Traveling to a foreign country and being able to make money is a dream of many. One of the ways through which you can do this is by being an au pair. An au pair is a young person between the ages of 17 and 30 who travels to a different country and stays with the host family in exchange for light housework and childcare. It would be a very enriching experience for you if you decide to go for it. You would be able to understand more of another culture and pick on some foreign language skills too.
You’re not the only one benefitting from this exchange too. Your host family gets to know more about your culture. For a while, that is, for the period of your stay, you’re invaluable to them. You’re the reason their kids learn English and lead healthy happy lives. It’s not too overwhelming either because you’re only asked to do the bare minimum.
Our previous post had outlined some of the ways you can make money while traveling. Especially if you don’t like your prospects as an au pair. But honestly, it’s a very good way to make money and travel at the same time. Here are some of the well-reputed sites and agencies for dealing with au pairs and their host families.
But before you get into anything, you should always consider all your options and how the position will benefit you. We have tried to give you an extensive view of everything you need to know about being an au pair. So, read on.
1. Pros and Cons of Being An Au Pair
Everything has its benefits and consequences. And despite the glamour of the job as well as the title, there are both advantages and disadvantages to this too. So, check this list out and try to decide if this is what you’re looking for. If you feel like you’re the right person for this, then I don’t see any reason why anything should stop you.
- Cheap Way To Live Abroad: It’s the perfect way to have someone else pay for your food and rent while you enjoy life in a foreign country. You also get your own money in addition to that. That money is your ticket to enjoying all the pleasures of that place.
- Learn A New Language: I’ve tried a few language courses and I’ve got to tell you, there’s nothing more effective than going to the country of your desire and immersing yourself in the culture of that land to learn a new language.
- Culture: You not only learn about their culture, but you also get to share yours with your host family. Is there more of a beautiful way to unite globally?
- Make New Friends: It’s not just the host family that you get to make friends with. You’re gonna meet lots of people and you’re even gonna like some of them enough to stay friends even after you’ve gone back.
- Independence: This is also a way to see how much your independence means to you especially when you have responsibilities to fulfill.
- Experience on Resumes: You can create a beautiful resume with the mention of international work experience.
- Responsibilities: You’re going to help your host family out and so it’s pretty inevitable that your life revolves around their schedule.
- Children: It’s sometimes hard to deal with children. Because however lovable they are, there are going to be times you can’t make them understand simple things. You can’t even get too frustrated with them.
- Another Family’s Rules: You’re also working for another family with them in their house. So, the words “when you’re a guest under my roof, you follow my rules” have a deeper meaning for you. You have to adapt to their lifestyle.
- Full-time employee: You’re also living with your employer full-time so it’s a bit hard to set specific working hours for yourself.
- Homesickness: Let’s face it. There’s no place quite like home. You’re bound to have bouts of homesickness. The good thing is that you just have to hold on for a while and soon you’ll love the place you’re staying at, too.
2. Requirements of Being an Au Pair
There are only a few basic requirements to be an Au Pair. Oh, I probably should have mentioned that as a pro. Anyway, so to become an au pair, you need to
- Be between the ages of 17-30. Most programs have different ranges, but this is the general average range.
- Speak English fluently.
- Have a high school diploma.
- Provide a valid id (Your driver’s license and your passport for when you’re traveling are more than enough of course.).
- Have no criminal background.
- Enjoy working with kids in most cases (In some cases, you’ll need to show your hours of experience).
- Be healthy.
- Be a nonsmoker and non-drug user.
- Fulfill the requirements of the host country’s embassy to get an Au Pair visa.
3. Duties and Responsibilities
An au pair has to deal with some light housework and/or childcare generally. You would have to keep your host family’s needs first so that would mean a bit less liberty than you’d assume. But it’s all quite adaptable. And to give you more of an extensive view into an au pair’s life, here are the few main responsibilities of au pairs.
- Play with and teach children
- Cook simple recipes
- Help the kids with hygiene and cleanliness
- Light Shopping
- Help kids get to school and to various other activities
- Put the children to sleep
Don’t worry, more often than not, host families pay for your mode of transportation too. Not only that, but you also get to join language courses in the country of your choice. That’s a great place to make friends. It’s all pretty much simple, day to day activities that you have to be involved with. You’d be surprised at how much experience you gain from this process too.
Most programs ensure that you don’t work more than 40-45 hours a week, and no more than 10-12 hours a day. In some places, they don’t allow more than 30-35 hours a week. You are also allowed about 1.5-2 free days per week. And they also ensure that you get proper boarding and full accommodation during your entire stay along with extra “pocket money.”
There is one thing though. The host family will not be responsible for the travel costs of the au pair in most cases. You’re also supposed to decide on a minimum working period with your host family.
If in any case, you have to leave, you would have to give two weeks’ notice in most cases. However, there are instances of immediate termination or resignation in case of misconduct on either one of the party’s sides.
