Future Au Pair’s Guide – From Where to Go to How to Picking the Family
If you have dreamed about living abroad but are unsure of how to get a visa or what to do for work, becoming an au pair is one of the easiest ways to spend time overseas. Being an au pair offers an opportunity for cultural immersion, travel, and personal growth. A typical au pair is a live-in child care provider, but the duties can this signifies a range of things so maybe add a few options such as: personal assisting, day to day child care, after-school care, English language lessons and potentially cooking and cleaning depending on the needs of the family. I was an au pair in Belgium for 8 months after graduating from college. Here is my guide on finding a location, how to get a job, and what to ask a prospective family.
Where to go
Picking a location is one of the most important parts of the process. In retrospect, I wish I was more calculated in choosing my location. Do your research on the country and culture before taking any positions. I did not pick a country that jived with me or my interest. If you are not set on a particular place already, here are some things to think about while scouting out your location.
Are you close to a university or big city? Au pairing can get lonely therefore you want to be able to find other young people to befriend in the area. If you are in Europe, search if there is an Eramus program nearby. Eramus is the European study abroad program so there will be many international students in those cities.
What is the country’s ranking among expats? Not looking into this topic was one of my biggest mistakes. Life as an expat is already a major challenge on its own and some countries are more foreigner friendly than others. I recommend heavily researching what expats say on common experiences immersing in that specific new culture.
How strong is the currency? This is an important question if you plan to primarily travel with the money you will be earning. For example, the Euro is much stronger than the Hungarian Forints. You would most likely be able to travel further and longer on a Euro salary versus a weaker currency’s salary.
How often will language barriers be faced? If you do not plan to learn the native language of the country you are living in, it is important to research how common your spoken language will be available.
Finding a Family
Au Pair World – On this platform you create a profile and it helps to match you with families across the world based on each other’s specific wants and needs. You can browse profiles based on country, number of children, accommodation offering etc. This is the most popular resource and what I used to find my family.
Workaway.info – This website is used for work exchange jobs around the world. This is not specific to au pairing but some families do create postings for short term gigs from child care to gardening to housework. You can sometimes find paid work on this platform but most of the postings are work exchanges.
Facebook Groups – If you search on Facebook the country you are wanting to visit + “au pair” you will most likely find a group that is filled with families looking for au pairs. If you are looking to be in a big city, it may have it’s own facebook group for au pairs. Here you can browse through postings or create your own post explaining that you are looking for work and connections in the area. In addition to this being a resource for job postings, it can be used to find fellow au pairs in the area.
What to Look For in a Family
If you have personal wants and needs, know that going into the search and communicate it with potential host families. There does not have to be a specification for all of these things. Yet, it is best to have clarity on all of these topics beforehand so there are no surprises upon arrival.
- Number of Children
- Age of Children
- Gender of Children
- Duties Expected
- Visa Sponsorship
- Accommodation Offered + photos
- Transportation Available
- Time Off
- Social Opportunities in the Area
- Longevity of Commitment
- History with Previous Au Pairs
Interviewing with the Family
In addition to the logistical points above, there are many personal points you should discuss with the family. Afterall, you are moving thousands of miles away to live with a foreign family so it is vital to make sure you connect and build common ground before getting there.
I recommend having a few skype interviews with the entire family. Be very aware and sensitive to all interactions in the interview. You need to make sure there is chemistry and understandable level of communication.
My family had many au pairs before me. They already had an interviewing process. We had questionnaires, sent each other photos of our families, daily life, and homes. Then we scheduled a couple of Skypes to get to know each other.
If the family has had au pairs previously ask them to be connected with them. I had a skype and shared many text with the au pair before me. It gave me a clearer idea of the job and family.
Ideas of questions to ask:
- What does a typical weekend look like?
- Can your specific dietary restrictions be accommodated?
- Do they want to be apart of the family or just an employee?
- What actions would cause termination from the position?
- What role does religion play in the family life?
- What do people your age do for fun in that area?
- Are you allowed to have friends over?
- What does “family time” consist of?
- What are the expectations from you personally and as a caretaker?
By following these steps, you are bound to land a job as an au pair. You should be proud of yourself for having the confidence to explore new cultures and places. If you are interested in learning more about the job and my experiences click here to read What They Don’t Tell You About Being an Au Pair. Feel free to contact me if you have any further questions on how to navigate this process.