I have officially survived my first year as an au pair. And while I didn’t really have any problems with homesickness or adjusting to a new country and didn’t have a crazy host family, I have learned some things that are good to know and consider before actually going abroad for a year. Being an au pair is not just about travelling to a new country and having fun. It’s a job – and it’s not always an easy one. Taking care of children is hard work – especially if they’re really small and require all of your attention. The following tips are not just about that, though. They are also about your life and your free time so that you make the most out of your time abroad.
Ask yourself why you want to be an au pair – if the only reason why you want to become an au pair is so that you can travel and party, you should probably consider doing something else. You will become part of a family and you’ll have to look after children, which is very time-consuming.
Don’t rush into it – Take your time and make sure you find a family that is right for you
Make sure you know if you like working with older or smaller kids
Pocket money is important – Try to find out what other au pairs in that city/town are getting and what the cost of living is in that area. Make sure you get a fair amount.
Know where you want to live – Are you someone who likes living in a city or do you prefer a smaller town?
Organise some time off – Once you know when you have to work, you can start planning things to do during your time off. And this is important. Get out of the house and explore your new city for a bit. You’re going to need time for yourself, away from the host family.
Do your research – Learn as much as you can about your host-family, the country you are going to live in and about being an au pair. Look up some things that you can do with the kids on a rainy day.
Talk to your host-family – When you are an au pair, there might be some things that you find really hard. You might get really homesick. Or the children might yell and swear at you when the parents aren’t there. The really horrible ones might even hit you. Tell the parents. If they don’t know, they can’t help you. There are several girls here in Aldershot that never really talk to their host parents – and when they do talk, it’s through texts.
Stay calm during arguments – If you follow the advice of talking to your host family, there is a chance that you might have a disagreement (or even an argument). Stay calm and respectful and you can probably solve the problem quickly without too many issues.
Make friends – Whether or not you have a good time abroad largely depends on the people you meet there. Don’t be scared to talk to someone new. A lot of people are in the same position and you can never know too many people! Read my post on au pair friendships for tips on how to meet new people.
Remember that the experience will stay with you – Doesn’t matter if you have a good or a bad experience; you will always remember the things you learned as an au pair and it will be impossible to forget the people you met.
Don’t say “no” to new experiences – This is a scary, but it’s an important one. This past year, I’ve done a lot of things that are completely out of my comfort zone. I loved doing them, and they helped me grow more confident. You will gain so much if you just say “yes” to different things. Don’t be afraid (be sensible, though).