An Au Pair Falls In Love (With Westport)

When Annika Ritter came to Westport in 2010 to work, she did not want to hang out with other au pairs.

“90 percent of the girls are German,” she says. “If I wanted to speak German, I would have stayed there!”

The lively, fun-loving 24-year-old — raised in a village near Frankfurt — vowed to immerse herself in Westport, and discover as much about her new town as she could.

Now — her 2-year stint almost over — Westport has become more than the place she works.

Annika considers it home.

She knew very little about Westport before Au Pair in America matched her with a family here. Wikipedia made it sound “very fancy.” When she saw some of the houses, how people dressed, and stores on Main Street that were way too expensive to shop at, she understood how wealthy it is.

But she realized something else: There is lots to do here, and plenty of good people to do it with.

Because her host family belongs to the YMCA, she was added to their membership — free. Annika took morning classes: step, spinning, whole body conditioning, yoga, Zumba. There were a number of “older ladies,” she says diplomatically, but also mothers of children in her host family’s classes at Saugatuck Elementary School.

Annika was up for anything. She talked about “global awareness” at Saugatuck El and Earthplace. Twice she did face painting at the au pair agency’s booth at the Fire Department’s “Touch a Truck Day.”

Annika took this wintertime photo of the Compo Beach marina.

Nearly every morning, when the kids were at school, she went to the Westport Library to read. “It’s one of my favorite parts of town,” she says. In the afternoons she returned with her host family’s children, for chess, crafts or story time.

She loves Compo Beach and Longshore, the Playhouse, Winslow Park, the farmers’ market, Earthplace hiking trails, and the $5 margaritas at Viva’s.

The Memorial Day parade was special. “The whole town was together,” she says. “I saw people I have gotten to know well. I felt really at home.”

Annika took this photo too, of a Westport graveyard.

She ranged beyond Westport too, taking watercolor and drawing classes at Norwalk Community College, and color theory at Parsons School of Design. She volunteered at a media company nearby, sang karaoke at Southport Brewing Company, and met great people through her church in Black Rock

But Westport holds a special place in Annike’s heart.

“When I first came, I thought it was too fancy for me,” she admits. “But once I got past the surface, and got to know people, I had a total different view.”

Midway through her stint here, her family moved to a new house on Lone Pine Lane. “The neighborhood is so cute,” Annika says. “Everyone waves, and helps each other out. When we first got here, every day someone else brought over cake or cookies. That was so nice.”

Annika wants to give back to Westport a small part of what she’s gotten out of it. She hopes to give a “mini-German lesson” in the library children’s department. She offered to do a bake sale for the Y, but they basically said, “We need millions.”

This summer, Annika’s au pair job ends. Her parents are coming, and they’ll do something typically American: a road trip to the West Coast.

A Zumba instructor, by Annika.

Annika is ready to start her real career. A very accomplished photographer — she took over 10,000 photos in the US (including family portraits for Christmas cards and head shots for a professional actress), and has a wonderful blog — she hopes to study media management back in Germany. She’d also like to open a photography studio.

Her dream is to come back to the United States, for good.

“I’m going back to Germany in September,” Annika says.

“But my home is Westport.”

12 responses to “An Au Pair Falls In Love (With Westport)

  1. This is such a refreshing story. What a lovely young lady who really knows how to embrace life… and living in Westport. Thanks for sharing, Dan.

  2. Please come back, Annika. We always have room for upbeat people who want to be part of the community.

  3. Linda Gramatky Smith

    What an upper this morning! I think her family must have loved to have such a beautiful, intelligent, optimistic role model for their kids, one who embraces LEARNING! And really understands the heart that makes Westport special. Great story, Dan!

  4. She’s Hot!

    Meow!!

  5. Reblogged this on arfotografie and commented:
    Thanks to Dan Woog for this touching article about my life in Westport, Connecticut!

  6. Make me some schnitzel!!!

  7. I was fortunate enough to meet Annika and she is really cool and friendly.Even though we could sure use the help (4 kids), I just do not have the space. Her picture taking is awesome too!

  8. I think my wife would have driven her straight back to the airport if she showed up at my door as an au pair!

  9. Fred Cantor

    A nice story. And I looked at Annika’s blog–she is definitely a talented photographer. My question for Annika: what specifically do you prefer about life in America that makes you want to come back and settle here for good? Thanks and best of luck. PS Sorry about the Germany-Italy game, but Italy was clearly the superior team that day.

  10. Annika is our wonderful au pair! We are so very lucky to have found an interesting and interested young woman who, without fail, has always made fantastic choices for my children. Unfortunately she now has to leave us and go back to Germany. But I know it’s not for long!!! Now, how to fill those shoes…