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My au pair keeps laughing at me

(74 Posts)
NameHasChanged Mon 20-Dec-10 12:08:22

Since I went back to work full time, we have had au pairs to do after school pick-ups and pitch in with ironing etc.
We've had three and the first two were great, so much so that I used to take them along to family outings at weekends and really they were part of our lives as one of the family.
However, this latest one, who is Hungarian, has slowly but surely started to drive me completely mad. She has a nervous habit of laughing at everything I say or do, and the same for my husband and the kids.
It's like living with the Laughing Policeman, eg:
Me: Kids! put your school shoes on, we're going to be late AGAIN
Au pair: ah ha ha ha ha ha
Me: DS, why didn't you tell me it was football today, your kit is still in the wash
Au pair: tee hee hee hee hee hee
Me: DH, don't forget it's parents' evening tonight
DH: Oh hell, I said I was going to play tennis, do I have to?
Anyway, I have been hanging on for her to go home for a fortnight tomorrow from Gatwick but it's looking increasingly like we'll be stuck with her for Christmas. I now have got tto the point where she is irritating me so much it's probably quite obvious. I'm sure the poor girl has no idea what she is doing wrong, as she is hard-working, helpful and tidy and in every other respect absolutely fine.
I have spoken to her three times about the laughing. First I told her twice not to laugh when I was disciplining the kids, as it undermined the process, she seemed to take that on board and has stopped more or less.
Then yesterday while DH was shouting at me to get the dog under control and the dog was scrabbling all over my lap in the car laddering my tights, I did say rather snappily: "Please stop laughing, you sound like you are laughing at me." She stopped rather suddently and apologised and sounded really rather shocked. but then we went to a farm to get a Christmas tree and it was back to:
DH: Where are the christmas trees, then?
AP: hahahaha
ME: Please get one that doesn't shed needles this year
AP; Hoohoo hoo hoo hoo
DH but they are more expensive
AP: tee hee hee hee
ME: Worth it though..
AP: hahahahahHAHAHA

DH reckons it is such a deep-seated habit that she won't be able to change it and we will just make her unhappy and self conscious if we mention it. I think she could get it under control as she doesn't do it on the phone to her relatives in Hungary. i think it's a mix of feeling awkward here, not understanding half of what is being said and wanting to contribute to the conversation in what she thinks is a jolly, positive way. She also says WOW a lot and WAAAH!, i think for want of any actual English words she can think of. Her English isn't bad though, I'd say about as good as my GCSE French, say.
I'm tempted to have a word but don't know where to start - or should I just ring the agency, send her home and get another one?
To all who think this is the most boring, trivial and bourgeois problem ever, I really do apologise - and agree!

BecauseItoldYouSo Mon 20-Dec-10 12:12:23


Sorry couldn't help myself!

BitOfFun Mon 20-Dec-10 12:13:57

Now I really am laughing grin

coldtits Mon 20-Dec-10 12:15:31

You sound like a right joyless twat!

onceamai Mon 20-Dec-10 12:16:50

Ir doesn't sound like it's working for either of you. You have past experience on which to base your decision. Call it a day and part company gracefully. Worth finding out how the children are getting on with her.

BitOfFun Mon 20-Dec-10 12:18:18

To be fair, there is nothing joyful about the dog laddering your tights etc- but I think you are right that it's a nervous habit connected to her poor grasp of the language. I feel very sorry for her, stuck a long way from home at Christmas, knowing few people, feeling self-conscious and missing her family.

You really need to try to get past this- I bet she feels shit already.

SummerRain Mon 20-Dec-10 12:18:36

dp used to laugh when he was nervous.... it took me years to snap him out of it as it would send me into a red rage when we were having a fight and he's start laughing!

No advice i'm afraid... my tactics with dp wouldn't be legal with an employee wink

PheasantPlucker Mon 20-Dec-10 12:18:55

Are you serious?!
This had made me laugh, thanks!

TanteXmasRose Mon 20-Dec-10 12:18:58


but also a bit shock at "or should I just ring the agency, send her home and get another one?"

poor girl...

K12Mom Mon 20-Dec-10 12:21:27

We had a maid who did this, drove me absolutely f'ing mental. However, she did stop after a while, and constant reminders.

Like you, I put it down to feeling awkward and wanting to feel involved in the conversation.

tryingtoleave Mon 20-Dec-10 12:23:29

Maybe it will stop as her English improves? Actually my cousin does inappropriate giggling about everything and it is very annoying even though she is otherwise quite lovely.

ItsKurriiiistmas Mon 20-Dec-10 12:24:35

i feel sorry for her too, it's a nervous habit which she can't control and if she doesn't understand everything that's being said, she's probably uncertain about what her reactions should be.

I've never had an au pair so don't really know the protocol, but surely you can't fire someone for laughing?, it's got unfair dismissal written all over it.

