Many people have a very romantic idea of what au pairing will be like. They imagine wandering down cobblestone streets and sipping red wine in piazzas, or sitting on a train as it winds through snow-capped mountains while your new boyfriend whispers sweet nothings into your ear in a language you barely understand.
As someone who was an au pair in a country that is romanticized in all these ways, I can tell you -- it’s not like that. I mean, yes, there were lots of cobbled streets. And red wine in piazzas.
But there were also times my hours were dramatically increased, and I had to say no to many social obligations because I made a measly 40 euro a week. That salary also meant I couldn’t afford a language course, or many of those oft dreamed about European train rides.
That’s not to say being an au pair was bad -- it wasn’t -- but being an au pair in a country where I didn’t have a contract or a visa meant I was easily taken advantage of and had no recourse to do anything about it.
I get asked a lot about where's best to become an au pair and the answer I always give is to choose a country that has an established au pair program or at the very least a working holiday visa that gives you the legal right to remain and work in the country. With this in mind, we've chosen the following seven countries due to the ease of applying for a proper visa and the compensation provided. Make one of them your new home during your au pair year abroad!
Read more: 5 Reasons You Should Au Pair Abroad
- Age limit: Non-EU citizens should be between 18-26, while EU citizens should be between17-30.
- Typical hours: Au pairs in Germany can work up to 6 days a week for no more than 30 hours.
- Average monthly pay: The minimum salary is 280€ ($327 USD) a month. Host families are required to pay for health care costs, but not language courses.
Why au pair in Germany?
Germany has a diverse landscape, from the Alps in the southern state of Bavaria to the harbors of northern Hamburg. There are plenty of cities and smaller towns with universities, language schools, and young people making it a good place for au pairs to meet new friends. Additionally, most Germans speak English incredibly well so you’ll be able to meet and converse with locals easily.
What's the legal situation for au pairs in Germany?
Germany offers an au pair visa to non-EU/EEA nationals who are between 18 and 26. This visa is valid for a maximum of 12 months and can't be renewed. This isn't a work permit, so au pairs aren't allowed to work outside of their childminding duties.
Au pairs must have a beginner level knowledge (A1 in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) of German. You will have to take a test when applying for the visa if you don’t have a certificate.
Additionally, the au pair is responsible for covering the cost of their visa and flight to Germany.
Explore Au Pair Jobs in Germany
- Age limit: Au pairs should be between 18 and 30 years old.
- Typical hours: Au pairs in Australia should work no more than 38 hours a week according to national employment standards.
- Average monthly pay: Because there's no official au pair program in Australia wages vary, but most families pay between $150 - 250 AUD ($145 - 180 USD) a week in addition to room and board.
Why au pair in Australia?
Australia is a mecca for young people looking for a year abroad making it a wonderful choice for an au pair looking to combine work with travel. Au pairs will have no problem meeting other travelers and Aussies are always keen for a night out.
If you’re from an English-speaking country you’re less likely to have a language barrier issue (though don’t count it out completely -- Aussie slang can be like an entirely new language itself) and those looking to learn the language will find plenty of opportunities to do so.
What's the legal situation for au pairs in Australia?
Although Australia has no official au pair visa, they offer a Working Holiday or Work and Holiday visa to citizens of many countries who are between 18 and 30 years old. This visa allows for casual work, though you can’t stay with the same employer for longer than six months.
Explore Au Pair Jobs in Australia
- Age limit: Au pairs in Sweden must be between 18-30.
- Typical hours: Au pairs in Sweden work a maximum of 25 hours a week.
- Average monthly pay: In addition to the mandatory language course, host families in Sweden must provide room and board as well as a minimum monthly stipend of 3,500 SEK (about $400 USD).
Why au pair in Sweden?
Being an au pair in Sweden will give you the opportunity to live and work in a country that might otherwise be too cost-prohibitive to spend much time in. You'll also have the chance to be exposed to a new language and, hopefully, have a chance to try some homemade Swedish meatballs.
What's the legal situation for au pairs in Sweden?
In Sweden, non-EU citizens can get a work permit to be an au pair. Au pairs in Sweden must be between 18-30 and should have an interest in studying Swedish as enrollment in a language course is required (and paid for by the host family). Au pairs can stay up to 12 months.
Explore Au Pair Jobs in Sweden
- Age limit: To be an au pair in the United States you must be between 18-26.
- Typical hours: Au pairs in the U.S. will work no more than 45 hours a week and no more than 10 hours a day.
- Average monthly pay: Au pairs must be paid $195.75 a week. They are also given 2 weeks of paid vacation each year along with their own bedroom and three meals a day..
Why au pair in the U.S.?
Although there's a 50/50 chance that if you're here, reading this article, you're American, there's also a 50/50 chance that you're not. If you're not American, here are a few reasons to consider becoming an au pair in the U.S.
