Getting the chance of a cultural exchange for a couple of month or longer sounds quite exciting for many young people. Living in a foreign country as an Au Pair, learning about the country and people, improving language skills, meeting many other young people from all over the world and spending time with these new friends sounds absolutely brilliant. And it definitely is!
Many young people can only effort the experience of a cultural exchange as an Au Pair because language schools are generally expensive, internships are often badly paid so that the salary doesn’t even cover the cost of living.
Therefore, going to a foreign country and living for free with a Host Family as their Au Pair, helping them with their children and household sounds quite tempting. The Au Pair gets paid pocket money and should also have enough leisure time to attend English classes in local colleges and to explore the country. Being an Au Pair is really a great way for everyone to spend some time abroad – at least for everyone who likes children.
How does the Au Pair arrangement work?
The Au Pair system works on a give-and-take basis: The Au Pair offers the family her/his time to help them with its children and light household duties like cooking, children’s laundry, tidying up after the children and – depending on what was agreed – some cleaning or any other tasks which have been agreed on. In exchange, the Au Pair lives with the Host Family and has her/his separate bedroom (bathroom may be shared), gets food, pocket money and is ideally (!) treated as an additional family member.
The family, on the other side, hosts a young and dynamic Au Pair who is taking care of the children and offers another pair of hands in the household or sometimes with the pets. This arrangement is, compared to a nanny, less expensive for the Host Family and the relationship with a live-in Au Pair is deeper and more family like in comparison with a nanny who leaves at night.
The family members also benefit from getting to know young people from other cultures and backgrounds which help the children to open their minds and develop curiosity for other cultures. If the Au Pair and the host children get along well, friendships form persisting longer than the actual stay of the Au Pair.
If the Au Pair is willing to, she/he can also teach the children some words or even more of her/his mother tongue which is amazing for the children.
What does live-in Au Pair mean?
Live-in Au Pair is the general Au Pair arrangement and just means that the Au Pair lives together with the Host Family. Some Au Pair jobs are advertised as “live-out Au Pair” positions, but this is not what the common definition of an Au Pair is.
The majority of Au Pairs is young and hence, lived with their own family in their native country, before they move abroad to live with the Host Family. Because of the young age and natural lack of life experience it is safer for the Au Pair as well as the Host Family to have the Au Pair as live-in.
In addition, we also believe that it eases the real Au Pair’s parents minds when they know that their child lives safely in another family’s home. Knowing that there is a family who cares for their child and feels responsible for her/him should reduce their worries.
What do I need to know about being an Au Pair?
If you consider to being an Au Pair you should think thoroughly as it is a big step for you and your Host Family will also rely on you. A decision shouldn’t be taken lightly. Going abroad to be an Au Pair and spending an awesome time sounds exciting, but it comes with duties and expectations from the Host Parents. This is something to be aware of when taking a decision.
If you are interested to become an Au Pair, ask yourself what you expect from the year abroad. There are many, many questions which you as an Au Pair candidate should ask yourself before you decide to look for an Au Pair position but the most essential ones probably are:
- Do I have some relevant experience with children and roughly know what to expect?
- Do I like children enough to live with them 24/7?
- Can I make myself feel at home in a family I do not know very well?
- Am I fine not seeing my own family and friends for several month and only talk to them on skype or over the phone?
- Am I willing to take over household duties in the Host Family which I may not have to do at home?
- Am I confident enough to master the daily life in the language of the foreign country?
- Am I a person who can overcome difficult situations without giving up early?
What can I expect from the Au Pair experience?
First of all, we hope Au Pairs have a great time in the new country and gain a positive experience which lasts for a lifetime.
Even though the Host Family should treat the Au Pair as a family member, they are still the ones who decide the Au Pair’s duties. These should be discussed and agreed in advance, before signing a contract. We would even recommend to list the duties and add them to the contract as appendix.
Never start as an Au Pair without a contract! Our experience shows, that some families which don’t use Au Pair contracts, have a wrong expectation of their Au Pair and are rather looking for a cleaner or pet sitter than for an Au Pair.
Besides the Au Pair work, about which you can find here, Au Pairs should have an amazing year!
Through Facebook or your host children´s school, you will easily find many other Au Pairs to hang out with and explore the surrounding areas close by or even further away. You will improve your English language skills and maybe even start to learn another language as well. Your schedule should definitely enable you to plan your leisure activities which you are unable to pursue while you are at school, internship, work or university.
What tips can former Au Pairs provide for new Au Pairs?
We have interviewed many current and former Au Pairs and one of our questions was about their key tips for new Au Pairs. The following section contains a compilation of useful Au Pair tips from experienced Au Pairs:
Interview and preparation tips:
- Talk to former Au Pairs
- Ask about your tasks. If the position says ”Light Household” still ask what exactly this includes. It is common that you have to help in the household like you do back home but you should not end up being the only one cleaning everything
- Choose the family only if you are absolutely sure about them
- Ask for a trial weekend or week
- Ask as many questions as you can before going to your host family
- Sign an Au Pair contract
- Be patient and ready for everything
- Join the Facebook Groups for Au Pairs before you arrive, so you can already find friends and you don’t end up being alone
- Don’t be shy, try to find friends as soon as possible → there a lot of Facebook groups or like minded Au Pairs in your area
- Try to open a bank account so it is easier to manage your pocket money. It is easy to close it at the end of your stay before you leave the country
- Speak up, if there is something not working with the Host Family: Talk to them !!
- Be patient and kind with the kids → they are just kids, NEVER forget that
- Never forget about your own rights
- Always get enough sleep, because children can be very tiring
- You are not a cleaner! If you spend more time doing household work than with the kids – something is wrong
- Don’t hesitate to contact your agency if you are not feeling well about anything
- Enjoy your time abroad, it’s an amazing chance to gain new experiences (if you are in the right family)
- Try to earn extra pocket money through e.g. babysitting
- If it doesn’t work out with your family, give yourself as Au Pair another chance in a new family. It changed my whole point of view and I couldn’t be happier than I am in my new Host Family
- Most importantly → enjoy your time as much as possible