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.
These seven countries are the best places to become an au pair, in my opinion, because they offer the following criteria:
- A reasonable salary
- Working requirements
- A rich culture or diverse landscape
What's the legal situation for au pairs in Germany?
Germany offers an au pair visa or work permit to non-EU/EEA nationals who are between 18 and 24. Au pairs must have a beginner level knowledge of German (you will have to take a test when applying for the visa if you don’t have a certificate) and the au pair is responsible for covering the cost of their visa and flight to Germany.
How much will can you make? What are the hours like?
Au pairs in Germany can work up to 6 days a week for no more than 30 hours and the minimum salary is 260 euro 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 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.
Look for au pair jobs in Germany.
You may have heard of this working holiday thing, and if you have, you're one step closer to understanding why Australia made it on to this list of top au pair destinations.
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.
How much will you make as an au pair in Australia?
Because there's no official au pair program in Australia wages vary, but most families pay between $150 - 250 AUD 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.
Look for au pair jobs in Australia.
Sweden may seem random, but hear us out for a second. This Scandanavian country is one of the best-kept secrets in the global au pair world.
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).
How much can you make as an au pair in Sweden? What are the hours like?
In addition to the language course, host families in Sweden must provide room and board as well as a monthly stipend of 3,500 SEK (about $490 USD) in exchange for a maximum of 25 hours a week of work.
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.
Look for au pair jobs in Sweden.
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.
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.
To be an au pair in the United States you must be between 18-26, have a solid knowledge of spoken English, and pass a criminal background check. Au pairs sign 12 month contracts and must attend school, of which up to $500 is paid for by the host family.
How much will you make as an au pair in the U.S.? What are the hours like?
Au pairs in the United States can work up to 45 hours a week and 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.?
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.
Look for au pair jobs in the U.S.
Similar to some of the already mentioned countries, Switzerland has a very good setup for au pairs.
What's the legal situation like for au pairs in Switzerland? How much do they get paid?
Switzerland offers au pair residence permits to EU citizens and au pair visas for those who come from non-EU nations.
How much will you make as an au pair in Switzerland? What are the hours like?
EU citizens must be between 17-30 years old and can work in Switzerland for up to two years. EU au pairs work 25-30 hours a week for room, board, and 890 swiss francs a month. Au pairs must attend a language course for a minimum of 3 hours a week.
Au pairs from non-EU countries must be between the ages of 18 and 25 and can stay for up to one year. Au pairs are paid between 700-800 swiss francs 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 their 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.
Canada, eh? Yes, that's right -- Canada, for many reasons, stands out as a destination to find an au pair gig in:
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 from 18-35 years old from 27 countries the right to work in Canada on short term contracts.
How much will you make as an au pair in Canada?
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.
Look for au pair jobs in Canada.
You may have noticed a theme by now -- some of the countries on this list, like Denmark, are a bit off the beaten path. There's good reason for that:
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.
How much will you make as an au pair in Denmark?
In Denmark, au pairs work a maximum of 30 hours a week in exchange for room, board, a stipend of DKK 3,050 (around $450 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?
The adventurous spirit of New Zealand, coupled with the warm hospitality Kiwis are known for makes this an irresistible location to au pair abroad.
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 shouldn't be a problem for anyone between the age of 18-30.
How much will you make as an au pair in New Zealand?
As an au pair in New Zealand, you can expect to earn between $150 and $210 NZD per week in addition to room and board. Typically, you will be required to work between 30 -35 hours a week, and have at least one day off. Some families will require an au pair that can work as many as 45 hours per week, however, that is not the norm.
Why au pair in New Zealand?
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 like more than a nanny -- you'll become a big sibling.