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Go Au Pair Director Reveals the Inside Story About Chinese Au Pairs

Exclusive Interview with Tanna Wilson, Go Au Pair's Managing Director

We are happy to talk to Tanna Wilson, au pair expert and Managing Director of Go Au Pair, about Chinese au pairs and why they may be a good choice for your family's childcare needs.

Tanna Wilson has been the Managing Director at Go Au Pair since 2008. Wilson's background with her agency spans over a decade with tenure as a Flight and Placement Coordinator, and most recently, as the Director of International Relations.

Wilson graduated in Travel and Tourism and has used her scholastic experience extensively during her time with Go Au Pair and while serving on the International Au Pair Association's (IAPA) Executive Board for three years.

Having traveled to over 20 different countries, Wilson enjoys her opportunity to visit new countries and experience new cultures and languages.

Edina:  Thank you Tanna for sharing your expertise with the Clearinghouse. We are eager to learn more about your agency, Go Au Pair and what is happening in China and in the U.S. that explains the high demand for Chinese au pairs.  

Would you tell our readers about Go Au Pair?  Do you have any “new” features or programs that we should know about? 

Tanna: First, I would like to thank you for your interest in Go Au Pair and our Chinese au pairs.

Edina:  You are very welcome!

Tanna: As for our latest news, this year we added some exciting new countries from which we are recruiting au pairs. Some of them include Panama, Vietnam, Paraguay, Dominican Republic and Hungary. The new countries will give our host families an even greater variety of au pairs from which to choose.  

Edina:   Yes, this is exciting newsParaguay and Vietnam are very new countries and I think you may be the first, or among the first, au pair agency to recruit from these countries.

Tanna:  Yes, we are very excited to promote cultural exchange with new countries!

Chinese Au Pairs

Edina:  We reported the current trend of Chinese au pairs coming to America as a result of several factors, the growing number of adopted children from China and parents who want their children exposed to Mandarin, the language many believe will be the next new “world language.”  According to Bill Gertz, President of Au Pair in America, Chinese au pairs have “cache.”  Mr. Gertz said, “Middle and upper middle class parents want their children to be involved in new things and they see something happening in China and they don’t want to be left behind.”

Tanna, why do you think Chinese au pairs are in such high demand with American host families?

Tanna: Yes, Chinese au pairs are becoming trendy with American host families for several reasons. Even the Today Show has mentioned the fact that Mandarin is one of the fastest growing languages taught at public schools in the United States. With a Chinese au pair, families are giving their children the opportunity to be immersed in the language and culture.

Here in Utah, many schools have started immersion programs allowing children to study up to half of their curriculum in a foreign language and Mandarin is one of the most popular.

Edina: China is predicted to become the next great world power and America will be doing a lot of business with them.  How many Chinese au pairs are currently in the United States now?  Approximately?

Tanna:  Of all au pairs currently placed in the U.S with our agency, 16% are Chinese and 23% percent of our available au pairs are from China.

What Part of China do Au Pairs Come From?

Edina:  Where do most of the au pairs from China come from?  I heard that the majority of Chinese au pairs are recruited from the larger cities.  Are they college graduates?

What percentage of Chinese au pairs are female compared to males?

Tanna: The main cities Go Au Pair recruits au pairs from are Beijing, Guangzhou, and Henan. Out of our Chinese au pairs that are currently in the country, 77% have graduated from college, and 20% have had some college education. Almost all (93%) of our au pairs are over the age of 21. Right now, our Chinese applicants are 100% females; however, we do accept male au pairs into the program. 

Edina:  Tanna, can you tell us about Henan and Guangzhou? Are they large cities or provinces and why do many au pairs come from these areas?

Tanna:  Henan has the biggest population in China. Our agency in China, tells us that Au Pairs who come from Henan are hard working and industrious. As Henan is not a wealthy city, nor is it as modern as Beijing or other big cities, young people tend to seek out opportunities that may make them more successful in the future. 

Guangzhou is also one of the largest cities in China. It is a gateway between the inner-continent and Hong Kong as well as an important export city in China. Young people here tend to seek out opportunities that offer them a challenge.

Edina:  I have heard that well-educated and wealthy Chinese parents feel taking care of children is menial work and they do not want their child coming to America to be a babysitter, caring for other people’s children.

How do you overcome this belief when recruiting au pairs?

Tanna:  Although childcare is a part of the Au pair program, the au pair program is first and foremost a cultural exchange program. When Chinese families learn more about the program and understand this, they also understand au pairs come to the U.S. not only for the childcare aspect of the program, but to immerse themselves in another culture and language as well as become a part of an American family.

In the United States, many host children refer to their au pair as an older sibling rather than a babysitter or nanny. Many host families and au pairs develop lifelong relationships because of this program.

In addition to the long lasting relationships au pairs and host families enjoy, many of our au pairs are interested in pursuing a career in a child or youth related field, such as education, psychology, etc, and the au pair program helps them gain valuable experience.

Overall, it is a matter of helping Chinese families understand what the au pair program is about.

China's Only One Child Policy

Edina:  China has the Only One Child Policy, which prohibits a family from having more than one child. How does this affect the Chinese au pair in terms of their childcare experience?   How does the au pair get childcare experience in China?

Tanna: Despite the Only One Child Policy, a surprising 55% of our applicants have siblings; so many have grown up taking care of their siblings.

Edina: 55% is a large number; so over half of all Chinese youth now have a sibling! How are Chinese families able to have more than one child? Is it true that if you have the means, you can pay a tax in order to have more than one child?

