If you love to travel and have been thinking about what kind of seasonal job is for you, we can help by explaining what being an au pair means.
We have arrived in Italy to spend the summer looking after two young kids for a family on a farm in the region of Umbria.
In our new roles as au pairs we can give you a little insight into how to look for reputable jobs both in the UK and in the rest of Europe and how to prepare and transition into this kind of work.
Whether you’re single or in a couple this is a way to see the world and live within a more authentic setting.
If you choose a “live in” au pair job you will be spending time with a family, learning about their culture and getting to grips with their specific needs.
It also offers a chance to have time to discover the place around you.
For English speakers it often is the case that parents in mainland European countries want you to impart your knowledge of English on to their children.
In countries such as France you have to enroll into a language course if you don’t speak the language, but different countries have different requirements.
Not all families want the same thing either. In our case the parents speak English and want the kids to pick up the language while we learn a little Italian.
Depending on whether you are city or country based, you will become immersed in a new culture and if you are there to learn a language too then your host family and locals are perfect teachers!
It can be seen as a cultural exchange if you end up being an au pair in a foreign country. Not only do you get to learn new words and phrases by being with a local family, you also get to share your own experiences and language.
This doesn’t have to mean a rigid routine, like doing homework. It can be through playing, singing, being outside and talking to the kids in normal conversation around the dinner table.
We’ve already started to pick up lots of nouns just by doing all of these things and now we’ve started to piece together sentences and decipher Italian hand gestures….some are a wee bit rude mind you!
There are also a lot of host families who can recommend language classes nearby for those of you looking to learn the lingo inside out. In the UK there are certainly lots of language schools for those wishing to learn English.
Unless the host family have offered to pay for language courses on top of the wage then it will normally come down to the au pair to pay for language courses but they should offer you time to do a course.
Here’s some useful links –
Culture covers all aspects of life. When you’re an au pair living in someone’s house or on their farm like we are then this is effectively living life as a local too.
From language, cooking, playing and getting know the local people, their surroundings and everyday life you will receive a really unique insight into that corner of the Earth.
You will most likely be involved in the family meal preparation and depending on your arrangement spend mealtimes with your host/employers. Being in Italy has proven to be fruitful in that sense. There’s nothing like learning to cook from an Italian mamma!
A daily routine in all countries will involve some kind of breakfast then a lunch and if parents are working you will find yourself also being a cook and a house cleaner as well as a nanny.
Don’t be afraid to ask if you’re uncertain about anything – even if it’s how to cook pasta! What better opportunity do you have to learn how to cook the local cuisine of a country you love?!
Language and mannerisms, what is polite and what isn’t are all things you will get out of this experience too. We really wished we had more of a knowledge of the language but grateful for the patience of our host family! We are getting there though…
We’ve also started a word wall for the English and Italian translations we encounter with the kids. Their favourite phrase is ‘number one’ and ‘number two’ when they need to use the ahem… amenities!
Getting out there, meeting people and seeing things is probably your main motive to do this kind of job. Sometimes the pay can be great, or sometimes it’s more for the opportunity of living abroad.
In our case we are getting our accommodation in a lovely cottage of our own, fed alongside the family even at weekends if we like and internet plus use of the car when we feel comfortable to drive on the wrong side of the road. This means our wage isn’t very big but enough to save a bit while we live on a hill in lovely Italy away from the city.
Getting to know the intricacies of family life in any culture outside of your own is for travelers a truly unique way to understand a different way of life. You will also get to see a little part of the world not many other travelers will necessarily see and maybe some places you’ve always wanted to visit.
For us we live very close to Tuscany and live in the countryside so we have plans to spend some weekends vising places like Assisi, San Marino, Montepulciano and various other towns/castles/cities and we’re not far from many a vineyard!
We also got to visit Rome on our way here which was always a dream destination plus plan a little excursion after we leave at the end of summer.
There is a need for au pairs all around the world in almost any country you wish to visit which makes it such a good job to travel with.
Au Pair World has a great testimonials page from other travelers.
Visa regulations will be different country to country. For people from the EU it’s easy to travel around with freedom of movement and get work within EU member country.
Traveling further afield or for those coming to an EU country from outside then it becomes a bit more about the paperwork and applying for the most suitable visa.
In the USA for example all au pair programs have to go through the J-1 Visa process with no fees being paid before there is a personal interview with representatives of the chosen agency.
You will also have to think about your length of stay and age as well as your nationality when looking to au pair. It is mostly seen as a job for young woman but myself and Henry were happily chosen by our family even if we are a tad older then 18!
For non EU citizens looking to work in the EU you will be expected to hold a valid passport and most likely will need a contract from your host family/agency and then go through the visa application process.
This all really differs from country to country and it’s best to do your research on where you want to go and make sure you match all of the requirements before you take the plunge, so to speak!
Again, Au Pair World is a really great resource for finding out what is required for each country.
The job will always be primarily looking after children from 0-18 in some kind of capacity. As well as the children you will be looking after the household and probably making breakfast, lunch and if required taking the children to clubs, school etc.
You may also be expected to help them speak English if you are a native speaker and if this is what the family are looking for. If you speak the language there are also host families just looking for someone to care for their family and help with the running of the household.
The daily routine will be dependent on what the family wants and what their requirements are. For us it’s get up, have breakfast, get ready for the day, do homework and go outside and play before lunch and a more chilled out afternoon when it’s most hot before mum gets home from work!
We also babysit if the parents want some time to go out or if one parent is away and the other needs help to make dinner etc.
We also have our set roles as a couple. While Jenni looks after the children in the morning, Henry gets on with jobs around the farm. Then we lunch and chill or do something together in the afternoon.
For travel couples there are jobs out there and it will normally involve one partner focusing more on the child/children and domestic cleaning while the other drives and does maintenance etc.
Most importantly the job of an au pair is about giving the family everything they want out of the experience. Helping your host child/children to understand different cultures and possibly another language and enriching your travels with a true insight into family life in another country.
Some good places to check online for jobs are;
N.B. Our host parents have kindly asked we don’t share photos of the kids so you will just have to enjoy some lovely Italian countryside and farm kittens!