The Truth About Being An Au Pair

The Truth About Being An Au Pair

If you’ve reached that point in life where wanderlust has hit you like a speeding train, it could be time to take a breather and think about the next step. Whilst that office job might pay well enough to keep you in Netflix subscriptions, is it really the best way to spend your twenties? Do you want to look back on these years and realise that you put true adventure on hold for a steady wage and Saturday nights in watching Orange Is The New Black?

For anybody who’s ever caught themselves longing for something that they can’t quite define, for all of those twenty somethings who struggle with the realisation that big dreams have to come second to real life sometimes – it’s okay, it’ll happen for you. And when it does, it’s your job to mould the experience into something worthwhile. This is precisely why so many young people choose to enter the world of au pairing, as a means of funding and shaping their overseas adventures.

The Benefits of Au Pairing

If you’re not quite sure what au pairing constitutes, here’s a quick rundown. The vast majority of au pairs are just regular people, usually in their twenties, who have decided to fund their overseas travel by caring for the children of local families. They’re babysitters, but with a twist. As most au pairs start off as strangers to the country that they’re visiting, they’re invited to live with a host family – in exchange for day to day childcare and help around the house.

It’s a magnificent way to explore a country, especially when you’re young. You don’t need any qualifications, your food and board is paid for, and in some cases, you even get a weekly allowance – all in exchange for playing silly games and making some little kids laugh. It’s common for an au pair to spend up to six months with a host family and in this time, they naturally get very close to both the parents and the children. It’s not unusual for au pairs and their host families to stay in contact for years after they’ve left one another.

For those with the right amount of confidence, au pairing is a great way to fund long term travel. You’re legally entitled to a fair amount of free time, so there’s plenty of opportunity to explore your new country at the weekends and on your days off. The downsides to au pairing are few and far between, but it’s still important to be fully informed about the risks and realities of being a stranger (and a foreigner) working as a child-minder. This is a guide to the things that they never tell you about being an au pair.

You Will Feel Out Of Your Depth   

You will find au pairing daunting at first. It’s perfectly natural – you’ve moved to another country, set yourself up with an unfamiliar family and started caring for their children. It is a little unusual, so don’t worry about feeling out of your depth. Your host family should give you a couple of easy weeks, just until you find your feet. Whilst most families will expect you to dive in head first after a brief induction period, you don’t have to be Super Nanny. You’re bound to make mistakes along the way, but as long as the kids are kept safe, fed and watered, it’s okay not to know everything. 

You Might Have To Put In Overtime

As an au pair, you’re entitled to free time. The evenings are generally your own, as you can’t be forced to work daytimes and evenings. This doesn’t mean, however, that a host family won’t ask you to take over the reins as a personal favour. If you’ve fulfilled your hours for the day, it is up to you whether or not you decide to put in overtime. As you are receiving free room and board - and because, hopefully, you’re becoming good friends - it can be a nice gesture to do some extra babysitting or take care of the house work from time to time.    

They Might Not Like You

If you follow the proper application process, it’s unlikely that this will happen – interviews, personality tests and telephone introductions are used to make compatible matches between host families and au pairs. Yet, there’s no way to know whether a match will work until the two parties are thrown together. It’s rare, but animosities do happen and au pairs do get landed with overly demanding or impolite host families. If this is the case, it can be difficult to handle, but it doesn’t have to ruin your experience. If you’re polite, responsible and good with the kids – what more can you do? You’ve got to hold your head high, do your best and remind yourself that what you’re really here for is adventure.

You’ll Have An Amazing Time

The most important thing that people neglect to tell au pairs is just how much the experience will change them. It sounds like a cliché, but it’s true. There are few things as character-building as moving to a new country and just having to fit in, to survive and flourish amongst people who are different to yourself. It doesn’t matter whether you stay for three months or six, you will leave a different person. You’ll come home and marvel at how easily you adapted to a brand new life, how quickly you stopped feeling like a tourist and started feeling like a local. There is simply no better way to travel the world and feel at home than au pairing.   


Have you ever worked as an au pair? Tell us about your experience below!


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