I am writing to share my experiences as an Au-Pair here in Oak Park. I am from a village called Schoenberg near the Baltic Sea in Northern Germany. Last July I moved to Oak Park through an organization called Au-Pair in America, www.aupairinamerica.com. I now live with an Oak Park family whose children are 6, 8 and 12 years old.
When I arrived here, I was overwhelmed. Everything was different: the houses have porches. The roads like Harlem are busy and noisy. Unlike the small stores in my hometown, stores like Target and Walgreens offer a wide range of different products. There are many fast food stores, bars and restaurants. Finally, young people in Oak Park talk funny. They say things such as, “And I was, like, seriously?”
But after eight months in Oak Park it does not feel so foreign to me. It now seems normal that all the parents work like crazy, even through holiday breaks. It seems normal that caregivers drop off their kids at Mann School and that the whole babysitter business is a big deal. Maybe this is why Oak Parkers are so concerned about their children’s safety. In Germany parents drop their own children off at school — or more typically, the students walk themselves.
I am no longer surprised by overloaded schedules when it comes to after-school activities that might include soccer, baseball, basketball, hockey, martial arts or ballet.
It now feels normal that time is flying. I see mothers running from one appointment to the next. At the YMCA, I once saw a woman speed-walking on a treadmill while wearing work clothes and reading the newspaper. Every store has a drive-thru: the pharmacy, Starbucks and ATM machines. There is no such thing in Germany.
Oak Park also has a second type of person who is quite a contrast to the busy American. This is the open-minded Oak Parker who would like to get to know me better. They say to me, “Where is that cute accent from?” There is also the friendly cashier at Trader Joe’s who remembers me and asks how I am feeling.
After all this, I don’t want to go home! I love this place and the American way of life!
Carolin Dose, 19, is an Au-Pair from Germany, working in Oak Park. Thanks to Jack Crowe from bringing her to our attention.