Tag Archives: babysitting

Adventures of a German Au Pair in the United States – Finding a Way Back to the U.S.

hands of World Pixabay stokpic

Working My Way Back to the United States

My au pair time was officially over.  The realization hit me every day I was living back in Germany.  Even though I had started a new job as a kindergarten teacher that kept me pretty busy, I found myself reminiscing at least once a day about my life in California.  I missed it so much!

I felt bad about it because I was finally close to my best friends and family again, but then again my au pair stay had changed me and my life forever.  I had fallen in love with traveling the world, and even though I hadn’t been really good with settling in other places before my cultural exchange, my desire to leave Europe and immigrate somewhere far away grew ever bigger after my U.S. stay.  I am not the only person that felt like that; many of my au pair friends experienced this kind of travel fever.  Some of them eventually became flight attendants for long distance flights, just to get out of Germany every so often.  Even I applied for a position as a flight attendant once while being back in Europe.  

It happened in late 2010 when I had worked for more than a year in the kindergarten institution where I had been responsible for taking care of children between the ages of 7 months and 6 years.  Even though no one day was the same at work, I felt like I needed a break from my routine.  I was so very hungry for traveling on a consistent basis, specifically long distance, but it was just too costly to do so only for leisure.  Therefore, I looked up long distance flight attendant positions one night and found an opening for a well-known German airline. With no hesitations, I instantly applied, hoping to hear back from the company anytime soon.  My prayers were heard; I received an email with an invitation to a telephone interview.  I was beyond thrilled, imagining myself being up in the clouds already.  But, as life usually goes, all came different.  

One night in December 2010, my dad approached me.  In general this wasn’t really surprising since he usually liked to lecture me every once in a while about my life and the choices I made, but this time it was different.  I had been living with my parents since I had moved back from the United States due to the fact that I was unsure of where my future would take me. So until I had figured that out I could stay with them.  On this particular night then, my father came all the way up to my room, mentioning he wanted to talk to me.  All I thought at that moment was ‘Oh great, not another lecture I don’t want to hear at the moment.’ But he actually was about to nail it this time.  Without hesitation, he told me that he had noticed my being so unhappy for most of the time, and he wanted to know why.  So I told him straight to his face that I hated being back and I didn’t feel at home in Europe anymore!  I know those were harsh words that I threw at my father’s face, but I had been frustrated for a while with living back in Germany, with no clue how I could make my way back to the U.S..  

To my surprise, my dad was very understanding, and we had a really good conversation.  I told him that I knew that one of the ways of going back to the United States was to attend college there, which I had thought of for a while since I wasn’t very happy in my profession as a kindergarten teacher.  My father told me that if that was what I really wanted, he would help me make my dream a reality.  But he had one condition: I had to find a college major that would guarantee me a good career.  I cannot describe how relieved I was, first about having opened up to my dad and second of course about his response.  I instantly started researching schools in the Orange County area, specifically around Huntington Beach since I had been there on vacation in 2010 and had fallen in love with the laid-back lifestyle.  

I eventually found a college in Fountain Valley that I liked.  Over the next couple of days I gathered the paperwork together that I needed for the application and started filling it out.  I was super anxious when I did that because I was afraid that one piece of the wrong information would mess up all my chances of getting into college in the United States.  But luckily, my story had a happy ending.  In April 2011, when I was in Huntington Beach on vacation, I stopped by the college to ask them about my application process.  When the lady at the counter told me that I had been accepted to start attending school in the fall of 2011, I was beyond happy.  I was finally about to work my way back to the U.S., and this time, hopefully, without ever having to leave again…

To be continued…
(Next Wednesday: Read about Kathrin’s “living her dream” since being back in California)
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Image: Pixabay.com
Disclaimer: Names in the story may have been changed to protect people’s privacy
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Anne-KathrinAnne-Kathrin Schulte, is a contributor for CaliforniaGermans.com. She writes on her personal experience of the American Dream as well as on working as an au pair in CA. She was born and grew up in Düsseldorf, Germany, where she completed her degree as a state-approved Kindergarten teacher. After her au pair engagement in the US and a quick return to Germany she decided to attend university in California and moved back to the United States. She lives in Southern California since 2011.

