Most people tend to passover the idea of becoming an au pair when wanting to work or travel abroad, as most think it’s just being a nanny. Well yes, you are looking after someones children, but you’re also a student. Most au pairs are required to take classes to learn the native language of their country while working.
The idea of being an “au pair” is to travel to a foreign country, where a host family welcomes you as a temporary family member. Here you will be required to look after the family’s children and do some light housework, in exchange for free board, food, and some pocket money. The term au pair means ‘on equal footing’.
Now moving to a foreign country by yourself, where everything is completely opposite to what you’re used to, can sound terrifying – learning a new language, figuring out your way around a new city, moving into the home of a family you don’t know, not knowing anyone. But I assure you it can be the best life changing experience, and you will grow in so many ways. I am now halfway though my second year with my host family, in Paris, and I’m loving every second of it.
I would like to share with you 10 reasons why I think you should step outside your comfort zone, find a family, book an plane ticket and become an au pair:
1. You get to make friends from all over the world! Taking language classes in your chosen destination is the best way to meet people, who like you, are au pairs/students living abroad. Facebook is also another great way to meet people. Loads of ‘groups’ have been formed online specially for au pairs in different locations, looking for new friends and fun people to do things with.
2. You get to watch the kids grow up. To me this is such a precious part of being an au pair. Becoming part of the family and being able to watch them learn and grow up is quite special. Even after your time living with them, you keep in contact and get to see them change into wonderful human beings.
3. You get to learn a new language. Learning a new language is one of the best parts of becoming an au pair. Even if you learnt it previously at school, you learn so much more about the language and the mannerisms from being immersed in it daily.
4. You get the opportunity to travel often. Depending on the location of your chosen family, it is generally very easy to travel often during your time as an au pair. As a New Zealander living in Europe, I love having the chance to explore new cities and/or countries, as they are so close to each other. Where as back home, the nearest country is still a 3-4 hour plane ride away. Also, host families often invite their au pair to join them on their vacations.
5. You get free accommodation and food. As part of the contract of being an au pair, the host is to provide them with the means of living – food, a bedroom/apartment, living costs. In most cases, the au pair has their own room in the house. I myself don’t actually live in the house with my host family, but in a small cottage on their property.
6. You get to improve your CV/Resume. What employee wouldn’t love the fact that you were brave enough to move to a foreign country, by yourself, for a year or two ?
7. You learn to love yourself. Traveling while you’re young, in my opinion, is the best way to learn to love yourself and others. You become more confident, more sure of yourself, you form more respect for yourself, you become more understanding, and more appreciative. These are just a few of the many attributes to living overseas solo.
8. You get childcare experience. Working as an au pair is a great way of learning what “parent life” is like. Before I became an au pair I didn’t even know how to put on a nappy(diaper), but now I have so many skills and experiences that will be extremely helpful when I decide to settle down and have children of my own. You also learn to appreciate everything that your own parents have done for you throughout your life. Mum and Dad if you’re reading this – thank you!!
9. You become part of the family. It is a humbling experience, and you grow to love your host family as you would your own.
10. You get to experience a new culture – not as a tourist but as a local. When visiting a city or a country as a tourist, you don’t usually get the chance to see it from the locals point of view. Short visits mean quick trips around the city to all of its most famous touristic spots. For example; in Paris, you would go and visit places like the Eiffel Tower and the Champs Elysees. But as an au pair, when you are actually living in the city/country for a long period of time, you have the chance to explore the real side of it and choose your own favourite spots – without the tourists.