Known equally for its ancient history spanning an incredible 5,000 years and its digital, political, and economic growth on the world stage, China is a country that needs to be experienced firsthand. Whether walking across the ancient Great Wall of China or viewing expansive Guangzhou from Canton Tower, you'll likely just be scratching the surface of historical landscapes to be explored.
If you find yourself fascinated by Chinese culture and language, deciding to immerse yourself in the country and earning a viable living as an au pair is an opportunity to go beyond just a surface-level experience of "the Middle Kingdom."
Catering to these popular intentions, Chinese au pair programs are heavily focused on cultural exchange. You'll likely come away with decent conversational Chinese -- and memories to last a lifetime!
With a population of 1.3 billion people and an increasing desire to be competitive on the world stage, there is high demand for au pairs –- especially those who are fluent in English. More than anything, Chinese parents desire au pairs who can be upstanding role models and provide new perspectives for their children.
Great Au Pair, Au Pair Quest, Lo Pair, and AuPair.com are great websites for au pairs who are eager to jump into the job hunt. These websites have search functions, job boards, and family profiles for perusing. Since the perfect family may not be advertising for an au pair yet, it may take several weeks to three months to find a good fit.
Maneuvering through the au pair process may be stressful, which is why au pair agencies may be a good option for those wanting more support in their search. For example, Au Pair in China is a trusted agency that helps au pairs find host families, attain university-level language courses and attend social events to meet other au pairs.
While au pairing may be simply be viewed as a job in other countries, it's regarded more as an educational opportunity for both parties. Due to this, many au pair programs include international flights and enrollment in language courses paid by the host family. If you’re dedicated to learning Mandarin during this time, make sure the language course is at a school, with a tutor, or at a university instead of "self-study."
Although most au pair positions are available for three to twelve months, most contracts are for six months at a time. The F visa is applicable for stays of six months or less, while the X visa is for those staying over six months. X visas are mainly for students -- great for au pairs who are interested in learning Mandarin.
In addition to a valid passport and an application form, au pairs need a letter from the host family inviting them to China plus a signed contract to attain a visa. Everything needs to be mailed to the closest Chinese consulate.
In exchange for watching and playing with children, au pairs are given meals, lodging, and a small stipend. It’s usually not enough to live independently outside your host family's home, but it’s a nice supplement to help pay for some extra expenses, particularly during your one or two days off per week.
Although stipends vary from family to family, Chinese rates usually range from 700-2000 yuan per month ($100-$300) for an average of 30 work hours per week.
- Beijing: Beijing has one of the highest standards of living and is perfect for au pairs who want to learn the standard, simpler version of Mandarin. With your newfound language skills, you can experience your host family's heritage at a deeper level, order Peking duck, and find your way to the Great Wall of China, which is just an hour outside the city. The Forbidden City, built in the 1400's for a Ming Emperor, is not be missed.
- Shanghai: The most populous city in China, Shanghai is extremely developed with many families needing au pairs. It's a perfect location for studying Mandarin as there are many options for schools and universities in Shanghai offering it. After work hours, stroll along the Yangtze River while soaking in the city skyline and discovering the nightlife.
- Guangzhou: Third largest city in China, Guangzhou is closely situated to Hong Kong and the South China Sea, creating perfect conditions for a trade port. The port has played a large role in shaping the breadth and depth of the city. Among the biggest attractions are Canton Tower, the tallest TV tower in the world, and Mausoleum of Nanyue King where the second king of Nanyue was buried.
Rent for apartments within large Chinese cities can be expensive, which makes live-in au pairing a great option. However, with a population density of 375 people per square mile, it’s common for three generations to live in one apartment in most Chinese cities -- a living situation you may not be prepared for!
However, the families that can afford childcare are usually middle class and will provide a private bedroom to ensure comfort for their au pairs. Make sure to double check your housing conditions before signing the contract!
Although most basic costs of living are taken care of by the host family, it’s always exciting to try local restaurants and attractions, especially with the colorful variety in Chinese cuisine. Au pairs can expect meals to cost between $3-$20 depending on the type of restaurant.
Due to the large nature of cities in China, the subway or other public transportation is the best option for getting around. Transportation can cost anywhere from $0.30 per ride to $30 for a monthly pass.
Some au pair programs provide either fully compensated flights to China or a partially subsidized option. For an idea of prices, one-way flights to Beijing from Los Angeles range between $400 and $700, while from New York they range between $600 and $1000.
Although Chinese fashion is in line with American fashion, it leans towards the modest side. Sleeved shirts, long pants, and one-piece swimsuits for girls are the most acceptable attire. Scarves also come in handy for women when entering temples and religious areas. In public, casual wear such as flip-flops and sweatpants should be avoided.
Since China is such a large country, it’s hard to encompass all climates, yet generally it falls into the subtropical category. Similar to that of southeast United States, the country has milder winters and hot, humid summers. Cities in northern China, like Beijing, tend to be much colder and drier than cities in southern China.
The most popular religion in China is Taoism, however, Confucianism is widely followed as well. A philosophy of life rather than religion, Confucianism teaches people to interact with honor, duty, and loyalty. The beliefs and values have transpired into art, literature, and everyday interactions. Admiration for the elderly, respect for everyone, and not losing "face" are also important aspects of Chinese culture.
Overseas moves and adjustments to a new culture can be difficult by yourself. One way to meet people is through language courses or social events provided by the au pair program. There are usually bars or restaurants that are known for being expat hangouts where au pairs can meet people from around the world. InterNations is also a great database of internationals in the area and a helpful resource for meetups.
Even though China doesn’t have traditional social media channels like Facebook or Instagram, it has a multitude of other options. Au pairs can meet people by signing up for platforms such as WeChat, Sina Weibo, or Douban to connect with peers with similar interests.