If you adore being around children and like the idea of being around a family pretty much full time, then being an Au Pair might be right for you. An Au Pair usually lives with their host family, looking after their children and helping out with light domestic tasks. Whilst it might seem a doddle of a job, anyone who has been an Au Pair knows that it can still be full on work.
"Travel, live and work with a host company and learn a foreign language at the same time."
An Au Pair is an Internationally recognised cultural exchange programme and allows the au pair to travel, live and work with a host company and learn a foreign language at the same time. This isnt always the case, and some Au Pairs dont necessarily want the language part, but the idea of language learning is one of the reasons why many are drawn to being an Au Pair.
You can read about what it's like to be an Au Pair in France for an inside look and help you decide if it's right for you.
There are huge upsides to being an Au Pair
- It could be a great way to learn a language if thats your aim
- There's no worry about commuting as you will be living with the family
- If you are lucky, you may even get your own car, TV, mobile or land in a place with a pool!
- You will really get to grips with a foreign culture as you will be living it
However, do remember that:
- It can be lonely and living with someone elses family may make you miss your own even more
- And, of course, we all know that families have arguments and issues and youll be right there in the thick of it
- The work can be tiring and children arent always the lovely bundles of joy we think they will be.
What qualifications and experience do you need?
Connie Lee of Smart Au Pairs (www.smartaupairs.com), an agency that places Au Pairs with families abroad, says; to be a successful Au Pair you must hold a genuine interest in children. Having previous babysitting skills helps tremendously!
Language skills will definitely be a help if you are going to a country that speaks a different language, and many families will want you to be able to drive. You will also need to be 18.
If applying through an agency, you will need a medical report and a Police check.
Who Would It Suit?
Connie Lee pinpoints the ideal Au Pair:
The main purpose of the Au Pair experience is the cultural exchange, learning a different culture by living alongside a family in the host country. Therefore, it is important that a candidate is not afraid to try out new things and has a positive and flexible approach. As the Au Pair will be spending the majority of the time with their host family, they must enjoy family life, spending time with children, and taking part in family activities for instance.
Traditionally, Au Pairs are female, but a male Au pair is not unheard of. A family may opt for male Au Pairs if for instance they have sons, and would like the Au Pair to be seen as an older brother figure.
Term will vary but expect to work five hours a day, five days a week, with some babysitting 2-3 evenings a week. You may get 260 euros a week in Europe, or $150 in Australia, and you shouldnt be left alone with children younger than two.
"Hours, pocket money, duties and holidays should be confirmed before."
Connie Lee suggests Generally when families conduct interviews with au pairs, we would recommend conducting further interviews, to make sure that both parties would be suited in the role. Areas such as hours, pocket money, duties, duration of stay and holidays should also be confirmed beforehand and before accepting a role.
To give you a rough idea of the pocket money and types of duties for instance we would recommend the British Au Pair Agencies Association website. (BAPAA). We ourselves work in accordance to the BAPAA guidelines and their recommendations.
BAPAA, the British Au pair Agencies Association (many UK Au Pair agencies are members) recommends 4 weeks per year, or 1.66 days per month pro rata if placement is shorter). But paid holidays should be agreed between the host family and au pair before you go.
Learning A Language
Negotiate with your host family even before you go how much time you will have available to do this. If it is not enough for you to get the language learning you need, keep looking. Do remember, that while your aim may be to practise your Spanish/Italian/German as much as possible, they may also want to be practising their English with you!
If learning a language isn't for you, Connie Lee points out that here is a very high demand for au pairs (particularly native English speakers) in Australia at the moment. Au pairs find Australia particularly appealing due to the sunshine, beaches, laid back lifestyle, amazing wildlife and also because there are plenty of other young travellers there!
Socialising with other Au Pairs can be a great help. You can find these through online forums such as Best Au Pair Guide (www.bestaupairguide.com), as well as notices at baby groups, nurseries and schools. If you dont see any, put your own one up! If you used an agency, you could also ask them to put you in touch with other Au Pairs in your local area.
Also, beware of scams such as people pretending to be families and asking you to send money to buy your ticket upfront. This is why going with an agency can sometimes be safer - or even ask personal contacts if they know anyone too.
Why Use An Agency?
Connie Lee of Smart Au Pairs (www.smartaupairs.com), tells us, why, in her opinion, it makes sense to use an agency.
The first benefit of using an agency is that you will save time. The agency will take your preferences on board and introduce you only to families who match what you are looking for. Therefore, you will not need to waste your time sifting through profiles of families who are unsuitable for you. You can rest assured that every family understands the nature of the program and that you will be treated and paid fairly. If any problems do arise during your placement, your agency will be able to offer you support and guidance and in many cases, help you to find a replacement family if things dont work out.