Preparing for your stay
To prepare for your stay, find out as much as possible about your host family and communicate regularly via phone or Skype. Find out what your host family expects from you and make sure the duties and responsibilities are acceptable to you. Make a note of all important things such as tasks, working hours, pocket money and free time. Ask for a contract that includes all of these items to help avoid misunderstandings and to give both sides security.
Ask your host family for the contact details of any Au Pairs who had worked previously for the family. Talking to previous or current Au Pairs can give you an insight into what to expect from the host family; he/she might be able to give you some tips or advice about how best to manage things. This will give you a better idea of what it means to be an Au Pair in that particular country and family.
During the stay
After you arrive, make sure to speak a lot with your host family. If you are unclear or upset about anything, tell your host family immediately. Often it’s a misunderstanding or a cultural difference, and talking about it can clarify the issue.
Make sure to look after your personal documents. Never hand over your passport to anyone. A copy of it is enough for your host family. Bring enough money for your travelling and bring all important telephone numbers with you, such as your host family’s contact details and the information for your local embassy.
What is an Au Pair?
An Au Pair is like having a temporary adult daughter or son who can help out with childcare and light household tasks. In exchange, the Au Pair receives room and board, as well as pocket money and the opportunity to attend a language class. The aim is cultural exchange on both sides within a protected family environment.
An Au Pair is not a cheap form of labour. There are specific guidelines related to working hours, pocket money, and tasks and responsibilities.
Working hours & tasks: avoiding conflict
It is vital to agree working hours, leisure time and tasks in advance to avoid any potential conflict. These should be agreed and included in a contract so there are no misunderstandings later in the stay.
A lot of an Au Pair’s responsibilities are part of daily family life, so the line between working and leisure time may be blurred. For instance, watching TV while minding the children could be perceived as working time or leisure time. Make sure this is specifically addressed before your stay and that you are happy with what is agreed. However, being an Au Pair also means being flexible on both sides – you may find that you have to work more one day and less the other. It’s important that a balance is found and that you maintain communication throughout – if you are unhappy with anything, talk to your host family as often it’s just a misunderstanding.
What can you do if you feel exploited as an Au Pair?
If you feel that your host family is taking advantage of you and breaking agreements that have been made, try the following steps:
- Learn about the Au Pair regulations in your host country and look at your contract to see what you have agreed.
- If it’s not possible to resolve the issue, you may need to move to another host family. Talk to us about this step.
- Remember that it’s better to end your Au Pair stay than to continue in a sotuation in which you feel exploited