Do you want to travel? Do you like spending time with children? Are you between the ages of 18-30? Are you looking to experience a new culture and lifestyle? Being a Summer Au Pair might be just the thing for you!
Au pairs are international nannies who lend a helping hand to a family in a foreign country.
A Summer Au Pair is given the unique opportunity to experience a different culture on a daily basis. You will become a temporary family member -- participating in family activities, meals, and family life in another culture. You will also be given the opportunity to potentially learn a new language, live abroad, and form long lasting relationships. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime!Photo credit: VisualHunt.com
Choosing a Country
The first step to becoming a Summer Au Pair is to think of which country you would like to work in. Maybe you would like to work on your Italian language skills, or perhaps live close to the Eiffel Tower. Maybe your motivations had to do with payment or language courses. Visas are also a huge expenditure and a consideration for any au pair traveling abroad. Review the details about visas at J-1 Visa before you make your decision. Begin looking to start au pairing during the summer a few months before so that everything is put together well in advance.
Au Pairs work under strict conditions, most of which our set by law. Different countries have different regulations for au pairs. Some countries, like France, require that you enroll in language classes while you work. Most countries will also require that you only work one job at a time. Your contract should clearly lay out your duties, hours, and compensation.
As a Summer Au Pair, your primary focus will be on the kids and your duties will consist of things such as: preparing breakfast, getting the kids ready for school, play dates with other children, nap time, making snacks, cooking dinner, bathing and changing, putting them to sleep. You might also do some light housework i.e. washing the dishes or tidying the bedrooms.
Depending on the country that you Au Pair in, you may only be able to work a set number of hours a week. Most countries cap at 30 hours, some like
- Canada (30h/w)
- France (30h/w)
- Ireland (35h/w)
- Italy (30h/w)
- Netherlands (30h/w)
However, the United States has the highest hours per week at an astounding 45 hours.The average amount of stay for someone au pairing in the summer is anywhere between 2 and 6 months from April-September.
Working overtime is permitted, but try to be clear with your host family about the number of Saturday night’s you'll give up in exchange for extra money. Lack of communication quickly leads to hurt feelings and declarations of unfair treatment. Talking it out can nip potential problems in the bud!
A Summer Au Pair, depending on the country and length of stay, may be entitled to paid holiday. You may also accompany the host family on their holiday if you have negotiated the terms of that agreement. You may also be asked to work for an extra hour or run an errand that falls outside your typical duties. This is to be expected as the lines blur for those who spend so much time together.
A helpful hint to keep in mind, is that as an Au Pair – you are still a paid employee. So, if you find yourself constantly working on the weekends, doing chores you aren’t supposed to, or feel like there is any part of the contract you are breaking – it’s time to have a polite but serious chat with your host family. There is always the option to quit if things don’t pan out the way that you anticipated. Remember to take care of yourself and that this is a job just like any other.
Au Pair’s salaries can vary from country to country and by host family. Depending on your duties, hours and location, some au pairs may receive $200 a month, while others will make $700. Families can also offer “extras” such as a car or holiday travel with the family to make the deal better for the au pair. However, an average “stipend” is usually around $75-$300 per week. For more detailed information on legal minimum salaries and maximum working hours in each country, please refer to Nanny GPS’s salary guide.
There is an interview that will take place between you and your potential host family. Use this time to feel them out as they will be doing that for you as well. It is recommended that you bring a list of questions to the interview that you may want to know about their life. Get a sense of their personalities and interests and be prepared to answer the same questions about yourself. You will be living with these people for a while – everyone should get to know one another. If you need a list of possible questions, please look at Au Pair World.
Expectations, Yours and Theirs
A piece of advice is to be upfront and honest from the start. Families are looking to hire an employee who is wonderful, smart, and talented who can be an extended part of their family. You will also be expected to accomplish certain tasks. Don’t lie about yourself and you should expect the same in return from your potential family. Make sure that they match your requirements. Make sure that everyone is clear on what the other expects before you both commit.
Every living situation is different per family. They are making the move now to providing au pair’s with their own room just like other family members. Some may offer substantial privacy, giving you a lock and key, or your own bathroom (which doesn’t occur for every au pair). Make sure to talk to your potential family and come up with your needs and make sure that there is a place where you could fit into their family.
While your contract with specify what tasks you will be doing, the family may ask you to do atypical tasks as well. Make sure that you relay that you would like a list of things that you will be doing, whether that be daily or weekly.
Previous Au Pairs
A good way to get some insider information is to ask if the family had a previous au pair. If so, get their contact information! If they are new to hosting, ask the family about their motivations for having an au pair.
Weekends, Evenings & Travel
Unlike your typical job, an au pair lives and works in the same space. To prevent any miscommunications in future, families/au pairs should be very clear about scheduling expectations and procedures. Feel free to ask for time off or adding an hour to your work week – the family won’t mind!
Salary PerksDon’t be afraid to negotiate your pay. Look past your pocket money and make a list of things that may or may not be covered by the family:
- cell phone (excluding international calling)
- Health Insurances
- Use of a car
- Language Courses
- Occasional (working) vacations to exotic locations
This part is crucial to your time abroad as these will be the people you will spend the majority of your time with. The best advice is to continue looking until you find a family that matches your needs as well as your personality. Start with your values as a person and look from there. Also, because each country has unique requirements for Au pairs, review those of pay, work hours, and normal qualifications before you make your final decision.
Agencies or Websites?
There are usually two main types of au pair placement programs: agencies that will screen and match clients and websites that will allow you to create a personal profile and search for families on your own. Obviously, you don’t have to make a choice between the two. If you have time and the money, both strategies will cover all of your bases. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of each process:
- Free, or with a small fee for an “upgraded fee”
- Selection from a large pool of families
- Able to directly communicate with families
- An increase in competition
- Families/au pairs aren’t verified – beware of scams!
- There is no post-placement support for families/au pairs
- Pre-screen families/au pairs for you (match based off similarities)
- Provides training, visa assistance, and covers many traveling & healthcare expenses
- Provides Emergency support (family illness, replacements, etc.)
- Upfront fees are large for au pairs/families
- Sometimes only offer a limited selection of families
The ‘Dear Family’ Letter
More times than not, you will be asked to write a “dear family” letter. This letter is looked at as a first impression to attract great host families. Your letter should demonstrate how great you will be for them and the overall job. This letter is a time for you to let your personality shine and be honest. Explain your family and educational background, what motivates you to become an au pair, reasons you want to move to their country and previous childcare experiences that make you qualified. Be sure that you include your hobbies, talents, or any other personal stories that will make your letter stand out. To be sure to outline your work preferences and desires, such as a time to take a language class, proximity to a major city, weekends to travel, etc. An example of a great “dear family” letter can be found at Au Pair 2 Be.