England -- it’s really so much more than wet, dreary weather, dry humor, and a population of tea-obsessed folks. British culture is full of intricacies and subtleties that you can only truly get the hang of by living there, and what better way to truly experience British culture, while perhaps improving your English language skills, than living with a British family as their Au Pair?
Choosing a Host Family
Length of Program
The length of your time as an au pair depends on the needs of your family and your availability. Non-EU citizens cannot work for longer than 24 months. Most contracts are between 6 months - 1 year with the possibility to extend.
Your primary responsibility is childcare, but may be asked to help with light household chores. Au Pairs generally work about 30 hours per week and entitled to one full day off per week.
Do your research on where you’d like to be an au pair before applying. Is there one particular city/region of England that interests you? Do you want to be near a university and pair your au pairing with some college courses? Would you prefer to be in the midst of a bustling city, on the coast, or experiencing the quintessential life in the country? Since there are opportunities to au pair throughout the country, it’s best to decide location first, and really focus your search.
Au Pairs, in addition to accommodation and meals, receive 70-85 GBP per week.
Planning Your Trip
When and Where to Start Looking
Au Pairs programs are offered throughout the country and on a rolling basis. Where you request to be placed (if looking through an agency) or begin your job search (if looking independently) will depend on personal preference, cost of living in the respective city, and the type of lifestyle you’re looking for. Also, if you are not eligible to drive in the UK, you may want to consider applying for a position in a large, urban center.
Hiring takes place year round, but if you are looking to pair your Au Pair job with studies, you may want to consider applying well in advance and to arrange it so you will begin your Au Pair duties prior to your studies.
For those who are already eligible to work in the UK, the application process will simply involve a background check, interview, and placement with the family. If not, you may have to apply for a visa first.
EU citizens won’t need a visa to live and work in the UK. For non-EU members, you can check if you need a work visa on the GOV.UK website and how to apply for. Non-EU citizens may qualify to enter on a student visa.
People between the ages of 18-30 from Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Korea, and Taiwan can apply for a Youth Mobility Visa which allows them to live and work in the UK for up to 2 years.
When interviewing to be an au pair, it is just as important to interview your host family as it is for them to interview you. Make sure you ask why your host family decided to host an au pair (do they want their children to learn a second language?), if they’ve hosted au pairs before (if so, you can request their e-mails for references), and other questions regarding workload, free time, and the lifestyle of the family. After all, you’ll be spending a lot of time with them, so you’d better understand well the details before leaving!
In general, British communication is a mixture of directness when discussing data and facts, but indirect “suggestions” and subtleties when giving feedback or letting you know that something is wrong. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and clarify.
Likewise, humor can also be subtle and indirect.
People generally welcome change and are always prepared to “give something to go”, so don’t be afraid of trying to introduce your host family to a fun game or meal from your country and truly exchange cultures!
Written by Jessie Beck
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