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Choosing an au pair

Choosing an au pair

Are you looking for an au pair? How and where to find the right au pair and what you have to keep in mind as a host family.

Read more about choosing an au pair here.

Choosing an au pair: tips for the host family

How can you find the  perfect au pair  for your family? You’ll have so many options that you might have trouble deciding. In order to help you with the tough decision, we have put together a list of tips that will help you choose the right au pair. If you follow our guidelines, it will help you pick the right au pair so you won’t have problems later on. It doesn’t matter if you hire an au pair agency or if you look for an au pair online, in the end it is you who has to pick an au pair for your family.

We recommend taking matters in your own hands and looking for an au pair online. We don’t really recommend hiring an au pair agency since many of them are either dubious or not supportive at all when it comes to helping you find the  right au pair  for your family.

This is what one family experienced after hiring an agency: “We have tried out different au pair agencies and found that they didn’t consider our wishes or concerns at all. After they recommended various au pairs that clearly didn’t fit what we were looking for, we tried searching for an au pair online. That worked a lot better! As parents, we know best what the ‘perfect’ au pair should be like and what we expect from an au pair regarding the work with our children and the life with our family.”

The following guidelines will help you choose the right au pair:

Au pair: female or male?

The first thing for the host family to consider is obviously if the au pair should be  male or female . Do you want a young woman or a young man to take care of your children?

It has become very popular to have a male au pair , since there are more and more young men out there who want to spend a year abroad as an au pair and at the same time there are also more families that are interested in hiring a young man. While it used to be common for families to ask specifically for a female au pair , the trend has changed and more and more families see the benefits of having a male au pair. It makes sense to choose a male au pair if there are a lot of boys in the family, for example. It is probably easier for a male au pair to play with them and to take care of them.

Length of au pair stay

  • How long should an au pair stay with the host family?
  • How long do you want your au pair to stay with your family?

Usually, an  au pair stays  with the host family for one year. This gives the au pair and the host family enough time to develop a harmonious relationship. After this year, many au pairs leave their host families to start college or work.

Origin of the au pair

The third step for a host family in  choosing an au pair  is to think about where the au pair should be from. Most young people who apply for an au pair job abroad don’t come from classic au pair countries like France, England or the US anymore. Nowadays, au pair applicants are from South America, Africa, China, Thailand, Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Georgia, the Czech Republic, Kenya or Mongolia. Many young people from these countries come from poor families and they see an au pair job abroad as a chance to build a better future for themselves. Often, they want to stay and live in the au pair country.

An  au pair from the European Union  (or the European Economic Area) doesn’t need a visa.

If you are looking for an au pair online and haven’t hired an agency, choosing an au pair from the EU (or EEA) involves less paperwork. Also, the au pair doesn’t need a passport to travel and could come on short notice, if necessary. For an au pair from Europe it would also be easier to adapt to the culture of another European country than it would be for an au pair from South America for instance. Another advantage is that it should turn out that the au pair and the host family were a bad match, it would be easier for an au pair from the EU to change families. If the au pair came on a visa, this might be harder, since some visas are tied to a specific family.

If you want an  au pair from an exotic country, things are a little bit more complicated. In this case, your au pair will need a visa for a European country, Australia or the US. For you as a future host family, this means that you have to start looking for an au pair at least three or four months in advance. Keep in mind that it might take longer for an au pair from an exotic country to get used to your family and to adapt to the new country. This involves cultural differences regarding table manners, eating habits, playing with the children or the general work spirit. Clearly, every person is different and it is quite possible that an au pair from Thailand will have ess problems adapting than an au pair from Italy. But generally, au pairs from Asia, Africa or South America have more difficulties adjusting to the European, Australian or American lifestyle.

Language skills of the au pair

How well should an  au pair  speak your language? Especially if your children just started speaking or if you have to leave your au pair alone with your children for long periods of time because of your job, we recommend looking for an au pair that has at least an intermediate language level.

If you as host parents can barely understand the  au pair , then it will be hard for you to leave your au pair alone with your children and you will end up being more involved in your childcare than you wanted to. Dealing with your au pair’s poor language skills at home is an extra challenge for you and will ultimately mean more work for you instead of less, at least until your au pair has learned to speak the language well enough.

Au pair from the city or from the countryside?

Should the  au pair be from a city or from a rural area ? This also might be a crucial decision in terms of getting along with the au pair. Our advice: read the au pair’s application very carefully. Does the au pair live in a big city or in a small town? If your au pair gets the wrong idea about their new environment, it will cause problems. If the host family lives in a rural area it is recommended to also pick an au pair that comes from a small town and knows what to expect. Make sure the au pair has a driver’s license! This makes it easier for the au pair to go and see friends and be more independent in general, especially if public transportation is not good.  
 An au pair that has only lived in big cities might be used to a different infrastructure and feel out of place in a small town, just as an au pair that grew up in the countryside might feel lost with a host family from a big, hectic City.

Some au pairs could be scared of living in a big city and they won’t feel comfortable leaving the house. Pay attention to what the au pair writes in their application. Does the au pair want to live in the city or do they prefer a rural setting?

Explain what the  au pair  can expect in your area. What is the infrastructure like (public transportation, clubs, cultural events, shopping etc.)? Don’t leave out any information just because you are afraid the au pair won’t pick you as a host family. If both sides know what they can expect and know exactly what they have signed up for, you will all have a great year together.

Au pairs and pets

Do you have  pets  and want to hire an au pair? If you have pets, read carefully what the au pair has to say about animals in the application. This is important because if the au pair is not used to pets or even scared of them it might cause problems and make it hard for both sides to live together. It might even cause the au pair to change host families.

Video chat with the au pair

Use the possibilities of modern technology to find out more about the  au pair . We recommend talking to your future au pair at least three times before their arrival. If you use video chat, you can see each other “live” and you can also determine if the au pair’s language skills are good enough.

If you both see each other and can talk via video chat, it is also easier for both sides to figure out if you really want to live together for such a long period of time under the established conditions. Click here for a checklist with important questions and more information about how to contact the au pair for the first time.