The Realities of Cross-Cultural Communication with your Care Professional
Hosting someone from a different culture is exciting and will teach you new ways to communicate. While your care professional is fluent in English, non-verbal communication accounts for anywhere from 60-90% of all communication.
For some families, particularly those that are monolingual, hiring a European live-in carer might seem daunting. As a rule, au pairs are foreign nationals, which means they will speak English as a second (or sometimes third) language. If you don’t speak another language, or if you’ve never communicated regularly with someone who isn’t a native English speaker, you might wonder if you’ll be able to understand them and vice versa.
Most Europeans are proficient in English. While levels of fluency will vary, you can be sure that you will be able to communicate with your care professional. It is also important to remember that cross-cultural communication is more than just language or individual words. Various studies indicate that non-verbal communication accounts for anywhere from 60-90% of all communication. So, even if your care professional gets confused with a particular word or phrase, her non-verbal gestures will go a long way in communicating her intent.
Some tips for minimizing miscommunications include asking your care professional to repeat instructions (to ensure understanding), speaking a little slower than you usually do, avoiding slang, or writing down instructions in addition to verbally delivering them (so the care professional can review later and confirm understanding).
After an initial transition period, you’ll find that one of the most wonderful aspects of welcoming a care professional into your family is the exposure to another country and culture. Perhaps they will share some of their native dishes or teach your children songs that they learned as a child. For older children, and parents too, live-in carers can help bring current events into focus or inspire interest in geography or foreign languages. Some families ask their care professionals to speak to their children only in their native tongue, providing their children with unique exposure to a second language.
Anticipating miscommunications and proactively addressing them will help to smooth the way for future communications. In the end, communication won’t hinge on your care professional’s vocabulary but on both parties willingness to ask questions, get clarification and keep lines of communication open.