YunoYurbubson Mon 20-Dec-10 12:25:02

My cleaner does this. If we both walk into the kitchen at the same time she hoots with laughter. I think it's a nervous thing. She giggles if I offer her a cup of tea, or ask if she can babysit too.

I love my cleaner though so she can laugh at me all she wants.

thumbplumpuddingwitch Mon 20-Dec-10 12:26:08

It probably is just a habit. But not a good one.

I knew a girl who had a habit of nodding her head every time she spoke. She couldn't stop, even when she was supposed to keep her head completely still, she still nodded it whenever she was answering a question. Even if the answer was a negative! Very bloody annoying.

BettyCash Mon 20-Dec-10 12:26:52

Aw, YANBU but it might help you to just explain to her, one to one, that you know she's nervous/wonders what to say.

But I get you. I genuinely can't think of anything less annoying than nervous giggles.

MissHellToe Mon 20-Dec-10 12:27:00

Wait until after Xmas, make up a reason why you don't need an au pair and swop her - it's obviously not working, and it's important for you to feel like she's a part of the family. Not her fault obv, and I'm sure she'll find another placement. It's a delicate relationship and it sounds like you've been lucky with previous au pairs.

Tee hee grin

nomoreheels Mon 20-Dec-10 12:28:51

Any nervous habit from someone you have to spend a lot of time with is difficult. We had someone we were using as freelance at work, in a very emotional client setting, and she had a habit of laughing nervously at the worst possible moments. It was because she couldn't handle what she was hearing and she couldn't stop herself. It took a long time for her to change.

Snapping at her is going to get you nowhere and will just make it worse. I agree that you need to see this from her perspective, especially if she doesn't speak much English and could well be feeling terribly homesick.

I think the only way you are going to make this work is if you take her out for coffee and have a gentle chat, rather than a telling off/discussion in your house.

Start by praising her for the things you really love about her work (tidy, hard working etc.) and reinforce that again after you have discussed the nervous laughing - AKA the "shit sandwich". Try to talk to her like a friend rather than an employee.

You could also ask her how she feels about her placement with you so far, and give her a chance to raise anything that might be worrying her, as that might also help her to relax.

NameHasChanged Mon 20-Dec-10 12:33:03

Bit Of Fun, how would you get past it, though? I've been ignoring it for two months, in the hopes that she would settle down and chill out a bit.
It's Kurristmas, you are allowed to call it quits with au pairs if it's not working, there are special rules because they live in your home as guests, it's cultural exchange not employment and the pay is "pocket money".
Yes I feel sorry for her too, long way from home etc etc. On the other hand, we are a nice family to stay with, bnoth the other au pairs have stayed pals with us, and come back to visit with their boyfriends and families. I don't ask too much in terms of work, they have all day free and I pay for them to go to college 2 days a week to study English. As a gap year experience, it's really not too bad.
Odd thing is, this girl is 23 and the others were 18/19 so much younger.

chitchatinsantasear Mon 20-Dec-10 12:34:51

That would drive me around the bend!!!! Having someone in your home is such a personal thing, so you really need to be comfortable with them. It doesn't sound fair, but I really think you need to get rid of her before you lost the plot with her!

NameHasChanged Mon 20-Dec-10 12:35:13

No More Heels, that sounds like a good idea, thank you. As soon as I can get the car up the hill, I will take her out for a coffee and try to be a grown up about it. Thanks!

Laquitar Mon 20-Dec-10 12:35:22

On Christmas morning she is going to wear a santa outfit and say 'ho ho ho'

LadyThumb Mon 20-Dec-10 12:37:47

A friend of mine does this all the time. It drives me mad! I'm sure it's a nervous laugh - but I wish she would just STOP it!

TattyDevine Mon 20-Dec-10 12:39:41

Oh dear, I really do feel for you OP, as do I for your Au Pair. It sounds like just a clash of personalities - i.e her nervous inappropriate one with your only human one.

I would find this irritating in day to day life. I really would. I am not a joyless person and I have a wicked sense of humour and I love banter and jokes no matter how rude or inappropriate but family life is hectic at best, and to have someone chortling away in the background regardless of my mood or time of day (or time of month!) would drive me bonkers.

If you didn't get rid of her, how long will you have her for? Is it indefinite or is she planning to do something else by, say, summer next year? What's the deal going forward?

NameHasChanged Mon 20-Dec-10 12:40:00

Laquitar, Oh, God, she is, isn't she. That did make me laugh, though.

NameHasChanged Mon 20-Dec-10 12:43:27

Tatty, thanks for being kind. I am generally quite a nice person, I think, but yes, can definitely verge on joylessness when all hell is breaking loose here.
She is meant to stay until August next year, right now I really can't face it. But it seems nuts to replace her when her work is great and she is nice to the kids.

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