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.
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.”