Au Pair FAQ
What Countries can I go to?
Western Europe, USA and, with about 6 months childcare experience, Australia and Canada. Elsewhere, Chinese families are increasingly looking to hire English speaking au pairs and nannies. Other countries are possibilites too but opportunities are more limited.
How long am I expected to stay?
For at least 6 months. Stays over summer can be for as little as a couple of months though demand is high so early application is advisable. The minimum stay in the US is a year.
Do I need experience or qualifications?
Sometimes a genuine affection for children is the only requirement but references and a criminal record check will satisfy more parents. Practical experience is an advantage, as is an outgoing nature for coping and living with new people in a foreign country. You should also be mature and responsible. For the Au Pair in America programme au apairs should have at least 200 hours recent, non-family, practical childcare experience gained within the past 3 years.
Any employment regulations?
Visas for the United States are taken care of by your programme co-ordinator. EU citizens can work freely in any other EU country and normal working visa rules are often relaxed for some nationals from outside the bloc.
Do I need to speak a foreign language?
Often an au pair is hired to help the children with their English. A little knowledge of the local lingo is helpful though, both for you and everybody who has to deal with you. A good knowledge of German may be required in Germany.
Are there any age limits?
In the UK the minimum age is 18, the max 27. Requirements for other countries may vary slightly. for the USA, au pairs should be 18 to 26.
Are men accepted?
Men as au pairs were, until recently, rare enough to make the occasional newspaper article and forbidden to work officially in the UK. This anomaly has been corrected and most agencies can place male au pairs, although some say they have difficulty.
Do I need a driving licence?
It is an advantage to have one. For the au pair in America programme it is compulsory as most families require a driver.
What will my duties be?
Helping with the children, including babysitting and some light housework: ironing, dusting, hoovering, simple cooking, making the beds, laundry, etc.
How much free time will I have?
A minimum of one full day a week plus time to study. Other free time is by arrangement with the family.
Where will I stay?
You have your own room and eat with the family.
What's the money like?
Not great, but meals and lodging are free. Expect about £60 to £100 a week in Europe. Jobs in the USA pay around $200 per week.
How much does an agency charge to place me?
£40 at most, payable when placed, but many agencies provide a free service to au pairs and make their income from the parents. You may also expect to have to pay for a police check.
Who pays for my travel expenses?
You usually do unless your new family has offered to pay. In the USA airfares are included with the programme. Au pairs to China should also expect to have their airfares paid..
How much money will I need to take?
You should have a return ticket or enough money to purchase one. It is also recommended that you have about £100 for emergencies.
Can I study while abroad?
Yes. In the US $500 will be put toward studying at a local college. In Europe it is normal for the au pair to pay her own fees for language courses, which are usually very reasonable at local colleges or schools.
Do I need insurance?
Some agencies insist that you take out insurance and will provide details of an insurance agency that specialises in au pairs. Others believe that EU reciprocal agreements should suffice for any medical emergencies. Contact the DSS for details.
What will I need to provide before being placed?
Various agencies have various requirements. Expect to have to provide any or all of the following: a detailed application, passport photos, a medical certificate, references, photos of you with your family or with children, an essay about yourself or why you want to work where you do, and a deposit.
Will I be able to meet other au pairs?
Yes, many agencies help au pairs contact each other. In the USA au pairs are placed in clusters and encouraged to mix.
What happens if I have problems while abroad?
The agency is there to help you and can change you to a new family if the problem is serious.
Can I smoke?
That depends on the family you are placed with. Some agencies insist that you sign a no smoking agreement if you are placed with a non smoking family.
Do I have to register with the police when I arrive?
Some countries require you to do so. British au pairs do not have to pay a fee in EU countries.
Any further advice or reading?
Agencies have been through placing au pairs loads of times so are a good place to ask for advice. A useful publication is The Au Pair and Nanny's Guide to Working Abroad
The latest edition is available from amazon.co.uk
Image courtesy paparutzi