Part 1: Find a family
Have you ever dreamt of living in a foreign country?
Are you itching to do something exciting before you head off to university?
Are you sick of your corporate job and want to take on a new adventure?
Do you love kids?
If you answered yes to any of the above, you might consider becoming an au pair.
A young adult aged 18-30 who travels to a foreign country to live with host family and help with childcare in exchange for room, board, and pocket money.
Moving to France was a goal of mine for as long as I could remember, but I knew my ways of living there long term were limited. I could teach English, a position that is not super prominent for Americans in France, or try find a corporate position to sponsor my visa which is also difficult. Or I could become an Au Pair.
I spent a long time considering the au pair option but once I decided, it took me only 3 short months to find my family, complete the paperwork, get my visa, sell everything I own, and move to France.
I am working on a more in-depth post that will share my experience of leaving the corporate world to become an Au Pair, but to give you the short version: it’s very different, it’s very worth it, and I strongly recommend the experience.
I mean just look at these little nuggets?!
Here are of the things you can expect as an au pair:
- Ability to live in a foreign country for one year
- Room and board will be paid for. Most au pairs either have their own apartment near the family’s home or have their own private section within the house.
- Train pass and cell phone will be paid for
- Work 30 hours a week maximum
- You will most likely have to take language courses as a requirement for your visa, usually 10 hours a week.
- A monthly stipend of $300-400 a month for pocket money
- Several weeks’ vacation. Many European schools (depending on where you are looking!) have two week breaks several times throughout the school year. Depending on your family’s needs, you might have these completely free for yourself!
If all this sounds good and you’re ready to become an au pair, here are the steps to get you started!
Step 1: Make a list of all your hesitations
This might seem like a pretty negative first step, but trust me it will come into play with step 2.
Make a list of all the reasons that you might not go. All the things that would make it hard for you to move abroad, or the conditions that if left unmet, you will not go.
Why is this important? Because they may affect the country you ultimately choose. Write down every single hesitation that pops into your head, no matter how ridiculous.
My first list of hesitations included anything from “I still have student loans, what will I do with those?”, to “I am prescribed a medication only available in the US and Canada, what are my options?” to really ridiculous things like “but I really like getting pedicures and au pairs can’t afford pedicures, how will I survive?”. There’s no wrong answer!
I eventually sorted through all of my concerns and in the end I am grateful I took that time to get real with myself and think about which things could make this transition difficult. Once I asked myself all the tough questions, and then found solutions, I felt 100% confident in my decision to go.
Once you have your list, start working backwards to find a solution for each. With that in mind, on to step 2.
Step 2: Choose your host country
If you’ve been dreaming of moving abroad for years this should be the easiest decision you’ll make.
But maybe you’ve been feeling the call of the void without a particular destination in mind. Maybe the desire to “just move” is what’s appealing to you. Heck, maybe there’s just too many beautiful places in the world for you to narrow it down to only one!
I hear you. When I first started my au pair search on AuPairWorld, I initially listed my desired countries as France, Spain, Italy, Australia, Denmark, The Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, and Switzerland, even though I KNEW France was where I wanted to be.
Why? Because I was afraid if I set it to only France then I would limit my opportunities and might miss out on something great. I knew in my heart that Paris is where I belonged but hey, I’m a reasonable lady, I could be persuaded, right? If the perfect family with the perfect offer came my way but it wasn’t based in France, I would consider it, right?
NO. That is mistake number one. Be clear in what you are searching for. There are hundreds of amazing au pair opportunities around the world – you almost can’t go wrong. But if you spend your time entertaining every single family in every single country that sounds interesting to you, you’ll be way too overwhelmed to make an objective decision and might just throw in the towel on the whole idea altogether.
One of my favorite quotes is: You can’t get what you want while holding on to what you don’t want.
Translation? If you really, really want something you have to let go of the back ups, the safeties, and the “I’ll settle for this if I don’t get the thing I’m really hoping for”s. Let ’em go.
So after about a week of searching I changed my desired country to ONLY France. And 3 days later I met my family.
SO, HOW DO I CHOOSE?
Research some of the countries that interest you. Find out what it’s really like to live there. This is where your list from step 1 comes in.
Look at your list of hesitations. Is there something on it that may be country-specific? For example, perhaps you have asthma and therefore wouldn’t do great in a country with heavy air pollution. Or maybe you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, and a place that spends more than half the year in cold darkness wouldn’t work for you.
Really think about the things that could lead to an unpleasant experience abroad! You also might try googling things like “life as an au pair in _____”, or “what I regret most about moving to _____”.
Search for the negative stuff. Get it all out on the table right now, because that way when you finally make your decision you can be confident that you’re making the right choice.
Step 3: Find your host family
You now have sorted through your list of hesitations and you have chosen your host country. You are ready to begin your family search! Woo!
There are dozens of websites and agencies out there for finding au pairs, but the most popular (and my favorite) is AuPairWorld. This is the only site I have experience with so it’s what I’ll write about, but don’t hesitate to check out other options as well!
MAKE A PROFILE
In order to really stand out to perspective families you will want to dedicate some time to perfecting your profile. Make sure you have several clear, work-appropriate photos. Fill out your profile completely leaving no question un-answered. Your bio should be well written, inclusive, and should show a bit of your personality.
