet many more next year!

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Photo Competition Winner Announced!

The annual Smartaupairs photo competition was opened at the end of May, when many au pairs joined us for the BAPAA Boat Trip.

Since then, we have received a number of lovely photos and it’s been really difficult to choose a winner! Finally, we selected Marlijn from the Netherlands who will receive a £20 Amazon voucher.

Marlijn Wibbelink

Here’s what Marlijn said about her photo:

We are 5 Dutch girls and on 27th April we celebrate ‘Koningsdag’ (Kingsday) in The Netherlands and this is a BIG event. This used to be ‘Koninginnedag’ (Queensday) but when our queen abdicated we changed it. We had to miss this huge event in the Netherlands but luckily the Dutch people weren’t forgotten in The UK so we had a great night ! We even went in the tube like this, a lot of English people were looking like : ‘what is this’ haha ! We had a lot of fun 🙂

Thank you to everyone who sent a photo to us – here are some more of our favourites!

Au Pair Feedback

It’s that lovely time of year again when we hear from au pairs and families about how their placements have started off. Here are the stories from two au pairs who have recently started their placements in the UK.

Firstly, we wanted to share with you the full PowerPoint presentation created by Dutch au pair Maartje, one of the winners of our recent competition.

The following slides cover the first month of her placement in Kingston upon Thames in Surrey.

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Alex from France is currently placed in Penn, Buckinghamshire. Here is what she has to say about her placement so far:

All is perfect!!!!! I am really happy here. I have a lovely hostfamily, I found a news friends, I take english courses and I improve my english: the paradise!!!! Thank you for all.

Alex also shared these lovely photos of her time in the UK to date:

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After all of the hard work that goes into the search process and organisation for the au pair’s arrival, by our agency, the host family and the au pair herself, it is great to hear wonderful success stories like these.

Please continue to send us feedback on your placements 🙂

Competition Winners Announced!

We launched two competitions during our Au Pair Introduction Day in London earlier on this month. In order to enter, au pairs were asked to send a comment or photo to summarise or represent their placement with their UK host family so far. Two prizes of £50 in Amazon vouchers were on offer and our winners are as follows…

Comment competition winner: Maartje from the Netherlands, who is currently placed in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey.

Maartje sent us a PowerPoint presentation to describe her placement so far, but it was the following comment in particular that we felt summarised the au pair program as a whole:

This is the house where I first arrived on Friday the 23th of August. The family did everything they could to make me feel welcome. And boy, did I feel welcome! In these first few weeks, I have been visiting London and making lots of new friends to make my stay in the UK even better! The children: this is the best part of being an au pair. Getting to spend lots of time with in my case, two beautiful young boys. We are very good at being serious but we are even better at acting silly. All of us are. Even though, they sometimes drive me crazy… this family, puts a big smile on my face! So this house is no longer my host family’s house, it’s our house now. It’s a place I call my home’.

Maartje's host family gave her a very warm welcome!
Maartje’s host family gave her a very warm welcome!

Photo competition winner:  Lena from Germany, who is currently placed in Fleet, Hampshire.

Lena sent us quite a few photos of her day out in London but this one was our favourite. A photo with the iconic red telephone box is a ‘must have’ for all au pairs 🙂

The winning photo entry by German au pair Lena
The winning photo entry by German au pair Lena

Congratulations to both girls and thank you to everyone who entered the competition. Here are some further excellent entries that we received:

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If you would like to share your experiences of the au pair program at any time, please contact us on aupairs@smartaupairs.com. We love to hear your stories!

Where Au Pair?

Colors

So many au pairs like to be in a busy environment of a city or a town, as these places are generally easy to make friends with other au pairs, close to language classes and a social life. Some of the au pair favourites where we make regular placements are London & Greater London, Canterbury, Cambridge, Oxford, Bath, Brighton, Bournemouth, Portsmouth, Southampton, Liverpool, Manchester, Edinburgh, York and Harrogate.

Au pairs in the countryside or in a village usually settle very well if they have access to a car, also in their spare time, and are close to a town or city.

We also often have requests from au pairs to be in coastal towns, especially those known for good language schools such as Margate and Ramsgate. We also get requests for Hastings, Blackpool, Norfolk, trendy Brighton (again), but also the picture-postcard villages of Devon and Cornwall are popular with au pairs.

The location of the host family is often very important to an au pair, especially before arrival. We always try to explain that we try to match people, not places, but we do appreciate that the location plays a bit part, especially for some candidates.

Pictures this, a Spanish au pair, who at home can walk out of her house every evening and meet up with friends outside her front door, walk straight into town/city center and meet up with yet more young people, for example in places like our popular short break destination Barcelona, would find it hard to settle in the English countryside, where the car must be used for every journey and meetings are more likely to be planned in advance.

