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Foreign Exchange

Providing childcare in return for cultural experiences



They are everywhere—huddling together at the local coffee shop in Wilton Center, clustered by the door at restaurants around town, taking a spin class at the Y, and turning up in free English language classes across Fairfield County. If you listen carefully, you will hear their halted English as they try to communicate across different languages. Sometimes one will laugh and groan as they talk about the families with whom they live. Spies among us? Hardly. Wilton is being overrun by au pairs. 
 
Of course, you might be surprised to hear gossip that would rival “Desperate Housewives.” You may hear about the au pair whose friends broke the host family’s expensive car door in the first month on the job. The au pair who became the object of a husband’s affections—he would not stop texting the poor girl even after she was reassigned to a new family. Or the au pair whose charge burned a toy with the bedroom lamp, starting a small fire that brought emergency teams to the house. 
 
Don’t dare call them nannies. They will suddenly speak English with perfect clarity and describe with Websterian accuracy how au pairs differ. They say they are here in America to combine work in child care with a cultural and linguistic exchange. Jean Quinn, deputy director of the American Institute for Foreign Study overseeing Au Pair in America, explains that this cultural exchange is at the heart of the au pair concept; based on the French term meaning equals, it hinges on a reciprocal caring arrangement between the au pair and their host family. 
 
While au pairs come from all over the world, they share the same process. Working through government-sponsored agencies, they undergo extensive screenings and interviews with the agencies and host families prior to placement. After acquiring a J-1 Visa, some agencies also offer them training in America, which includes CPR, First Aid, basic child care, language, and even a driving course. An au pair from Brazil recalled that a police officer came to one of her classes to explain how to handle getting pulled over. 
 
Quinn noted that since 1986, Au Pair in America has assisted 90,000 au pairs in coming to America. All are in their late teens and early twenties; the vast majority of them are women. Most come from Western Europe. One German au pair with a family in town noted that working as an au pair is very popular in Germany. There is even a popular German television show highlighting au pair experiences in America. 
 
While each au pair has different personal reasons for choosing this path, there are common themes. One au pair, who worked here but has been re-matched to a Long Island family, wants to brush up on her English for a job promotion. However, she also wants the opportunity to travel abroad, learn a new culture and experience America for herself. She left a fiancé and job at home, and is not sure she wants to return there after she finishes her year here. 
 
Both Quinn and many au pairs admit that two of the biggest challenges are communication and managing expectations. Communication is often difficult both linguistically and personally, depending on the language skills of the au pair and the host family. Typically, the older, more experienced au pairs have a much better grasp of the nuances of American language and culture. 
 
Expectations regarding financial compensation, hours, responsibilities, and living arrangements are not always in synch on both sides. While au pairs generally earn about $200 a week, receive a free place to live with their host family, and often have access to a car, their situations vary depending on the family. Additionally, some families provide food and additional gas stipends, some don’t. The discrepancies are a consistent source of conflict.
 
Occasionally, conflicts result in re-matching an au pair with a new family. Despite careful screening and an extensive matching system designed to minimize potential conflicts, lack of personal communication, misunderstanding and personality clashes can result. There are times when re-matching is necessary.  
 
Despite the challenges, a large number of au pairs return for a second year, often with the same family. For many, they build lifelong relationships. Many return to America for school, relationships and work. As one au pair explains, “When you are putting the children to bed at night and they say, ‘I love you more than chocolate!’ you know it’s worth it.” 
 

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Profiles

Your Guides to Leading Local Professionals

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September 2018

On June 23, the Bruce Museum in Greenwich opens Expressionism in Print: The Early Works of Richard Haas, 1957 - 64 in the Arcade Gallery. The exhibition will be on display through October 21, 2018....

Cost: Free for members; $10 for non-members; $8 for seniors and students with ID

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

Inspired by the upcoming New York Fashion Week (September 5 - 12), the Wilton Historical Society is presenting a fashion exhibition "A Century of Style: 1860 - 1960", which will run...

Cost: suggested donation of $5 for non-member adults is welcomed

Where:
Wilton Historical Society
224 Danbury Road
Wilton, CT
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Website »

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The Wilton Rotary Club will again sponsor its traditional family carnival from Friday-Sunday, Sept. 14-16 at the corner of School Road and Route 7. The event is a fundraiser that benefits the...

Cost: Admission & parking free. unlimited rides $25. Individual ride tickets available

Where:
Wilton
, CT


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Explore three private gardens in Greenwich, Westport, and Wilton, open for self-guided tours to benefit the Garden Conservancy. Highlights include water features, terraced perennial gardens, a...

Cost: $7 per garden, children 12 and under free

Where:
Pixie Perennials
200 Nod Hill Road
Wilton, CT  06897
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Sponsor: The Garden Conservancy
Telephone: 888-842-2442
Contact Name: Open Days Program staff
Website »

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On June 23, the Bruce Museum in Greenwich opens Expressionism in Print: The Early Works of Richard Haas, 1957 - 64 in the Arcade Gallery. The exhibition will be on display through October 21, 2018....

Cost: Free for members; $10 for non-members; $8 for seniors and students with ID

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

Inspired by the upcoming New York Fashion Week (September 5 - 12), the Wilton Historical Society is presenting a fashion exhibition "A Century of Style: 1860 - 1960", which will run...

