The Au Pair Series: Brooke in Paris

The Au Pair Series: Brooke in Paris

Becoming an Au Pair

Where and when were you an au pair?

I au paired for six months in Rueil Malmaison, a lovely western suburb of Paris. Unfortunately the “ten minute” commute from the house to the RER station turned out to be a 25-30 minute bus ride and 20 minute RER ride….make sure you google map and research your location before arrival. This family and I had a six month agreement so the commute was not a big deal. I then worked for a family in Croissy sur seine for the summer (the month of August) and loved each moment of the day. The mother was a stay at home with two lovely young boys. We had so any fun adventures. Currently, I am working in Paris from September to July in the 2nd arrondissement for one five year old. I am loving the varied experiences.

Why did you choose to go au pairing in that particular country?

Like most American girls after watching Passport to Paris (the 1990s Mary-Kate and Ashley film), I decided it was my life long dream to ride upon a Vespa accompanied by a handsome French man around the Champs-Elysee. Also I wanted to learn the romantic language, solely to impress people back home.

Brooke Au Pair in Paris, France, The Au Pair Series

What was the ‘aim’ of your year as an au pair?

To be Parisian. I wanted to learn about the culture, the history, the fashion…why everyone here wears white Adidas with the green stripes. (The mystery is still unknown)

How did you find your au pair family, and what tips would you have for those beginning their own searches for potential families?

I used interexchange.org and highly recommend their services. They are an expensive agency and will most likely place you in a family living in the suburbs. However they were wonderfully involved in each of my situations involving miscommunications or visas.

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?

Honestly, I wish I would have asked them for a specific list of expected duties and hours. People are only human. They will take advantage if they can or feel the need to depending on the family. So make sure to have it all written down via email before hand to know what to expect. Also, make sure to declare before hand that you need weekends off if you want weekends off.

Brooke Au Pair in Paris, France, The Au Pair Series

Life as an Au Pair

What was your daily routine like as an Au Pair? 

  • Wake up make breakfast for the kids.
  • Clean up while they get ready.
  • Take them to school.
  • During the day, do laundry twice a week. Or that is free time (depending on if you have school or what not).
  • Pick up the kiddos from school.
  • Make them a snack, play with them.
  • Make the kids dinner, clean up afterwards. Play with them until mom and dad come home.

What was the deal with school holidays? 

I had one of the two weeks off each bank holiday which was lovely. However I did not get paid for the free week.

What were your best and worst experiences as an au pair?

Best experience was making a family-like bond with my host family (the summer family especially). The kids become like your own siblings and you end up learning a lot about yourself and life through them. I realize why my mom is so over protective knowing how it feels to step into her shoes, caring for these young naive children.

Brooke Au Pair in Paris, France, The Au Pair Series

If you experienced any problems or issues with the family, how did you resolve them?

Absolutely. I actually switched families due to disagreements and abrupt changes when my contract was not respected. This is why I cannot stress enough you need to have your expected duties, hours, and pay on paper; SPECIFICALLY written down. I also stress the importance of going through an agency to help you when times like this occur.

Socializing and leisure

What advice do you have for making friends as an Au Pair?

Tinder. I kid you not, some of my most awkward tinder dates have become my good friends here. Any sort of social media is encouraged when in need of a friend. Instagram, Facebook au pair groups, but just be careful not to meet up with everyone who offers. Make your intensions clear and always meet in a public place with a friend on call or nearby in case things get awkward. You would be surprised at the amount of exchange students are in the same position as you.

Also go to the Lions bar Monday nights, this is an international/student bar that hosts couch surfing bar crawls. Everyone is there to make friends and they are mostly english speakers. Check out blogs and suggested student bars. I recommend Irish, Canadian, and american bars to find english speakers. The long hop, the great Canadian, and Cocorans are among my favorites.

Brooke Au Pair in Paris, France, The Au Pair Series

How were you able to fit socializing with the commitment of your hours as an Au Pair?

Weekends! Also the hours the children are in school, gives you more than enough time to explore Paris.

How easy was it to feel part of the community? Did you make friends outside of the ‘au pair’ world?

The French have a reputation of being rude or cold, but c’est pas vrai! It’s not true. You must find reason to approach them or create conversation for a purpose. We Americans tend to freak people out with our golden retriever like curiosity. We come up to anyone and ask them random inquiries about themselves with the pure intention to learn about them. Don’t do that. Instead go to a cafe you love often. Become familiar with the staff and become a regular after some time they will open up and you can make many friends this way (and get some free coffee if you are lucky).

If you speak some French it is easier but for the most part, most of my friends are foreign.

Brooke Au Pair in Paris, France, The Au Pair Series

Learning the language and culture

How easy was it to find your language school, and did attending one help you personally?

The agency I went through suggested many schools that were around the same price range. Check out Ecole L’etoile or campus de langues for a great quality education and reasonable price range.

How did you find the language barrier (if there was one)? – How were the first few weeks of living in a new country?

My first host family spoke strictly French and through that and translators I picked it up quickly. School is your best bet. It is easy to live here and speak only English so beware not to fall into habit of using your native toungue if you want to learn French. Test yourself and try. The French appreciate it, if you are wrong they can correct you and that’s how we learn.

