What is an au pair?
A young foreign person, typically a woman, who helps with housework or child care in exchange for room and board. The word “au pair” is french and means “to be equal,” indicating that the relationship between the au pair and host family is to be mutually beneficial. That’s the technical term. The good part? Being an au pair gives you the chance to really see how life in another culture is. Eating local food, listening to true local music, and maybe getting a table at the local bar if you’re lucky.. all while experiencing travel, culture, humanity and globalization.
How can I become an aupair? Why did you choose to become an aupair?
*how. The internet, obviously, is going to be the best tool when it comes to finding out more about being an au pair. I don’t have all of the answers, I did hours upon hours of research, and you should too. Moving to the other side of the world isn’t a game, and any person interested in doing so should cover all the bases. With that said, I’ll get into specifics later.
*why. I went to high school with a girl that decided to do this in Denmark. I was sick of working my day to day serving job and wanted to see the world, pretty much. Plus, it was a super cheap way to travel. The second time around, it was because I plain and simply just wasn’t done with Germany.
How did you find an aupair family?
Aupair-world.net is a heaven sent website when it comes to this. This site is filled with information for both potential au pairs as well as families. It contains all visa requirements, language requirements, pay, contract information and expectations. Of course, this can vary family to family, but the basics are all on that site. Plus, for au pairs, it’s FREE. (There are also sites like greataupair.com and tons of agencies that you can go through, I found aupair-world to be the best resource for me. Greataupair produced too many scams. However, my best friend here in Germany, used greataupair. Like I said, this will vary from person to person)
I’m getting a million family requests, how do I chose?
As Alex puts it, go with your gut. This is the best advice I can give you. Second to that, don’t just pick the first family that flatters you. I was contacted by so many families I couldn’t keep up with the emails. In order to narrow it down, first I completely decided on a country and narrowed all my requests down to Germany. Then, I went through and got rid of all the requests in German, since I didn’t know German at the time. After that, I got rid of all families that wanted overnight or care for more than 3 children. That left me with about 20 families that I considered. Please remember, I started this whole thing wanting to go to Australia. Things change.
How do I know it’s not too good to be true?
Be Liam Neesen. Seriously. I researched the country, city, the nearest American embassy, the nearest American military base, my host family, their jobs, the schools, their names. I looked up statistics for crime, English language speakers and poverty. I knew exactly how far to the nearest train station, air port and bus stop. I registered my trip with the US Department of State. I left information of where I was staying, with whom, all phone numbers, addresses, locations and times of EVERYTHING with four different people. I had location apps on my phone on my main screen, along with ones that were hidden. My mom can track me anytime, day or night. Again, do your research.
Where should I go? Why Germany?
Good Question. When I started this search I wanted Australia because it looked awesome, mate! Too bad the airfare was $1400 one way, they wanted me to show $5k in a bank account and the families just weren’t clicking with what I wanted. The logical reasons that I chose Germany were for my own benefit. I had family in England, so if my host family turned out to be freaks, I could get to my actual family quickly for a low cost. Second, Germany is central to pretty much everything in Europe. I can get to Paris in 6 hours, London in 8, Italy in 4 and Austria in 2. That is just the southern countries.
Where you should go is totally up to you. Some people pick their host country based on their background, or ethnicity or language expertise. I picked Germany because it looked cool on Google.
I need a visa? How the heck do I get that?
- You must have a valid passport, obviously.
- 18-24 years old.
- Pass the level A1 test in German (hang on, don’t panic.)
- The visa is only good for a contract of a minimum of 6 months, max of 1 year.
Now, about the language requirement. I think this is the biggest question of every potential au pair. I wouldn’t even call it a question, I would call it a panic, because we all do. Here is the thing: Of allllll the au pairs that I have talked to that were or are currently here in Germany, NOT ONE OF US HAS BEEN TESTED. Our host moms took us to the office and did all the talking. Now, legally, they CAN test you and you should know it if you plan on living here for a year. SO, if you have proof that you are enrolled in a German class, they don’t ask questions. I didn’t know a SINGLE WORD of German here when I arrived. I have a visa.
