I have been an au pair in England for 8 months, which taught me a thing or two. My experience had ups and downs and although I would not do it again, I’ve learned and grown so much! For those reasons I can’t really regret my experience as an au pair.
Anyhow, these are the 10 things to know before you become an au pair:
1. You’re on your own in a foreign country
As independent as you are, as resourceful as you are, you’re still alone in a country that isn’t your own. The difference between backpacking around the world and moving to a foreign place is that you’re there for a much longer period of time so you need to adapt to a whole new country. You’re going to have to create a bank account on your own, register with a doctor, figure your own documents and papers etc.
2. The housework won’t always (if ever) be ‘light’
House chores are part of the au pair experience and it’s perfectly understandable, when it’s a reasonable amount. However, some people desire a cleaner, not an au pair, so there you’ll find yourself cleaning kitchen, bathrooms, lounge, kids rooms, hall and stairs as well as tidying up the house every day. Let’s just say that when the time you spend cleaning is more than the time spent with the kids something’s not right.
3. Living situation
Let me tell you, working for someone and living in their house at the same time isn’t that nice. If you have a bad day at work you can’t go home, have a rant about it and relax because you’re already there. If you have an argument with your employer you can’t avoid them or just have a dramatic exit because you live in their house. Also, kids often wake up in the middle of the night and cry or shout for mommy, so you better change your sleeping schedule quickly.
4. Kids are not always cute
Although I was very lucky with the kids I looked after, there were times where they would be screaming or crying for any silly reason and I just wanted to run away in a cave for the rest of my life. As sweet as they are, kids are also very tiring as their energy will keep on going long after you’ve been drained.
This wasn’t my case but I’ve met several au pairs whose family wouldn’t let them go out late in the evening during the week and sometimes even in the weekends. Or there will be very religious families who will even try to regulate what you do when you’re not working.
6. You may work unpaid extra hours
Babysitting outside the set hours, looking after pets and staying in during most of the weekend won’t be something you will be paid for… I know. If you’re lucky is just every now and then, but when you have to do it several times a week it becomes a bit annoying.
7. You won’t necessarily be part of the family
One of the main reasons I became an au pair was to experience a new culture in a warm, family-like environment. That didn’t happen. This probably isn’t what most au pairs experience, but it can happen. That doesn’t mean they will do it on purpose, but it’s very easy to leave someone out of gatherings or any family occasions and it’s even easier for that person to feel bad as their family is in a different country.
Truth is, most families that can afford an au pair are quite posh, so they will most likely live outside the city, in a nice house in a safe village/small town. Which, don’t get me wrong, is lovely, except for when you have to walk back from the train station on a Sunday evening because you’re far from the city.
9. Making friends
It’s no different than moving house. Except you don’t have your family with you. Or anyone else. Of course, there are Facebook groups and language courses where you can meet other au pairs but most of them will speak another language. The older you get the harder it becomes to make friends, and even more so when you’re in a different country.
10. You get attached
When you get to look after children every day for almost a year, leaving can be quite difficult. You become their bigger sister and then have to move on, especially when they love you as one.
As a whole, I would not recommend going away as an au pair, especially not for too long.
Have you ever been an au pair or plan to? Tell me your story in the comment section