Also use tinder. You guys must think I am some tinder freak, but just try it before judging. You don’t need to meet people in person but the initial introductions and small talk in French will help you improve at least your writing skills.

Brooke Au Pair in Paris, France, The Au Pair Series

Brooke Au Pair in Paris, France, The Au Pair Series

How did you improve your language skills?

Again, tinder. Also watch french movies and TV series with english subtitles. So embarrassing to admit.

Any tips for those learning a new language?

TRY. Whether you fail or succeed. Keep trying. One day you will get it.

Do you feel as if you have progressed with your new language?

Absolutely, now I speak enough French to get by. Though it’s more Franglish than proper French I can understand most of the language. It is much harder to speak than to understand.

Life after being an Au Pair

How has being an au pair changed you?

Yes. I realize I want to be a writer because of the endless stories that were inspired by my au pairing experiences. I also realize I don’t want kids….

Totally kidding. But I realize the amount of energy, discipline, and work that goes into being a caretaker. Au pairing is similar to a mom in training course. It is hard work and not always fun. The kids become extremely important characters in your life. The leaving is always difficult but because of the experience I appreciate my own mother more than ever. I have realized that the kids look up to you and how important it is to portray a good example/role model for the kids. I think in a sense I grew up more than the kids.

Brooke Au Pair in Paris, France, The Au Pair Series

Would you do au pairing again?

Absolutely. I actually am continuing.

Would you recommend au pairing to others? And why?

Yes, 1000 percent. If you think you want kids, au pair. If you think that you never want kids, au pair. If you are curious about starting a new life for yourself, au pair. If you want to be cultured, adventure, a funny story, excitement, or change of scenery, au pair.

What advice would you give to those wanting to become an Au Pair?

Do your research before committing to a family. Talk to the families previous au pair, and get weekends off. I committed Monday-Friday to work and school (french classes). Weekends were the time I took to experience the “je ne sais quoi” about Paris.

Also, traveiling is too convenient and cheap to pass up. You will be more than able to take weekend trips to Spain, Germany, other parts of France, and all over Europe Friday night- Sunday evening.

Brooke Au Pair in Paris, France, The Au Pair Series

Find out more about Brooke on her various social media platforms:

Hey there future au pairs! I was you once upon a time. I am currently living in Paris as a live out au pair. I watch an adorable 5 year old girl Monday through Friday, babysit once a week and get weekends free to wander. I am a lifestyle/comedy blogger as well and write about all my wild adventures in Paris via lostinpari.blogspot.com

Blog: lostinpari.blogspot.com   |   Email: brookesapp1@gmail.com

Instagram: brookesapp

The Au Pair Series: Caitlin in the South of France

The Au Pair Series: Caitlin in the South of France

Becoming an Au Pair

Tell us about yourself!

My name is Caitlin Houston! I’m a 20 year old living near Glasgow, in Scotland. I study International Business with Modern Languages (French, Spanish & Italian) at the University of Strathclyde. I’m just starting my third year of University, and next year I’ll be studying in France for a full year!

Where and when were you an au pair?

I was in au pair in the Summer of 2015 in the South of France. I lived in a tiny village in the Midi- Pyrenees, called Mazères, that I imagine you wouldn’t really know unless you were from there/had friends there. It was very small and so cute, and had such a buzz around it for such a small village! I was around 30 minutes away from Toulouse and 40 minutes away from Carcassone, but very remote and in the countryside. It was beautiful. I au paired for 3 beautiful girls, aged 8 months, 3 years and 9 years old. My host mum was an air hostess (but still on maternity leave), and my host dad is a pilot on long haul flights.

Why did you choose to go au pairing in that particular country?

I’ve studied French since high school, but my French grades at university weren’t what I wanted them to be. It was a shame, because I LOVE French, and I love studying it, but I just wasn’t doing well in class at all. I struggled with my confidence and had issues with basic French conjugations that I really should have known by my 2nd year at university. I’ve heard time and time again that the best way to learn a language is to live in the country where they speak the language for an extended period of time, and so that’s what I did.

What was the ‘aim’ of your year as an au pair?

My main aim for my summer was to improve my French. I knew that I had to do something if I wanted to keep up with everyone on my course, and then go on to study for a year in France (starting in 2016). I wanted to immerse myself in the culture and learn loads about France and the way of life, to see if I was still as passionate about my languages as I thought I was! Then, if I was lucky (which I undoubtably was), I wanted to be able to find a “home away from home”, and create a situCaitlin Au Pair in South of Franceation where I could stay in touch with my host family.

How did you find your au pair family, and what tips would you have for those beginning their own searches for potential families?

I was very organised finding my au pair family. I wanted to arrive in June, and started searching for a family probably some time around January/February. I used aupairworld.com – an amazing site that made everything so easy for me. You set up your own profile with small paragraphs about yourself and pictures, and then send private messages to families that fit your criteria, and they can send messages to you. It made me feel more relaxed and secure, as I didn’t have to give out my email address to anyone I was wary of this way. I emailed my host mum (to be) and she replied quickly, and I just fell in love with her family. From there it all went quite fast, and I’m sure within 3 emails back and forward to each other we both agreed we were happy for me to come and be their au pair. I would absolutely recommend AuPairWorld for any au pairs coming from the EU, the whole process was very easy. The website also features guides on each country and their au pair laws and even provides a copy of the au pair contract, which I found interesting to read as part of my preparation.

