In so many ways, I really lucked out with my host family. Seriously though, I wake up feeling blessed each and every day, especially considering I went with the first family who asked me to be their au pair.
I could write post after post after post (and probably will) about all the reasons why I love my Spanish family. For starters though, let’s talk about one of the biggies: location.
That’s right. One of the things I love most about my host family is where they live. I didn’t know what to expect when I moved to Alalpardo, and initially, I was a bit shocked to find out it was a small village with only 600 or so inhabitants. However, I soon realized it was the perfect fit for me.
When choosing a host family, I think many au pairs get caught up in wanting to live in the Europe they’ve seen in the movies. They picture themselves walking the children past Big Ben on the way to school in London, eating French baguettes with the family in Paris or whatever other hyper-romanticized au pair expectations are out there.
That’s all fine and well. It’s quite possible to find a host family in a big, European city like London, Paris or even Madrid. However, I think au pairs who choose to live in big cities are missing out.
Here are three reasons why small-town life benefits au pairs:
1. It’s less overwhelming. If you’re originally from a small town like I am, I strongly recommend you stick with the whole small-town theme when you move abroad–at least to start. Adjusting to a new family, new culture and new country will already be tough enough. Throw in the hustle and bustle of big-city life, and you might find yourself on the verge of a nervous breakdown (I know I would). The relaxed vibe of Alalpardo has allowed me to adjust to life in Spain at my own pace.
2. It’s cheaper. Living in a city is expensive. Living in a European city is really REALLY expensive. In Alalpardo though, I can get a full breakfast (coffee, toast with tomato spread and fresh-pressed orange juice) for less than three euros. You don’t even want to know how much that same meal would cost me in the city center. In a small town, you’re going to get more bang for your buck, which is important since aren’t going to be raking in the dough as an au pair.
3. It’s more of a cultural experience. Because I live in a small village, I’m privileged to experience what real day-to-day Spanish life is like, and more often than not, it’s a heck of a lot different than the puffed up version tourists get. Also, in big cities, you’re more likely to find people who speak English. In Alalpardo hardly anyone speaks English, so I’ve got to practice my Spanish whether I want to or not. Getting out of a big-city environment is one of the best things someone wanting an organic cultural experience or studying a language can do.
Choosing a host family that lives in a small town is, as always, only my suggestion based on my own experiences. When choosing a host family, you need to consider what factors are important to you as well as what kind of experience you’re hoping to have. Follow your heart and all that jazz. It usually doesn’t steer you wrong.
*IMPORTANT* Before you run off and choose a host family who lives in BFE, consider your family’s proximity to a big city. For example, I live a 30-minute bus ride and 20-minute metro ride away from Madrid’s Puerta del Sol. I’m able to enjoy the benefits of a small town while still being close to the city center for weekend excursions and whatnot. It’s all about balance, people.