Becoming an Au Pair
Tell us about yourself!
I’m originally from the Philippines. I’m only 21 when I decided to be an au pair.
Where and when were you an au pair?
I’m currently in Denmark. I moved here late 2013.
Why did you choose to go au pairing in that particular country?
The offer wasn’t really for me, it’s for my sister but she can’t go. So she asked me if I wanted to give it a try. Basically, I didn’t chose 🙂
What was the ‘aim’ of your year as an au pair?
At first, I just wanted to go away. I was fresh graduate and got a job right away. But I wasn’t very happy; I don’t know what kind of job I wanted to do. Finding a job is also challenging, I don’t want to be labeled as Degree holder but jobless. I don’t really have any idea what is an au pair, I just said yes and took the opportunity to go away, travel and find myself.
How did you find your au pair family, and what tips would you have for those beginning their own searches for potential families?
It was through my sister. After my 7 months with my first family, I changed to another one. It wasn’t because we didn’t get along. The job was too easy for me. I guess I’m more into fast-phased type of person.
I found my second family online; I chose to find a new host who are also from the city where I already lived, because my friends are here. And also, I will have the chance to meet them in person.
If the beginner will be flying from home, check which city the family lives. Conduct a research if you think you will like to live there. If you have the chance to meet the new host (e.g same country or nearby country), take the advantage.
How did you find the first few weeks moving in as an au pair with a new family? Are there any things you wish you’d have known before beginning?
It was fine actually. They explained and show things to me. They made me feel very welcome. But yes, there are things that I hope I knew before I started the program.
As I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t familiar with au pair scheme, if I did better research, I should have known what to expect. For example, how expensive it is to live in Denmark, some basic terms for Good morning or how are you. I wish I tried to search for international groups where I can meet people.
I wish I read the au pair scheme thoroughly, so I was familiar with my rights and job description. I learned it the hard way, but nevertheless, at least I can help out upcoming au pair for some advices.
Life as an Au Pair
What was your daily routine like as an Au Pair?
I mainly look after the kids at first. My second host family was very active and hands on, when the kids grew older (3 kids, 4 year old and twins at 19 months old, the twins were babies when I started with them), I started to do more house choir, like washing kids clothes, sort out their dresser, do a little vacuum cleaning and tidying up their toys)
I also make small snacks for them during the day, and help to clean up after dinner. I don’t cook, first because I don’t like it and second because au pair should not. If the au pair like to cook. It would be lovely if the au pair can do it at least make a dinner for the family once in 2 weeks or once a month.
What was the deal with school holidays? (eg. Did you have the weeks off, or were you required to work during this time?)
I took the holidays off. Don’t get me wrong, I like spending time with the family, but I also believe that kids should spend more time with their parents. I also like traveling or just relax with friends.
What were your best and worst experiences as an au pair?
The best was the chance to learn new culture and language. Meeting people around the world and helping me realize what I wanted to do in my life. The worst was when I started to get bored; things fell into a routine way. I wanted to just leave without finishing my contract. Also, the homesickness. I was homesick for the first 6 months. Then it gets better. Finding friends was also a little bit challenging for me at first.
If you experienced any problems or issues with the family, how did you resolve them?
We talked about it. We open up, I admit it is scary and nerve cracking. I’m an over thinker so I tend to make things worst in my head whereas it can be easy, if the au pair and the host parents talk things openly.
Socializing and leisure
What advice do you have for making friends as an Au Pair?
I have 3 ways to find friends; Go online (Facebook groups like: Berlin International or Amsterdam Expats), attend language school and find your countrymen around you. How were you able to fit socializing with the commitment of your hours as an Au Pair?
How were you able to fit socializing with the commitment of your hours as an Au Pair?