The United States is a large and diverse country with a city or town for an au pair with any preference. Especially in larger cities, there are large numbers of au pairs making it easy to meet other young people from around the world. Additionally, you'll be able to improve your English or study something at the college level with the education requirement.
What's the legal situation for au pairs in the U.S.?
Au pairs can come to the United States through the J-1 au pair visa program. Au pairs must find their family through one of 14 agencies authorized by the United States government which means the process of finding an au pair family is slightly different.
Prospective au pairs must have a solid knowledge of spoken English and pass a criminal background check. Au pairs sign 12-month contracts which can be extended by 6, 9, or 12 months to a maximum of 24 months. Au pairs receive an educational stipend of $500, paid for by the host family.
Explore Au Pair Jobs in the U.S.
- Age limit: EU citizens must be between 17-30 years old and au pairs from non-EU countries must be between the ages of 18 and 25.
- Typical hours: Au pairs will work no more than 30 hours a week.
- Average monthly pay: Au pairs are paid between 500 - 700 Swiss Francs (around $550 - 770 USD) a month for 30 hours a week of work. The host family also provides room and board and must pay for half of the required language course.
Why au pair in Switzerland?
Switzerland is bordered by five countries and is just a short train ride away even more making it the perfect place for the au pair who wants to explore more of Europe. Like Sweden, Switzerland is an extremely expensive country, and living there as an au pair will give you a chance to learn about the culture without breaking the bank.
Plus, Switzerland has four official languages (German, French, Italian, and Romansh) so you should be able to find a family in a canton that speaks your target language.
What's the legal situation like for au pairs in Switzerland?
Switzerland offers au pair residence permits to EU citizens and au pair visas for those who come from non-EU nations. EU citizens can work in Switzerland for up to two years. Au pairs from non-EU countries can stay for up to one year. Au pairs must attend a language course for a minimum of 3 hours a week.
Explore Au Pair Jobs in Switzerland
- Age limit: To secure a working holiday visa for au pairing, participants must be at least 18 but no older than 30.
- Typical hours: Au pairs usually work between 25 to 30 hours a week.
- Average monthly pay: There’s no set au pair wage in Canada but salaries are between $235 and $290 per week, depending on the minimum wage of the province, in addition to room and board.
Why au pair in Canada?
Like the United States, Canada is a huge country land-wise and offers au pairs a good chance to work while improving their English (or French, if you choose to go to Quebec). Canadians are known for being warm and friendly, so au pairs will no doubt find it easy to make local friends.
What's the legal situation like for au pairs in Canada?
Canada has no official au pair program but has a working holiday visa called International Experience Canada that gives people between the ages of 18-35 years old from 27 countries the right to work in Canada on short term contracts.
Explore Au Pair Jobs in Canada
- Age limit: Denmark au pairs must be between 17 and 29 years old.
- Typical hours: In Denmark, au pairs work a maximum of 30 hours a week.
- Average monthly pay: Au pairs receive a stipend of 4,550 DKK (around $720 USD) a month. Your host family will also pay for insurance and, if you’re from a non-European country, your trip home at the end of your contract..
Why au pair in Denmark?
Yes, maybe Denmark isn’t the first country you think of when planning your European au pair year, but with a high salary and prevalence of English speakers, it might be worth giving it a shot. Plus, Denmark is incredibly safe and it’s a culture that values relaxing and socializing with friends and family. How great of an au pair year would that make?
What's the legal situation like for au pairs in Denmark?
Denmark issues residence permits to au pairs between 17 and 29 years old. To get this permit, the host family and au pair must sign a contract drafted by the Danish government ensuring both parties agree to all the requirements. The residence permit is only valid for 12 months.
Explore Au Pair Jobs in Denmark
- Age limit: Au pairs must be between 18 and 30 years old.
- Typical hours: In New Zealand, au pairs required to work between 30 -35 hours a week, and have at least one day off.
- Average monthly pay: As an au pair in New Zealand, you can expect to earn between $170 - 240 NZD ($120 - 165 USD) per week in addition to room and board.
Why au pair in New Zealand?
The adventurous spirit of New Zealand, coupled with the warm hospitality Kiwis are known for makes this an irresistible location to au pair abroad. New Zealand is a beautiful, diverse country. You can walk practically anywhere. Plus, if your first language is English, you won't have to worry about the language barrier.
If you want the opportunity to be a part of a family, New Zealand is the perfect place to au pair. You will be treated as more than a nanny -- you'll become a big sibling.
What's the legal situation like for au pairs in New Zealand?
Similar to Australia, you will need to obtain a Working Holiday Visa to au pair in New Zealand. This visa is good for one year.
Explore Au Pair Jobs in New Zealand
Explore the world as an au pair
Working as an au pair will expose you to another culture and give you the opportunity to explore the world. But choosing the right country for you is important. Having the security of a work permit will ensure you not only have a great time but get the compensation and benefits you deserve for your hard work. Picking one of the above countries is a great first step to a fulfilling time abroad!