Cost: suggested donation of $5 for non-member adults is welcomed

Where:
Wilton Historical Society
224 Danbury Road
Wilton, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

Nature is on display in “A Reverence For Nature” with pieces that reflect the artists’ admiration of nature or the environment in a multitude of ways. Exhibiting artists include...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Nadia Martinez
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

On June 23, the Bruce Museum in Greenwich opens Expressionism in Print: The Early Works of Richard Haas, 1957 - 64 in the Arcade Gallery. The exhibition will be on display through October 21, 2018....

Cost: Free for members; $10 for non-members; $8 for seniors and students with ID

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

Inspired by the upcoming New York Fashion Week (September 5 - 12), the Wilton Historical Society is presenting a fashion exhibition "A Century of Style: 1860 - 1960", which will run...

Cost: suggested donation of $5 for non-member adults is welcomed

Where:
Wilton Historical Society
224 Danbury Road
Wilton, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

Nature is on display in “A Reverence For Nature” with pieces that reflect the artists’ admiration of nature or the environment in a multitude of ways. Exhibiting artists include...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Nadia Martinez
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

On June 23, the Bruce Museum in Greenwich opens Expressionism in Print: The Early Works of Richard Haas, 1957 - 64 in the Arcade Gallery. The exhibition will be on display through October 21, 2018....

Cost: Free for members; $10 for non-members; $8 for seniors and students with ID

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

Inspired by the upcoming New York Fashion Week (September 5 - 12), the Wilton Historical Society is presenting a fashion exhibition "A Century of Style: 1860 - 1960", which will run...

Cost: suggested donation of $5 for non-member adults is welcomed

Where:
Wilton Historical Society
224 Danbury Road
Wilton, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

Nature is on display in “A Reverence For Nature” with pieces that reflect the artists’ admiration of nature or the environment in a multitude of ways. Exhibiting artists include...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Nadia Martinez
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

FREE community event: Join Dawn Kurth, of No Kidding Nutrition (www.nokiddingnutrition.com) for a workshop sure to be of interest for anyone who's dealt with the six o'clock scramble or had one too...

Cost: Free

Where:
Martin House Workspace
69 Westchester Ave.
Pound Ridge, NY  10576
View map »


Sponsor: Martin House Workspace
Telephone: 914-764-3128
Contact Name: Erin Trostle
Website »

More information

On June 23, the Bruce Museum in Greenwich opens Expressionism in Print: The Early Works of Richard Haas, 1957 - 64 in the Arcade Gallery. The exhibition will be on display through October 21, 2018....

Cost: Free for members; $10 for non-members; $8 for seniors and students with ID

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

Inspired by the upcoming New York Fashion Week (September 5 - 12), the Wilton Historical Society is presenting a fashion exhibition "A Century of Style: 1860 - 1960", which will run...

Cost: suggested donation of $5 for non-member adults is welcomed

Where:
Wilton Historical Society
224 Danbury Road
Wilton, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

Nature is on display in “A Reverence For Nature” with pieces that reflect the artists’ admiration of nature or the environment in a multitude of ways. Exhibiting artists include...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Nadia Martinez
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Woodcock Nature Center plans Under the Harvest Moon Benefit Event Friday, September 21 One of the largest fundraisers of the year for Woodcock Nature Center, Under the Harvest Moon on Friday,...

Cost: $80/person

Where:
Woodcock Nature Center
56 Deer Run Rd
Wilton, CT  06897
View map »


Website »

More information

Wildlife trafficking generates more than $10 billion a year for transnational organized criminal networks. Join us to learn about the work our Nature Initiative is doing to further the strategic...

Cost: Free

Where:
Grace Farms
365 Lukes Wood Road
New Canaan, CT  06840
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Join Music on the Hill for "An Evening in Paris," its sixth annual auction fundraiser. All are welcome. The evening begins with a cocktail party and silent bidding, followed by a live...

Cost: $45

Where:
WEPCO Parish Hall
48 New Canaan Road
Wilton, CT  06897
View map »


Sponsor: Music on the Hill
Telephone: 203-529-3133
Contact Name: Music on the Hill
Website »

More information

On June 23, the Bruce Museum in Greenwich opens Expressionism in Print: The Early Works of Richard Haas, 1957 - 64 in the Arcade Gallery. The exhibition will be on display through October 21, 2018....

Cost: Free for members; $10 for non-members; $8 for seniors and students with ID

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

Inspired by the upcoming New York Fashion Week (September 5 - 12), the Wilton Historical Society is presenting a fashion exhibition "A Century of Style: 1860 - 1960", which will run...

Cost: suggested donation of $5 for non-member adults is welcomed

Where:
Wilton Historical Society
224 Danbury Road
Wilton, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

Nature is on display in “A Reverence For Nature” with pieces that reflect the artists’ admiration of nature or the environment in a multitude of ways. Exhibiting artists include...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Nadia Martinez
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

On June 23, the Bruce Museum in Greenwich opens Expressionism in Print: The Early Works of Richard Haas, 1957 - 64 in the Arcade Gallery. The exhibition will be on display through October 21, 2018....

Cost: Free for members; $10 for non-members; $8 for seniors and students with ID

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

Inspired by the upcoming New York Fashion Week (September 5 - 12), the Wilton Historical Society is presenting a fashion exhibition "A Century of Style: 1860 - 1960", which will run...

Cost: suggested donation of $5 for non-member adults is welcomed

Where:
Wilton Historical Society
224 Danbury Road
Wilton, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
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