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?

I’m sure as any au pair going to a foreign country might find, I found it a bit awkward for my first week or so! I can remember sitting in my bedroom on the first morning and I could hear the whole family was awake and downstairs eating breakfast. I must have sat in my bed for around 10/15 minutes before I decided to go downstairs to join them because I was so nervous! The language barrier was obviously difficult at first, but my host parent’s English level is fantastic.. so I always had the option to speak English if I needed to. This helped a lot as well for when I couldn’t think of a word I needed in French.. I could easily just ask them and they could give me the word I needed. We spoke a lot of “FrEnglish” which was so fun! I don’t feel like there’s much I would have liked to have known in advance, but I wish I had been more prepared. I left without things like my grammar book and dictionary, which would have been a big help if I’d had them all with me. I wasn’t in the mindset to “study” while I was away, but I feel like if I had been I could have learned even more than I did. I also wish I’d prepared basic phrases to use with the children before I got there, like basic commands and questions.

Caitlin Au Pair in South of France
Life as an Au air

What was your daily routine like as an Au Pair? 

I wasn’t in too much of a routine when I was away because I au paired in the summer holidays, and so every day was different. I also didn’t have set “working hours”, which other au pairs I met found strange.. but it worked perfectly for me! We lived in the middle of nowhere and there wasn’t much to do, so I didn’t mind keeping myself busy all the time. I bonded more with the girls I was watching because I felt more like a big sister to them and not at all like an employee or nanny.

Generally speaking though, I would wake up around about 8/9am and get ready.. depending on when my host mum needed me. I would usually watch the girls in the morning while my host mum would run some errands/do her gym classes etc. Then it just depended on the plans for the day!

We would go for walks, paint, draw, play in the garden, visit the town and other surrounding areas etc etc. Then at bed time, we would maybe watch a bit of television, then I would watch the 7 month old baby while my host mum put the 3 year old to bed. I’d give the baby her bottle, she’d normally fall asleep.. and then bed time for everyone!

What was the deal with school holidays? (eg. Did you have the weeks off, or were you required to work during this time?)

I was an au pair for the 3 month summer holiday so I didn’t have a routine outside of this time! My host family were so accommodating, and gave me plenty of time to myself during the summer which they really didn’t have to. I was very lucky! I was able to travel to different parts of France: Rodez (where my host family’s mum is from), Sete (where I got to see one of my fav French artists at an amazing venue!), Toulouse, Carcassone, the beach a few times (I can’t remember the name of the town, oops!).. and more!!

Caitlin Au Pair in South of France

What were your best and worst experiences as an au pair?

Best experiences:

All in all, I had an amazing summer in France. I can’t pick one memory that means more to me than the others. One particular time that sticks in my mind was when the little village I stayed in had a huge Medieval party one weekend and it was crazy.. I loved that!! It was so different from anything I’d seen before and I struggled to take it all in!! I also got to see the Tour de France go by when it was in it’s 13th stage (I think) at Rodez!! It was amazing, such a buzz!! I also loved visiting Sete and watching one of my favourite French singers, Tal, perform live!! The venue – Théatre de la mer – was amazing as it looked over the sea!

Some of my favourite memories are the simplest – walking down the stairs every morning to see the baby laughing at me in her high chair; the 3 year old running up to me and shouting my name as “Cli-Clin” because she was too young to pronounce it properly; over-hearing the oldest girl proudly introduce me to her school friends when they first met me; and drinking wine until the sun went down and talking in to the night with my host parents about everything and anything.

All in all.. I cannot chose my best experiences as an au pair, but can only say that being an au pair has been the best experience of my life to date. My summer was filled with lots of tiny, precious memories that I will keep with me forever. I have changed so much as a person after my summer away, and I know it’s for the better.

Difficult experiences:

I’ve changed the title here to “difficult” experiences, because I was lucky enough to not really have any particularly “worst” experiences.
I wasn’t a typical au pair in the way that you’re expecting me to say I was homesick in this section. I did not miss home at all, and could have stayed with my family for even longer if I could have. However, it’s the strong bond that I made with my family that in turn turned out to be one of the most difficult things for me to manage. I genuinely was/am so emotionally attached to my family that when the family was struggling with something I felt like I struggled with it too. I really struggled when my summer came to an end. I cried so much during my last few nights in France and I was heart broken on the morning I’d to leave. I couldn’t stop crying. I was in the airport and still sobbing away to myself. It’s actually something I’m still really finding difficult with today and I’ve been home for a month.

If you experienced any problems or issues with the family, how did you resolve them?

I had a grand total of ZERO problems with my host family!! I absolutely love them to bits, and will always have a huge space for them in my heart for as long as I live. They’ve given me more than I could have ever imagined from my au pair experience. The biggest problem I had was getting the 3 year old to eat her dinner BEFORE her ice cream… and if that’s the only problem I had, I know I am truly lucky.