If you would like to contact Anne-Kathrin, please send an email to californiagermans(at)gmail.com and place her name in the subject line.

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Adventures of a German Au Pair in the United States – My Life Back in Germany

berlin-pixabay

My Life Back in Germany After a Grand Welcome Back

It was bittersweet touching ground in Germany after an almost 12 hour flight. On the one hand, I was of course excited to see my family and friends again after more than a year away.  But, on the other hand, I was already homesick for California.  But for now I tried to keep a positive attitude and just enjoy seeing everybody.  And boy, did I see  everybody!  I mean, I knew that my parents were going to be there to pick me up, but I didn’t expect quite the entourage they had in tow with them.  

Before I was able to see everyone however I had one major challenge to face. A challenge, that every au pair I talked to had: going through German customs after a year of living in the United States.  Man, was I nervous once I had my four pieces of luggage loaded onto my cart!  I for sure believed that the customs officers would pull me over after seeing what I came back home with.  “Stay cool, they might not even notice you,” I kept telling myself.  But, yeah, how would they not notice me pushing a cart with all these suitcases piled up.  I reminded myself not to look at their faces when passing the officers.  I kept looking  straight ahead and just smiled, and “tadaa”!, I made it successfully through the customs without anyone going through my luggage.

I instantly relaxed after this burden fell of my shoulders and marched ahead towards the sliding doors that would open up to the arrival area.  Well, what can I say…, before I was able to spot anyone I just heard loud yelling from a crowd of people that came from the area I was supposed to go to.  I heard familiar voices especially my  dad’s, who always loved to sing the loudest back in the days when we all went to church together, so it wasn’t hard to identify his voice throughout all the yelling, and when I eventually turned my head toward the loud crowd’s direction, I spotted a whole bunch of familiar faces.  

I can barely remember how many of my closest friends and family actually made the effort to show up at the airport to welcome me, but I was positively overwhelmed with such an amazing turnout.  These people all just had come out because of me, me ‘little’ Kathrin who just got back from a longer trip to the U.S. I am not going to lie though; it felt really good to be the center of such attention once, just as if I had landed from a successful exploration trip to the moon or something like it.  Once I pushed the luggage cart towards where all the yelling and cheering came from, I finally realized that actually over sixteen people of my family and friends had gathered at the airport and waited for me to come through those sliding doors.  I was so happy to see all those faces and couldn’t wait to tell them about my adventures at my “Welcome home” party my parents threw for me that afternoon.

On the 15 minute car ride to my parents’ home I was excited to see what might have changed in my hometown since I had left more than a year ago.  But, to my honest surprise, not much had actually changed.  It dawned on me that while I had certainly grown up more throughout my au pair experience it didn’t mean that everything else in life had gone through changes as well.  The streets of Düsseldorf still mainly looked the same, and so did the house I grew up in.  This wasn’t a bad thing, I just kind of expected or rather had waited for things to be different since my own life had changed so drastically.

Once we arrived at the house I had grown up in, I let go of those thoughts and just enjoyed having good German cake while catching up with friends and family. Despite the jet lag I made it through the day until  the evening before I fell into bed and was fast asleep. The next couple of days went by pretty quickly. I met with all my friends who couldn’t be at the airport when I arrived and just had a great time catching up. But soon I realized that this wasn’t California anymore, and I had to get back on my feet.  Deep in my heart I was so homesick for the United States that I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it for long here in Europe. But at that moment, I had no idea of  how I would be able to move back to the United States.  

