By definition, an au pair is an unmarried young adult who travels to a foreign country for a certain period of time to live with a host family. But, in reality an au pair is a job title with a multitude of definitions; a melting pot of responsibility uniquely defined by each situation. An au pair can act as the new big sister or brother, a helping hand, an advice-giver, friend, disciplinarian, recreational ‘taxi driver,’ or babysitter.
I recently au paired for 6 months in a suburb south of Sydney, Australia and had the ultimate experience. I have had a lot of questions regarding how I started, and these are the eight things I wish I would have known when beginning to search for an au pair position abroad!
Location is so important, especially when you’re choosing where to pick up and move your life for the next 3, 6, or 12 months. Start with a country that interests you, and begin researching from there.
AuPairWorld is the world’s leading Au pair agency, and I would highly recommend using this site because it offers:
There are a myriad of au pair websites, and it is often very overwhelming. I spent hours setting up profiles on multiple websites, but AuPairWorld was the only site that didn’t make me pay a cent, while simultaneously connecting me to the most compatible families. Skip the search, and head straight to AuPairWorld!
A second option is going through a hosted agency that does all the work of searching and matching for you. These usually cost thousands of dollars, and in my opinion are completely unnecessary.
Finding a family is similar to searching for any other kind of job, only even more time consuming and tedious. It really does take hours and hours of searching to find the families you believe would match your personal interests, values, pay grade, ideal location, etc.
When I was searching I would wake up every morning and rush to my AuPairWorld profile to scan for new families, and see if I had received a message from an interested family. It is disappointing when you don’t get a response from a family you believe is the ‘perfect’ match, but just like life, things usually tend to work out the way they’re supposed to. Being rejected from one family will lead you into the lives of an even better match!
Skype is a godsend when it comes to global communication, and it has made the au pair process that much easier. It is reassuring to be able to talk to (and see) the family on the other end of the computer. I had multiple Skype sessions with the Aussie family I ultimately au paired for. It was so comforting to actually see the house, meet the crazy, cute kids I would be taking care of, and meet the parents face to face!
Au pairing is a unique job in that every family situation is different. Each situation will require a diverse workload dependent on number and age of kids, parent work-schedules, cleaning needs, activity schedules, and other factors. Be sure to carefully read through your proposed duties, hours, pay grade, and schedule.
Are you someone who wants to travel and explore on the weekends? Be sure you clearly communicate the ability to have weekends off.
Are you someone who needs consistency? Be sure to find a family with a specifically set schedule, and not one that changes week to week.
Are you maybe a bit of a ‘pushover’? Some au pairs have been taken advantage of in terms of working unpaid overtime hours, or getting manipulated by the families. Be sure to set up an overtime pay rate!
Do you require your own separate accommodation, or are you fine living in the house with the family? If you like to have a little separation between work and life, and cherish your alone time, be sure to find a family with a separate guest house or ‘granny flat’ as they call it in Australia. I lived in a separate flat and consider this one of the best choices I made!
Do you want to have another job on the side? Be sure to clearly communicate your need/want for another job, and make sure the family is okay with it!
Looking up visas for varying countries can be quite confusing, especially for Australia where there are dozens of working visas to choose from. Check into the visa requirements for the country of your choice and be sure you are eligible. If choosing Australia, you should get the Working Visa Subclass 462. Be sure to add this into your budget as most visas are around $400 USD for an entire year.
You’ve made it. You did it! And now you are about to embark on one of the greatest journeys of your life. I won’t dare say the hard part is over because let’s be honest, kids are hard work! Some days you will want to pull your hair out, some days are exhausting filled with unnecessary tears and tantrums, but the good times make up for it. The days when you get a special Ironman drawing, or when they run into your arms so excited to see you after a day at school. These are the moments that will melt your heart, and those in which you can’t imagine life without these little strangers.
I cannot stress enough the importance of communication. It is extremely strange living with your employer, and sometimes the lines of work and time-off can become blurred. Moving across the world and into the home of another family (and usually a different culture) is hard; it takes time, flexibility, and an open mind.
Au pairing is an incredible way to immerse yourself in a new culture, create life long relationships, and learn to communicate in ways you never would have dreamed of. It is a great transition into solo travel, and allows you the freedom to explore an entirely new destination.