How to become an Au Pair

Between my love of travel and knack for taking care of kids, Au Pairing was, in retrospect, an inevitability for me. It’s a brilliant way to become immersed in a culture, make friends abroad, or spend a gap year/summer. Some people even turn it into a full-time career and become nannies.

The family I Au Paired for in Windsor, UK is the most incredible group of people and I had the absolute best experience the two summers I lived with them. Even now, I visit them as often as I possibly can and they really are like family to me. The two kids are amazing people and it’s such a privilege to watch them grow up. The parents are a huge part of my support system here in England and I am so so grateful for the friendship we have.

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But finding the right family to live and work with in another country (or continent!) can be super confusing in the beginning. That’s why I’ve created this step-by-step guide of how to become an Au Pair:

1. Get some childcare experience

Whether it’s babysitting your neighbour’s kids or volunteering at a daycare, any childcare experience you get is great. Though it’s not necessary and you can become an Au Pair with zero childcare experience, the more you have the better. Families obviously are looking for professionals and want to invite someone into their home who knows what they are doing. If you can show previous experience, then you will have better quality Au Pair families to pick from.

2. Check out your visa options

Take a look online and learn a bit about the visa situation – it will be a huge factor in where you will end up Au Pairing and it will give you some insight into costs. For me, I paid $250 Canadian dollars to get a 2 year Teir 5 Youth Mobility Visa to the UK. I love the Youth Mobility scheme and you should definitely check out what options are available for your nationality. For Canadians, if you’re under 30, your able to pretty easily get visas to a bunch of countries for one or two years.

I’ll be doing a guide shortly on how to get the Youth Mobility visa, as well as the other visas that I’ve held over the years.

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3. Decide how long you want to au pair for

There are three main lengths of time that people Au Pair for: Summer, 6 months, 1 year. With each of these, you’ll have a different Au Pair experience.

For summer Au Pairs, like myself, you’ll be with the kids a lot (school’s out!) and they will most likely be a little bit older. I loved this as it just meant I got to play around all day and hang out in the sun (just kidding, it’s England). I also recommend the summer for first time Au Pairs as you can get  your feet wet in the experience of living and working for a family. Families will often take holidays in the summer as well and you’ll most likely get to go along.

6 month and 1 year Au Pairs will have very different experiences to the Summer Au Pairs. Most likely you’ll be taking care of kids that are so young they aren’t in school yet or (babies and toddlers) or you’ll be dropping kids off/picking them up from school. These are two drastically different experiences, so take a little time to think about what you’re looking for. The longer term Au Pair will really get to fully experience the culture, maybe even learn a new language, and have more time to travel.

4. Create a short-list of your most desired locations to au pair

This is was one of my favourite parts. The first time I Au Paired I was in Madrid and the second time I was in England. Take a little time to research countries you think you might like to go to. The other thing to do is to try and find blog articles from Au Pairs who live in the cities you’re considering, you can even contact them to ask them about their experience.

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5. Find a reputable Au Pair agency

CRUCIAL and therefore in the biggest font-size I could manage. Oh my God you need to go through an agency and a good one. You will be going across the world to live in a family’s home and you need some security and safety measures put in place. A good Au Pair agency will have a online dating type portal where you can post your profile and find families. They will also do background checks on you and on the families. They will be available to help you with the visa process and at any time during your Au Pair experience. I 100% do not advise being an Au Pair for a new family without going through an agency.

That said, the Au Pair agency I went through – Smart Au Pairs – was absolutely terrible but the family I Au Paired for in England was amazing. I might write another blog eventually on my experience with Smart Au Pairs, but there are some brilliant agencies out there.

Here’s a list of top rated Au Pair agencies to get you started, but make sure to do your own research about each company:

6. Be picky

As I said before, I’ve Au Paired three times with two families; with one family I had an unbelievably great experience and with the other, not so much. I will eventually write a guide on how to pick the best Au Pair family in the world (I luckily managed to do it when I worked in England) so that other people can learn from my mistakes the first time around, like I did.

I found being picky incredibly hard to do the first time I Au Paired – I was 18, in my first summer of university, and desperately happy that anyone offered me a job. I just took the first family offer I got. This is not the way to do it! 

Here’s a list of some questions to ask when you are interviewing potential families:

  • What are the age of the kids?
  • Have they had previous Au Pairs? If so, can you contact them for a reference?
  • What is the Au Pair community like in the area? (Check to see if there is a facebook group)
  • What is the surrounding area like? Is it a city? If not, how far is it to one?
  • What will your accommodation be like? (PRO TIP: Never accept anything less than your own bathroom and bedroom … you’ll need your own private space)
  • What does the family like to do for fun?
  • What language does the family/kids speak?
  • What are the cleaning expectations?

 

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I hope this list was helpful to get you started as an Au Pair. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me personally or comment down below. As I mentioned, I’m going to be writing more blogs revolving around the Au Pair experience, so if you have any blog suggestions, let me know! This post is meant to be a helping hand and is in no way legal advice so always make sure to do your own research.

 

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