Katharina is 26 years old, originally from Germany and came to London as an Au Pair a few years ago. She fell in love with the city and the life in London and is still living and working there. She is telling us about her experience as a German Au Pair in London. Thank you for answering our interview questions!
“You could move abroad and improve your English”
I was 22 years old and my contract at work as an Industrial Clerk ended so I was trying to find a new job. I really wanted to join Lufthansa as a Flight Attendant and got through to the phone interview but they told me that all the open roles were taken and I would have at least to wait for a year till I can get invited to an Assessment Center. So they told me I should use my time and go to another country to improve my English. This is how I got the idea to become an Au Pair.
I never thought I would ever become an Au Pair but for me it was the easiest way to move to another country without finding an own flat or house which seemed impossible. I was a bit scared of all the responsibility you have as an Au Pair but as I raised my little brother and took care of my little sister I was sure that I can do it.
“In which city do I want to live?”
I wasn’t sure to which city to go. I was struggling to decide between London (UK), Paris (FR) or Istanbul (TR). In the end I decided for London. First I wanted to stay for only 6 months but the family I found needed me for 10 months. We extented it also to 13 months as they couldn’t find a new Au Pair in time. (After 3 years now, I am still in London and also still in contact with my old host family.)
“My friend’s Au Pair Agency experience was not great”
I registered on aupairworld.net which is a private website and is not ran by an agency. My friend was in London as an Au Pair a few years before me and was registered with an agency but when she needed their help, the agency only helped the Host Family as they are the ones paying of course. I was first scared to search for a family privately but my family assured me they would do anything to get me back to Germany if something would happen.
Within three weeks I found my family. I started looking for a family in July 2013 and was about to start on the 31th August 2013 because the parents started working again and one of their kid was going back to school. They are German and lived in London to this time with two kids and the description sounded nice. We had a skype interview and we got on well immediately. The kids were fine with me as well so they asked me if I like to be their Au Pair or if I first want to think about it. I immediately said yes because “No Risk – No Fun!” 🙂
My Host Family did provide me with a contract which I had to sign. I also received a copy of the contract which I sent to my family back in Germany for safety reasons.
“Saying goodbye to family and friends was hard for me”
Saying goodbye was very hard for me. I moved out when I was 18 and always lived further away from my family due to work but leaving the country wasn’t easy. I rembered that I begged my dad to call the family to tell them I can’t come anymore because I got so scared of this new step in my life and I wanted to stay in Germany but my dad told me that I can not break my word and that my host family needs me.
“Oh dear… One child didn’t stop crying!”
After I arrived in London Stansted the two kids and my host dad were waiting for me. One of the kids was just crying the whole time because she was tired so first I just thought “Oh dear…” but on our way home I got on really well with my host dad and as soon as we arrived at home I felt the same for my host mum. I was really glad that they were so nice and understanding. Therefore I wasn’t too scared anymore and was relieved and the kids opened up to me on the first night already. I was allowed to read the bedtime stories 😉
We lived in North London near to Brent Cross / Golders Green area. The household was me, my host mum, my host dad and their kids, a boy and a girl. At the time the boy was 5 yrs old and the girl was 3 yrs old.
To be honest, settling in was very easy as my host family was just perfect. If I had specific questions they were always happy to help me or to explain me certain processes in their household. I also met the Au Pair before me as she was still living in London as well so she gave me a few tips about the kids like what they prefer to do or to eat or how to handle certain situations which was quite handy. The first three days she was with me and the kids as well so that the kids felt more comfortable and I wasn’t to overwhelmed with the new situation and could learn from her.
“… seeing the world through kids eyes is amazing and can make you happy.”
The Location was very central so with the tube or the busses you got into Central London very quick. The family was just amazing and we were more like friends but also had rules. I did like to be with the kids because seeing the world through kids eyes is amazing and can make you happy. We also did loads of things together in the evening as a whole family.
I always finished at 5pm but if I stayed at home sometimes, instead of going out, the kids stayed with me till 10pm or even later so sometimes it didn’t feel like I was finished for the day and could not relax sometimes. That is the only negative comment I can give because otherwise everything was good.
I think after the kids falling asleep on me, in my bed, taking me everywhere, I think we got on quite well. I was more like the big sister so yes, we got into little fights like siblings do but we bonded strongly.
“Just ask if people are free to meet”
I immediately joined a few groups on Facebook like “Germans in London” or “Aupairs in London” and just asked around if people want to meet up, so I met several people for coffee and drinks and found some good friends there. So within the first week I already started meeting people. After three months of being in London I met my boyfriend (the reason why I am still here) and then I found even more friends.
In my free time I either spent time with the host family like cooking dinner together, watching movies, playing with the kids or I went outside to meet my friends/my boyfriend, to go out for coffees, drinks, dinner, museums, sight seeing, etc. After a certain time you find your favourite spots where you want to go.
“I didn’t get much pocket money but other things are more important”
I didn’t have that much pocket money. I got 70 pounds a week. Some of my friends got more than me like 100-140 pounds a week but therefore they didn’t bond with their families or had problems with how they were treated. For example one of my friend was not allowed to eat dinner at the same time as the host family or was not allowed to sit at the same table. Therefore I preferred having less money but getting on well with my host family. It was still enough to do things and I tried not to throw it all out.
I did not go to an English language school as I always had very good grades back in Germany and thought with the help of my friends it would improve by itself and I never had any issues. If I had troubles with understanding something I had enough people to ask for help. I think the language school is helpful if you really have troubles with speaking the language or never were in contact with the English language before.
“I would definitely become an Au Pair again”
After being an Au Pair for 13 months I would say that I really enjoyed that experience but I prefer working in an office now that I am 26 years old. But if I would consider moving to another country for a few months I would definitely try to be an Au Pair again as you get the help and support of the family while trying to fit into the new country.
There is nothing I would do differently. I loved all of it and had an amazing time. Of course it was not always easy but it was worth it and I gained a second family. I would also go the same way with searching for a family without an agency as even if you have trouble there are so many groups on Facebook where you can find help or even switch families.
The Host Family and I are still in touch. Sadly they moved away from London to Bedford but as it is only one hour with the train I am still going there to visit them and the kids. They became my second family and they always support me and they are very important to me and I could not be happier that they had me as their Au Pair and I am very lucky that I had such a great family to live with.
My top 4 tips for new Au Pairs
- Take your time in chosing your family and definitely have a skype interview so you can kind of see them in person.
- Ask about what your tasks exactly are. If they say ‘Light Household’ still ask what exactly this involves. It is common sense that you have to help within the household like you do with your own family back home but you should not end up being the only one cleaning suddenly everything. I was responsible for my room, cleaning the kids clothing, hovering kitchen and living room and keep the kids room clean and make them lunch and dinner as they were eating earlier then the parents. I was not supposed to clean the bathroom or the stuff of my host parents.
- Join the Facebook Groups for Au Pairs even if your are not in the country yet but so you can find contacts already and don’t end up being alone.
- Try to open a bank account so it is easier to manage your pocket money. There are no troubles in closing them when you are about to leave the country.