Tanna:  I spoke with our agency in China and asked her to explain it to me, as after looking at our statistics, I was quite surprised myself. She told me that in the larger cities, such as Beijing, in order to have more than one child you would have to be fairly wealthy and be able to pay a very large tax for the second child, until they are 18 years of age.  In some of the smaller cities and rural areas, the policy is not strictly enforced and many families may have two or even three children without having to pay extra taxes.

Also, according to our agent, the policy seems to have been amended somewhat recently to allow couples who were both only children themselves, and who were born after a certain year, to have more than one child if they desire. 

Childcare Experience

Edina: Yes, my research confirms these statistics – China has indeed loosened the One Child Only policy. How do Chinese applicants get their childcare experience?

Tanna:  Chinese applicants get their childcare experience in many different ways. With our Chinese au pairs specifically, 89% of our applicants have babysat for neighbors or friends, 61% have worked in a daycare setting, 28% are teachers of young students, 31% have volunteered in the community with the youth, and 17% have worked in youth groups. There are several other categories, but these seem to be the majority.

More than 85% of our applicants have more than the required minimum of 200 hours of care for children under the age of two.

We also asked Stephanie Liu, one of our Chinese International Representatives and she had this to say:

“As more small families live in the same neighborhood/district, the kids may grow up together in [their] grandparents’ house where the [older] ones get their exciting childcare experience since they always enjoy being an ‘adult."

Chinese Au Pair's Motivations to Be an Au Pair

Edina:  Tanna, can you tell us what are the main motivations for a Chinese to become an au pair?

Tanna:  Learning English, exploring the American culture and gaining valuable childcare experience seem to be the main interests in coming to the United States to be an au pair.

 Ms. Liu, our Chinese International Representative says,

“Chinese au pairs can also be more attractive and competitive after coming back to China following a one-year program. As I said above, most of them love [children] and have a long-term plan to become an English teacher in a kindergarten/school, so they treat it as a job, and will definitely become independent and familiar with how to deal with the Western people after that.”

Edina:  What is the typical profile of the typical Chinese au pair?  What should parents expect?  Are they shy?  Outgoing?  Are they patient with children?

Tanna: Chinese au pairs are very family oriented. Host Families should expect them to maintain a strong family bond with their family in China, as well as have a great interest in becoming part of their American family. We have also been told, “Chinese au pairs may seem quiet and not overly outgoing in Western culture, but this also means that they are respectful and diligent.” With the Only One Child Policy, there is great value on child rearing and maintaining a close relationship with the children.

Edina:  Now, the questions that most parents want to know! 

Do Chinese Au Pairs Drive & Speak English?

How well do Chinese au pairs speak English and drive

Tanna:  Driving is an ongoing practice for most au pairs. For anyone who has experienced driving in China, you will know it is VERY different from how we drive in the United States. While 100% of our applicants have a driver’s license right now, it is very important for host families to remember that driving in the U.S. is very different. As with any au pair, host families should not expect a Chinese au pair to be able to hop into their Suburban and drive their children to school immediately.

They will likely need to take them driving several times to get used to the roads, the road signs, U.S. traffic laws and the larger vehicles driven in the United States. For that reason, Go Au Pair provides tips on driving for their au pairs.

English is also an ongoing practice for our au pairs.  Go Au Pair rates au pairs’ English skills on a 1 to 5 scale (one being the lowest, five being the highest). 11% of our applicants are at a 5 rating, 54% are at a 4 rating, and 35% are at a 3 rating. Go Au Pair does not accept any applicant under a 3 rating.  

It is important for host families to understand that written English is typically better than spoken English for most au pairs. In order to fully understand their English level, host families should speak to a potential au pair on the telephone or through Skype several times before matching. Au pairs are often very nervous on their first phone call with a host family, which is why we recommend several conversations.

Once an au pair is in the U.S. with a host family, their English typically improves very quickly.

Edina:  I would imagine this is true, as most Chinese au pairs are college educated – that is true, correct? Chinese au pairs as a group are highly educated and older compared to most other nationalities?

Tanna: Compared to the other countries we work with, yes, Chinese au pairs are typically older and college graduates.

Edina:  Do you find that highly educated American families tend to match with Chinese au pairs?  As we know, there is an interest among the upper-class host parents who want to introduce their children to Mandarin.

Tanna:  We have a variety of families that match with our Chinese au pairs. As of right now, we really haven’t seen any significant trends in the types of families that match with Chinese au pairs.

Success Rate

Edina:  Tanna, would you share with us the success rate for Chinese au pairs? How well do they do when they arrive in our country? How many stay and complete their year abroad? 

Tanna: The success rate for Chinese au pairs is similar to au pairs from any other country. Families who maintain an open line of communication with their au pair find the most success and enjoyment with the au pair program.

Edina:  How satisfied are American families with Chinese au pairs? 

Tanna: We are seeing great success with our Chinese au pairs. Families enjoy their childcare experience and unique culture they bring to their homes.

Edina: I am glad to hear about the success of Chinese au pairs in your program.  China is an exciting and wonderful addition to the cultural exchange program.  Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers about Chinese au pairs? 

Tanna:  China is our fastest growing country for interest in becoming an au pair and for receiving an au pair. Chinese applicants currently make up approximately 20% of our applicant pool. Should a host family have interest in getting an au pair from this great country, they have a very large pool from which to choose. 

Edina:  Thank you so much Tanna, for sharing your expertise and information on Chinese au pairs! I know our readers will appreciate reading about au pairs from this amazing country. 

Thank you for taking the time to talk to the Clearinghouse and we hope we can do this again soon! I enjoyed learning more about this exciting country and the Chinese people.

Tanna: Thank you. We always enjoy talking with you about the Au Pair program.

To read more au pairs from China, go to Chinese Au Pairs.

Read our Agency Profile of Go Au Pair NOW!.

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