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Interview with Michael Cody of Planet Au Pair
Interview with Michael Cody
Director & Owner of Planet Au Pair
Edina: Thank you Michael for taking time to interview with the Clearinghouse. Our readers are very interested in au pairs from Spain. Would you tell us about yourself and your company, Planet Au Pair?
Michael Cody: Planet Au Pair is an au pair agency we started in 1992 by sending Spanish au pairs to England and the USA. We started getting requests for English speaking au pairs from Spanish families so we started doing that as well, getting English speaking au pairs through local newspaper ads.
Once the Internet was available in Spain, we were the first Spanish au pair agency online and we have expanded immensely and place au pairs throughout Spain, Western Europe and the USA.
It's Like Having a Private Tutor
Edina: American host parents are eager to host with au pairs who speak Spanish. Public schools across the country are adding Spanish to their core curriculums and parents know having an au pair who is fluent can help their child learn Spanish.
Having a Spanish-speaking au pair like having a private tutor! Do you see this as a reason for the increase in Spanish au pairs coming to the States?
Cody: Yes, I am sure that is one of the main reasons. Au pairs from Spain can certainly help enable children to become fluent in Spanish.
Edina: Would you tell us about your beautiful country and the customs so American families can understand their Spanish au pairs better?
TV Dinners & Microwaves
Cody: Spain is a relaxed country. There isn’t a sense of urgency like there is in the USA. I have never seen a TV dinner in Spain and most families cook their meals rather than stick something in the microwave. Spanish families eat five times a day. They have breakfast, mid morning snack, lunch, mid afternoon snack and dinner, with dinner usually served around 10:00 PM.
Many Spanish families still take a siesta. Every city, town, village and hamlet has a yearly festival. Spanish is not the only language spoken in Spain. People also speak Catalan, Gallego, Basque and Aragones.
Edina: Your culture sounds so wonderful – I would love to have a siesta in the middle of the day – Americans work too hard, and yes, that usually results in quick meals and long workdays.
Michael, are Spanish au pairs good drivers and have good English skills?
Cody: Each Spanish person is different. The test to get a driver’s license is much harder in Spain than in the USA and much more expensive. You need to interview each au pair carefully and look at her driving experience.
We only send au pairs to the USA who have an intermediate or higher level of English.
Edina: Michael, what are the main motivations for a young person from Spain to become an au pair?
Cody: To improve their English skills and become acquainted with the life in the USA.
Edina: So, Spanish youth are fairly typical of why most au pairs join the au pair program – they want a language immersion program and a cultural education.
Eating Disorders Worldwide
Edina: Let me ask you now about a growing problem among youth worldwide.
Like America, the incidence of eating disorders in Spain is increasing at an alarming rate (growing by 15% per year). Your minister of health, Jose Manuel Romay-Beccaria has recently organized a multidisciplinary committee to research the growing problem.
Would you comment on the increase in eating disorders among young Spanish women and how do you screen for this medical problem when recruiting au pairs?
Cody: We require that all au pairs provide us with a medical report. We haven’t really had any anorexic au pairs apply through us.
Edina: Okay, that is good to know…and you do recruit a fair number of au pairs.
Michael, what are some of the potential strengths that are unique to Spanish au pairs that would make them a great fit with American families?
What would you say are some of the potential weaknesses that they can work on or we should be aware of?
Cody: Spanish au pairs are usually very open, outgoing and pleasant to be with. The only problem we’ve had is that they sometimes get homesick. Sometimes they will ask to return home because they miss their families and friends so much.
Edina: Yes, I know many Spanish au pairs and they are very outgoing and fun to be around. They have warm, family oriented personalities. I guess this also can contribute to their feeling of missing home so much. If host families know this can be a problem, there are many things they can do to support the homesick au pair.
For example, one of the tips we share with host families is to ensure that their new au pair have ready access to Skype or the Internet and a cell phone. If a homesick au pair can easily call home when she is missing her family, she will less prone to developing a real depression.
Parents must be aware of the possibility of culture shock and the potential for depression setting in. Your tip is a great one! Skype is fast becoming such an invaluable tool for the au pair industry. Host families should be aware that, in many cases, homesick au pairs who speak to their loved ones at home, on a daily basis, can often a serious depression.
Michael, it has been a real pleasure to talk to you today about Spanish au pairs and your company. Is there anything more you would like to say about Planet Au Pair?
Cody: We’ve been in business since 1992 and really enjoy being a part of the cultural exchange field as we feel that the more people can get to know other cultures, the closer we will be to world peace.
Edina: I agree and I do think the au pair program is a wonderful way for Americans to broaden their understanding of the larger world that exists outside of the United States!
Thank you very much Michael for the information about Spanish au pairs and good luck to you and Planet Au Pair.
Cody: Thank you and I wish you good luck as well.
Michael Cody Supports Prevent Exploitation of Au Pairs (P.E.A.P.), a non-profit advocacy & awareness group that educates au pairs and agencies worldwide on the protection and rights of au pairs. Planet Au Pair is an official interviewer for the Expert AuPair.
Find out more about Spanish Au Pairs