How to become an Au Pair


Becoming an Au Pair is a chance to live in a foreign country and pay nothing for accommodation or food, whilst earning a bit of pocket money. You get an insight into the country through a native’s eyes. Living with a native family gives you experience in another language and culture, better than you would get on holiday. You help the family by looking after the children but at the same time get treated as part of the family. It will improve your CV and you will make lifelong friends.

mary poppins

If you love visiting cities like I do, being an Au Pair would be perfect for you. You can explore the city in as much time as you like, depending on how long you want to stay in that country for. I’ll be spending 4 months in Madrid this summer, so it will give me more than enough time to explore and find the nicest cafes and shops, unlike a holiday. On holidays, especially if you’re travelling with family for usually 2 weeks or less, you don’t have nearly enough time to get everything done that you want to, and it’s a pain. Your new country will be your home away from home, and in addition to doing all the touristy stuff you’d do on holiday, you get to do everyday things. It’s the best of both worlds. But HOW to become an Au Pair is a frequently asked question.

Find an agency. Agencies like AuPairWorld or GreatAuPair will let you sign up for FREE and create an account which matches you with families straight away. When you register, you will be asked to fill out a form with your age, gender, height and weight, number of years of education, if you can swim, if you have a driver’s licence, how much experience you have with children, and languages you speak. You will also have to say how many months you intend to spend/ work in the host country. Your host family preferences are also important i.e. which countries/cities you’d prefer to work in, the age range of the parents AND children (and how many children), whether they have pets, whether they smoke, how many hours you’d prefer to work (part-time/full-time), and wage range.

Search for a country you have always wanted to live and work in, and with a language you have always wanted to learn. The agency will try to match you with all registered families with most or all of your preferences. You may have to upload some pictures of yourself, and complete an online interview which gives you a better chance of families liking your profile.

Contact. With GreatAuPair, you can favourite the families which you would like to potentially work with. However if you are not a paid subscriber you will not be able to message the family directly. You have to wait until they contact you. I would not suggest subscribing to an agency because families are very quick to favourite or even message you without paid subscription. The family will message you saying that they are interested in you working for them, and give you their personal email address and ask to arrange a Skype call to get to know you better. The Skype call will be an informal interview, and they will ask you things like what you like doing, your hobbies, how much experience you’ve had with kids and it’s a chance for you to ask them questions as well. Remember that you are also interviewing them to see if they are a match for you. Over Skype you can tell what the family are like better than over email, and whether they seem to respect you or not.

In my other blog post, All Booked Up, I mentioned that if you don’t actually talk to a family, you won’t know if they are genuinely a REAL family. Be careful. You can always say no to a family, even after talking to them face to face. If it seems like you won’t get along, as you will be spending months with them, don’t go for it. You can always talk to other families, and you don’t have to say yes to the first family you come across.

Negotiate a salary. Negotiation is key. Ask for a higher salary than what they want to give you. Work is work, and you want to be paid a reasonable amount for the work you do. Usually, families will pay you “pocket money” so it won’t be a very high salary like it would be working in a cafe or bar. Plus, they are letting you live in their house and eat their food so you don’t have many expenses. You pretty much only have to pay for flights, which, if you go really early in the morning or late at night will be much cheaper than the middle of the day.

And once you’ve done all that and have been offered a job, you can relax. And just remember:

“In every job that must be done, there is an element of FUN! You find the fun and SNAP, the job’s a game.”

xxx

Packing: 4 months abroad


I have never been on holiday abroad for anything longer than 2 weeks, disregarding the time I lived in Spain when I was younger. It’s a bit scary knowing I’m going to move abroad. It’s not so bad when you’re young! This time, I have to pack my life into a 20kg suitcase and a carry-on. I am at this point in time, facing the question “How do I fit everything?” But you have to remember that other countries do in fact have clothes shops and other essential shops. They aren’t barbarians and you don’t have to pack your whole wardrobe, bathroom, bookshelf etc. Consider packing half the things you think you need, otherwise, you won’t have space to pack the things you buy out there. Like presents. It’s tempting to pack everything you own, but it’s not necessary. Think to yourself “Will I actually wear/use this?” and if you hesitate, it usually means no.

packing

If you’re working as an Au Pair, you will be working with kids. They aren’t going to judge your appearance are they? You aren’t going to want to pack anything glamorous or dressy because chances are the outfit might get ruined. Unless you go out at night with friends in the city.