Once I started to fully understand that , I fell into a big hole.  I started being miserable and couldn’t find the motivation to apply for jobs. I kept complaining to my friends until one of them gave me the kick in the butt I needed at that time.  She was the one telling me to start applying now and that she wouldn’t want me to come up with any more excuses.  At  that same moment, she brought out her computer and told me: “Here you go; you won’t leave my house until you drafted an application and a resume.”  And boy, did she mean that!  She was sitting with me all afternoon and night, helping me to get back on my feet.  And thanks to her and her support, I was able to find a job as a kindergarten teacher in less than a week.  I knew that this wasn’t supposed to be my “last chapter in life” yet , but for now I had to settle until I was able to continue living my American Dream.

To be continued…
(Next Wednesday: Read about Kathrin’s search to find a way back to to a life in the United States)
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ImagePixabay.com
Disclaimer: Names in the story may have been changed to protect people’s privacy
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Anne-KathrinAnne-Kathrin Schulte, is a contributor for CaliforniaGermans.com. She writes on her personal experience of the American Dream as well as on working as an au pair in CA. She was born and grew up in Düsseldorf, Germany, where she completed her degree as a state-approved Kindergarten teacher. After her au pair engagement in the US and a quick return to Germany she decided to attend university in California and moved back to the United States. She lives in Southern California since 2011.

If you would like to contact Anne-Kathrin, please send an email to californiagermans(at)gmail.com and place her name in the subject line.

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Adventures of a German Au Pair in the United States – Time to Return to Germany

airplane-PixabayMy Last Three Weeks in California

The day that I had highly anticipated for over a month finally came – I could pack my bags and leave New York for good.  Even though it had been a time filled with lots of frustration and discomfort, it had also taught me to not give up and that what “doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  Safe to say, I was more than ready to leave and fly back to my happy place California.  I was excited for the sunshine, my friends, and, of course, my host family.  But before I actually made it on the plane back to “freedom”, I had one more sleepless night in Brooklyn, followed by a 5 am pickup that drove me to the airport, where I then had to repack my luggage since two of my bags were too heavy. Agh!  Back in those days one could check two bags for free and also bring two carry-ons.  I looked like one of those poor donkeys that have to carry people’s luggage up on mountains and along trails in countries like India or Latin America.  After I finally went through security and boarded the plane, I felt a long-lost relief.  I escaped my personal hell and was looking forward to my last three weeks in the United States.

I can’t really put into words what I felt when the plane finally touched down in San Francisco.  It was like a firework of happy feelings, mixed with a little bit of anxiety since I would be living under one roof with the new nanny of my host family. I briefly had met Nell before my move to New York.  She was a really nice girl, a little younger than myself, but definitely capable of filling in my spot and taking care of the kids.  She herself decided to leave her previous host family because they had resided in a really bad neighborhood with lots of crime and drugs.  She made a really good trade coming to Walnut Creek.  And we actually became good friends during my three-week stay in California.  She took me along when she was done working to meet up with her friends, and she also was so nice to drop me off at the Tattoo parlor to get my very first tattoo!  I always wanted to have one, and after all I had been through those last couple months I thought it was the perfect timing to get a tattoo that has a deep, personal meaning to me.

But before all this, I was anxious to see her taking care of “my” kids.  I am not going to lie, there were moments when I locked myself up in one of the bedrooms just to cry that this wasn’t my home anymore.  But even though I would have been able to stay with this family instead of going to NY, the day of leaving them would have come eventually anyways.  I just regretted not ending my au pair stay with them rather than moving to New York.  It was what it was, and it sometimes hit me hard, but I tried to stay positive.

I don’t quite remember if someone picked me up at the airport or if I took the train down from SF airport all the way to Walnut Creek, but since I had so much luggage I believe that either my former host mom or dad came to get me.  It is hard for me to remember what exactly I experienced on my first day back in California, but what I can recall is that I was so happy to see the kids again.  To me, the month-and-a-half apart felt like an eternity, especially seeing baby Carol now fully capable of walking by herself when she used to scoot over the floor on her bottom before.  I planned on making the most out of the last three weeks that I stayed in California, including lots of activities with the kids and meeting friends, as well as getting my long anticipated tattoo.

