Au Pairing Abroad: How to Start Your Journey

September 7, 2015
Au Pairing Abroad: How to Start Your Journey

When the idea of au pairing first popped into my head, the people around me, including myself, thought I was crazy. Au pairing can either be a great life-changing experience or a year filled with a few more downs than ups. If you are looking to take a year’s break after studying and before jumping full speed ahead into a career, or if you’re looking to find yourself and gain a little more independence, this may be the right thing for you. 

Starting the process is a scary one, and I was unsure whether the experience would be safe. So many questions popped up, including: How do I get started? Is it for me? Having someone to guide you through a few of the processes makes things just a little bit easier. I was fortunate enough to find Au Pair Online to help me answer a few of my questions. If you are serious about taking a year or two to move to a new country, get started with these planning tips below:  .

1. Register for au pairing websites

There are plenty of ways to find your perfect host family. Either you can sign up for a few websites, keep an eye on au pairing Facebook pages or speak to a few au pairing agencies that will send you in the right direction. Registering can take some time and may even require you to sign up by paying a small registration fee. This is normal although not always necessary, so I opted for the “do-it-yourself” option. Although this can be a little more challenging, it is also common.

Be sure to register for a few au pairing websites, including Au Pair World, Great Au Pair, Aupairnet24, and Cultural Care. The more websites you register for, the quicker you’ll find a host family. My favorite website was Au Pair World–it’s user friendly, only takes a few moments to register, and asks all the right questions for you to get a better idea as to what the families are like. 

2. Create your profile 

Your profile is very important because your host family will select you based on what you write. So, try to be as honest as you possibly can, as well as inviting and a little bit interesting. Describe who you are as a person, share a bit of your background, your interests and your experience. Every family wants to get a better idea of who you are as a person. Make your profile stand out above the rest of them. While putting together my profile, I perused the other profiles to get an idea of how to structure my information. Imagine what you would like to know about someone if they were to move in with you for a year. Keep it short and simple. If the host families need any other information, they will be sure to message you. 

When it comes to uploading images, include recent photos that look professional, with a few face photos, as well as a full body shot. Keep them appropriate, steer clear of any party pictures where you might be wearing anything a little too revealing or where you might be holding a drink or two. You are trying to make a good impression. 

Also be sure to state what work conditions you’re comfortable with —  if you’re okay working for a family that smokes, a single-parent family or with kids who have some disabilities.

3. Start applying

After you have registered, updated your profile and added a few of your photos, start contacting the families! Go through a few profiles–sooner or later you will start to pick up what kind of families you would prefer working with and which you might not. Send messages to your families of choice. You are sure to get a few messages in your inbox too so keep an eye out for them. Reply to messages as soon as you can (as a lot of the good families get scooped up quite quickly) and get as much information out of them as possible in order to see if you would be a good fit for each other or not. 

4. Prepare for the interview process 

I have to admit, I was pretty nervous for my interviews. Some families were inviting while others were quite awkward! After you have spoken to a family, set up a Skype interview with them. Skype is one of the best ways to get to see and meet with your future host family. You will get a better idea as to who they are as a family and they will get to know who you are as a person. Its okay to have multiple interviews with more than one family. In fact, if they invite you for a second interview, it means that they are really interested in having you join them. Put together a list of questions to ask, like: 

  • How many kids do they have?  

  • What would your responsibilities be?  

  • How old are their kids?  

  • Where would you stay? (Would you be staying in a room in the house or in your own apartment?) 

  • What would your working hours be? 

  • Will you be cleaning or only looking after the kids?

  • How much pocket money are they able to provide you with?  

  • Where do they stay?  

  • What do their kids enjoy?  

  • Will they provide you with a car? 

  • Will they be taking you with them on trips? 

  • How big is your room? Do you have your own bathroom? 

  • Will they be paying for you to enroll in an English school? 

  • Do they cover any other costs?

There are plenty of little things that you can ask them about, so don’t be shy…you need to know what you are getting yourself into. Find out everything before taking the next step. Take notes. It’s up to you to decide what you are able to live with and what you can live without. Know where you stand and come to a mutual agreement. Some families are a bit stingy when it comes to ‘pocket money’ – read up online about what the minimum wage is for that country and if it’s enough for you to do little things here or there; you don’t want to move to a country and then not be able to enjoy the little pleasure it has to offer. 

If the amount that they offer you is enough for small luxuries, then great! If not, negotiate with them. If the family is serious about you, they will try to accommodate you with little changes. 

5. Draw up the contract 

After you have spoken with your family and come to an arrangement, a contract has to be drawn up. This is your number 1 priority–everything that has been discussed, and any changes or things that have been agreed upon need to be listed in your contract. Make sure that you get your document translated by a certified translator, if need be, and know your contract in and out; this will be your bargaining tool if anything that you have discussed changes during your stay. If you are unsure about anything, get in contact with your host family and sort it out before you start the visa process. 

6. Apply for your visa

Applying for your visa is a long process. In South Africa, for example, it can take anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks, so make sure you start your process well in advance. There are different types of visas that you are able to apply for, and the one I applied for was the au pair visa. The type of documents that you need will differ from country to country. So be sure to get a list from your closest visa office and get all the documents that you need from your family before you start applying. Research is key here, and after that, it’s just a waiting game. But get excited–you are almost on your way! 

If you need any more advice or have any questions, join a few groups online, speak to friends who have done it before or speak to someone who is currently doing it through social media pages or websites, like Pink Pangea.

Wishing you all the best!

Photo credit: Donny Ray Jones

About Michelle Lind

Proudly South African, young professional, and adventure seeker, Michelle found herself tired of all the norms that life had to offer back in her home town of Pretoria, South Africa. So she decided to do the unthinkable, packed her bags, quite her job and moved to the only place she felt like life made sense, the South of France. Follow her adventure as she learns self love, gains confidence, and learns the ways of life as a young, outgoing, traveler, taking chances and finding what it is that she was destined to do.

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