 Caitlin Au Pair in South of France

Socializing and leisure

What advice do you have for making friends as an Au Pair?

I joined a Facebook group called “Au Pairs in Toulouse 2014-2015” which let me talk to a few au pair girls not too far from me. Toulouse was a bit of a way out from my little village, so I only met the the girls once or twice. If I had lived more centrally/been able to drive confidently I could have met them more often, but it was nice just to talk to them by Facebook and compare experiences/ tips etc.

How easy was it to feel part of the community? Did you make friends outside of the ‘au pair’ world?

At first I struggled to fit in with the community on nights out because I didn’t feel like I could communicate and I was nervous that I would embarrass my host family with my poor French. Once I could chat more confidently I felt so much more involved and got to know lots of family friends and their children. Everyone I met were always so lovely and very welcoming.

Caitlin Au Pair in South of France

Learning the language and culture

How easy was it to find your language school, and did attending one help you personally?

I study French at university so thankfully I didn’t struggle as much as I could have if I’d had no prior knowledge of the French language at all. I could understand basic phrases and (sort of) hold my own in a conversation, and I progressed every day.

How did you improve your language skills?

I spoke French all the time with the family. That was my main method of learning. I would write down new words I learned in casual conversation in my vocabulary book and tried to use them as often as I could so I wouldn’t forget. I also watched a lot of English films on Netflix with French subtitles, and sometimes watched them in French with English subtitles. That helped a lot because I could then relate the two languages to each other. I also picked up reading the French Cosmopolitan magazine, and have even subscribed to it from Scotland as well now!!

Any tips for those learning a new language?

I would say find a way of studying you enjoy. If you don’t have an interest in French politics – don’t force yourself to read articles in French on them. Equally, if you don’t enjoy French music – don’t torment yourself by trying to translate songs you can’t stand listening to. Creating a pleasant study environment is half the battle, and if you can bring something you are passionate for in English in to learning a foreign language then you’re half way there. You’ll enjoy learning a language and absent-mindedly progress all the time. For me, I bring my love of all things Disney in to my French studies! I love watching Disney films in French that I already know so well in English and find it so interesting. I also love studying with music – so I listen to a lot of French artists and play them in the background when I’m getting ready in the morning etc. Do things that you love in English in your chosen foreign language, and you’ll come on leaps and bounds.

Do you feel as if you have progressed with your new language?

Absolutely. I feel like my confidence has improved more than anything, so now even if I’m conjugating incorrectly.. at least I’m conjugating! I can make sense of a lot more French as I read/ hear it around me. I’ve just had my first French class back at uni after my summer away and I feel so much more confident. More than anything – my summer away has made me even more passionate for the French language than I ever was before, and given me the motivation I’ve needed so that I can keep progressing even more now I’m back at university.

Caitlin Au Pair in South of France

Life after being an Au Pair

How has being an au pair changed you?

Words will never be able to describe how much one short summer changed me! I found myself a whole new family, a whole new understanding of what it’s like to be French and a whole new way of thinking about my studies and my life at home! I feel more confident in myself and love France so much more than I thought I would. It was an experience that was genuinely invaluable for me for so many reasons and I’ll be forever grateful for my summer in France!!

Would you do au pairing again?

Absolutely, in a heart beat! If I could leave now I would. However, in the mean-time I’m hoping to return to my family again next summer if they’ll have me!

Would you recommend au pairing to others? And why?

Yes! I would recommend it particularly to every language student who wants to progress in their chosen language. There is no better way to learn French in a casual, understanding environment where you can have fun and create a genuine bond with the people you are technically “working” with. You don’t just learn the language – you learn so much culturally and about life in general. I was so lucky in finding my family and if you can match yourself to a family as well as I did, then I know for sure you’ll have such a positive experience like I did.

Caitlin Au Pair in South of France

What advice would you give to those wanting to become an Au Pair?

Like I said, I was so lucky with finding my family. I’ve heard a lot of horror stories, so I would generally recommend thoroughly researching your family before you agree to go with anyone. Do NOT feel pressured to say yes to a family (I did a few times during my search). If it doesn’t feel right or you simply don’t want to/have changed your mind – trust your gut instinct. Potential host families are not your bosses yet during the initial chats, and they need you just as much as you need to find them, so take charge! Be polite, obviously, but don’t let anyone make you feel uncomfortable. Ask for references from previous au pairs/nannies and speak to them as often as you can before you leave, via Skype/FaceTime/Email.. anything!! If you are leaving with any doubt in your mind about your family and the conditions you’ll be staying in I’d definitely have another look at the situation. Have a back up plan incase something isn’t as you imagined it. Thankfully I didn’t need it, but I had back up money in my bank account in case of an emergency.

Overall (and on a more cheery note).. just throw yourself in! Don’t sit in your room too much! Speak the language! Go and play with the kids! Pick them up when they’ve fallen and skinned their knee, read them a bed time story at night, play hide and seek and chase them around the garden! It’s you who has the ability to CHOSE to be a member of your host family! You get out of the situation what you put in, and I promise it will be 100% worth it… and you will love your host family as much as I do mine.

