Please introduce yourself?
My name is Nina Gonzalez-Lehto and I work as an LCC, which stands for Local Childcare Consultant, for an au pair agency. I am originally from Finland and have lived in New York City for almost four years now. I originally came to the U.S as an au pair over 10 years ago and met my husband during my second au pair trip six years ago. We currently live in Queens, NY in Jackson Heights, which is a wonderful historic neighborhood with delicious food and beautiful gardens.
What is your typical workday like??
My typical day as an LCC starts with responding to inquiries from families interested in hosting an au pair. Many of them have found out about the au pair program online or through word of mouth. Au pair childcare provides up to 45 hours of childcare for an average of $360 per week with all agency fees and paperwork included, so it is often the most affordable childcare option available, especially in NYC, where a nanny can cost a family more than $700 weekly. However I do get requests from all over the country and have helped families from Seattle, Boston and San Francisco to find an au pair to name a few. I like to be involved in the matching process.
Depending on the registrations in my area, I might go interview a new family that has registered, to see if they are a good fit for the program and to mutually decide if this is the right childcare option for them. The au pairs provide childcare for the family, but as our program is an exchange program, our au pairs are also expecting to be treated as part of the family. I need to make sure that the family’s expectations are right.
Another part of my job is to do a welcome call to new au pairs in the area and to go over to do an orientation once they have arrived. I explain the program rules and answer any questions about the au pairs upcoming year. I also keep monthly contact with my host families and organize monthly meetings for the au pairs in my area. I am also the person, who provides support for the program participants if they were to experience any issues.
Who are the au pairs?
Au pairs are young men and women from all over the world, who want to experience life in America, while living with and working for a host family, providing childcare. All of our au pairs are CPR certified and come with different levels of childcare experience.
Outside of work, I like to spend time with my husband and our dog, go out for coffee or drinks with friends and occasionally binge on Netflix or Hulu.
When you think about what did you think about life in New York before you moved there – did you misconceptions that turned out to be wrong?
When me and my husband first decided to move to NY, I told him I would only live in Manhattan, no matter what the cost or the size of the apartment, but after living in a closet sized studio on the Upper East side, that needed major renovation and had no air conditioning, I finally agreed to my husbands wishes of moving to Queens, which is where he grew up. We ended up getting a wonderful apartment with a lot of space, that allowed us to take in our Pitbull-Boxer mix Barney and pay the same amount of money for this apartment that we paid for that tiny studio space that could not even accommodate guests. We are now located close to 5 major subway lines and I can get to Manhattan in 15 minutes. I was under the impression that Queens was “ghetto”, but I absolutely love our neighborhood and have enjoyed exploring other neighborhoods as well; Forest Hills for example is like it’s own little town with everything to offer.
What do you miss the most – and the least from your own country??
I miss winter and snow- In NYC the winters are windy and slushy. When it snows, everything stops and the trains don’t work. I do love the few days of snow we have here and I seem to be one of the only ones, who is excited when they announce in the news that there is a snowstorm approaching.
I also miss the food- It is difficult to find salmon that tastes like it does back in Finland and there is only one candy store I know of that sells Salmiakki, out national salty licorice candy, but they have a very limited selection.
The thing I miss the least is the September rain and fall depression, which my husband stated experiencing during our one year that we lived in Helsinki.
What should everyone know and understand about your country and its culture?
Us Finns are not very touchy feely when it comes to strangers. I still get anxious in a crowded subway over people standing too close to me and not giving any personal space. Also, we are ok with silence. We can sit next to a good friend in the car for 10 minutes without saying anything and it is not awkward for us.
What cafes or restaurants do you recommend to tourists to go to in NYC and why? Or to do something else.
The bar next door in the village has some great live jazz and you get a nice relaxing escape from the busy NYC life. For a weekend brunch, I recommend Three of Cups, which has amazing omelettes and a good deal for Mimosas. I also recommend people to take a train to Queens and experience a different side of New York. Did you know that Flushing Meadows Park was used as a background for the ending scene of the Men in black movie?
Would you move back to your country fulltime – yes or no (why and why not)?
I could definitely see myself moving back to Finland at some point, but not for a few years at least. I love the city and the energy it has and enjoy living and working here. I am excited to see what raising kids in NYC will be like and also want to experience hosting an au pair myself.
How to connect with you:
Email for inquiries about the au pair program: