I arrived in Valencia five days ago and was met at the airport by the family I am au pairing for this summer. It is the same family I au paired for last year, but last summer we were in a rented apartment by the beach, this year we are staying in their home.
It was surreal last year, arriving at an apartment and living with a family I’d only chatted to via email and skype, but this year it is more surreal as I am living in their home. Whilst living here, I’ve found myself pondering the same questions that circled my mind as a teenager at sleepovers:
- Do I take my shoes off when I come inside?
- Is eating breakfast in my pajarmas acceptable?
- If I go to the toilet in the middle of the night do I flush it, or will it wake everybody up?*
I’ve come to realise, that there is never a set answer for any of these questions, as each home is different in it’s habits and routines. For example, taking your shoes off when you enter a house in the UK is seen to be polite and respectful, as you leave any dirt on your shoes and not on the carpet. However, in Chile if you take your shoes off inside it is common belief that you will get a cold, so somebody will quickly fetch you a pair of slippers to keep your feet warm and your body cold-free.
These few days I have been watching and learning from the family. Seeing their interactions, daily routines and getting to know how their house operates. I am also seeing where I slot in to the mix and I am happy to say that I already feel integrated and not an outsider or a guest. It is still early days, so I forget what food is in each cupboard and I don’t know where to find the plasters. But the family have been incredibly welcoming to me, clearing me wardrobe and drawer space in my bedroom, buying typical drinks to share with me and being patient and understanding when I ask them questions. I am happy to be back with them and settling in is so far so good – although eating dinner at 10/11pm is soemthing I’m still getting used to!
* The answers for these questions for where I am living now are as follows:
- From my observations, there seems to be no correlation between coming inside and taking off shoes. So, I have always taken my shoes off when going upstairs as a form of habit. Downstairs I normally take my shoes off and leave them by the door for when I go outside
- Eating breakfast in pajarmas is not only acceptable, but encouraged so that if the children spill their milk, they do not get their clothes dirty
- I haven’t needed to go to the toilet in the night so far, so this question still remains unanswered!