Caitlin Au Pair in South of France

Find out more about Caitlin on her various social media platforms:

My name is Caitlin! I’m an International Business & Languages student in Glasgow, Scotland. I started my blog to inspire more people to au pair and to keep track of my travel experiences while I was away. I’m home just now and unfortunately my blog wasn’t as developed as it could have been (I was so busy this summer!!) but I’ll hopefully add more to it in the coming months as I look ahead to my year abroad. You can follow me & my Scottish/French nonsense on twitter and instagram!

Blog: caitlinaupair.wordpress.com
Twitter: @houstyx   |   Instagram:@houstyx

The Au Pair Series: Marianne in Den Haag, Netherlands

The Au Pair Series: Marianne in Den Haag, Netherlands

Becoming an Au Pair

Tell us about yourself!

Marianne. A graphic designer, wardrobe consultant, and social media manager. I live on the Treasure Coast of Florida.

Where and when were you an au pair?

March – June of 2012 in Den Haag, Netherlands.

Why did you choose to go au pairing in that particular country?

One of my friends had been doing it for 2 years and she loved it, so I thought it might be fun to try as well.

What was the ‘aim’ of your year as an au pair?

I was 25 and in the midst of my quarter life crisis. I needed to get away, see some of the world, get out of my comfort zone, and try to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.

How did you find your au pair family?

I took over for my friend who had worked for the same family for 2 years. She was moving back to the states so it worked out perfectly.

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 interesting and quite an adjustment. I had to adhere to their schedule and fit into the rhythm of their family. I had to bike everywhere with the kids in tow so figuring out where I was going was a huge challenge for me. I depended so much on google maps back home and I didn’t have that luxury over in The Netherlands.

The Au Pair Series -Marianne in Den Haag, Netherlands

Life as an Au Pair

What was your daily routine like as an Au Pair? 

  • Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday
    • 8:00 Wake up just as the kids were leaving
    • 8:15 Eat breakfast
    • 9:00 – 3:00 work on my blog, read, meet up with friends, work on graphic design projects.
    • 3:00 Pick up kids from school in a bakfiets.
    • 3:00-5:30 Take kids around to different activities/friend’s houses.
    • 5:30-6:30 Cook dinner for family.
  • Wednesday
    • 8:00 Wake up just as the kids were leaving
    • 8:15 Eat breakfast
    • 9:00 – 12:00 work on my blog, read, meet up with friends, work on graphic design projects.
    • 12:00 Pick up kids from school. They had a half day every Wednesday.
    • 12:00 – 4:00 Take kids around to different activities/friend’s houses.

What was the deal with school holidays? (eg. Did you have the weeks off, or were you required to work during this time?)

I wasn’t there for an entire year, but I did have most school holidays off. I did have one full week with the kids which was a big test of my patience. There were 4 kids!

What were your best and worst experiences as an au pair?

My best experience was meeting other au pairs from all over the world. We still keep in touch today! I can’t say I had any bad experiences. It was all new and fun. Stressful at times, but it taught me a lot.

If you experienced any problems or issues with the family, how did you resolve them?

I usually just spoke to the parents. They were very helpful and open and we had a very good relationship.

Marianne Humburg in Den Haag, Netherlands, The Au Pair Series
Socializing, leisure and the language

What advice do you have for making friends as an Au Pair?

Join au pair facebook groups and interact with other au pairs at your children’s school! Believe me, they’re there.

How were you able to fit socializing with the commitment of your hours as an Au Pair?

I’m a homebody, but I did make time to make friends and be social as often as I could. Especially when the weather was nice!

How easy was it to feel part of the community? Did you make friends outside of the ‘au pair’ world?

I made a few friends and contacts outside of the au pair community, but it’s not as easy as sticking with your tribe. I ended up writing for an expat monthly publication which was very fun! I also joined a church so I met some people there as well. Den Haag is filled with people from all over the world, so the majority of the people I met were not Dutch.

How did you find the language barrier (if there was one)? – How were the first few weeks of living in a new country?

Dutch people speak English very well, so there wasn’t much of a language barrier.

 Marianne Humburg in Den Haag, Netherlands, The Au Pair Series

Life after being an Au Pair

How has being an au pair changed you?

It’s made me more open and flexible. It throws you into a completely different culture and environment and you have to make the best of it and embrace it. It’s also taught me that no matter where you are in the world people are truly amazing. Giving, hospitable, and they all have a story.

Would you do au pairing again?

Yes! But I’m not in the same place I once was. I’m building a career and am in a great relationship which I wouldn’t give up for the world.

Would you recommend au pairing to others? And why?

Yes! I recommend it to anyone that’s under 25. It taught me so much about the world and more importantly it taught me about myself. It helped shape who I am and I am incredibly grateful for that!

What advice would you give to those wanting to become an Au Pair?

Go for it! be open and accepting and always try to be a blessing to your host family.

VISA Preparation for Au Pairs

Was it a requirement for you to have a VISA?

Yes.

How did you go about getting your VISA?

