Au Pair A to Z

I have been blogging about my life as an au pair for almost eighteen months, but I have never actually explained what it is I do and what all the terms I use mean. That’s what this post is for. It’s going to be a long one, and it won’t be all that interesting for people that already know these things. It will, however, be useful for everyone that’s considering becoming/hiring an au pair.


You can try to find a host-family by going through an au pair agency. This usually costs money. The agency will match your criteria with the criteria of different families in their system.

Au pair

By definition, an au pair is a young adult between eighteen and thirty years old who travels to a foreign country for a certain period of time to live with a host family. During this time, the au pair is considered to be a full member of the family during their stay. He or she helps the family with childcare and can be asked to perform some light household tasks. In return, the host family provides free board and lodging and some pocket money. An au pair is neither a housekeeper nor a nanny.


While au pairs look after the children during the day, babysitting will be in the evenings. It’s part of the duties of an au pair but should be compensated if this will cause them to work over 30 hours per week.

Cultural exchange

The main purpose of the au pair placement is a cultural exchange. It gives the au pair an opportunity to improve his or her language skills. This is why it doesn’t child-minding in your own country doesn’t count as being an au pair.


It’s advisable to include all important arrangements such as duties, working hours, pocket money and free time in a contract. This will help avoid misunderstandings and can ensure the safety of both the au pair and the host family.


As an au pair, your primary task will, of course, be to take care of the children. The family can also ask you to help with some small chores. Those chores will usually have something to do with the children. Read more about the duties and responsibilities of an au pair.

Host family

Host families have at least one child under the age of sixteen and are looking for an au pair for a certain amount of time. During your time with your host family, you become a part of their family. You live in their house, take care of their child(ren), have dinner together and hang out with them.


As an au pair, you do get holidays, but they won’t be like when you were in school. When the kids are home from school, you’ll have to look after them. Include this in your contract. You should definitely be able to go home for Christmas and other important holidays.


Insurance regulations regarding au pairs are different in every country. But an au pair insurance can make a stay easier for both the au pair and the host family. Health insurance should cover all treatment costs abroad. If you’re from Europe and staying there, you should apply for a European Health Insurance Card (doesn’t cost you anything!). You can also choose to get an accident- and liability insurance. These are obligatory in some countries.

Letter of recommendation

If the host family has had an au pair before, you can ask them for a letter of recommendation. Same goes for an au pair who’s moving on to a different family. This gives the new family / au pair the chance to learn more about what the person/family is like.

Notice period

Au pairs and host families can terminate their contract at any time. There is usually a notice period outlined in the contract (two weeks) that they have to adhere to. In extreme circumstances, the au pair contract can be terminated with immediate effect.

If the au pair and host family didn’t sign a contract, they should still agree on a fair notice period, giving them both time to find a replacement.

Pocket money

In exchange for childcare, au pairs receive free board and lodging and some pocket money. The amount of pocket money depends on the country and the number of working hours. In some countries, the amount is fixed by law, and in others, the host family decide on an amount together. (Most au pairs in England receive between the £75 – £100 per week.)

Summer au pair

Summer au pairs do the same work as long-term au pairs, get the same amount of pocket money and the same amount of working hours. The only difference is that they only stay with a family for one to three months. Read more about summer au pairs.

Working hours

There is no standard au pair schedule that applies to every country. Some countries do have official rules, but most don’t have an official au pair programme. An au pair should never work more than 30 hours per week, though. And those 30 hours should include time spent babysitting.


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