This post contains some of my most valuable knowledge about au pairing. It addresses you. The following needs to be considered with real thought and honesty. Your answers are critical to finding a compatible family. Happy au pair, happy kids, happier home.
What is my time commitment?
Consider things like upcoming academic endeavors, how long the host nation will permit you to work for and how long you can afford to go for. Be realistic about how long you would like to be abroad. Be firm. If you don’t want to commit to a full year then don’t! It is a long time to be somewhere when you don’t necessarily want to be in that somewhere for that long. Your time commitment should be a deal breaker. There are plenty of families to choose from. It’s kind of like dating and this is certainly one aspect of (in)compatibility. Conversely, if you are looking for a 1+ year placement then leverage that commitment. I’ve never met an au pair who
was crazy enough remained with one family for more than a one year contract, but I am sure any family would be pleased to have their kids really bond with one person.
Do you have sufficient funds?
Consider cost of flights, whether you require travel immunizations, have bills or payments to maintain in your home nation (student loan or credit card debt), health insurance, climate appropriate clothing, etc.
Are you willing to learn a new language?
I believe most people are capable of picking up language basics within a couple months of total immersion. However if you are not interested in learning a new language or struggle with such learning, and still accept a job in a nation where you do not speak the mother tongue, then you need to expect certain challenges. If you don’t feel capable of learning a new language, I would simply recommend seeking a destination that is primarily English speaking, or at the very least accept placement in an English speaking family.
Geographically speaking, where would you like to go?
What is your comfort level with unfamiliarity? Consider which nations may cause you a lot of culture shock and consider which you may integrate into more enthusiastically.
What type of schedule are you willing to work?
Do you want to work full time or part time? Au pairs work up to 30 hours per week, but not all employers demand full time work. Negotiate for a higher salary if you feel that the job description reads nanny more accurately than au pair.
Big city or village?
You need to decide and be assertive about whether you are comfortable living in a smaller town or not. Smaller towns mean that there is a lower likelihood of meeting English speakers or people your age. A smaller town may mean less amenities and that you may need to travel to a larger center for language classes. Is a car at your disposal or must you cover the cost of bus/train transportation to and from?
Are you independent?
If you can’t take care of yourself then you maybe shouldn’t move across the world and care for children? If you have never taken public transportation before, you may want to start practicing now. You very well may not have a single friend for three weeks or more. You will probably find yourself at the dinner table suffering from jet lag and culture shock, and not understand a single word for 3/4 of an hour. You will find that you had once considered yourself an intelligent and fully functionally adult in your home society. You stop feeling that way when the train you board departs in the absolute opposite direction than intended. Crap. A good sense of self awareness, independence and humour are absolute imperatives for au pair success.
Are you able to be away from home for the duration of an au pair contract?