One of the important things I made clear with my host is that I wanted my off days to be in the weekend. And we agreed. In Denmark, we work 30 hours a week, 6 hours a day. So I have plenty of time to meet friends and socialize if I have free time before my work starts or after. In the weekends, I make sure that I will be with friends. I tried not to stay home during weekends, not because I don’t like my host family, but because I know that it would mean so much with them to spend time with their kids as they are also busy working the whole weekdays. It also gives me off from work ambiance and just enjoy my day.
How easy was it to feel part of the community? Did you make friends outside of the ‘au pair’ world?
It depends, for example, my background culture is Catholic and a little bit conservative, whilst in Europe they are more liberated and express their feelings however they want. Moving to another country with different background will not be easy if you won’t open yourself up with new and different culture.
But it was easy for me. I’m very proud that I experienced this. And yes, I made friends outside the au pair world. I actually have a lot of university student friends than au pairs 🙂
Learning the language and culture
How easy was it to find your language school, and did attending one help you personally?
In Denmark it is easy. As there are a lot of foreigners in Denmark, language is advisable if you wanted to live here longer or understand the things around you. The government will direct you to the closest language school to you.
Yes it helped me. I love languages. I met new people from attending the class, and learning the local language makes me feel like “Wow, I can break the code now” J
How did you find the language barrier (if there was one)? – How were the first few weeks of living in a new country?
It was chaotic; I lost a loooot of times. I’m not good with people so I don’t ask for directions or help before. Haha.
In Denmark, everything is posted and stated in Danish. Danes are good English speakers so you don’t have to worry asking someone if you get lost. But the government also encourages foreigners to learn the language.
How did you improve your language skills?
I live with Danish family so I have the advantage to practice the language. As I said, Danes are good with their English, it makes harder for international people to learn it because you will be tempted to just talk in English to make things less complicated.
Anyway, I read books; I started with children book, then with newspaper. I listen to every word I hear in Danish even it was kind of snooping with someone’s conversation. I listen to Danish music, radio and watch Danish shows. When I finally got the courage, I started speaking and talking in Danish in the public places (e.g Bus chauffeur, store saleslady, grocery clerks, librarian and of course my host parents and their kids)
Any tips for those learning a new language?
Talk with kids, as they use light words. Talk and talk, that’s the only way to learn it faster, don’t mind your pronunciation and grammar, as you will learn them throughout the way.
Do you feel as if you have progressed with your new language?
Proudly yes J I am now in conversational level. Of course, I don’t understand everything and my grammar and pronunciation is still not that good but nevertheless, I can handle conversation.
Life after being an Au Pair
How has being an au pair changed you?
It showed me how big the world is. If I don’t fit with a certain group, I take off and find myself. Open-minded, I am more of that now. It helped me to be more matured and more understanding towards other people.
Would you do au pairing again?
No. But it’s not a bad thing against au paring. Instead, it is a sign that it’s time for me to move on to another chapter of my life.
Would you recommend au pairing to others? And why?
Yes, highly recommended. Because it’s a great deal! It’s not a heavy work, In Denmark, you can even quit anytime if you’re not happy anymore. In my opinion, this is a good option for soul searching.
What advice would you give to those wanting to become an Au Pair?
Don’t be afraid, but be cautious. Au pairing is getting bigger and bigger. Know your rights as a lot of families do abuse the au pair scheme. Enjoy your time and let the world know why this is a great deal. After being an au pair, help the upcoming ones and inspire them.
VISA Preparation for Au Pairs
Was it a requirement for you to have a VISA?
How did you go about getting your VISA?
It wasn’t hard actually. I think it’s also because Denmark is such a peaceful and have fantastic system so the process was easy.
What do you wish you had known about the VISA process before you had obtained it?
Because it was really easy, I wish I waited until the Christmas holiday passed. I should have celebrated with my own family.
Find out more about Mary with her various social media platforms:
My name is Mary Charie Ylagan. I’m originally from the Philippines and an au pair in Denmark right now. I have a travel blog where I will be discussing about my au pair experience and my traveling. My blogsite is still under construction, but I will keep you posted 🙂