Wondering what the best host country is for your au pair year?
If you’ve decided to become an au pair you may still be unsure of where you want to go. Which country should have the honor of being your host country? After all, you want to see the world, but what exactly to see? A lot of my
friends here in Vienna were between Austria and another country like England or Germany and just kind of fell into Austria because of the host family they found. But if you want to narrow it down before choosing a family, there are a lot of things to consider before choosing where exactly you’d like to begin your au pair adventure. Keep these things in mind:
This should seem obvious, right? Of course if you’re becoming an au pair, you’re not in it for the money, but countries have widely different salary expectations for au pairs. For example, in Austria (as of right now) the au pair salary is 425 euros per month with a maximum of 18 work hours per week. In Germany, the au pair receives a monthly salary of 260 euros and works a maximum of 30 hours per week. Neither of those lifestyles seems particularly luxurious, but just be prepared so you’re not feeling #RAgrets once you choose a host country and see that the grass is greener on the other side.
2) Visa standards
I love many things about Austria, but one of the things I do not love is their insane difficulty in retrieving a visa. Yes, the expats here know the trials and tribulations of working through Austrian bureaucracy. They’ll ignore your calls, insist that you communicate with them through snail mail only, “lose” documents, take ages to process simple papers, you name it. To be blunt, Austrian bureaucracy is a pain the ass. The au pair residence permit can take up to five months to process and you must apply in person at the Austrian embassy of your home country or apply in Austria and hope you get it before your tourist visa runs out. In other places like Sweden, it’s possible to apply entirely online. You can find out the requirements for certain countries by simply googling “[the name of the country] au pair visa.”
3) Proximity to other countries
Depending on how much you want to travel, you may want to consider the actual location of the, well, location that you’re choosing. I love Austria because it’s so central. It’s possible to take day-trips or weekend trips to Budapest, Slovakia, Northern Italy, Germany, Prague, etc. Whereas if you move to somewhere more isolated like Iceland or Australia, this wouldn’t be so easy.
4) Au Pair population
Are there other au pairs at the location you’re looking at? This is most certainly something to consider. One of the main complaints I hear from people who didn’t have a good au pair experience is that they weren’t able to meet other friends in that area. If you move to a small village, it’s certainly less likely that there will be other au pairs to socialize with. It’s really important to have a good support community when you’re living abroad and it’s always helpful to be able to vent to people who are in the exact same situation as you. See if there are others where you’re going. Look for Facebook groups or blogs and scope out the scene.
Last but not least, is where you’re moving to a place where you’d want to learn the language? Is it somewhere where it would be easy to learn the language? Do you want to be totally submerged, in a remote village where it’s less easy for you to slip comfortably into English? Or do you want a metropolitan city where you can learn the language from courses but still use English when necessary? Do you want to learn something super difficult and frustrating like German (why are there 7,000 articles, and why does the verb go at the end of the sentence sometimes and other times not?) or do you want to practice something you started learning in high school?
These are all things to consider when choosing a host country for your au pair placement. There are also loads of general things you should consider (check that out here), after all a year abroad is a big decision and a huge change of pace! It’s always good to be spontaneous, but you should also be aware of the things that impact your experience. And if it’s not what you thought and things don’t work out the first time (that’s what happened with me lol it’s all good), it was a learning experience! Now you know more so you can try, try again.
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