So, here’s my list:

Carry-on/ Hand/ Cabin Luggage

  • Boarding pass
  • Passport
  • Phone and charger (and a European adapter!)
  • Other ID e.g. driving license/ provisional
  • Debit card – If you live in Europe and are travelling to Europe make sure to NOTIFY THE BANK that you will be living in a different country otherwise the bank may freeze your account as you can take out money using your cashpoint card in European countries.
  • Cash in a purse (200-300 euros, or in the currency of your destination) – enough to get you by before being paid.
  • Emergency contact list
  • EHIC card
  • Book/ Kindle
  • Copy of accommodation plans – physical address of where you are staying
  • Spare outfit (for emergencies i.e. lost luggage)
  • Sunglasses
  • Hairbrush and hairbands/clips
  • Earphones and iPod
  • Lip balm
  • Snacks
  • Tissues (if the airplane doesn’t have toilet paper you’re in trouble)
  • Camera and Laptop, with chargers and batteries – can’t risk them being thrown about/ broken if in the hold.
  • Gifts for host family and kids

Suitcase/ Hold/ Checked Luggage

Toiletries

  • Shampoo, conditioner and body wash
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Acne cream and face wash
  • Moisturiser
  • Makeup
  • Deodorant
  • Sun cream and after-sun
  • Shaving razors
  • Tampons and pads
  • Face wipes

Just remember in EasyJet you are only allowed 10 x 100ml bottles in your carry-on. But take into consideration that baggage restrictions may be different for other flight companies. Normal size liquids are allowed in hold luggage. So you won’t have to leave your favourite shampoo at home, don’t worry! It would be a nuisance to try and find the exact same one in another country.

Clothes

  • Shorts (x4)
  • Jeans/ jeggings (x4-5)
  • Cardigans (x2-3)
  • Tank/ vest tops (x6)
  • Dresses – casual and dressy (x1-3)
  • Jackets (x1-2)
  • Coats (x1)
  • T-shirts (x5-6)
  • Dressy tops (x4-5)
  • Underwear – bras, pants, socks (2 weeks worth)
  • Pajamas (two sets)
  • Trackie/ Jogging bottoms (x3)
  • Going out outfit (x2-3)
  • Leggings (x1-2)
  • Jumpers/ sweaters (x2)
  • Skirts and tights (x3)
  • Swimsuit/ bikini (one of each)

You have to decide how many of each item to bring yourself depending on how large your suitcase is, and your preferences/ style. I’d suggest that you bring mix and match clothing, it saves space! If you’re going to be living in a hot country, you won’t need to bring loads of jumpers and jeans, but check the weather patterns because you might get caught out.

Shoes

  • Slippers (x1)
  • Heels for going out (x1)
  • Flip-flops/ sandals (x1)
  • Casual shoes – e.g. vans/ converse (I have about 6 pairs of vans, all different colours) – Pack the ones that you can match with all outfits (x3)
  • Boots (x1)

Shoes are bulky, so try not to pack lots of pairs unless you absolutely need to. There are shoe shops in your new country.

Although baggage is chucked around a lot, so you have to be careful if you want to pack cameras and laptops because it may not be safe. Some people say don’t even pack anything in your checked luggage that you can’t risk losing. I’d pack them in hand luggage instead of hold.

