Advice from a Third-Time Au Pair
Beth Davies is an Au Pair, Oh Paris supporter who is about to head out on her third au pair experience. She recently told us her story and has some pretty solid advice that's definitely worth reading if you're about to go out into the world of au pairing. (Ps. don't forget to show Beth some love on Instagram and follow her adventures in Australia!)
Living in Spain - Beth's First Au Pairing Experience
My first time…. what a disaster! Looking back, it was pretty badly organised (mainly on my part, I was just too eager) and lasted all of two weeks. The whole thing was set up through a mutual friend so there was no agency, no website and no time spent trying to find ‘the perfect family’.
(Psst: let Au Pair, Oh Paris be your "non-agency" or au pair union and help you organise every aspect of a year abroad. Become an APOP Member).
I had finished my A levels and didn’t know what I wanted to do afterwards, so when I heard that there was a family in Spain looking for someone to look after an adorable 4-year-old, I jumped at the opportunity as it would give me chance to keep up my Spanish, earn money and give me a little time to decide what to do next.
I arrived late one night and by 8am the next morning I was looking after the child on my own for 8 hours. It’s safe to say that things went downhill quickly. Culture shock hit hard, I was in a tiny village in the middle of nowhere and I was getting paid just €40 a week which wasn’t enough to travel and explore (or do anything really). Also, general way of life was so different from what I was used to (including parenting and discipline) and I didn’t really know where I stood with the parents or the child.
Au Pairing Take Two
Fast forward a few years and I’m on my year abroad of a language degree and I have about 2 months free before I need to be back at university. Over the last 3 years I had just about recovered from my first ordeal so… cue au pairing round two!
This time I had learnt from my previous mistakes and I spent a lot of time looking for a family that suited me. I used AuPairWorld and within a few days I was talking to a few potential families and asking HEAPS of questions.
It wasn’t long before I was Skyping my favourite family, signing a contract and booking tickets back to Spain. On the day I arrived they met me at the station and things already felt a whole lot better. I had also spent almost a year before hand travelling and living in a few places around Europe, so culture shock wasn’t as big and I wasn’t homesick, so I settled in quickly as the host family was really welcoming.
Although a whole lot more positive, this experience wasn’t exactly problem free! This time I was there to teach the children English and this meant the mum was almost always around. Don’t get me wrong, the mum was great and we still talk now, but I did feel like another one of the kids. I had little to no freedom (1 day off in 8 weeks) and felt like I needed an excuse to have some “me time”.
The family took me everywhere with them and believe me I am so so grateful for their generosity and eagerness to show me their town but being constantly ‘at work’ 9am to 11pm for 8 weeks was, for me, a little overwhelming after a year of solo travel.
All in all, these 8 weeks flew by and I really did enjoy getting to know the funny personalities of each of the 3 children I was looking after (and the parents).
So, the nitty gritty:
Do not rush into au pairing!!! Take your time and make sure the family you go with is right for you.
Be 100% honest on your profile. If you’re a quiet, book worm… that’s ok! Whether you’re full of energy and never stop or you’re calm and maybe a little shy, there will be a family for you so just be patient and don’t stretch the truth, it will backfire.
Make sure you know if you like working with older kids or little ones
‘Pocket money’ is important and can make or break your time as an au pair. Try and find out what other au pairs in that city/town are getting or what the cost of living is in that area (have a look and public transport costs, petrol etc)
Be honest with yourself: are you suited to village life or do you prefer city living?
Organise time off or time to travel. Once you’ve worked your contracted hours don’t be scared to ask for some well needed you time!
If you have a disagreement (these things happen), stay calm and respectful if you can. 9 times out of 10 these things can be worked out quickly and relatively pain free.
MAKE FRIENDS! Your time abroad can often depend on the people you meet while you’re there. Don’t be scared to message someone or talk to someone new. Most people are in the same position and you can never know too many people. There are loads of Facebook groups for au pairs, join a sports team, join the gym, pick up a hobby… anything is possible!
As cheesy as it sounds, go into it with a ‘can do’ attitude and don’t say no to new experiences (as long as they are safe… and legal)
Well, that’s about it! My next adventure is to Australia for my third au pair experience. I’m setting off in a few weeks so I’m currently sorting through my pile of various adapters, wading through many insurance sites (ohh, the joys) and brushing up on my child friendly cooking. For those of you about to head out to meet your family, good luck, I hope it all works out!
That’s all for now, byeee
A note from Au Pair, Oh Paris: If you're looking for a host family in Spain, check out AmazingPairs. (Please mention that you've come from Au Pair, Oh Paris as we'll receive a small commission if it works out for you.)