In general, the above applies to Spanish au pairs, Italian au pairs and Turkish au pairs the most. Also, if you have travelled to Turkey for example, you may have noticed what it would be like to live in the ‘Turkish countryside’. It is mostly empty, the main exceptions being elderly people, who continued to live in the countryside whilst the younger generation moved into town. So for a Turkish au pair, the countryside brings up pictures of old people growing vegetables, so not very appealing for an au pair experience!

In general our most flexible au pairs are our German au pairs and our Dutch au pairs. They are very open and often already speak good English. This means they are less daunted by the ‘task’ of making friends and also they tend to be confident drivers, so provided they can have use of the car, they are usually quite flexible about their location.

French au pairs from small towns, countryside or Alpine regions (!) are also usually fine with a less urban location.

We also often have au pairs who ask to be placed with a family with horses. ‘Horse au pair’ is getting more popular for girls who want to be like a live-in groom with the chance to do lots of horse riding but usually the au pairs are happiest placed in a family where they can look after children and help with the horses also. So far we placed Dutch au pairs and German au pairs with interest in horses and our Swedish au pair agency tells us that many of their candidates love riding too!

And then we have many male au pairs, also usually very flexible about the location and confident drivers. Au pair couples are mostly placed in rural locations, as these are the homes where often one au pair can help with the children and the other au pair can help in the garden and with the animals for example. They have each other for company and will be less concerned about meeting other au pairs.

Final note on location, no matter where the au pair is placed, smartaupairs will help finding au pair friends nearby. We share an online service www.aupair2aupair.com and every au pair who is placed though our service received a passport to register. This allows the au pair to search by postcode which au pairs are close and contact them to arrange a meeting. This service is shared with all member agencies from the British Au Pair Agencies Association, so we have au pairs on this service from more than 25 agencies making it a safe place to meet other au pairs, first online and then in person!

Where au pair?

So many au pairs like to be in a busy environment of a city or a town, as these places are generally easy to make friends with other au pairs, close to language classes and a social life. Some of the au pair favourites where we make regular placements are London & Greater London, Canterbury, Cambridge, Oxford, Bath, Brighton, Bournemouth, Colchester, Portsmouth, Southampton, Liverpool, Manchester, Edinburgh, York and Harrogate.

Au pairs in the countryside or in a village usually settle very well if they have access to a car, also in their spare time, and are close to a town or city.

We also often have requests from au pairs to be in coastal towns, especially those known for good language schools such as Margate and Ramsgate. We also get requests for Hastings, Blackpool, Norfolk, trendy Brighton (again), but also the picture-postcard villages of Devon and Cornwall are popular with au pairs.

The location of the host family is often very important to an au pair, especially before arrival. We always try to explain that we try to match people, not places, but we do appreciate that the location plays a bit part, especially for some candidates.

Pictures this, a Spanish au pair, who at home can walk out of her house every evening and meet up with friends outside her front door, walk straight into town/city center and meet up with yet more young people, for example in places like our popular short break destination Barcelona, would find it hard to settle in the English countryside, where the car must be used for every journey and meetings are more likely to be planned in advance.

In general, the above applies to Spanish au pairs, Italian au pairs and Turkish au pairs the most. Also, if you have travelled to Turkey for example, you may have noticed what it would be like to live in the ‘Turkish countryside’. It is mostly empty, the main exceptions being elderly people, who continued to live in the countryside whilst the younger generation moved into town. So for a Turkish au pair, the countryside brings up pictures of old people growing vegetables, so not very appealing for an au pair experience!

In general our most flexible au pairs are our German au pairs and our Dutch au pairs. They are very open and often already speak good English. This means they are less daunted by the ‘task’ of making friends and also they tend to be confident drivers, so provided they can have use of the car, they are usually quite flexible about their location.

French au pairs from small towns, countryside or Alpine regions (!) are also usually fine with a less urban location.

We also often have au pairs who ask to be placed with a family with horses. ‘Horse au pair’ is getting more popular for girls who want to be like a live-in groom with the chance to do lots of horse riding but usually the au pairs are happiest placed in a family where they can look after children and help with the horses also. So far we placed Dutch au pairs and German au pairs with interest in horses and our Swedish au pair agency tells us that many of their candidates love riding too!

And then we have many male au pairs, also usually very flexible about the location and confident drivers. Au pair couples are mostly placed in rural locations, as these are the homes where often one au pair can help with the children and the other au pair can help in the garden and with the animals for example. They have each other for company and will be less concerned about meeting other au pairs.

Final note on location, no matter where you are placed, smartaupairs will help you to find au pair friends nearby. We share an online service www.aupair2aupair.com and every au pair who is placed though our service received a passport to register. This allows you to search by postcode which au pairs are close to you and contact them to arrange a meeting. This service is shared with all member agencies from the British Au Pair Agencies Association, so we have au pairs on this service from more than 25 agencies making it a safe place to meet other au pairs, first online and then in person!