I have family in the EU so they were able to help me with it.

The Au Pair Series -Marianne in Den Haag, Netherlands

Find out more about  Marianne on her various social media platforms:

Marianne Humburg has worked in the design industry since her graduation from the University of Kansas in 2008. A BFA in Textile Design brought her back to her Florida hometown where she was offered a job as an assistant designer for a Florida-based accessories company. In 2012 she spent six months in Europe traveling the Old World before settling back on the Treasure Coast of Florida. She launched M. Elle Creative LLC in 2013 as a blog and graphic design business and recently expanded it to include small business web design.

She writes a blog about fashion on the Treasure Coast and also has a fashion column in the monthly publication of Stuart Magazine. She loves to read, travel, spend time at the beach, try local restaurants, and can’t say no to a good brew. When she’s not designing, blogging, writing, or shopping you can find her spending time with her family and friends and enjoying this beautiful world.

Blog: thehappyclosetblog.com   |   Facebookthehappyclosetblog

Twitter: @mariannelynnh   |   Instagram: @mariannelynnh_

The Au Pair Series: Ashling in Italy

The Au Pair Series: Ashling in Italy

Becoming an Au Pair

Tell us about yourself!

Hi I’m Ashling Bourke, I’m half Finnish, half Irish but I was born and grew up in Malawi, Africa. However, I’ve lived in Italy for the past three years and now I’m currently studying at the University of Stirling in Scotland. I’m studying management along side accountancy & finance and leisure management and consumption for my current semester. I’m an only child. I love the Divergent book series but I don’t particularly like the movies. My hobbies are tennis, ultimate frisbee, singing, theatre and I also write a blog of my own.

Where and when were you an au pair?

I was an au pair from January 2015-April 2015 in Parma, Italy.

Why did you choose to go au pairing in that particular country?

Since I was already living in Italy, I wanted to go somewhere where I could be far away from home but close enough to be able to return back easily if I ever felt homesick or any other reason to return home. I also wanted to become more fluent in Italian as one of my goals for my gap year.

What was the ‘aim’ of your year as an au pair?

Since I was on a gap year, I wanted to earn money except in a job that revolves around children as I’ve almost always formed an instant connection with young children just from babysitting. I also wanted to gain experience in useful skills such as cooking, cleaning, taking care of children which I know I will need in the future.

How did you find your au pair family, and what tips would you have for those beginning their own searches for potential families?

I used Au Pair World to find my au pair family. These are my following tips for anyone who wants to become an au pair for the first time:

  • Pick a family who has had an au pair before- I’m saying this because one of the problems that I experienced with my family since it was the first time for both of us was that neither of us had a clear idea of what an au pair should be doing and so I ended up having way more household tasks and working more hours compared to other au pairs I met who had a lot more experience.
  • When you do an interview, pick questions you wouldn’t even think of and observe things carefully- I just asked very basic questions and formed an immediate judgement based on good family or bad family, but the family who I thought was an good family, turned out to be an extremely difficult family. I also should’ve picked up on the fact that the children were already not “welcoming” towards the au pair as they refused to say hello but I took that as shyness.
  • Do make a contract with the family!! Au pair world provide contracts and I highly recommend this as it literally saved my life.

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?

My first few weeks were quite pleasant to be honest, I was very patient toward the children as I knew they would need time to adjust to the new situation and I formed a good relationship with my host mum.

Au Pair in Italy, Ashling, The Au Pair Series

Life as an Au Pair

What was your daily routine like as an Au Pair? 

  • 6:45am wake up and get myself dressed and ready for the day.
  • 7am prepare breakfast for the children and also eat my breakfast.
  • 7:15am wake up the children, they eat and get dressed, brush their teeth.
  • 7:45am everybody puts their shoes/coats on and we head to school together.
  • 8am the children are at school.
  • 8:30-9:30am I unload the dishwasher and put the laundry out to dry.
  • 9:30-10am I go out and do the food shopping.
  • 10-11am I either go out jogging or do English lesson prep or chill.
  • 12pm I eat lunch.
  • 1-4pm I teach English lessons to teenagers (separate from au pairing)
  • 4pm pick up the children from school.
  • 4:30pm I prepare a snack for the children, depending on the day get them ready for football or swimming, they watch TV or we play ball, Lego or I try to do some English activities with them.
  • 6pm I set the table and help prepare dinner.
  • 7-10pm the children watch TV and I have my free time.
  • 10pm children go to bed and I read them 3 English children’s stories.
  • 11pm lights out and everybody goes to sleep.

What was the deal with school holidays?

I was allowed to go home but I had to be prepared to come back as soon as I was needed which was possible for me as I lived about 2 1/2 hours away from my au pair family.

What were your best and worst experiences as an au pair?

My best experiences were when the children were having a good day and we would play games together, have pillow fights or watch movies together. My favourite moment was about a month after I had been there, the children took turns to read the English books and it was truly amazing to hear them genuinely want to accomplish a difficult task of reading in another language!