Just three days before I was about to leave the United States to move back to Europe, I had my tattoo appointment. Nell drove me to the parlor, leaving me there while she had to go back to work.  Nervously I was waiting for my turn. I had actually been to the parlor a couple of days before my appointment to talk about the design which I had drafted on a sheet of paper: an alignment of stars and lines intertwining.  To me that design meant that if someone is going through a bad time, there is always light behind the clouds.  I decided to get the tattoo on my right wrist, but I was really afraid of the pain.  In the end it wasn’t actually as bad as expected, and I was super happy with it once it was done.

Later that afternoon, Nell picked me up again, and we drove home together to have dinner with our host family.  I was trying to hide my tattoo from them at first since they are a little conservative, but eventually my sleeve rolled up and Anne saw it.  I never forget how she stared at it incredulously and said: ”Your mother is going to kill me!”  I roared with laughter when she said this, but also felt so relieved that from that moment on I didn’t have to hide it anymore.  

It was a good last time together with the family before I had to leave.  I was dreading the day that I had to go back to the airport, I really didn’t want to go back home.  On the other hand though I must say I was also excited to see my friends and family in Germany again. It was confusing… With lots of mixed feelings, I said goodbye to my host family. This time for a longer while I knew and stepped on the plane going back to Europe.  I didn’t really consider Germany my home anymore, I was so happy here in California that I already started thinking about ways to come back.  But that is different story I will tell another time…

To be continued…
(Next Wednesday: Read about Kathrin’s life back in Germany after her au pair experience)
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ImagePixabay.com
Disclaimer: Names in the story have been changed to protect people’s privacy
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Anne-KathrinAnne-Kathrin Schulte, is a contributor for CaliforniaGermans.com. She writes on her personal experience of the American Dream as well as on working as an au pair in CA. She was born and grew up in Düsseldorf, Germany, where she completed her degree as a state-approved Kindergarten teacher. After her au pair engagement in the US and a quick return to Germany she decided to attend university in California and moved back to the United States. She lives in Southern California since 2011.

If you would like to contact Anne-Kathrin, please send an email to californiagermans(at)gmail.com and place her name in the subject line.

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Adventures of a German Au Pair in the United States – From the Hills to the City

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From The Hills to The City- My Move to the Big Apple

While I am still in touch with my host family today and loved living with them in California, times weren’t always bright during my au pair stay.  I do not want to go into further details about what exactly happened due to privacy reasons, but there was a time where my family and I decided it would be best for everybody if I transitioned to a different family.  This happened in June 2009, a time where I thought things had passed for the better, but unfortunately, I was wrong.  

Life isn’t always rainbows and sprinkles, I am sure we all know that.  My host family and I went through a hard time together, but we made it through and I was debating of extending my stay with the family for another nine months after my one year USA anniversary in August 2009.  We discussed it together, and in the end, I was the one who had to move on.  

It was hard to accept the thought that I would not be the one anymore driving the kids to school, or watching the baby, who could finally walk, develop into a big girl, or just living with the family any longer.   Since I was very upset about the events, I decided not to stay with the family until August but rather transition to a new situation sooner than later.  

As soon as I informed my host family and my au pair agency about it, I deeply regretted this step.  Not just because I loved this family so much, but also because of how poorly the au pair agency treated me during the transition process.  There was no understanding of my side, all I got from them was pressure to find a new family in two weeks, otherwise I would have to leave the country and move back to Germany.  I never forget this one particular time when the agency called me and asked me why I had rejected the families that had contacted me to become their au pair in the couple of days before this call.  I explained to the lady on the phone that one of the families talked poorly about their current au pair and seemed really harsh, and I did not intend to live with someone like that for another year.  One other family was living in the middle of nowhere, something I also didn’t want to do.  Instead of understanding, all I received  from the agency’s side  were tough words that I would better find a new family soon and not be “too picky.”

