Whether you work through an au pair agency or use Facebook groups to find families, each family has different expectations. Ask questions, and don’t be afraid to speak with the family’s former au pairs.
Sometimes a family that seemed great online or over the phone doesn’t work out.
Be ready to adjust
A family’s au pair is like a new member of the household. Treating her as such and giving her autonomy will help her feel at home. It also means communicating clearly and ensuring she knows how you expect things to be done around the house, such as cooking and washing dishes or using certain appliances.
It’s a good idea to give the au pair some time off in her free time and space for herself. Some luxuries, such as a TV or laptop, can help her stay in touch with friends and family while still feeling comfortable and at home.
The au pair must befriend locals if they learn a new language. Speaking with people from the community can improve their language skills and allow them to experience the culture of their new home even more. It’s also a great way to make friends and have fun!
Working as an au pair isn’t for everyone; it requires a lot of flexibility and courage to move your whole life abroad for a year! Many agencies help au pairs find families, some for free and others for a small fee. It’s important to talk to multiple families, take your time and pick the one that suits you best.
During your au pair interview, ask lots of questions and be honest. Be careful not to rush and be placed with a family you’re not suited for; this can lead to many problems.
It’s also important to remember that becoming an au pair is a job, not a holiday! You must look after the children and do the work you agreed upon. So be sure to set clear boundaries with your host family; tell them when you’re tired and need a break, and they should respect that. You can ask for a contract that clearly states all the expectations and duties between you and your host family, but this isn’t a requirement for au pairs.
It is a big responsibility when you are an au pair. You will watch children for 25+ hours a week, so being honest with the family about your expectations and what you are comfortable with is essential. Interviewing multiple families and finding the right match is also a good idea.
For example, if you are not a fan of discipline or a strict household, it’s best to be upfront during the interview and find a family that will work well for you. Likewise, if you have a strict diet and are uncomfortable eating meat or dairy products, it’s a good idea to ensure that your Host Family is aware of this before starting the program.
Also, be careful when choosing an agency – many of them only care about the paying host families and might prioritize the needs of their clients over yours. Be sure to research the agency and read online reviews before committing. Also, be prepared to pay for transportation to and from the host family’s home and health insurance (though there are several affordable options). These additional costs can add up quickly.
Be open to new experiences.
Moving to a new country and living for free with a host family in exchange for pocket money can be tempting. While the children and family will always be your priority, the Au Pair experience is also a great way to travel, explore a foreign culture, learn a new language, or take some time out to reflect on your career goals and personal life.
If you are still determining whether this lifestyle is for you, talking to former au pairs can be an excellent source of information. They can provide insight into how things like meals, curfew, and work hours may differ depending on your host family’s situation.
Additionally, the agency will typically conduct built-in check-ins between au pairs and families so that they can communicate any issues or concerns that may arise openly and honestly. This is a crucial aspect of the cultural exchange and helps to ensure that both au pairs and host families are happy with their placements.
Be ready to work
While you may have lots of experience with kids – babysitting, camp counselor, toy store worker – and love them to bits, it’s essential to realize that becoming an au pair is more than just hanging out with kids all day.
Au pairs are expected to help with chores, cook meals, drive the family car for work or extracurricular activities, and stick to a set schedule, including meal times and curfews. They’re also expected to be on time for work and other responsibilities – if not, they could lose the trust of their host families.
Having a flexible mind can be beneficial when it comes to being an au pair, as you may need to change plans at the last minute or adapt to new situations. For example, if a family doesn’t want you to take another job but you’re struggling financially, try coming up with a compromise that works for everyone. For example, you can offer to work a bit later in return for a larger weekly stipend. This gives you more time for travel, which most au pairs look forward to.