Why Become an Au Pair?
Being an au pair was never really part of my plan. Travel was. I had heard of au pair’ing as an option for traveling post-graduation, but I never really considered it an option for me personally. I’m not huge on kids, and while I used to be a summer camp counselor and a babysitter in my early teens, I didn’t have a ton of experience with it in my adult life. I didn’t think anyone would really want to hire me.
However, an opportunity came up through a friend of a friend type situation, and I decided to take the leap.
What exactly does it entail?
Being an au pair means moving in with a family in the country of your choice and helping them with their kids and housework. In exchange, you get food, housing, and a small monthly stipend. Most families hire au pairs because they want you to help their kids learn a language from a native speaker (often English).
Everyone’s experience as an au pair is different, but mine leaves me wanting to encourage others to become an au pair. Wanna know why? Keep reading.
Learn a new language/culture
Obviously, this is a huge one. As I’ve heard a lot of travelers and expats say as well, living abroad for a year (or at least a couple months) is something I think everyone should do. It gets you out of your box, out of your comfort zone. You’d be surprised how confident and outgoing you can become when there’s no one you know around! You’ll pick up on your host country’s language, customs, and history.
I got to take German courses, experience Christmas in Vienna, drink coffee at a Viennese cafe, master extensive public transportation, etc. The best part is– I do these things as a resident, not a tourist. Doing these things is part of my life now. It’s really interesting to come into the experience feeling like a newbie, an outsider, and soon feel like you’re at home. This is something you don’t get from vacations or short trips.
Meet other like-minded travelers
Becoming an au pair is a great way to meet new friends that share your interests. This can be a hard thing to do in your adult life once you’re done school. Au pairing really is a great way to expand your friend group and meet other adventurous, exotic people who also enjoy traveling and learning about a new culture. This is why I always recommend being an au pair in a big city where you’ll meet other au pairs. You’d be surprised how nice it is to be able to vent to someone who understands what you’re going through! I’m happy to say that by the time my au pair experience is done I’ll have friends all over the globe– from Canada to Scotland to Italy to Australia, who I’d be psyched to visit– making for some more travel adventures!
Sure, your salary is pretty measly as an au pair, but how often in your adult life can you get your housing and food paid for? (Unless you move back in with your parents). It’s really a comfort to not have to worry about these expenses, so most of your spending money can be spent on the things you enjoy.
Have the comfort of a family while living abroad
I love having my independence and I love the freedom and spontaneity of picking up my things and moving across the globe. However, with that spontaneity there’s a certain comfort that is lost. It’s nice to have a local family who supports your goals and takes care of you. As an au pair, your host family (a good host family, anyway) will treat you like part of their family. They’ll become like your adopted family. One of the things that I think makes me feel most home-sick is being physically sick when I’m away from home. Even as an adult, it just plain sucks when you’re feeling ill and can hardly get out of bed and your parents are not there to give you medicine and soup and tea. When you move in with a family, you don’t feel so alone. It’s nice to have someone to talk to about your life, take care of you when you’re sick, and help you with issues that come up.
Hello– Free travel!
This is perhaps the most obvious perk of the job and probably why most people decide to become an au pair in the first place. Not only do you get to live in a new country and get the “full experience,” but you’re also likely to take trips with your host family (for free!), especially if you live in Europe. My host parents are two expats (Swedish and British), so they are constantly traveling to Sweden as well as London, other parts of Austria, Florida, and even Thailand! Often, your host parents will want you to come along on vacations so they can enjoy their vacation (which means you will have to babysit sometimes), but you’ll still get to join them in a new country without having to pay for the trip! Another option is that they give you that time off. That means you can go explore your host country some more, or go off and travel somewhere new.
Learn some domestic skills
As I said before, I was never a super domestic, i-love-kids, can’t-wait-to-be-a-mom type of person. Being an au pair puts you in a situation where you not only have to work with kids, you also are expected to help out around the house. Now, I feel much more confident with kids. I’m an expert diaper-changer, laundry-doer, and chef. You’ll also definitely be forced to become a better communicator in order to say what you want and need from your host family/employer, as well as communicate with the native people of the country. Depending on your host family, you may even pick up some extra skills like sewing or gardening. When you’re put in a situation where you do these things (even if it’s not always expected but is appreciated), you feel much more comfortable and confident, which will make it easier for you to do them in the future.
While there are cons to being an au pair, these are the benefits that I think certainly outweigh the costs. Everyone will have a different experience depending on where they are or who they live with, but nonetheless the au pair experience is unique and rewarding. Have any questions or wanna know more? Mosey on over to the contact page or the comment box.