An Au-Pair view of Oak Park

Opinion: Columns

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Carolin Dose

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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, 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.

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Reader Comments

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Posted: April 2nd, 2012 2:20 PM

Q, I complete agree that you cannot buy class with money, and I've experienced that over and over again with certain people in Oak Park. As for name calling, you're right, I probably shouldn't have delt a low blow. My response was merely an obvious externalisation to the insinuated character smearing in Gail's posts. If we read between the lines, we can see that I'm merely saying in plain English what Gail says from behind closed doors.


Posted: April 2nd, 2012 2:14 PM

Gail, you should take good look in the mirror before you start throwing out accusations. Who exactly started calling who "pathetic"? If you don't like mud slinging, don't sling mud and expect that that your responses won't be responded to. As for having a chip of my shoulder, I certainly do not, but I have met a certain population in Oak Park that do.

Gail Crann  

Posted: April 2nd, 2012 11:03 AM

Not that you care, but I consider myself successful because I have a loving spouse and children and am able to create a loving home with them. That life is not based on teaching my kids that people who do things another way should be objects of resentment. It appears I struck a chord since you use such mature terms as "retarded" in your defensive response. Who put that chip on your shoulder?

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: April 1st, 2012 10:38 PM

Rez, I always enjoy your posts, but there is no need to call a name to someone on here or let it get personal. As for class, you can't buy class with money.


Posted: April 1st, 2012 5:19 PM

Gail, are you one of the people I'm supposedly jealous of? Cause I'm certainly not jealous of your "pathetic" display on here. Are YOU successful? Cause I am. Do I care if you're successful? LOL, I couldn't give a rats ass. The article had some vast generalisations, and I pointed them out. If you can't see them, you are obviously as retarded as your posts make you out to be. I'm guessing you live in NWOP, which would make a lot of sense.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: March 31st, 2012 10:54 AM

Isn't it nice to think we have it all right. Someone wearing business clothes on a thread mill reading a newspaper. Junk foods shops and junk stores for everyone. In America, we live to work, in Europe, they work to live. Pay attention to all of the bored people needing to watch their cell phones as they walk to and from their jobs. The writer also mentions Mann school and both parents working. Both parents have to work to stay in the N/W of Oak Park, and the kids get more attention from nannies

Curious and amused from Oak Park  

Posted: March 31st, 2012 10:08 AM

Firstly, welcome to Oak Park Carolin, and we all hope you enjoy your experience here. Secondly, why did the WJ crop Carolin from the photo, after initially being included? Perhaps Jack Crowe can explain.

Gail Crann  

Posted: March 31st, 2012 8:17 AM

If we are calling them as we see them, I see Rez as a pathetic instigator (whose grammar stinks) who is jealous of people who appear to be more successful, and in order to demonstrate his/her bitterness, lashes out at an entire geographical area...all in a nice enough letter from a foreign visitor. Rez also blames things (phone) for his/her own mistakes. What happened to personal responsibility?

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 30th, 2012 10:47 PM

Hey! Where did the au pair go?


Posted: March 30th, 2012 10:34 PM

Gail, my Android is great at inserting things I don't intend to, and I know how to write a sentence, but thanks for the English lesson. As for the class war, no need to get mellow dramatic, but I do call it as I see it.

Oak Park Parent  

Posted: March 30th, 2012 3:28 PM

@Thanks!, I think we are reading different letters. She doesn't seem to like anything about Oak Park and even the "friendly cashier" etc rings a little false. But to each his own. I just personally don't feel it was worthy of being posted.


Posted: March 30th, 2012 12:04 PM

Sorry... In my previous posting, it should have been "I loved reading it!"


Posted: March 30th, 2012 12:03 PM

I found this letter to be a charming piece of writing from a visitor to our village and country. I loved read it! As to its purpose... Does it need to have one beyond expressing Carolin's thoughts? Welcome to Oak Park, Carolin!

Oak Park Parent  

Posted: March 30th, 2012 9:48 AM

Thanks Jack Crowe for what again? What was the point of this letter?

Gail Crann  

Posted: March 30th, 2012 8:56 AM

Thanks Rez, we need to keep up the class war and dump on NW OP. And learn the proper use of an apostrophe. It isn't used to show plural.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 29th, 2012 10:47 PM

Rez is right about getting to know OP people more, but dead wrong on the number of Nannies. OP has to have one of the highest nannies per household in the states. As a grandfather, I get to the kiddie park a lot. It is there you find out how many nanny's there are. They are overwhelmingly from foreign lands and charming. Caroline, welcome to OP and thanks for being there for the two working parent households. They truly need your help in keeping kids safe and helping them grow.


Posted: March 28th, 2012 8:32 PM

Carolin, it seems that you have been living in a bubble in the north west portion of Oak Park. There are plenty of parents in Oak Park that take the time to drop there kids off at school, or have their kids walk to school themselves. There are also lists of families that don't have Nancy's... Get around Oak Park a bit more (not just the main retal areas) and you'll experience a very diverse group of people with very diverse life styles.

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