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The Do’s and Don’ts of Au Pairing

5 mins read

by Aysun Bora and Alice Coget

Moving to a different country as an au pair can be intimidating. This article covers what we wish we had known beforehand. We wanted to share two different perspectives on the same job. One of us went to Spain, Catalunya, and the other went to London for the excitement of the big city, and the safety of staying in the United Kingdom.

Working as an au pair can improve your ability to be independent, but you must be prepared to adapt to the host family’s needs and fit into their schedule. When you connect with a host family, you get the unique chance to find a second home. Living at the same place that you work can be an intense experience; you see facets of one another that nobody else does and get to know each other. It can also be tricky when you feel part of the family to clock-off and set boundaries. For example, when Aysun got ill, she didn’t want to ask for a break, being mindful of the family’s busy schedule. Working in such an intimate setting can easily lead to overwork.

Picture Credit: Alice Coget

Moreover, being responsible for two kids was as stressful as it was pleasant.  You are responsible for the children’s actions, and you must come up with spontaneous activities. Keeping an eye on kids’ craziness is tough, as Alice discovered, when their creative impulse decides to make them roll down a hill on a bike without a helmet or brakes. Thankfully, he sustained no terrible injuries, but this goes to show how trust, patience and responsibility are of the utmost importance.

We recommend you create a bucket list for your time working as an au pair. The idea of being immersed in another culture and enjoy tourism, friends, foods and events is exciting, but you might be surprised be might be surprised by the lack of free time. Choose the location and the host family according to your own goals: knowing what you want to achieve helps to avoid disappointments. If you want to experience the nightlife and the inner city, you shouldn’t pick a place on the outskirts of London. If you want to work in your free time or invest in your hobbies, a location in the suburbs could be more suitable.

Picture Credit: Aysun Bora

Alice got to discover mountains because her host father let her drive her Range Rover during his free time, while Aysun wished to explore parts of London and create a special bond with her host family. However, Alice’s family lived “recluse” in a tiny valley town, where the travel was unreliable and terribly connected to Girona and Barcelona, and most people spoke better Catalan in the countryside than Spanish, which was unhelpful for a Spanish learner. These downsides certainly could have been specified before the trip, so be wary.

Being the perfect nanny and homeworker possible is extremely hard. You may not realise the number of responsibilities you will accumulate during the week without breaks.

The more you spend time with the host family, the more you can bond with them and deepen your relationship. Especially, if you are working with children for the first time, it takes a bit to get used to that special form of communication that is necessary to mark boundaries. 

Au pairing can be an amazing opportunity to live in a totally different environment, connect to a family abroad, and earn a bit of extra money over the summer. However, contracts are often not binding and there is less security when travelling to a foreign country by yourself, meaning you have to be careful that you don’t get taken advantage of.

Feature Image Credit: Aysun Bora

1 Comment

  1. Nice and realistic article.

    I would suggest that au pairs rely on professional au pair agency, rather than relying on Internet sites where they just register, have to do their own search of a host family but there are no filters or anybody on the other side to make a phone call for advice and support.
    Au pair agencies do have contact with both host families and au pairs and so, ending up in a destination that is not really suitable for the au pair would just not happen.

    A professional au pair agency will thoroughly explain what au pair means, will get rid off false expectations that can lead to frustration or dissappointment and should do a follow up during au pair stay to make sure everything goes as it should.
    Most Spanish au pair agencies will not charge any fee to the aupair candidate, so at the end of the day, there are just advantages when comparing with free Internet au pair sites.

    I would recommend to check upon AEPA (Spanish au pair association) for a list of Spanish au pair agencies.
    I run one of them but I do not want to take advantage of this reply to your article.

    Thanks for reading this post.

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