Seven Things to Think About When Becoming An Au Pair

The above photo was taken at Lulworth Cove

This fall marks the ten year anniversary from when I moved to England for a few months to be an au pair (just writing that is making me feel a little old).

I made the move at the age of 18, just a few months out of high school, and while I am so glad I took the chance, there are some things I wish I would have thought through a little bit more (and some things I’ve heard from others), if you are one of those who are thinking about becoming an au pair abroad today I wanted to share a few things to think about before you make the move.

Just to give you a little background on my story, I started looking into au pair jobs in the last few months of high school, the site I used then was, which worked out well for me, but I haven’t used the site in 10 years so I can’t really attest to how it is now. At the time I just used the free version which meant I could set up my profile and if the family paid for the membership they could get my contact info.

By the time June rolled around I had been contacted by a lovely family that lived in England, they had two little girls and the mom was injured in the line of duty (as a police officer) and was going to be starting up her own business from home. A huge bonus for me was that they were also Christians, which I thought would help the transition.

Just a few weeks before I was set to leave they found out that if the mother started working she would no longer be able to receive her disability cheque and therefore would not be able to afford to have an au pair. Well, that changed things. They were still very awesome and said I was welcome to come out and live with them until I found another place to work (since I already had my ticket, and had even sold my car to purchase it).

After arriving in the UK I ended up staying at their house for a little less than a week before getting in touch with another au pair who was originally going to work for this couple and then found a better offer on the south coast of England, bonus was she was also a Canadian and a Christian. So they helped me load up all my luggage and I hopped on a train down to the south coast of the country. The Canadian au pair met me at the train station and I got settled at my new home. The family we were working for had one son and now had a total of three au pairs.

I’m going to stop my story there, there really is so much more to it, so if you are interested in hearing the entire story let me know and I can share it one day.

Now that you have a little bit of background, here are a few things to think about when thinking about becoming an au pair, some of these I had thought of and others I hadn’t but wish I had:

  1. will the family pay for your flight out? my original host family was willing to pay for half of my ticket, and were gracious enough to hold up their end of the bargain even though I ended up not staying with them. I did front the money for the ticket and they gave me the money for half of it when I got out there (of course they wouldn’t want to pay for it before because they would want to make sure I actually came out).
  2. how much will you get paid? and how much does it matter to you? I didn’t get paid much as an au pair, it was the equivalent of about $85 a week, but it included my room and board as well as transportation. I didn’t become an au pair to make money but for the experience of living in another country and the chance to travel a bit.
  3. how much time will you be able to have off? if you are interested in travelling this is a good one to know, we only had the chance to go on two little getaways one to Scotland for a few days and one to London, but we did have the weekends off so we were able to take in local sights, we were fortunate to live only 45 minutes from Stonehenge and quite close to Bath as well, and of course there were also lots of local sites (like Lulworth Cove pictured above) and castle ruins to take in.
  4. what will all be required of you? usually au pairs do housework, cooking and childcare. I did those three as well as worked for their business (they were headhunters . . . not as exciting as it sounds, I just created a database of lawyers they could potentially contact and get them to work at different law offices).
  5. are there other au pairs around? I’m very gratefully the family I worked for had another Canadian au pair, I’m not sure what I would have done without her, it was nice to have someone to talk about Canadian things with. The family that I originally went out for told me there were some other au pairs in their area that I would be able to get together with, since I ended up not staying there that never happened, but definitely would have been nice to have that community.
  6. how does the visa process work? each country is so different with their visas, your host family should have an idea and be able to help you with this. I was able to use a working a working holiday visa for the UK.
  7. what access will I have to transportation? because I was just 18 when I was in England I couldn’t get an international drivers license without the insurance being crazy high. Thankfully the other Canadian au pair got hers since she was older. We lived in a pretty remote little village so we had a van we were able to drive, such a good thing, because there was no public transportation close to where we lived.

There are tons more questions for you to ask your host family on how they operate their home but I think these are the major things to start with. If you like the answers to each of these questions then it would be time to ask those more in depth questions.

Is it something you’ve considered before, if so, what’s stopped you from taking the plunge? Or, if you have been an au pair before I’d love to hear your experience!


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