Have you always wanted to experience another country but couldn’t find an economical way to do so? Are you a patient person who enjoys spending time with children? Does the idea of spending a summer or the next few months working at your local Dairy Queen make you cringe? If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, then becoming an Au Pair might be a great job for you.
What is an Au Pair?
Generally speaking, an Au Pair is girl from another country, between the ages of eighteen and late twenties, who lives with a family and takes care of their kids. In exchange they receive room, board, and some pocket money. Usually it is a cultural exchange where the Au Pair becoming a sort of member of the family rather than a baby-sitter.
The exact role depends on the needs of the family, but often you will take care of the kids during the week for around 30 hours and have weekends free. This could involve light housework and some cooking. I chose a family that had a housekeeper who did both, so I didn’t have to worry about cooking.
How do you find a family?
The website that most of the Au Pairs I know have used is Au Pair World (www.aupair-world.net). It is a really great site that allows you to create a profile and search through families’ profiles while they also search Au Pair profiles. Most importantly, it is free!
Advice for Future Au Pairs:
Don’t settle for the first family who contacts you. You may be super excited at first and fall in love with every family you see, but do your research and wait and see what other offers you get. There are a lot of families looking for Au Pairs, so you shouldn’t be worried that you won’t find one who wants you. Check the country guidelines on Au Pair World to see the minimum you should get and don’t take less. Although you shouldn’t take an Au Pair job to make a lot of money and your living expenses will be covered, you need enough to go out sometimes and travel a little bit.
Don’t do it just for the money. If you make an effort not to spend much, you can probably come home with some cash, but not much. Don’t go crazy, but don’t force yourself to stay at home every night to save money. You won’t have enough for frequent shopping sprees, but you will have plenty to enjoy yourself. You might be able to make some more money teaching private English classes, though. If you want to travel but don’t want to spend a fortune, try Couch Surfing.
You might be overwhelmed with messages. This varies depending on your preferences. If you are a native English speaker and choose a country with a lot of families, like Spain, you probably will receive a lot of interest. There are a lot of families looking for Au Pairs to help their kids practice English, so if you are a native English speaker you will be in even higher demand.
Trust your instincts. If you are messaging with a family and something seems sketchy, don’t continue. There are plenty of other families out there. Make sure you have a lot of contact and Skype with the family before accepting an offer. You can also ask for references from past au pairs if they have had any.
Be clear about your expectations and don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. If you are interested in learning the language, get the family to pay for your classes! It may be intimidating to ask for it, but you shouldn’t have a problem finding a family willing to do so if you are staying for longer than a summer. If you are a terrible cook, don’t tell the family you have no problem making all of the family recipes.
The family is more important than the location, but location is still important. Although you may have your heart set on living in the city center of Barcelona, don’t accept an offer with a family you won’t be happy with just to be in a cool place. With that being said, don’t accept an offer in a place you couldn’t see yourself being happy in just because the family is awesome. Make sure you figure out how close the family actually lives to the city. They may say they live in Madrid, but that could mean fifty kilometers away. Ask a lot of questions! Also, don’t be afraid to go to a city you don’t know much about. Just because it isn’t a typical tourist destination, doesn’t mean it isn’t a cool place to spend a few months (or longer!).
So what are you waiting for? If you are curious, you can browse Au Pair World and even check out some families before you create a profile. If there are any current or past au pairs who have anything to add, leave a comment!