Aupairing in a host family in an orient country where its culture and the way people live are totally different can be a challenge for most overseas youngsters who are from western countries. It is an exploration and can be an adventure as well.
Just like life in any normal families, there can be disagreements over issues from house chores to big family decisions. These divisions are more likely to occur when there is a mixed cultural backgrounds in a family. However there is no need of fear of any disagreements provided that we can find a way to deal with them.
Here are some real cases showing the most common ‘conflicts’ that Aupairs might have with their Chinese host families and we have some tips to help Aupairs overcome these possible culture shocks. (Names are nicked)
Working-and-off Time Boundary-Clear vs Blurred
Aupair Mary met an agreement with host family on her timetable. Once on her day-off, she didn’t get up as early as she normally does on weekday. The parent of her host family woke her up, asking her to play with her child. While Mary thinks she deserves to have her own plans during off time.
In most western countries, the boundary between working and non-working time is clear and westerns value privacy much more than Chinese do. Different concepts in terms of where to draw the line between duty and non-duty time as well as attitudes towards privacy can be a source of ‘conflict’ between aupairs and host family.
1. Making default timetable with host family but talk with host family in advance regarding possible arrangements in the event of any additional care work needed for their children.
2. Be frank to raise your concerns if there are anything you don’t agree with and keep updating plans with family if changes are expected to make for initial plan.
Immersion Learning vs Classroom Learning
One day Mary was showing the kid photos on phone, sharing her experience in America during her study. She also spends a lot of time playing games with the child. Both of them enjoy the way they have been doing. Yet, parents of the host family think this is not a way of learning and even think Mary is not serious about teaching English. They believe a ‘classroom-wise’ style is the real way of learning, having children sit down doing English reading and writing.
Partly due to Chinese education system, which has been largely grade-oriented, Chinese parents tend to focus on the outcome of exam. As a result, when it comes to English learning, they would assume grammatical knowledge, which normally include more reading and writing practice, more important than language application. That’s why classroom-style teaching is preferred by Chinese family.
1. Understand expectations of host family in terms of what they want their children benefit more and make teaching plans accordingly. This may end up with a ‘mixed’ style, where both classroom-learning and immersion learning are involved but time spent on each may differ depending on which has been expected more in the duration of aupairing.
2. Have a regular chat with parents to keep them updated about how child’s English has been progressing. That’s also the opportunity to tell which way (classroom
teaching/immersion learning) is more effective to improve English.
Direct Communication vs Indirect Communication
Having been with host family for one week, asked by program coordinator about her experience so far, Mary says she feels everything is fine on her end. While feedback from host family about Mary’s performance is not that positive, saying she’s not that willing to help do even light housework like washing dishes, she spends a long time having shower in bathroom and she doesn’t take English teaching seriously…though host family has kindly suggested Mary about their dissatisfaction, no changes have been made.
In Chinese culture, people tend not to give negative comments before individuals. It is not about they prefer saying bad words behind someone, the rationale is to avoid embarrassing the other. That’s why they chose the ‘indirect’ way to express their concern. While a straightforward complaint may be preferred by auparis who mostly come from western countries.
1. Be proactive. Even doing housework is not the main responsibility of aupairing, but you can always show your respect and appreciation to host family by just offering a favour as simple as helping cleaning the table after meals. You may not like washing dishes, then maybe just drying plates and help put in place while having a chat with them.
2. Honesty is always the rule of thumb. If you really don’t like any particular housework, tell host family in advance. But you may offer help to family in other ways.
3. Have a regular chart with family about what they think about your work as well as tell them your thoughts on auapring with them. It is an opportunity to give both sides time to reflect on how well you have been getting along with each other, does the plan you make before work well and should any changes be made. By doing this, solutions can be found before any ‘conflicts’ arise.
Having these tips in mind, hopefully, you will have some ideas about how to deal with host family should any ‘conflicts’ due to different culture understanding arise. We also hope having read this article, it will make you less worried about your stay in a Chinese host family and enjoy your Aupairing in China!