Paula
Photo: Paula Kiesewetter
Living your life as au pair in America is for everyone different. For some people it is amazing and for others it is much harder. If you’re considering of becoming an au pair you might want to know how it is to be an au pair. Thats why I decided to interview au pairs and ask them about their experience. This week I interviewed Paula Kiesewetter. She went from the heat in Texas to the rain in Seattle, Washington. She extended her stay with 9 months and is almost going home. One of her best tips she gave was ‘Fake it until you make it and don’t work yourself up on little things’. I wonder what she means with that.

Howdy all y’all out there! Can you guess where I spend my first year as an Aupair? I am Paula and I’m 20 years old. I started my au pair adventure in Texas in December 2017. If my calculation is right I’m in the US for almost one and a half years already, isn’t that crazy?

I was born and raised in Germany and graduated from High School there in June 2017. I’ve always been and always will be a free spirit so it was just a easy decision for me to go abroad after graduating. The question I asked myself back then was: should I go backpacking (being sweet 18) and risk losing all my money in a short amount of time due to traveling risks OR should I be an Aupair? I didn’t had to think long because I’ve always been with and around kids.

As the decision was made everything happened pretty quickly and I found my first host family in Central Texas. I took care of two lovely girls, they were 1 and 3 when I arrived. After living with them for 6 months my heart was absolutely not ready to already finish this journey so I decided to stay longer. Long story short, I extended for 9 months with a new host family in Seattle. I’m already half way through my extension and to be honest, I love my boys (4 and 6 years old) and living in this part of the country but I’m finally ready to go back home and get my life going. 

Why did you became an au pair?

First and foremost I wanted to get out of my home country, my home town. Don’t get me wrong, I love it there and I love my family but I just felt like I was stuck there with no chance of survival. I basically worked with kids my whole entire life, so it was just a natural decision to come here and make use of that. I have to say, so far I’ve not been disappointed. All the hard work paid off and is paying off everyday when you see your kids laughing. My second reason is: I knew that I wanted to start studying but I didn’t know what I want to study. So I took a break where I still make awesome experiences but also have time to figure myself and my vision for future out.

What do you like most about your host family?

Wow, that’s a hard one. In general I would say that they gave the au pair program another chance with having me because they already had two really bad experiences with previous au pairs. But there are also the little things like including me for dinner, in their daily struggles, appreciating me and the work and effort I do every day.

What is the biggest struggle you’ve had so far?

Adjusting to the Texan heat. No just kidding! I think my biggest struggle so far was speaking up when I had issues with rules or the schedule. I’m a very peaceful person and I hate fights. It’s very hard for me to tell others when I struggle with decisions they made.

It’s especially hard as an au pair in my opinion, as you don’t want to seem unthankful or rude, living at their house and all those things. But after all, I got myself together and spoke to my host parents (Texas and Washington) and we worked out everything together in a very positive way. So if you decide to be an au pair and you struggle, just talk, they’re just humans too and will understand. I also noticed that they sometimes just don’t realize that the schedule for example is maybe a little unfair because they’re so busy themselves, so they even appreciate it if you have an idea to make it more efficient!

What is your favorite part of America?

To be honest, I don’t think there is one American thing that I can call my absolute favorite. I found my love for peanut butter and oatmeal here, my love for traveling by myself and so much more.

A friend once told me a very good metaphor to describe the difference between talking to an American and a German. You have to imagine that Americans are like peaches: they are super sweet, soft and that makes them very easy to approach and talk to in the first place (small talk…). But when it comes to really building a good, consistent friendship it is really hard work, like the seed of a peach. On the other hand, Germans are like coconuts. It’s pretty hard to crack their shell in the first place, but if you do, you get to the sweet inside and a lifelong friendship.

That is what I love about Americans, they are so open minded, accepting and interested in almost everything! It’s the perfect country for me as I’m a really social person and I just love talking to people.

And what are you still not used too?

After being in the US for almost 1,5 years I’m pretty ‘Americanized’ I’d say… but actually, there are a few things I will never ever get used to: Americans are awful drivers. I know it’s a little bit of a stereotype but it is so true! Another thing that really bothers me (especially in our job) is, that Americans pamper their kids SO MUCH. Parents are way too over-protective and don’t let their kids do anything by themselves.

My boys here are 4 and 6 and every time we’re on the playground they are surprised that I don’t run after them everywhere they go. They really enjoy it and to be honest I see so much improvement. Especially in my 4 year old since he gets to play and climb by himself. Also, failure and how to deal with is such a big part of growing up and if you don’t have those little disappointments as a kid you will never be able to deal with the real problems as an adult.

What was your favorite trip?

At the very end of my first year I did a very spontaneous road trip in Texas with my host families next au pair. My hosts told me that they are going to travel with the girls for 10 days when the new au pair is already there and my instant reaction was: let’s ask her if she wants to go on a road trip to Houston with me. She was super excited so I started planning. We went from our home in Central Texas to Houston, to Galveston and on our way back we stopped in Austin. We didn’t do too much, it was just the best trip because I found my perfect travel buddy in her. Sometimes you have to stop searching to find what you’re looking for right? The best thing is: we will do another trip down the west coast together in July!

Which app is fundamental for an au pair?

I’d say all the apps for traveling and transportation such as: Uber, Lyft, Hopper, Airbnb, Couchsurfing, Bird… I think everybody needs to find their own combination of these. Also Ticketmaster and SongKick are great for finding concerts.

What are you going to do when you go back home?

I always knew that I want to start studying when I go back home to Germany, the only question was: What am I going to study? Just recently I solved this question, I’m going to study Cultural Engineering in Magdeburg and I couldn’t be more excited. I applied and I already have my room, so if everything works out as planned I’m set for coming back! Also, planning all this here is very crucial for me as I will be coming back around September 15th and the semester will start October 1st. So, everybody: cross your fingers for me and knock on wood!

What is your ultimate tip for future and current au pairs?

My ultimate tip is: Fake it until you make it and don’t work yourself up on little things! Of course almost everybody is a lot or a little home sick in the beginning. But if you just tell yourself you’re going to make it and you admit to your decision than you’re already very close to finding your happiness here and in what you’re doing!

Find Paula on Instagram: @paulaak_

Previous au pair stories

Saskia: ‘Nobody here will judge you’

Daniela: “They will always be my heroes”

Eva: ‘I felt a little bit stuck in my small hometown’I

Caterina: ‘Don’t think about it! Just Jump in it!’

Valisha: ‘I made the decision a few months before I left’

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