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So you want to get paid to live abroad and experience a new culture at the same time huh? How about brush up on all those domestic skills that you probably ignored your dear sweet mother trying to teach you? Well – since I am a member of the sex that is notoriously bad for….wait – a minute. We are modern men, we can do it all too (not really), I thought I would hand the child rearing reins over to someone who actually likes children and doesn’t have a proclivity to hit them with sticks. So without further verbal meandering, I bring you Alex, who will tell you all about what it takes to become an Au Pair in Germany (or anywhere for that matter).
What is an Au Pair?
Au pair is a French term meaning “equal to”. Thus, it implies a mutually beneficial relationship between you and the family. Au pairs typically live with the family in their home and help take care of the children along with fulfilling some basic household duties in exchange for a place to stay and a cultural immersion abroad.
Implies is they key word here. A mutually beneficial relationship is the key to a successful au pair year. The family must get what they want out of the situation, whether it be childcare, language enhancement, etc. and the au pair must get whatever they want out of their year abroad, like
enriching the lives of children partying, international love, and/or maybe learning a little something.
Why would you become an au pair?
There are many reasons people become an au pair. I became an au pair because I wanted to travel more of Europe and experience another culture in full.
Here’s a list of reasons people decide to be an au pair:
- travel opportunities
- to learn another language
- immerse oneself in another culture
- better people skills
- enrich the lives of children
- gain once in a lifetime experiences
Here is a list of reasons people do not become au pairs:
- for the money
- to clean up after kids
How do you find a family to become an Au Pair for?
Well, you found this website, didn’t you? I recommend a similar strategy called Google. I, personally, used Au Pair World because it was free from my end. However, there are definitely advantages to paying and going through an agency, like background checks and possibilities to seamless switch families should a problem arise.
What is an Au Pair’s typical day?
I cannot speak for a typical day because everyone has extremely different experiences depending on the number and ages of the children, the parents’ work status and schedules, and the type of size of the city in which you live.
7:30 – Walk 8 year old to school
8:00 – Eat breakfast
8:30 – Take 2 year old and play, read
11:00 – Nap time. Put 2 year old to sleep and complete chores, typically vacuuming or folding clothes
12:45 – Wake up 2 year old
1:00 – Lunch time
1:45 – Read with one of the children
2:30 – Freedom
You might think, but wait, that is more than 5 hours/day. You are, indeed, correct. Unfortunately, this is really common for au pairs and it is an issue you will have to crawl under a rock and cry about or step up and face the big boss head on. I confronted the problem and it solved it.
What is the compensation for being an Au Pair?
Every country and family has their own idea of what to pay an au pair. In Germany, where I was an au pair, for example, au pairs are supposed to work 30 hours/wk with one day off per week (usually Sunday). Au pairs can also be asked to work two evenings per week. The family must provide the au pair, in turn, with health insurance, a bedroom, and 260€/month “pocket money”. They must also allow time for the au pair to attend language courses if he/she so desires.
However, every country and family differs. Make sure your family is meeting the minimum requirements, and preferably seek one that goes above and beyond. Some will offer more money, a monthly public transportation pass, a car, a bike, extra time off, pay for your language classes, your flight, etc.
Advice for would be Au Pairs?
I could probably write about this for ages. I had an overall amazing au pair experience with a family I respect and adore. I still see and keep in touch with them.
- Open Your Mind. Everyone has different experiences. Do your best to make the most out of the situation you are in. If there is nothing else you can do, try and find another family. This will be awkward, but it is most important that you can enjoy this special time abroad and that the family does not take advantage of you as cheap labor. You are not doing it for the money so you better get something else out of. I learned so much from my family and the people I’ve met abroad. Just listen and enjoy the encounters with people from a whole other part of the world and you will, too.
- Don’t Pick Just Anyone. Before moving abroad, put special time and consideration into picking your family. Do you get a good feeling about them? Have you asked all the questions you dreamed up? Do you understand your duties? Have they had an au pair before? Talk to them.
- Where will you live? Research your host family’s city. Many au pair situations are in smaller towns or suburbs. This is not necessarily a bad thing. First, make sure there will be other young people around. A university is a great sign! Will you be able to get around at all hours of the day and night, whether it be by local transport or bicycle? Is it a safe place to live with activities you are interested in accessible? Is it easy to travel distances from where you will be living? Is there a language school nearby?
- R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Learn to respect your family’s ways. Just because the children are raised differently than you were or will raise your children, does not make it wrong. Different cultures and families have their own reasons and ways of doing things. Instead, try and think about why they choose these methods – you might even learn something!
- Open Up. To get the most out of your experience, open up to those around you. My host parents became trusted mentors that I can easily confide in. They will be your main resource for any questions and problems you have while living there. They will call the doctor when you are sick. They will help you find activities. But there may also be problems, and you need to be able to talk about them. When I first moved into their home, they told me that I had to tell them if something was wrong because otherwise there was no way of knowing. When I finally could not take my overtime without compensation hours, I said something. It was awkward, but it solved the problem.
So in summary. I am not a woman. I have no intention of being an Au Pair. Living in Germany is amazing. What are you waiting for?