Unfortunately I had a lot more bad experiences than good experiences. 95% of the time, the children were extremely difficult…they would just want to watch TV, they would refuse to go to bed until their mum returned from her social life, they would sometimes try to kick me out of the house, I had to call their mum everyday for stupid things like “the kids are crying because I turned the TV off” and then she would just give in to them. The mum would force me to give up my free time and sometimes days off for her social life needs, she would constantly remind me that she’s paying me from the money she inherited from her father, she charged me a commission rate for my English students as she found them for me, she was constantly judging me by saying “you’re too nice, you’re too strict…” She also managed to convince me to hate her husband (they were living in separate countries and trying to get a divorce) who at the end of the day, cared more about my involvement with the children than she ever did.

If you experienced any problems or issues with the family, how did you resolve them? 

I tried my best to talk to the mum about these problems that I mentioned above but normally she would just tell the children off then they would act like perfect children for about a day and then go back into the behaviour described above. In the end, I decided to leave as I couldn’t stand it anymore and my contract said I could leave with immediate effect and so I was luckily able to leave within 12hours of notice but normally you would have to stay on for another two weeks.

Au Pair in Italy, Ashling, The Au Pair Series

Au Pair in Italy, Ashling, The Au Pair Series

Socializing and leisure

What advice do you have for making friends as an Au Pair?

Join the Facebook groups, there are loads and I’ve met so many au pairs through that!

How were you able to fit socializing with the commitment of your hours as an Au Pair?

I only had Sunday’s off so one of my au pair friends and I would go to a nearby city/town and spend the day exploring the area.

Would you do au pairing again?

Honestly, based on my first experience…I’m unlikely to do it again but I do still work as a babysitter which has made me very popular 🙂

How easy was it to feel part of the community? Did you make friends outside of the ‘au pair’ world?

Despite my bad experience, I would still recommend it because you learn sooo many things and not everything in life will be perfect or go well so don’t be put off by the fact that it could go badly.

Au Pair in Italy, Ashling, The Au Pair Series

Find out more about Ashling over on her various social media platforms:

Blog: themagnifyingglass96.wordpress.com   |   Twitter: @TheMagnifying

I’ve been featured! – Life of an Au Pair in Paris, 21 Steps & Beyond

I’ve been featured! – Life of an Au Pair in Paris, 21 Steps & Beyond

A few weeks back I wrote an article for 21 Steps & Beyond about my time being an Au Pair in Paris, and I have the pleasure to say that you too can finally read all it! It was wonderful to be able to sit and write about my experiences as an au pair, and is one of the reasons why I am enjoying The Au Pair Series here on my blog so much. Many thanks to Paola Peinado for organising this wonderful magazine, and for allowing me to contribute!

As well as my Parisian adventure, be sure to read the wonderful articles about being au pairs in Ireland and Italy! You can check it out here.

 

The Au Pair Series: Vanessa in Edewecht, Germany

The Au Pair Series: Vanessa in Edewecht, Germany

Becoming an Au Pair

Tell us about yourself!

I’m a Canadian from the GTA (Greater Toronto Area). I recently graduated university and didn’t really have a concrete plan of what I wanted to do so I decided living abroad as an au pair would be an awesome opportunity to travel and to experience a different culture.

Where and when were you an au pair?

I am currently an au pair in a small town called Edewecht in Northern Germany. I’ve been here since the beginning of January 2015.

Why did you choose to go au pairing in that particular country?

I’ve had a love for Germany and Germans for a while. Partly because my dad spent some time in Germany around my age, but also because I graduated with a history major where my main interest was German history and society.

What was the ‘aim’ of your year as an au pair?

The aim of my year abroad was and still is to experience a new culture, see what makes it different from Canada, become fluent in another language and to travel.

How did you find your au pair family, and what tips would you have for those beginning their own searches for potential families?

I found my family through a site called Au Pair world. It’s a free site that allows you to look at different families around the world and message families you’re interested in instead of being matched by an agency. For those beginning their own search I would suggest Au Pair World because I know quite a few people who’ve had success through that website. I would also suggest that during your search consider what you want out of the experience, the location you want (city/town), and how long you would want to stay.

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?

I’m not someone who deals well with change so I was really nervous to move abroad. I was afraid of the unknown but the transition went a lot smoother than I thought it would. My family was very supportive and welcoming and I adjusted easily. I will say that the first few weeks as an au pair are a little hectic. You’re getting into a new routine, new responsibilities and new language. It can be a bit overwhelming so make sure you keep open communication with your host family during this process.

Was it a requirement for you to have a VISA?

Luckily I have dual citizenship with the European Union so I didn’t need a VISA, but it is a requirement to have a VISA if you don’t have EU citizenship and want to work in Germany.

Vanessa Au Pair Germany

Life as an Au Pair

What is your daily routine like as an Au Pair? 

  • Walk the dog
  • Vacuum
  • Tidy kitchen after lunch
  • Play with kids, help with homework
  • Practice piano with the middle child
  • Practice English with the eldest child

There really isn’t a daily routine for me because each day is completely different. The kids I care for do different activities every day (swimming, piano, gymnastics, etc.) or they may go to a friend’s after school. Occasionally I will have to bike to school with the kids or pick them up depending on whether my host mum is home. The same goes for making lunch/dinner. Sometimes I have to put the kids to bed if their parents will be home late from work/university but that doesn’t happen too often.

