What is an au pair? What does the word „au pair“ mean? What is the history behind the au pair program? Read more about "What ist au pair?" here.



  • The word „au pair“ comes from French
  • Original meaning: „equal to“
  • Nowadays, an au pair is a person who lives with a host family and helps them with the child care in exchange for free food and accommodation and some pocket money



what is aupairIn 18th century Switzerland, wealthy families used to send their daughters abroad or to a part of Switzerland where people spoke a different language. The young women were supposed to learn a new language and to gather experience living abroad.


The official term was „house daughters“. They lived with the host families and in exchange helped with the child care.


The word „au pair“ itself appeared for the first time at the end of the 19th century in France. Young English women who came to France to teach English to children in French families were called „au pairs“.


In exchange, they could improve their French and also learn more about the French etiquette, which was highly regarded.



What is an „o-pair“? The word „o-pair“ doesn't really exist, it is merely a phonetic transcription of the word „au pair“.


Almost 30.000 monthly searches in google with the combination „o pair“ show however that very few people know that „au pair“ is a French word and therefore is spelled „au pair“ or „au-pair“ and not „o-pair“.



The word „au pair“ in modern times refers to young people who work for an au pair host family in exchange for accommodation, food, health insurance and pocket money in order to learn a foreign language and experience a different culture living abroad.


The word „au pair“ thus means that you work as an au pair and receive something in exchange for it. This goes to show that an au pair program is not mostly about money and it isn't a working contract either; it is about the intercultural exchange. Your integration into the host family as an au pair is an important part of this process: As au pair you are not an employee but a full member of your host family.


A slight variation on the classic au pair is the demi-pair. The difference between a demi-pair and an au pair is that as demi-pair you only work part-time for the family. The other part of the day that you have off, in the mornings or afternoons, you can use for example to take language classes.


In Europe the au pair program is regulated by the „European Agreement on 'au pair' Placement“, signed in Strasbourg in 1969. In Germany, the regional employment agencies and the „Gütergemeinschaft Au Pair“ regulate the terms for the au pair program, both, for you as au pair and for your host family.



The au pair program is not only for girls; there are many young men who also apply for the program.


In this case, they are called „au pair girl“ or „au pair boy“. While many families until a few years ago preferred the help of a female au pair, now more and more families consider working with an „au pair boy“ as well. Especially if there are a lot of boys in the family, it might be easier for an „au pair boy“ to play with the children, which in the end will be better for both sides, the au pair host family and the „au pair boy“.



Participating in an au pair program, you can spend up to a year abroad without having to pay a lot of money. Another great advantage of a year abroad as au pair: you will have the security of coming to an already established social network by living with a host family. Also, your accommodation and food are taken care of. This will make it much easier for you to immerse yourself in a new culture.


As you help your host family with the house work and take care of the children, as au pair, you will learn more about the typical life in the foreign country and you will be able to pick up the foreign language much faster.



As au pair, you help your host family with small chores in the house and you take care of their children.



Some examples for easy household chores are:

  • prepare the meals
  • set the table
  • load
  • and unload the dishwasher, vacuum, do the laundry, sweep



Your tasks as an au pair that are related to child care:

  • play with the children
  • bring and pick them up from their day care facilities
  • help them dress and undress
  • and help them with their homework




More information for au pairs:

What is an Granny?
What is an Demi-pair?
What is an Summer Au Pair?
What is an Nanny?