And once you have ticked off everything on the list, you’re good to go! Happy travelling.

xxx

 

Host Family Gifts


So, you have confirmation that you will be staying with a host family in a country abroad, as an Au Pair and have booked your flights. What is the next reasonable thing to think of? Gifts for your host family. The question “What presents do I bring for my host family?” comes to mind. It is the question that comes to every Au Pair’s mind because of course, you can’t come empty handed, that would be rude. Or so you think. But it’s a nice idea nonetheless and they’ll be grateful with whatever they are bought. After all, you will be staying with them for a long time and want to make a good first impression. It shows appreciation.

gifts

But it isn’t Christmas. You don’t want to come overloaded with gifts. You want to find something small that will ideally fit in your suitcase but also something that won’t be discarded the week after you arrive. What about chocolate for the kids? Possibly, if it doesn’t melt in the suitcase on the flight over. But everyone loves chocolate! It’s a safe gift isn’t it? So you start thinking a little bit harder and closer to home. Host families usually love gifts that are stereotypically traditional and part of your own culture. British tea for example. I started to look on Google to find something (anything!) stereotypically British that would be suitable to bring because the date was getting close. 10 days.

I, for one, was not born with the magnificently innate skill of gift-giving. Some people find it hard, like me, to buy something for someone who is difficult to buy for generally. I usually end up buying something last minute! So I need this time to be special. Nothing too expensive and nothing too cheap or tacky. I am in fact, their first Au Pair. But you see, I’m not very good at thinking outside the box for these sorts of things. I’ve spoken with my fellow Au Pairs and they don’t have a clue either. So who do I turn to next? The host Family? Of course not, it’s a secret.

You have to ask yourself what your host family is like. Have you met them over Skype? Great! Did you talk about their favourite activities? Such as swimming, cycling, football, dancing. You can pick up a few cues about what they like and don’t like from their profile page if you found them through an online organisation. Does the family go on regular outings? What do they typically do during the day? All of these things can come into play when you are thinking about gifts for your host family. So take notice and you’ll eventually figure something out. They’ll love it anyway.

xxx

All Booked Up


That’s it. Flights booked for Madrid. 12 days until I start my adventure as an Au Pair. What is an Au Pair you ask? Here, I’ll give you the dictionary definition: “A young foreign person, typically a woman, who helps with housework or childcare in exchange for food, a room, and some pocket money”. Yep, the start of my epic 3-and-a-half month adventure begins on the first of June.

dream travel explore

As a psychology student, I have very long summer holidays. May to late September to be exact. So I figured I needed to get a job, and I thought, what would be better than an extended break somewhere new, foreign and with better weather? Probably nothing. I don’t remember how I heard about Au Pairing so I looked it up. I’d been planning on going abroad this summer anyway and it looked exactly like something I would love to do. Living in a Spanish family’s house would be an excellent way to learn more about the Spanish culture, and I’d pick up the language so much better than I would by using any online Language course. I found an Au Pair website fairly easily and was matched with the family I will be spending this summer with; a family in their 30s with 3 kids. Perfect.

It was them who messaged me first. At first, I was apprehensive but after emailing them a few times and arranging a Skype call I was feeling better. I knew they were a real family and I wouldn’t be travelling not knowing who exactly I had planned to stay with and work for! (Seriously, don’t plan to work for someone abroad if you’ve never actually spoken with them face to face – that is a recipe for disaster). I got along with the family over Skype really well, and they offered me the job in Madrid! Easy as that. They are decorating my room in their house as we speak.

To be honest, I’d hate to work a 9 to 5 job. It’s just not me. When has that ever worked out for anyone? I mean, when it comes to job satisfaction. I realised that if I got an office job, my life would be boring. A 9 to 5 job is the complete opposite of fun. But I guess if you love what you do, keep doing it. If I stayed in England this summer I know I’d regret it so I had to do something about it. Something different and completely crazy. That’s what some of my friends thought anyway. That I was crazy deciding to move to Madrid. But I didn’t care. I’m not going to live a life of mediocrity and following the crowd.

I’m excited but nervous because it’s something I’ve never done before. But the wise Shia Labeouf once said “JUST DO IT”, so I am. I guess I’ve caught the travel bug.

xxx