Nadine came to live with our family as an au pair in September 2010. We live near Edinburgh in Scotland with our four small children David (6), Robbie (4), John (2) and Anna (10 months). Both my husband and I are surgeons and have busy and unpredictable jobs so we thought having an au pair would be great to give additional help at the beginning and end of the day which are often the busiest times. Nadine has been a joy since the day she arrived. She is friendly, helpful, warm and smiley. Within days of her arrival none of us could imagine life without her.
Nadine is kind and caring with the children. She balances the juggle between being loved and popular with being respected and in charge perfectly. She has spent time getting to know each of the children individually and has a different relationship with each one. With David our eldest she uses a point system which she devised to motivate him to eat well and behave nicely in order to earn points. When he reached 200 he was able to choose an activity to do together with Nadine. They took the bus into town and went ice skating in Winter Wonderland before visiting the German market and tasting foods and chatting to people in her native language. It would have been easy to reward him with a toy or a sweet but he will never forget the magical experiences of days out like that which is much better motivation for him to keep behaving well. Robbie was quite unsettled when I went back to work from maternity leave shortly after Nadine arrived and his behaviour could be challenging. Nadine was understanding and patient and he has now settled into a great routine. She always has time to read to the children, to do jigsaws and to run around having fun. When John our youngest son was learning to walk and talk Nadine took delight in teaching him new words and being proud of his latest achievement. One of his first words was ‘Dine’ which was always said with a huge smile whenever she entered the room! Nadine has helped to look after baby Anna since she was 6 months old. Despite having little experience with small babies she has taken this in her stride and is often to be seen with little Anna on her hip. She is confident with looking after her and takes her outside for lovely long walks whenever possible. I sometimes hear my husband asking her for advice about what she thinks is wrong with Anna if she cries!
Nadine came to Scotland with a clear plan of what she wanted to achieve in her year here. She is keen to study either medicine or psychology and has taken English classes and passed the Cambridge English exam. She is currently studying for the TOEFL exam. Her spoken English is now superb and she constantly reads books in English asking about unusual expressions or vocabulary to stretch herself. She is undertaking voluntary work in the village we live in during the day spending time with older people and helping to get groceries etc, helping out in the primary school nursery and working with children with learning difficulties and has volunteered to help at the hospitals where we both work. She has spent time gaining work experience to help her to choose which course to study and has been constantly trying to gain new experiences and enhance her CV.
Within the village she is popular with friends babysitting for other families and helping out. For someone so young Nadine has so much initiative and responsibility. She has embraced everything about joining a new family and making new friends in a new city. She plays in a ladies football team on a Monday, teaches teenagers hockey on a Thursday and regularly goes out to the cinema with friends. She is kind and thoughtful and always remembers the little things that are important to the children.
In summary I think that Nadine is the perfect example of what can be achieved by an au pair taking a gap year. She has combined living and working with a family with making friends and experiencing a new culture and strengthening her CV and becoming fully fluent in English which will be an asset in future. She has transformed our lives enormously and we will miss her terribly when she goes. We already talk about holidays we will take in the future and what it will be like for her to come to come back and visit us as the children grow. I think of her like a special member of our family and we joke that maybe one day my daughter will go to Germany to be an au pair for Nadine’s children!
My Experiences as an Au Pair
After finishing school in spring 2010 I decided to go to a foreign country in order to improve my English, to gain new experiences and also to do something different from studying. I was also pretty sure about coming over as an au pair because I like being with children. I grew up in a big family, used to be a coach for kids and babysat a lot in my free time. I realized that I enjoy being with children and that’s why I decided to be an au pair in Scotland.
I can still remember the very first day when I arrived in September 2010. It was chaotic and loud as the family were in the middle of building their new kitchen, which you can imagine was quite a task with 4 small children to look after. It was completely different from what I was used to but the family welcomed me with such warmth that I had the feeling that I would be prepared for whatever might come. They showed such genuine interest in me and my life in Germany that I felt I wasn’t alone, even though I had left all my friends and my family behind me.
At the beginning the children took time to get used to me, as always when children meet a new person in their life, especially one who is living with them. But after only one week, they would come to tell me stories or ask me to play with them, showing that they were comfortable with me being around. It was quite hard for David (6) to talk to me because he is quite shy with new people and he had been through lots of changes in his life. So I took my time with him, didn’t put him under pressure and let him come to me. Soon I discovered that he likes listening to classical music and as I used to play in an orchestra I had a few songs on my computer which I could show him. I think when I am looking back in time now, that that was the beginning of our friendship.
I feel that I have a great relationship with all the children. They listen to me and respect me, yet we are able to have fun and be silly together: making up songs and dances. Robbie and John are at an age where they are very inquisitive and I love teaching them new words and letters or how to count. They adore getting messy so we often do paintings or play outside splashing in puddles. I think they see me as a big sister who they can come to when they want help, advice or just a cuddle. Anna is adorable. When I came, she was only 6 months old and I have really enjoyed watching her grow and change as she starts to walk and crawl. I try to spend lots of time with her because with three noisy brothers around her she needs to have someone who is “listening” to her. I try to make sure the children have lots of different experiences so we go on trips to the zoo, walking in the hills or at Christmas we visited the German markets in the city centre and also went ice-skating.
It is always a busy week with 4 children, all having different characters and all having different requests and without the Nanny (Tamara) who helps as well, I could never give the children so much attention. I think it is so important for them having someone to talk to, to cuddle with or to play with as their parents have to work during the week. They need someone who they can trust and who they feel comfortable with and I think they have found that with me.
I have loved having the opportunity to come to a different country and learn all about another culture and lifestyle. Scotland is an amazing place and although I haven’t travelled around that much yet, I have really enjoyed walking in the Pentland Hills and visiting Glasgow and am looking forward to visiting the Isle of Arran with the family for a summer holiday. Of course I have also fallen in love with Edinburgh. It is such a beautiful, historical city and I have found all the people here to be so kind and helpful, that I feel very at home.
Attending English classes not only helped me to gain a Cambridge Certificate qualification, but it gave me the opportunity to meet other Europeans studying in the city. I have made some really good friends this way who I can go out for dinner and dancing with. I think it is so important to develop my social life here as it means I can be fully integrated into the community, instead of just being here to work. I also have been able to learn a little Spanish along the way.
Being here is helping me to grow so much as a person but also it is helping to shape my future career. I have been so lucky that my host parents both work as surgeons. This has given me the opportunity to accompany them to the hospital to watch operations and see what it is like to be a doctor; which is invaluable experience for me as I wish to study medicine after I have finished my time as an au pair. They have also been able to arrange work experience for me in a local Nursing Home which will help with my university application and also gives me a further chance to meet and work with different Scottish people.
The family have many friends within the village and I have started babysitting for a few different families which means I know a lot of the children’s friends. This strengthens my relationship with them. I also have made friends of my own whom I play football and hockey with or sometimes go to the gym. I feel like I am a real part of the community here.
Finally I just want to thank especially my host parents, their children and the nanny who helped me so much settling in and giving me a real family. I am convinced that we will still keep in touch once I am back in Germany and go on holiday together every year.
My plan is to send all my sisters to the Murray Family because I will never forget my time here and I want to share all my wonderful experiences with my siblings.
Thank you so much for everything,