Want to become an au pair? Read these tips!
An au pair lives with the family and mainly takes care of the children. Au pair” literally means “on an equal footing”, which means that you are actually part of the family.
As an au pair, you are expected to help out in the household and to cook once in a while, but heavy housework is normally not your responsibility.
The most important job of an au pair is to look after the children: when mummy and daddy are at work or going out for the evening, you are there to look after them. You pick them up from school, make them dinner, help them with their homework and play with them. A prerequisite for working as an au pair is that the family gives you board, lodging, and pocket money in exchange for your work.
Of course, there are different family situations, which makes every au pair job different. There are girls who work for a single mother or father and therefore have every other week off (when the kids are with the other parent). Also, in a family where the mother is on maternity leave, you will obviously work a lot less than in a family where both parents work 50 hours a week.
How do I find a host family?
There are many au pair agencies that can help you find a host family. The main advantage of such agencies is that you do not have to do anything yourself: a host family is found for you after you have indicated your preferences. The agency can also help you with everything, such as arranging transport abroad and travel insurance. If you don’t know something, the agency has an answer for you and if the work turns out to be disappointing, you always have an organization behind you. Think of it as a kind of insurance.
Furthermore, there are numerous websites where host families and au pairs can register, e.g. Au Pair World or AuPair.com. If you type ‘au pair website’ into Google, you will find dozens of websites. This makes the search for a suitable host family very easy for you, as you decide which family you want to get in touch with! Of course, the biggest disadvantage is obvious: you do not know who is behind the profiles and there is no guarantee for anything. Should your au pair placement be a disappointment, you have no one to turn to.
At first sight, it seems more logical to hire an agency. However, you should be aware of the fact that such an agency will cost you a lot of money. You pay the agency for the mediation between you and the host family and for the guarantee that you have someone to fall back on, so this will always be more expensive than finding a host family yourself. Furthermore, it might be easier for you to agree on conditions and arrangements with your host family, so that you can decide for yourself how your au pair adventure will look like.
You should weigh up all the pros and cons for yourself, find out what is useful for you (e.g. that your transport to the country is arranged), and consider whether you really need to involve an organization. In the end, there is not much difference: once you are there, you make all the arrangements with your host family yourself, without an organization intervening for every little thing.
Where will I go?
You might not expect it, but working as an au pair is a great way to travel! As an au pair, you will generally not work more than 40 hours a week and are entitled to weekends and holidays off, which gives you enough time to have fun and explore the country by hiking for example the GR 20 Corsica. Moreover, you will often receive pocket money, which you can use to do nice things. Furthermore, as an au pair, you will really integrate into another society and culture and get to know a country much better than if you were just going on holiday. You live with a family and experience their customs, which is great fun if you like other cultures! So think about where you would like to go again. Which culture is your favorite? Is it possible to go there as an au pair? If so, do it! There is no better way to experience this culture; you will not regret it.
Tips for future au pairs
Of course, you need to love children and be a strong person to live abroad for a longer period of time. However, you probably already knew this before you decided to become an au pair.
Other important tips
Whatever you do, make sure that you establish and agree on everything with your host family beforehand. How many hours a week do you work, what kind of work do you have to do, how much are you home alone with the children and above all: what do you expect from each other? There is nothing more annoying than one of you decide to end the agreement after a while because it turns out to be disappointing.
Take some savings with you!
Even though you will earn money as an au pair, it will not be enough for you to go on weekend trips and perhaps to travel after your au pair placement. Most au pairs earn between 50 and 150 euro per week – this may be enough for a night out and a day out every week, but if you really want to travel to the Tour du Mont Blanc route, this is not enough. However, remember that you will receive free board and lodging and that your pocket money should be seen as a bonus and not as a salary.
You will soon be living with a host family, which means that you will be a guest. You will have to deal with differences and you will notice that things will be different from what you are used to at home. Sometimes this will be difficult, but remember that you can only learn from this! By the way, most families will be interested in your culture as well, otherwise, they would not take an au pair from abroad, so these differences will only make your trip more fun.
Would you like to work abroad as an au pair?