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Reclusive au pair

(8 Posts)
Lokina Wed 02-Mar-16 16:48:34

We have a new au pair and I am a bit unsettled by how uninterested in her new surroundings she seems to be! We've had au pairs before and they have all been keen to get out into the local area as soon as they've arrived. A couple took language lessons and made friends that way, a couple spoke good English already so didn't do lessons but had another interest through which they made friends, e.g. gym.

This one arrived at the weekend and has yet to leave the house. We live in the centre of our town and have shown her how to walk from house to shops. The kids are older so walk themselves to and from school.

She is very quiet, though speaks excellent English. She isn't going to take language lessons (no need) and appears to have no interests. She asks no questions about anything. Before she came, I gave her the details of the local Facebook au pairs group and suggested she join - on arrival I asked if she had, or if she'd found anything else she wanted to do in our town, to which the answer was "I haven't really done any research". We've told her about trains to London and so on but she also shows no interest in exploring London.

When we interviewed her, she asked questions about the kids and was reasonably chatty. I was expecting someone independent with some get up and go!

I am at a loss. When we speak to her, she is completely impassive. She doesn't acknowledge what you've said, smile, or anything. Just gives monosyllabic answers. It is impossible to tell whether she is happy, sad, annoyed, or what. She is a northern European, early 20s. Has lived away from home before but hasn't been an au pair before. We've given her our usual printed set of dos and don'ts, and tasks we'd like her to do. Some of these have been done but not well, e.g. dishwasher is unstacked but then items not all put away (you only need to open the kitchen cupboards to work out where things go), and the dirty glasses that were in the sink not then stacked into the now-empty dishwasher (or just washed up).

I've been back home from work during the day and have found her still in PJs in bedroom doing something on laptop. House exactly as we left it in the morning, kids at school. I asked if she was homesick and she said no.

I don't know what to do!

McAhuna Wed 02-Mar-16 18:01:39

Not had an au-pair before, but it does seem very early days. If I have read correctly she has been with you no more than 5 days? Barely time to un-pack properly, let alone visited London and established a network of friends. However, if she hadn't left the house after a month it would give me cause for concern.

The latter part of your post appear to be of more concern. Is she perhaps unhappy with some part of the arrangement? Her room? Her food? Just a thought, she may be struggling to raise a difficult subject, just as you are?

Lokina Thu 03-Mar-16 09:07:55

I wouldn't expect her to have visited London and made friends yet, but I would expect her to show some interest in leaving the house, for example to have a look around the town, see what there is to do. The role is very cushy with us - basically just keeping young teenagers company after school and doing a bit of housework (tidy kitchen, fold laundry, etc). So there is nothing to do for most of the day and I find it really odd that in that situation in a new country, someone would not want to explore their new surrounds.

Room is a large double with large TV. Food - we've asked her to let us know if she'd like anything in particular so we can get it, she hasn't asked.

She may just be a real loner and therefore not bothered about making friends, but on the strength of the past few days I'm genuinely concerned that she might just sit in her bedroom all the time. She could do that back at home!

I don't know what to say really. I think if she was showing some initiative in the house, e.g. asking "what can I do to help you today?", I probably wouldn't mind, but she doesn't. Just does exactly what is asked and nothing else.

Drinkstoomuchcoffee Thu 03-Mar-16 09:13:17

Does she have any money? Maybe she can't afford to go out.

Karoleann Thu 03-Mar-16 13:24:00

How old is she? Maybe she just hasn't grown out of the grumpy teenager phase....some cultures can be naturally more dour that others.

Initially, I'd hold back a bit and let her engage with you, don't feel obliged to make polite conversation with over dinner and let her make the effort.

Our first au pair was naturally less gregarious than our others and I did have to make more of an personal effort to get her out to find friends that our subsequent ones. I arranged for her to have coffee with a couple of friend's au pairs and took her out to au pair night at the local pub (which was an experience!) Although she didn't become great friends with the people she met initially, it helped just to have a friendly face and made going out a bit less daunting.

I'd be more worried about her interaction with the children, if she's being monosyllabic with them as well that's not on.

Everything else just mention on a task by task basis, rather than bringing up her mistakes all at once. I find mine usually take a least a month to bed in.

Lokina Thu 10-Mar-16 14:13:34

It's been nearly 2 weeks now. AP is really not doing very much, despite having been given a list of things to do on specific days. With previous au pairs, once they've had the list, they have just got on with it. This one only seems to do things if I say specifically each day "please do XYZ today", and if I don't, she does nothing.

I need to speak to her but don't know what to say! I don't want to be too hard but I do want to communicate the fact that this is not going to work out if she doesn't show a bit more initiative. If I had gone, in my early 20s, to be an au pair, I'm fairly sure I would have worked out that I wasn't being paid to sit in bed watching TV all day. None of our previous APs have been like this. AIBU to think this one is a bit lazy?

MrsFogi Thu 10-Mar-16 20:58:23

I don't think speaking to her is being hard. I think you need to be straight with her as soon as possible so that she is clear on what is expected and clear on the consequences if she does not do as expected - this can be done in a straightforward way. Lazy or totally does not get what being an au pair involves and she will either get with the programme or needs to go sooner rather than later. There are plenty of good au pairs out there so I wouldn't be putting up with one that does not shape up after a fair conversation.

Wizotto Sun 13-Mar-16 14:38:28

I don't think it will work long term. Our last au pair didn't go out, watched YouTube in her pyjamas and showed no interest in the UK and meeting new people and it drove us mad. Lasted 2 months as she did work her hours but then we had a chat and asked her what she actually wanted to do while she was in the UK and she said nothing. She then left as she realised it wasn't going to work either.

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