quinta-feira, 8 de maio de 2008

If you crash your host family’s car

Drive safe, always! Don’t drink and drive! Pay attention in the speed limits! If you are following these advices but you crash the car, be calm. It happens. Call to you host family and to your area coordinator as soon as you can. You must inform what happened even the fault is yours.

Your host family can ask you some money to fix the car, but there is a limit price. It’s around U$ 250. Pay it. Don’t forget to apologize and ask, as soon as you can, when you can use the car again.

Case: I have never crashed my host family’ car, but I almost did that at least twice. But a friend of mine, was not so luck as I was. Once, she was driving in a road and other car crashed in hers. It was not her fault but after this, her host family didn’t allow her to drive anymore. Actually, if she wants to go out, someone needs to give her a ride. It's not the most comfortable situation. In my point of view, it’s not fair.

quarta-feira, 7 de maio de 2008

Who will pay the gas?

Your host family is not obligated to pay gas for your personal use, but it’s really nice when they do. The only situation that they must pay gas is to go to school. Gas is really expensive in USA and some cars, specially the big ones, are not economic. So, ask them as soon as you can:

1) If I use your car, should I pay the gas?

2) Do you know the host family should pay the gas when I go to school?

3) If we are going to share the car, what we are going to do about the gas? Who is going to fill the tank?

Case 1: When I was in Clearwater (city in satate of Florida) living with my first host family, I used to share the car with them. Once I started doing a English course in an university far away from my house. My host mother complained about the money she was spending to fill the tank. At least 2 times I took the car with no gas to go to school and I needed to spend my own money. Unhappy with this situation, I talked to my coordinator to fix the problem.

Case 2: When I was in Charlotte (the biggest city in North Carolina), I had my "own" car, but I used it to drive the children to school and to other activities like swimming meetings. So, my host mother and I made a deal: every other week I was supposed to fill the tank. It’s kind of fair.

My advice is: make a dial before start driving your host family's car and be flexible.

terça-feira, 6 de maio de 2008

International driver's license?

Driver’s license (permission to drive) - Sometimes it’s necessary to get the state driver’s license to be included in your host family car’s insurance. When I arrived in Florida, I just had my international driver's license. To get my regional one, I made 2 tests: a multiple choice one and a practical one. It’s not difficult, but you need to study and drive carefully during the test. It’s important to tell: I didn’t know about it and didn’t have a lot of help when I arrived in USA, so I waited almost 2 months to start driving. So, ask to you host family before you leave your country or as soon as you can:

1) I just have my international driver’s license. Is it enough to be included in you car insurance?

2) When I arrive in USA, should I get a regional driver’s license to be included in your insurance? Can you help me to get my driver’s license in USA?

Good luck!

About the host family's car

Public transportation and car - If you are going to big cities like New York or Chicago, it is ok: you can use public transportation. If not, you will need a car just for you, to your personal use!!!!

You will need to go to school, to the movies, to the gym and so on. Sometimes you will need to do your nails, go to shopping, go to the doctor or dentist, meet your new friends and a lot of stuff. It’s really hard to go to the places without a car in USA. The public transportation it’s not good. Believe me: it’s really hard to share the car with your host family. A lot of au pairs and host families have conflicts because of this reason.
In my case, when I was in Charlotte (North Carolina) like an au pair, I could stay out all night long, but the car should be in my host family’s garage at 1 AM. It was terrible on weekends when I wanted to stay out a little bit later. So, ask them before:

1) Am I going to have my own car? Do I have a curfew (time to come back home or bring the car home)?

2) If I don’t have my own car, can I use yours to go out, to go to the gym?

Host family's call and questionnaire

Ok, when host families (usually the host mothers) start calling you, you can feel so nervous and excited that may be you will forget to ask very, very important questions about your future 12 months in USA.

Please, be happy but don’t think that you are going to a “Perfect World”, to a “Perfect Host Family” or going to have a “Perfect Life”. Forget about it and be prepared! Make a questionnaire to your host family and think what it’s important for you. Are you vegetarian and need special meals? Will your host family buy it for you? Will you need to use the host families’ car? Do they allow you? Do you like living with pets? What about if you need to take care of then?

Girls and guys, please talk to ex-au pairs and current au pairs. Listen about good and bad experiences. Learn with then. Don’t believe in people in agencies. They will try to show you only the good points. Ok, there are a lot of good points, but you need to be prepared to the bad ones. Be honest with yourself….You are leaving your country to take care of one, two, three, four, five or more children. I’m not exaggerating.

Pay attention: host families are choosing you, BUT you are choosing then too. May be you don’t have a good level of English to make questions on the phone, so you can send an e-mail.

In the next posting I will give you some tips to elaborate your questionnaire. Good luck!

sábado, 19 de abril de 2008

Welcome to the au pair world!

Hi! I was supposed to write about this au pair experience when I was in United States (from February, 2007 to February, 2008), but I didn't have enough time. One year later, I came back to my country and I will start doing that. I'm writing in English because everybody, all around the world, can read it. I really want to help you, current au pairs and future au pairs. Good luck!