I hate writing these things so I’m going to share my profile with you to give you some inspiration. Feel free to follow my lead but please don’t copy and paste anything verbatim! 🙂
Hello, it’s great to “meet you!” My name is Amanda, I am a 27 year old American living in Boston and I would love to be considered as an au pair for your family.
I graduated from college with a degree in Marketing and a minor in French, and have spent the last 5 years working as a sales professional in the corporate world. I have a very happy life in Boston and I am extremely grateful for all the success I have experienced thus far, but a very big part of me wants to explore the world and live in a foreign country.
I adore kids! I’m not ready for my own babies yet but I jump at the chance to spend time with little ones whenever I can, be it holding an infant or playing hide and go seek with a toddler…. if there are kids around, you can usually find me playing with them!
I have over ten years experience looking after infants, toddlers, and young children. I am godmother to my best friend’s kids (Ella, 7, and Jerison, 5) who mean the world to me and I think of them as an extension of my own family. I spent several hours a week looking after both Ella and Jerison from the day they were born, so I am comfortable with infants as well – dirty diapers and throw up don’t scare me! 🙂
I have a valid drivers license and can drive both automatic & manual vehicles.
I speak French (intermediate).
I know how to swim and am comfortable taking the kids swimming.
I am CPR and First Aid certified, and have spent time as a Student Athletic Trainer.
I love cooking and I actually enjoy cleaning, so I am comfortable with light housework and helping out wherever needed!
Please message me if I can answer any questions for you or provide more information!
A bit about me! I come from a very small family (it’s just my mom, my sister, and I) and have spent the last 6 years living in Boston, MA. I have always been very active (I ran track in college and I have competed in fitness competitions), and love to go for a run early in the morning. I also LOVE animals, especially cats and dogs.
I love to read (especially Harry Potter) and have recently started reading books in French to brush up on my language skills. I’m a very motivated person and I can’t sit around on the weekends – I like to get out and try new things and explore new places!
I am a writer and am currently working on publicizing my blog which will focus on travel and navigating life as a young woman. I hope to write a book someday and continuously jot down would-be chapters as the thoughts come to me. 🙂
Some silly facts:
– I was President of the French Club in high school.
– I played flute in my school’s band for 7 years.
– I lost a toenail hiking the Grand Canyon last summer (but it was totally worth it).
– I am the biggest Harry Potter fan you will ever meet!
– I made an instagram for my cat (@khaltitus)
The main goal when writing your bio is to give the family a sense of who you are. Don’t be afraid to share silly facts or make jokes – these are the things that will make you stand out and show them you are a REAL PERSON. After all, the person they choose will be coming into their home and looking after their children. You need to be more than just a profile on a website!
START MESSAGING FAMILES
AuPairWorld is great in that they make it really easy to send the first message to a family by providing pre-filled “I’m Interested” templates.
I would immediately start searching through families in the database who look interesting to you and star the ones who stand out. I spent a day starring and then went back and sent my messages the next day, but you can message a family immediately if you want! About 1/3 won’t answer you, 1/3 will likely not turn into anything, and 1/3 will write back and suggest a Skype call.
The Skype call is your psuedo interview with the family and is necessary before you select one another. You should plan to Skype with multiple families before you choose. (I skyped with 3 before I chose my family).
Step 4: The Skype call
While it may seem like the Skype call is them interviewing you, it is also your opportunity to evaluate them.
Here is a list of questions I would suggest asking during your Skype call with the family:
- What would a typical day look like for me?
- Have you had an au pair before? What was that experience like? If not, why are you interested in having an au pair now?
- Outside of looking after the kids, will I have any other duties? (Light housework, cooking?)
- Does the family follow a special diet?
- Do the kids have vacation time from school? And if so, will I be free during those times also?
- Where will I be staying?
- What are the personalities of the children? What sort of activities do they like?
- How often can I expect my weekends to be free? (If you really are hoping to travel or explore on the weekends, let them know and make sure to ask! Some families may assume you will be available to babysit whenever they need you, and others will tell you that you are 100% free Saturday and Sunday. It’s good to have clarity on this!).
- Will you help me find the right language course? And who will pay for it? (Many families will cover half or all of the cost)
- How quickly are you looking to make a decision for your au pair?
- Would it be possible for me to meet the children over Skype if we agree to move forward?
After the Skype call make sure to send a thank you note letting them know you enjoyed your conversation and thanking them for their time. If you liked the family and are interested in moving forward in the process, make sure to let them know!
From my experience (one time, basically a veteran), once you two like each other the process moves pretty quickly. There’s no formal “selection” process per se – it’s as simple as “I like you and want to work for you, do you like me back? Yes? Great! Let’s start writing out the contract!” which leads me to the next step…
Step 5: The Contract, which I will cover n Part 2. Stay tuned for the second part of How to Become an Au Pair where I will discuss filling out your visa paperwork, applying for your visa, booking your travel, tying up loose ends before you leave, what to bring with you, and more! 🙂
Have you given thought to becoming an Au Pair? What was the process of finding a family like for you? I’d love to read about it! Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments! 🙂