How to Get a Job as an Au Pair Abroad
What is an Au Pair?
The word ‘Au Pair’ is French, and loosely translated means ‘on a par’ or ‘equal to’, indicating that the relationship between the Au Pair and the children/family is one of equals. An Au Pair is far more than a servant or a babysitter – as during their time working they essentially become a part of the family.
An Au Pair can be defined as a young foreign person hired to care for a family’s children and do light housework in exchange for accommodation, food and a basic wage.
There are lots of opportunities for Au Pairs (particular in Europe and North America), so because of this it’s relatively easy to find a placement (especially when compared to other ‘travel jobs’), and is worth looking into if you’re thinking of taking a gap year, enjoy spending time with children and want to learn a new language.
Working as an Au Pair
Working as an Au Pair usually means spending 2 to 12 months working abroad working with a family and looking after their children. When starting work you’ll have a contract with that family (whether a formally written contract or a verbal one) stating how long you’ll be working for. By the end of your contract, should you and your new family wish to extend your stay, you can do so. Alternatively, if you wish to terminate your contract prematurely, a week’s notice is the usual length of time required.
What kinds of people are best suited to being an Au Pair? The European guidelines council states that ideally most Au Pairs should be single and between the ages of 17 and 30. While this is a guideline, most places will prefer you to be at least 18 years old but not older than 27.
So what can you expect as an Au Pair? Most families will expect you to pay for your own airfare/travel expenses to get to their house. Typically you’ll be working 5 days a week, 6 hours per day, and you’ll be expected to babysit 2 or more nights per week. If you work over the typical 30 hours (or the agreed upon amount), you’re more than entitled to be paid for your extra work.
How much holiday will you get? Expect to get one week’s holiday for every six months that you work.
Obviously every family is different, and different families might expect you to have different duties. When you first arrive at your new family’s home, it’s a good idea to sit down with them and work out what exactly they expect from you, and what you expect from them.
Such items could include:
- Waking up and getting the children dressed in the mornings.
- Making (or helping to make) breakfast (and possibly other meals).
- Tidying up after the children.
- Taking the children to and from school or nursery.
- Doing some basic grocery shopping.
- Bathing the children in the evening.
- Putting the kids to bed at night and reading them a bedtime story.
How much will you get paid? The typical wage paid to Au Pairs is around $70 (£45) a week, although this can vary depending on the country you’re working in, and how wealthy (and generous) the family you’re working for happen to be. This might not seem like a lot, but don’t forget you’re getting free accommodation and meals as well, and that the point of working as an Au Pair isn’t to make money, but to learn new life skills and do something rewarding in your gap year.
Before getting an job as an Au Pair, question whether you’d really like to work with children or not. Some people love working with children, whereas others can’t get on with them and see them as an annoyance. If you’re unsure as to which group you fall into, spend some time working with children to find out. You could babysit your neighbour’s children, or help out at a local school or nursery.
Pros and Cons
Working as an Au Pair gives you the opportunity to learn the language of another country, and to learn about its culture and to see how differently people live.
Oftentimes, how well you enjoy time being an Au Pair largely relates to how well you get on with the family (and the children) you’re staying with. If you don’t get on well with them, you may feel lonely and long to be back home. If you do get on with them, you might just make some lifelong friends, and a set of experiences that you’ll remember forever. In some ways this is a lottery, but Au Pair agencies will always look to pair you with a compatible family (based on all kinds of criteria), and not just the first one that’s available.
How to Apply
Finding a job as an Au Pair abroad can seem daunting at first, until you realise that there are severl excellent online Au Pair agencies out there who act primarily as an online matchmaking service between Au Pairs and families.
Note that in many countries (such as the UK) it is ILLEGAL for an Au Pair agency to charge you for finding you a placement.
If you’re looking for a placement in Europe, visit the International Au Pair Association website (IAPA) at www.iapa.org, as they are very much the regulating body in Europe.
Most Au Pair jobs can be found by going through an au pair agency or by joining an au pair program.
Other Au Pair agency websites include www.aupair-agency.com, www.greataupair.com (known as the largest Au Pair agency on the internet) and www.aupairconnect.com (for US placements). Using any other websites (particularly free ones) is not recommended, as you’re best off sticking with the established and experienced Au Pair agencies. There have been stories in the past of fraudsters setting up fake placements online and getting wannabe Au Pairs to send them money for their placement. To avoid this from happening to you, stick with the well-known websites.
If you’re already traveling and you’re looking to become an Au Pair in a country (rather than applying at home and then flying out), there are a couple of good ways to find a job. First of all, look inside the local English newspaper under the classified listings/jobs section. Alternatively visit the local (English speaking) schools and ask the head teacher if they know of any families requiring an Au Pair. Treat your meeting with the head teacher as a job interview, so make sure to dress reasonably smartly and to be polite and friendly.
The ‘ideal’ Au Pair for most families is a non-smoking female with a valid driving license. Unfortunately, most families would rather hire a woman to be their Au Pair than a man. This doesn’t mean that men can’t find jobs as Au Pairs, just that it will typically take longer.
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