Hey au pairs,
It was pointed out to us when we first started our YouTube channel (and writing our book) that we regularly mention the negatives about au pairing in Paris. In fact, Lucy, our illustrator/editor/moral supporter told us that we better buck up our ideas and start being a bit more positive. So, we did. Or we tried to at least.
In reality, the reason we're often so negative about au pairing is that we think it's funnier to moan and laugh about the bad things. Everyone can relate to moaning. But, although au pairing can be stressful, lonely and exhausting, it's certainly one of the best jobs in the world. Where else do you get paid to live in luxury, eat fancy food and have most of the day to yourself?
We loved being au pairs for many reasons, it can become too easy to moan away a year abroad, only to look back and realise what you had. So, here are a few of our reasons to be grateful that you're an au pair or reasons you should become an au pair! (Don't have time to watch the video? Scroll down!)
1. Establish Yourself Quickly & Easily in a New City
Moving abroad can be hard. You've got to think about:
hunting for an apartment
finding a new job
dealing with taxes/paperwork/admin/registering in the country...
But, if you become an au pair, all of these issues are quickly and easily dealt with for you so you don't really have to worry about any of them. You'll hopefully have a lovely host family and a home base right away in your new city, helping you to avoid homesickness and settle in faster.
(Ok, maybe you'll need to work out your visa but that's do-able - if not, you can get help from us on Patreon.)
2. Best Authentic Cultural Experience Possible
As a tourist, traveller or holiday-maker, it's easy to be closed off to the culture of a new place. Sure, you can explore the beautiful sites of the city, eat the local food and maybe meet some residents if you're lucky, but au pairing will give you a real insight into what that country is all about.
You don't know a country until you've learnt about its quirky differences from your home town and accepted them into your normal every day routine. When you're living with a host family, this will happen very quickly too.
You'll also learn about the traditions and customs of the country. Host families are usually very happy to share their country's traditions with their au pair and explain exactly why they do what they do.
Finally, as an au pair in Paris, you'll also have more of an understanding of the country and it's people by the time you leave, helping to broaden your horizons and break away from any biases you may have had before you moved there.
3. Learning a Language Becomes a Lot Easier as an Au Pair
By living in a new country, you may find it a lot easier to pick up the language than by trying to self motivate while you're not surrounded by it in your home country. It can feel intimidating to speak French at first, but try to get out of your comfort zone, make a fool of yourself and speak to as many people as possible and in no time you'll feel comfortable in the language.
If your number one reason for becoming an au pair is to learn the language, then you may want to consider living in a smaller place than Paris which has fewer native English speakers. We found that in Paris, it was very easy to get by without speaking any French at all so we had to go out of our way to go to lessons and meet language partners (new video about this time topic up on our YouTube channel next week!)
Sometimes host families will also pay for your language lessons which is certainly not something that happens outside of being an au pair!
4. Money, Money, Money
Don't get us wrong, the money you make as an au pair is not much (average is between €75 - €100 per week and we recommend that you don't accept anything less than €80). But, if you want a break between high school and college or a year out during your career, it's a great way to both save some money and earn a little. It's also very economical compared to the traditional gap year of going travelling and blowing all your cash on one trip. As an au pair, your weekly pay checks can mean you get to spend your weekends in many different European cities. Slow travel rules.
(Psst: check out our previous blog post for money saving tips for au pairs.)
5. Au Pair Visas are Easier than Others to Procure
Although the process can be ridiculously irritating to go through, as a non-EU citizen, the au pair visa is actually one of the easiest ways that you can move to a country and start making money.
If you need any help with the visa process, sign up for the Au Pair Starter Kit. This kit offers you three useful videos, including one to help with getting a visa!
6. You Have a Lotttt of Free Time
As an au pair, you may find that your first few months feel a little lonely. The way to combat this is to reach out and make as many friends as possible which you have time to do! Many au pairs only work in the morning for an hour or two and post 4pm for four to five hours. SO, you have a lot of time to:
Make new friends
Explore the city
Go to French classes (or learn alone in a cafe!)
Sit in coffee shops and read
Go to yoga or workout sessions
Meditate and "find yourself" in your year abroad...
In our second years as au pairs, Edwina and I both found second jobs which gave us some extra income. Edwina worked as a barista and seriously improved her French while I kickstarted my journalism career and found work with a magazine online (which I still write for). However, you should always speak to your host family before you get a second job to ensure you're a) not breaking visa rules and b) able to commit to the extra hours.
7. You Get to Live the High Life for Free
Edwina headed to a fancy family house in Morocco with her first host family. We're talking swimming pools, tennis courts, 100 staff, luxurious bedrooms and chef cooked meals every night of the week. (Although, this was also one of her worst experiences...)
Meanwhile, I was whisked away to Mallorca and had a wonderful time with my host family who only needed me for the occasional hour of babysitting so also allowed my sister to come with me. There was a lot of drinking free mocktails on the beach and dancing the night away with my host mum (who was probably the coolest host mum ever!)
8. Childcare Experience
If you ever want to be a babysitter in your home country for a few extra bucks, simply drop the line "I was an au pair for a year" and you'll have parents handing over their kids and cash.
Joking aside, this is a great way to get childcare experience. If you're thinking of becoming a teacher, a carer or working in a school, your year as an au pair can help you learn about how to look after kids, the dos and don'ts of discipline and whether you actually enjoy wiping a child's snotty nose 5 times a day.
9. Being an Au Pair Shows You're Independent (& Helps You Get Hired Afterwards)
We were recently asked whether you should write that you were an au pair in Paris on your resume. It's been a little while now since either of us were au pairs and we can tell you that we both include the experience on our resumes. Of course, every job position is different but, in my sister's case, she found that having "au pair" on her CV helped her get a job.
Au pairing certainly proves that you are independent, can take on a challenge and are ready to learn about a new culture, language and city. It's an impressive feat to move abroad when you're so young, so pat yourself on the back and toot your own horn a little more!
10. You'll Make Friends for Life
Having a lot of time to spend with your new besties can really help you bond for life. What 9-5 job gives you the chance to spend quality time with the co-workers you like? As an au pair, you can spend most of the day and evening together, really get to know each other and go on hundreds of adventures. Had Edwina and I not been au pairs in Paris, we'd never have met and that would have been a DISASTER.