What is the deal with school holidays with regard to your role? 

Germany has way more school holidays than in Canada and it freaks me out how much time they get off of school. When they have holiday during the school year I work the entire day unless one of the parents is already home.

During summer vacation I had to work for two weeks but was invited to spend the other three weeks with the family camping. My host parents also gave me five weeks of vacation to use when I wanted so it kind of evens out.

What were your best and worst experiences as an au pair?

The best experience is feeling like a part of the family. My host parents treat me like one of their own and I am very close with my host kids. I’ve also had the opportunity to travel a lot so far and meet up with a lot of family and friends that live throughout Europe.

The worst has probably been feeling homesick and lonely. I live in a small town, there aren’t many other au pairs around and I’ve had difficulties making close friends.

If you experienced any problems or issues with the family, how did you resolve them?

Any problems I’ve had with the family I’ve let my host parents know, but in all honesty I haven’t really had issues. My host parents definitely prioritize my experience here, they know if something is off with me and always try to make sure we’re on the same page and that I’m comfortable.

Vanessa Au Pair Germany

Socializing and leisure

What advice do you have for making friends as an Au Pair?

The Internet is a beautiful thing. Use Facebook to find au pair groups near your city. Language courses and tandem programs are another way. Meetup.com and Couchsurfing.org will usually have groups in your area that have social events. If you live in a university city try sitting in on classes or join sports teams and activities offered through the university.

How are you able to fit socializing with the commitment of your hours as an Au Pair?

I’m basically free to do whatever I want before 12:30pm and after 4:30pm everyday and have the weekend to myself so I actually have a lot of free time in comparison to some other au pairs.

How easy is it to feel part of the community? Have you made friends outside of the ‘au pair’ world?

While I like Germany, I honestly still don’t feel like a part of the community. I can get around and converse with people fine but I don’t feel like I belong to the same extent as I belong in Canada. It may also have to do with the fact that I haven’t really made friends with people outside of the ‘au pair world’ but I still have time so hopefully that changes!

Vanessa Au Pair Germany

Learning the language and culture

How easy was it to find your language school, and is attending one helping you personally?

I attend classes offered through VHS – Volkshochschule. I’ve found that attending has really helped. I try to incorporate the grammar and vocabulary I learn each week when speaking to my host family. It definitely takes your speaking ability to another level, though it will take time to get there. I’ve also been fortunate to have the same teacher throughout the year who incorporates the grammatical with conversational practice so the class isn’t completely boring.

How have you found the language barrier so far? – How were the first few weeks of living in a new country?

The language barrier was so rough! I used to feel really dumb even trying to speak in German because I felt like nothing I was saying made any sense. It’s also especially difficult to take care of children when you can’t really understand each other. With a few months it got much easier and I’ve only just recently felt that I’ve passed that language barrier that used to bother me so much.

How have you improved your language skills?

I read a lot to my youngest kid and I joined a band where I’m forced to interact with people in German. It can be very daunting to speak to unfamiliar people in an unfamiliar language but with time it gets easier. Besides that, speaking with the kids I care for and taking language courses help to make speaking a foreign language more natural.

Any tips for those learning a new language?

ALWAYS BE TALKING! Seriously just talk whenever you can with whomever you can. Even if you think you’re horrible at the language, native speakers will appreciate you making an effort to speak their language. You might also want to try finding a tandem program nearby where you’re paired with a native speaker trying to learn your language. Read books out loud and try to speak with people from your language course outside of class.

Do you feel as if you have progressed with your new language?

I think I’m a lot harder on myself with learning German than I need to be. I want to be perfect and I will never be there but I’ve definitely made a lot of progress in the past year. I can finally speak and have decent conversations with people without the anxiety that I’m saying everything wrong or that I’m at a loss of words.

Vanessa Au Pair Germany

Life after being an Au Pair

How has being an au pair changed you?

So far it’s given me a much larger perspective on the world. It’s made me want to travel more, to try new things and to meet new people. I’ve become a lot more laid back and I don’t really stress over the small things anymore.

Would you do au pairing again?

I’ve loved my experience so far as an au pair but I wouldn’t want to do it again. It’s not the easiest job, requires a lot of involvement and can be a bit draining. I also think I need to move on to the next thing, whatever that is!

What advice would you give to those wanting to become an Au Pair?

If you’ve thought about being an au pair and you want to do it then you definitely should. That being said make sure you to really do your research, reflect on why you want to be an au pair, be patient when looking for a family and trust yourself. It could be the best experience or it could be awful, but either way you will learn a lot about yourself and that knowledge is indispensable.

 Vanessa Au Pair Germany

Find out more about Vanessa on her various social media platforms:

Hi, hello there! My name is Vanessa Alambo. I’m a 23-year-old Canadian, living and working in Germany. I spend my days with three munchkins where we bake, craft, laugh, read and practice yoga. I also run the blog Days in Deutschland where I discuss my experience as an Au Pair Madchen and life in Germany.

Blogdaysindeutschland.wordpress.com   |   Instagram@alambovanessa