While the lady of the au pair agency was talking to me, I was crying and just thought to myself that I have to be picky since I am the one who is here alone with no family, therefore I want to find someone who I have a good feeling for.  The last words this wonderful person told me on the phone were “too dry off my tears and better look happy when you leave this phone call and go back to take care of the kids.”  That was the tip of the iceberg.  I was devastated already, and then to receive even more pressure from someone, who is supposed to help me, pushed me totally over the edge.  I lost all belief in my au pair agency, thinking they only care about the families since they were the paying customers, and that us au pairs were only the merchandise.  I still get a little upset and angry about it just writing this, because I don’t feel that I was being treated fairly or supported at all.  

After the call, I tried to get my act back together, but it was hard to pretend everything was OK in front of the kids when everything I wanted to do was just cry.  One or two days after that incident, a family contacted me with three boys who lived in Brooklyn, New York.  Once the mom told me where they resided, I got a little excited.  Living really close to the big apple sounded pretty appealing and fun to me.  At the same time, I started emailing with a family in Connecticut, who also had two children, one of them being a little baby girl.  This family sounded like a really great fit, the mom was a professor at Yale University but currently a stay-at-home mom, who would help me with taking care of the little one.  On the other hand, I really got hooked on the thought of moving to and living in New York City.  I thought back and forth of what to do, knowing now that I would be moving to the East Coast, just not sure exactly where to.  

If I lived in Connecticut, I would still be able to go and visit New York for a weekend to explore the city.  I also could attend a class at Yale, which would be a great experience.  On the other hand, if I lived in NYC, I could see the ball drop at Times Square on New Year’s Eve, I could hang out in Central Park on the weekends, and I could probably go and see a couple of plays on Broadway. In the end, I decided to move to Brooklyn. I didn’t know by that time that this would be another decision I would deeply regret soon, but at that moment, all I could think of was “The City” and all it had to offer.  I was being matched with the family, and I was beyond relief that the transition process was finally over and I didn’t have to deal with the agency anymore.  

I had another five days left in California that I would enjoy with my friends and host family and I wanted to make the most out of it before it was time to say goodbye CA, hello NY!

To be continued…
(Next Wednesday: Read about Kathrin’s time in New York)
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Image: pixabay.com
Disclaimer: Names in the story have been changed to protect people’s privacy

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Anne-Kathrin Anne-Kathrin Schulte, is a contributor for CaliforniaGermans.com. She writes on her personal experience of the American Dream as well as on working as an au pair in CA. She was born and grew up in Düsseldorf, Germany, where she completed her degree as a state-approved Kindergarten teacher. After her au pair engagement in the US and a quick return to Germany she decided to attend university in California and moved back to the United States. She lives in Southern California since 2011.

If you would like to contact Anne-Kathrin, please send an email to californiagermans(at)gmail.com and place her name in the subject line.

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Adventures of a German Au Pair in the United States – Making new Friends

Friends Kathrin2

Every New Friend is a New Adventure- Making New Friendships in the United States

I adjusted pretty quickly to my new lifestyle consisting of 10-hour days that included running errands, taking care of the kids, and doing light housekeeping.  Even though I enjoyed spending time with my host family and having family dinners with them, something was missing for me.  I needed friends.  I have always been a person who didn’t like to be alone that much and I have friends around me whenever I can.  

When I was living back in Europe, my friends and I had weekly movie nights and coffee dates, something I wanted to have in the United States as well.  I didn’t hesitate for long and started to look into my options of how to meet new people.   Luckily, my au pair area director provided me with a list of all au pairs that were living close to my neighborhood and I picked the number of two girls, who were living in Walnut Creek as well.  Before dialing their numbers though I started thinking, “What if they think I am a total creep?  What if they think I am weird?”  But then I thought “Wait a minute, they came here all by themselves as well and must know how it feels trying to make new friendships.  Maybe they have called someone randomly as well?”  That gave me the courage to eventually dial the number of a girl named Fran not knowing at that time that this particular phone call would turn into a friendship that would last even longer than the one-year exchange stay in the United States.

