Being an au pair was way different than I thought it would be. I imagined this dreamy job where I would be taking care of children in a foreign country, getting all of my expenses paid for while in the meantime I would be able to save up money and travel on my weekends and days off. Some of this is true and it is definitely a job I love but it is not a job that is very easy to save money at. It has its many joys as any job does. You get to work and live in a foreign country for basically free! You get to explore all the fun places and all of the great flavors of the country.
What is an Au Pair?
An au pair is a young person that moves to a foreign country and lives and works with a native family. Duties range from caring for children, speaking your native tongue, and occasionally doing light housekeeping and laundry. Duties can depend widely on what the family needs and desire. You could end up working as little as 10 hours a week and up to 35-40 hours. Although the general average is about 25-30 hours. Working as an au pair is normally seen as a type of foreign exchange where you contribute to your host family's life by providing help with the kids and around the house in exchange for room and board, an allowance and the experience of living in another culture.
-There are no specific requirements or qualifications.
However there are things that will help you find a good family faster. Having previous childcare experience helps a lot! but you can find jobs without that experience to. So don't give up hope just because you have never taken care of children before. If you want to be an au pair, go for it!
Some families are searching for an au pair that has another language skill. For me, my host family was looking for a native English speaker to teach their children English. so being a native or near-native speaker of English, French, German, or another well known language will help in finding a host family. Also having a base knowledge of the language you will be living amongst will help tremendously! I can say that from experience. I knew no French before moving to France and it has been difficult living in a country where you can not converse with everyone.
Sometimes families are looking for other skills such as sports or musical talents. So if you are a sporty person, enjoy music or have other talents and skills it would be good to put that in your profile online.
What Does an Au Pair Do?
The duties of the au pair widely range depending on the family. In my experience I watch the children for an hour in the morning, get them breakfast, comb the girls hair and then drop them off at school. In the afternoon I pick them up from school and bring them home. Once we get home my host dad is normally home and I am done for the day. If he is not home yet I get them snack and watch them until he is home.
For some families though you will be expected to do light housekeeping, laundry, cooking, bathing the children, and sometimes even driving the children to and from school and activities. You should by law have at least one day off every week. Most times you will get the weekends off. Some countries have rules about how long an au pair can work every day and requirements on what the au pair can and cannot do.
Some people don't love all the housework and would prefer just spending time with the children. Some of those people have transitioned into English teachers in Spain. Others have decided that while they love working with children, they'd prefer a career that involves more travel. If that sounds like you, look into working on a cruise ship, specifically in the youth clubs on board.
Host Families, Pay and Other Benefits
Host families come from all different backgrounds and ways of life. Most families that can afford an au pair are doing well off financially. However don't expect to be lounging around a pool with a cocktail all day long.
Although, there really are some families where this may be your job description. Most families though are normal families that live in normal neighborhoods. Most families will offer their au pair a private bedroom and bathroom in their house. Some au pairs will have their own apartment near by the host families home. On top of this the au pair should receive food, transportation, laundry privileges and possibly more perks.
The au pair should also receive a weekly or monthly stipend, or allowance. This allowance should depend on how much the host family is already paying for and what you are needing to cover cost for yourself. There are laws about how much the family is to pay the au pair.
For example though, my host family pays for everything I need other then my french classes. Those are 500€ for a trimester and I get paid 100€ a week. Most families also pay for your health insurance. Make sure that you ask about this before you sign a contract. You do not want to get stuck in a foreign country with no health benefits at all. Especially when you are only living on an au pair's salary.
Picking your Host family and Country
Starting the process of finding a host family is exciting! There are so many different families from so many different countries! Some of them offer the bare necessities while others are offering a luxurious lifestyle. Remember that the host families need you more than you need them!
Take your time, talk to several families and pick the one that suits you the best. It's ok to talk to several families at a time. Just let them know that they are not the only family you are considering.
There are so many websites that offer to help match au pairs with families, either for free or for a small fee. Definitely check with the free ones before paying to be part of the paid ones. My personal favorite is AuPairWorld. It is super easy to navigate and they have a huge support group for you once you do become an au pair.
When you make a profile with any of the agencies make sure you are super specific in your profile. A family is going to be attracted to a full profile, not one that says the bare minimum.
Also consider the location of where the family loves. Do you want to live in the city? If so then find a family that lives close to the center of the city. Living in the city will help with finding friends and a good Au pair network. Below I have listed some of the best Au Pair agencies and websites.
All The Perks Of Being an Au Pair
Being an au pair has been one of the best decisions of my life! I love France and all that it offers.
I am a huge foodie so learning all the new flavors and textures of France has been one of my favorite things! I have also found some of my best friends here in France. Paris is an amazing city with a huge diversity of languages, cultures, food, and sights to be seen. I would have to say that my favorite past time is heading to the Sacre Coeur in the 18th arrondissement, grabbing a crepe and watching all the people coming and going. Paris has a huge network of au pairs so it is always easy to find someone that wants to hang out.
Another perk of being an au pair is that you normally get to travel with your host family when they go on family trips and vacations. This year I will be going to Spain and Portugal with my host family. I also get to go to my “host-cousins” wedding this fall. I will actually be part of the wedding. If you find a good family, it is like finding a second family. I have a great relationship with my host parents. I would consider them more as friends!
The language is also another fun thing about being an au pair. Living in and amongst the French people has taught me a language I never dreamed of learning! It's a great way to learn a language or to sharpen your language skills.
Another way to live in France is by working on a yacht. With this career you'll still work hard and you can have little time off but it is a rewarding career that allows you to see other parts of the world all while getting paid.
You will probably find your best lifelong friends as an au pair. Finding other au pairs that are from your own country or that even speak your native language is a lifesaver for staying sane in a country that is not your own! You will make some very deep connections and friends through this. Getting out on the town and spending time with other English speaking people here in France has been one of the best things I have done. It is so much fun to hang out with people that understand me and my culture. It is so nice to have like-minded people that can laugh with me at all of my mistakes. To me, finding and making new friends has been the best perk of being an au pair!
One of my favorite places to get extra info about being an au pair is through Edwina and Hanna at Au Pair, Oh Paris. These two girls used to be au pairs in Paris. They now live in Paris and own a small company catering to au pairs needs. The have a website, YouTube channel, host events for Au pairs and have even published a book about being an au pair! Thy have an amazing network that has helped me so much and answered so many of my questions when I was looking at becoming an au pair.
Another place that has a great list of topics is Au Pair Wiki. It is part of the AuPair Worlds website and they go over almost every topic and question that is out there about being an Au pair.
Also make sure to talk to the former au paris of the family you are interested in. They will be your biggest help in finding out what the family is really like. In my case I am my host families first au pair so I didn't have anyone to talk to about them. But I did as much research as I could. I friended them on Facebook and I FaceTimed and talked to my host mom nonstop! I found out as much as I could about them before I signed the contract.
I hope that you have found this article helpful! Feel free to reach out to me and ask any questions you have. I will do my best at answering them. And if this is something that you decide to do well then I wish you the best of luck in finding an amazing family that suits you perfectly!