Simply put, an au pair is a live-in contracted childcare provider who also assists with household responsibilities in exchange for free room and board and a small wage. They are typically 18-30 years old. The goal of an au pair arrangement is to offer a cultural exchange for both the au pair and the children being cared for.
As an au pair, you will have the opportunity to live like a local while also being able to explore the city or region you are living in. It is a great option for those looking to start travelling, but who are looking for a safe and affordable option.
Au pairs will often be responsible for driving children to and from school and activities, preparing meals, entertaining the children, assisting with homework, and babysitting in the evenings. Light housework such as laundry, vacuuming, sweeping, and general tidying is also often expected.
Au pairs typically work morning and afternoons for 15-35 hours per week and are free in the evenings and on the weekends to enjoy their own interests and activities although these hours will be dependant on the specific family and their needs.
A common contract will be 6 to 12 months long although you can find shorter and longer options.
The amount of money you will make varies quite widely depending on the location you choose. Here is a table of wages, organized by country, that you can explore further.
Places to Au Pair
How to Find a Job as an Au Pair
There are some great sites such as Au Pair World, Great Au Pair, and Au Pair. You will need to register and create a profile so you can be found by families. Some au pair websites require a membership fee, while others are free to use.
You will need to consider the minimum and maxiumum ages of the children you are willing to care for, whether you want to live in the city or countryside, which country or countries you are willing to work in among other things.
Once you have completed your full profile, you will be able to contact families and they can contact you. Make sure you take some tme to ask questions and get to know the families before you accept a position. Talk over video chat if possible to see one another and tomake sure you are all comfortable before you commit to the family
Make sure you go over the terms of your contract and your work schedule thoroughly to make sure both sides understand the exact details. You need to know what you will be doing and whether you are ok with it before you accept. Having expectations change after you arrive can be stressful and make your experience less than ideal. Communication is absolutely key! You will be living in their home and any resentment or misunderstandings can create a very uncomfortable situation. I experienced this in Australia with my first family.
You can use an au pair placement agency to assist with screening prospective families and assist you with getting your visa.
What are the Benefits of Being an Au Pair
1. Financially Feasible
With free room and board, you can use your pocket money to explore where you are staying or visit nearby cities. If you are in Europe, you can easily book a train or plane to visit other countries on your time off.
2. Frequent Travel
Some families travel frequently and as an au pair, you will either be asked to come along or will have extended breaks to do your own sightseeing. This is dependant on the family and it will often be stated in the family profiles.
3. Meet People From Around the World
If you are located in larger cities, you can connect with other au pairs and learn about their cultures too and spend time off together. You also may be able to find Facebook Groups for Au Pairs in your city to help you find au pairs near you.
Developing friendships with people from other countries allows you to explore different cultural norms and varying opinions. It provides an opportunity to try new things while being surrounded by people who care about you.
4. Cultural Immersion
The opportunity to be immersed in another culture is the most rewarding part of the job. This experience grows you in ways you can’t explain. It will challenge you and provide opportunities you could not experience back home.
5. Learning a New Language
While you may not come back fluent in the new language, you will quickly pick up new words and phrases if you allow yourself to try. Your self-confidence and ability to be self-sufficient in your new home will increase dramatically when you learn even the basics. You will see the world differently when you see it through the lens of a new language. The way things are described is a very cultural experience.
6. Great Resume Booster
When employers see that you are willing to challenge yourself by stepping outside your comfort zone and move to a new country they see someone who is adaptable, resourceful, a risk-taker, open to challenges, a problem-solver, self-reliant, open-minded, and adventurous.
7. It’s a Responsible Use of Your Gap Year
If you are choosing to take a year off from school, working as an au pair is a responsible use of your time. While you have the option to use your gap year however you wish, using this time to develop skills and personal development looks good to employers. When they are looking for consistency in education or career, having a legitimate explanation for why you took a break is much better than trying to find a way to say you just needed a break.
8. Begin Exploring the World Solo
Being an au pair allows you a safe home base to head out from to explore the world around you. You have parental figures and local experts who can offer you tips for the best way to see what you want to. You can test the waters of solo travel with day trips or weekend trips and build up to week-long trips while you are based with your family.
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