I tend to get questioned often about the process of becoming an Au Pair. I figured I would make it easier on myself and my readers by making this FAQ. If you have additional questions, please feel free to contact me personally through my email/social media!
What is an Au Pair?
The term “Au Pair” is french for equal exchange. In this context it means that you live with a family for free room and board, in exchange for childcare services/light household duties. An Au Pair is also different from a live-in nanny in that the Au Pair is typically from another country as the host family, leading the experience to be a cultural exchange as well.
Why did you decide to become an Au Pair?
I have always loved working with kids and was working as a nanny and private tutor back in Texas before I came. I have a degree in Elementary Education and am a certified teacher, but after graduating from my University and starting to work, I realized I wanted to spend time abroad and traveling before I settled into a job/life back in the States. Being an Au Pair was a great answer because this would give me this opportunity to live abroad, at no charge, while working with kids and having great opportunities to travel.
What service did you use to find your Au Pair family?
There are many online networks that I usually relate to dating websites- you create a profile, the families create profiles, you can search based on criteria you are looking for and message parties that you are interested in. These are usually free for the Au Pair, and are only a small fee for the families. There are also Au Pair companies that you pay to use and they find you a placement. These are a little bit more secure, and if anything goes wrong, they will help you find another family, but they are also not free. I used a website, http://www.aupair-world.net. I have also known people who have used http://www.greataupair.com and they have liked it, as well.
Did you narrow down the country you wanted to go to before setting up a profile on Au Pair World?
Yes. I knew I wanted to be in either Germany or Austria because I already knew the basics of German and wanted to improve on that. I would try to narrow it down to 3 countries or so at the most, otherwise you will literally be inundated with messages!
How long does the process take? Is there a best time to look for jobs?
The process length is different for everyone. Some families start searching for their next Au Pair 6 months out, some only a couple months, and some have immediate needs. I signed up in June, had found my family by July, but didn’t come until January! But I know Au Pairs that signed up and left a month later, too. Any time is good to start looking- it is different for every family! Although I do know many people that came right after the holidays, in January, and I’ve heard of many that come around the start of a new school year, at the end of summer.
Did you contact the families or do you have to wait for them to find you? Any advice when trying to pick a family?
Both! I contacted many and many contacted me! It really is more about who feels right to you and what sounds like the best possible living situation for you. Some want you to work weekends, some want you to clean more, etc, so you just have to keep looking until you find a family that you have a good connection with that also has what you’re looking for. and don’t be afraid to say no!
What was your contract like? Did you have to negotiate things that you wanted?
Each country has different Au Pair regulations. In Germany, the family is required to give you 260euros a month and pay for your health insurance. If you live in a city, many families also pay for your public transportation, but I’m in a small town so we can get around everyone by foot/bike, so that’s not the case for me. They did also provide me with a bike. I paid for my flight in full, that’s pretty common, but I have seen some families say they will pay half, but definitely not required. My family also paid for 1 language course. Most of them do, but some may only be half. When you are here for a full year, you also have 4 weeks paid vacation. I wouldn’t say there’s much negotiating.. most families follow what is required and then maybe do a little bit more depending on where you live.
Would you suggest getting the 90 day tourist visa, and wait to get the au pair visa once in Germany? (this question applies to those coming from the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan)
Yes. You are allowed to be in the EU 90 days as a tourist without having any sort of visa (just a stamp in your passport with your expiration date 3 months later). I got my Au Pair visa about 2.5 months in, and the process takes a couple weeks to be completed. Once you move here, though, you do have to register in the city you’re living in within 30 days (but they actually get mad if you don’t do it within the first week) and that’s just filling out name/address, etc, but when you get your visa they have to see proof of this. But this is something the family should know about and take you to do.
Did you have a lot of money saved up before you went? Is that necessary?
I definitely didn’t have a lot, but I had been working for a year and a half and I also sold my car before I came, so I did have some! I know some Au Pairs that didn’t and it’s pretty stressful just living off the spending money they give you- they are always limited in what they can do on weekends and can’t travel as much. For me, travel is a major part of this experience so I budgeted out my weekend trips and have specific money saved for that. It’s definitely better to come with some money! but it is possible, to do without, as well.
What does a typical day in the life of an Au Pair look like?
Every job and family are different, but in my case, I work about 25 hours a week. Every morning I get up around 7:15 and help the boys get ready for school/do breakfast. I take the little boy to kindergaten, am back around 8:45 and spend the next hour doing some light cleaning (dishes, vacuuming, picking up the living room, etc). When that is done, I am free all day until I pick up the boys mid-afternoon, any time between 2:30-4pm. We play all afternoon, do homework, then I help get dinner ready, eat with the family, help clean up, and am usually free around 7/7:30pm. Weekends are also always free for me.
How do you meet people/make friends as an Au Pair?
This is also different depending on where you are located, but if I can do it in a village in the mountains with a population off 6,000, I think it’s possible anywhere! One great way is by taking a language course. There were 5 other Au Pairs in my class from surrounding towns and we all became fast friends. Talk to previous Au Pairs from your host family and find out who they were friends with. My local friends here have typically welcomed all of the Au Pairs into their friend group and they immediately took me in my first week in town! There are all sorts of other ways, like joining a sports team or getting involved in a church. The internet is a great resource, as well! There are always Au Pair groups you can find in each city and most people are more than willing to be your friend!
Here are some other great Au Pair blogs to check out, and some other helpful resources:
If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to comment or contact me!
*Disclaimer: Everything on this page is from my personal experiences/opinions. No experience, family or Au Pair will be the same, and I cannot speak for others. I recommend checking other resources, as well as using your own best personal judgement.