Insurance is definitely required before you set off to become an au pair in any country. That’s the way to lead a lighthearted period of stay in your chosen country. For nobody knows when or how accidents can occur. However, there are different regulations for different countries.
You may already have insurance but sometimes these insurance companies might not cover everything you need and sometimes, the insurance coverage doesn’t extend to foreign countries. There are also times when the host family is expected to pay for it.
If you’re an EU citizen and you’re planning to go to another country within the EU, then try getting the European Health Insurance Card. Contact your local insurance organization for more information. You can check the requirements for other countries here.
The visas also differ from country to country. You would need to contact your host family as well as the embassy there to procure one for you. It’s best if your host family can deal with this. They would need to go to the local immigration office. Also not being able to get a visa in one country shouldn’t take you down. You might be eligible in another. So, keep trying.
- J1 Visa: These are for au pairs applying to the US. You would need to apply with an agency in order to get a J1 Visa.
- In countries like China, Australia, and Canada, you definitely need one.
- You can find out more about the visa requirements here.
7. Working Holiday Visa
Yup, these are actually a thing. It’s more of a permit than a visa which allows foreigners to come and live in their chosen country for a while. But to make this work, there should also be an understanding between your home country as well as your host country. Currently, these are the countries that are offering working holiday visas.
- Asia: Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand.
- Europe: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom
- North America: Canada, Mexico
- Oceania: Australia, New Zealand.
- South America: Chile, Argentina, Uruguay
8. Taxes and Tax Refunds
In the US, working as an au pair makes you part of the working class and so you will have to file for individual tax returns, in any case. You may also be exempt from US income tax withholding as well as social security and Medicare taxes since you’re a non-resident. The IRS is your best source of information and for better information, click here.
In other countries like Germany and Norway, host families are exempt from taxes due to childcare provisions. It might also hold accountable for Au Pairs in some countries. The best way to find out is by checking in with your host family and contacting the local finance office.
9. Safety First
- Make sure that your contract is ready and signed before the stay at your host family’s house.
- Keep track of all the required documentation like passports, the contract, visa (if u needed it), plane tickets, etc. Keep both online copies as well as printed copies.
- The contact information and address are very necessary and should be taken care of. You should also have a few emergency contacts numbers like local police, fire station, a close family member, etc. safely with you.
- Make sure that you have talked to the host family well enough before you go there. Try to get comfortable with them.
- Recognize scams when they present themselves to you. Never wire or transfer money using money transfer companies. Never send personal information. Keeping ahead of these internet scams is very important but all you need to do is know that no reputable organization ever asks for anything via the internet or a phone call.
10. Summer Au Pair
This is a perfect way for you to not take too much time out of your schedule to travel the world. There are many programs being offered by many agencies which allow you the chance of going to work as an au pair just during the holidays.
Normally, when it’s just for the summer, agencies try to get matches for you in countries that might not need a visa. You still have to look into the different regulations in different countries. But you make the same money and have the same hours.
So, if you do have stable work or schooling for the rest of the year, this is the best way to explore the world and make money during your holidays.
11. Some More tips
- The best way to fend off homesickness is by experimenting with different things. Try to go out more. Get to know your host family really well. Find places that you genuinely love. Take lots of photos and immerse yourself in the culture. Make new friends.
- Language courses are the best way for you to meet new friends who are just as clueless as you are. So, don’t give up on the learning process just yet.
- A nice way to break the ice with your host family would be to get some gifts. Who doesn’t love presents? Make sure it’s thoughtful and sweet. (I know you’re thinking, easy for me to say.)
- Try to be very welcoming of their culture. Survival of the fittest if you remember. Respect their culture. That’s why you’re here after all.
- There are also Au Pair programs for the elderly. The duties, wages, and hours would be similar, but the contracts would be different.
- Communication is everything. Make sure you’re talking to your host family about your concerns if any.
In this world, full of advancements everywhere you look, people end up neglecting one’s culture and traditions. And it’s pretty obvious that if you don’t care about your own culture, you definitely don’t care about others’. But all these perceptions are changing, slowly but surely. Being an au pair or a host family is an amazing way of making sure that these preconceived notions change.
Being an au pair also gives you more of an insight into the world. It lets you see people without boundaries. It lets you understand other cultures and give you a chance to share yours. Being an au pair brings a change in young children’s lives as well, seeing a foreigner being treated like family.
It’s definitely your choice if you want to embark on this journey. But if you do get into it after following all the right procedures, I’m pretty sure you won’t regret it.
Now, if you have loved our post and have found it useful or if you know anything more about being an au pair that you’d like to recommend to us, feel free to tell us through email or the comment section below. We would love to interact and know more about you. Also, feel free to go ahead and explore our blog to find some of the best tips and advice for travel lovers.