Once you get here, your family will have to register you at the local Einwohnermeldeamt. This puts your name in the postage system and lets the city know you are a resident of it. After that, register for your class. (You will need the residency info to enroll). Once enrolled, your host family can call and set up an appointment at the Ausländerbehörde. This is the office that will issue your visa. You will need your application for visa, contract, passport, extra passport photo, health insurance information, class enrollment, and registration papers from the city you live in. Lastly, don’t freak out. It’s easy peasy. (You have up to the end of your 90 day tourist visa to do all this. Once you do, your one year visa will begin)
Can I get rich off this?
The answer to that would be a big fat, no. Not in money, anyways. The pay isn’t through the roof but its enough to get you around Europe if you budget and come with a little in a bank account. In experience however, you can get as rich as Bill Gates.
The start for Germany is 260 Euro’s a month. Keep in mind, the family provides all room and board, food and health insurance for you. I was responsible for my toiletries, food when out, cell phone bill and gym membership. Some families provide train/bus passes. I highly recommend asking for one of these when negotiating. I would have saved so much money if I had one. Some also provide gym memberships or compensation towards one. Again, ask. If there is something you want, ask in the beginning It’s a whole lot less awkward than asking once you are here.
*The second time around I was only able to stay for a maximum of 90 days due to already holding a German visa. If this is the case, don’t sell yourself short. My current situation is paying me more monthly in place of the German course I would have gotten with a regular contract. They are also paying to travel insurance vs the aupair insurance you would get if on a normal contract. Be flexible but make it work.
How can I meet friends?
Be a friendly person. Talk to anyone that speaks English. Once you’re here, you will find that you no longer pick up on a Texas or New York accent, you’ll pick up an American one. And man is it sweet when you do. 2:29 seconds into this video, will be you.
Ask your host family if they know anyone with an au pair. Odds are, they do. Or they know someone who does. Both of my best friends here have been met through my host mom. And I currently roll with them daily. (baaaad bitches.)
Facebook. Search for au pair groups. I joined one for au pairs in Munich that has 50 people in it. INSTANT FRIENDS. Go to parties, you meet more and more and before you know it, you have German friends that live here, and think it’s crazy you are an au pair. Really, it happens :)
Couch Surf. Especially if you are in or near any major city. Couch Surf is a website where foreign people meet and congregate It’s sorta like facebook for expats, only the people actually meet in person. (GASP!)
And last, start a blog. Best decision ever. -even if I suck at keeping it updated :)
Why the blog?
Alex influenced me. That’s why.
I’m kidding. (actually I’m not.) Starting this blog has been one of the best tools for this trip. I have met SO many expats living in Germany, or near Germany, or not even close to Germany, but not in their home country and thus; they can relate. It’s a sounding board. You can vent on it, cry to it and make people laugh. But the best part? Meeting people just like you, who are doing the same thing you are. I have met so many au pairs and Americans living in Germany, and that is one special and sweet thing when you are so far from home.
ALEX. Munich, Germany
SARAH. Zurich, Switzerland
STACIE. Currently in the US
Are all au pairs sharing their stories and knowledge on the big bad internet. Alex has a boat load of awesome information and stories about her experience She is probably 70% of the reason I came here. :)
I’m being overworked, what should I do?
It happens to the best of us. 2/3 of the au pairs that I know here have all ran into this problem, including myself. When you first get here, it’s hard to get balance right off the bat. These people you call your host family, are strangers and you are living in their house. Should you clean up dinner? Should you go downstairs during nap time? Should you put the kids to bed? Bathe them? Make desert? Here is the thing. The more you establish before you get here the easier this will be. But if/when you do run into this, the biggest thing is just talking. You don’t have to go to them all crazy style that you are not a slave. Just go to them and ask for a detailed schedule. German standard is 30 hours a week. They should stick to that, or compensate you accordingly.
If that doesn’t work, switch families. Plain and simple. Stacie and Hailey both did and now they are happy. Sometimes people just don’t click. No hard feelings, don’t go home, this experience isn’t wasted.. plenty of families are looking for au pairs, just move onto one you do click with.
DO YOUR RESEARCH.
and lastly, email me. I am so glad to help with any question you may have. Or just to say hi :)
*anyone have anything to add?