While the phone was still ringing on the other end I was thinking how I would introduce myself without embarrassing myself, but my thoughts were interrupted by the voicemail that I had reached.  I left Fran (as she was called by everyone) a message asking her to call me back, and then I went on with my day. I didn’t think much more about the call until the next day when I came home from picking up the kids.  My host mum, Anne, greeted me with a note in her hand, telling me that a certain Fran had called, asking for me.  Inside of me I stroke a pose “Yes!” but outside I played it cool and headed right to the phone to return the call.  This time I reached Fran right away, she had a really nice voice which instantly made me feel comfortable talking to her.  She invited me over to her house that following Friday for a movie night together with two other girls, who worked as exchange nannies as well.  Easy to say, I was excited and very much looking forward to that night.  

A couple years ago, I would have never dreamt of picking up the phone and calling total strangers to meet up with them for movie nights.  I used to be a pretty shy person, and it took me a while to warm up to people.  I still have that in me, but I am more open and eager to approach new individuals.  And, I am definitely not as shy as I used to be, which is partly due to the fact that I moved all by myself half across the world.

Social Get-Togethers with other German Au Pairs

My week went on with fulfilling my everyday duties, but everything had a different twist since I had the outlook of meeting new girls in my area.  On that particular Friday night, I packed some snacks and lots of enthusiasm and drove over to Fran’s house.  Her place was also in a very cute, quiet neighborhood.  As I heard footsteps coming to the door after I had rung the bell, my heart started beating wildly.  Usually, it takes seconds to make or break a first impression, and I definitely didn’t want to screw my chances of a new friendship that quickly.  “Just act normal, just be you,” I told myself.  The door opened, and a very friendly, petite blonde girl greeted me with a very warm welcome and hug.  Oh boy was I relieved!  Fran guided me into the living room, where two other girls were already sitting on the couches.  One of them was Mina, who I also became really close friends with throughout the year.  Actually, Mina and I recently met in May 2015 in San Diego when she was visiting the States on vacation.  Mina, Fran, and I clicked pretty quickly, even though we had an age difference of six years.  But that all didn’t matter since we shared the same cultural values and experiences.  It felt really good to know that there were these two girls who have lived through the same fears and concerns, but now we had each other to gather new experiences together.  At the end of the night, Fran and I had made plans to visit San Francisco together the next day, one of many more fun trips we did during our au pair stay.

The au pair phone list however wasn’t the only opportunity for me to meet new people.  Back at the time in 2008, I previously had joined a German social network for students, which provided several interactive groups that members could join.  Throughout my research, my focus fell on one specific group in particular.  It was somewhat called like “Weekly German Au Pair Meetup at Starbucks in Downtown Walnut Creek.”  Meeting new people and having good coffee at the same time, what’s not to like?  I instantly had joined this group and found out that it met every Wednesday night in downtown Walnut Creek, no more than a 10-minute drive away from my home.  Luckily, my new friends Mina and Fran had already attended this meeting, so for my first time we all went together.  I was amazed to see how many German au pairs were actually living in and around the area.  There were nights when we were about 20 people!  It was so much fun to connect to so many new individuals from the same culture, yet we were all different but all in the United States for the same reason.  That really helped people to bond easily.  

Thankfully, I can say that I wasn’t alone for a long time and made a bunch of new friends fairly quickly.  Many of those friends I am still in touch with through social media, and it is very interesting to follow up on how each others’ lives have evolved after working as au pairs in America.

To be continued…
(Next Wednesday: Read about Kathrin’s challenges and move to New York City.)
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Image: Copyright©Anne-Kathrin Schulte; Edited by CaliforniaGermans;
Disclaimer: Names in the story have been changed to protect people’s privacy

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Anne-Kathrin Anne-Kathrin Schulte, is a contributor for CaliforniaGermans.com. She writes on her personal experience of the American Dream as well as on working as an au pair in CA. She was born and grew up in Düsseldorf, Germany, where she completed her degree as a state-approved Kindergarten teacher. After her au pair engagement in the US and a quick return to Germany she decided to attend university in California and moved back to the United States. She lives in Southern California since 2011.

If you would like to contact Anne-Kathrin, please send an email to californiagermans(at)gmail.com and place her name in the subject line.

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