Are you thinking about becoming an au pair? Figure out if au pair life is right for you and ask yourself THESE important questions before signing on to au pair abroad.
This post was originally published on Sept.19, 2014, and updated on Feb. 17, 2020.
If you want to move abroad but don’t have much (read: any) money, au pairing is an excellent option.
However, before you find your host family and sign your au pair contract, it’s important that you understand exactly what you’re getting yourself into.
This post has five questions every young person MUST ask themselves BEFORE becoming an au pair. Trust me: answering these questions honestly can save you a lot of heartache in the long run.
When I was an au pair in Spain, I met other au pairs who never took the time to figure out if au pair life was actually a good fit for them. They just saw an opportunity to live abroad for cheap and signed on with the first host family who wanted them.
This lack of forethought resulted in an unhappy situation for both the au pairs and the host families. It’s worth spending some time reflecting on whether or not this is really the best option for you.
- How to Become an Au Pair in Spain
- 2020 Spain Au Pair Visa Guide
- Why Small-Town Life Benefits Au Pairs
- A Day in the Life of an Au Pair
- The Truth About Au Pairing
5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Becoming an Au Pair
Au Pair Question #1: Do I have an open mind?
Au pairs move to a new country where the people look, think and act differently. The most important item on any traveler’s packing list is an open mind.
Be mentally prepared to embrace a new culture—the good and the bad. Without an open mind, the chances of having a successful and rewarding stay as an au pair are slim to none.
Au Pair Question #2: Am I patient?
Not only do au pairs work/live with children, which requires boatloads of patience, but au pairs also insert themselves into new and most likely very different families from their own.
Throw in a language barrier, and there’s no question au pairs must be very flexible.
If you get frustrated easily, au pairing isn’t for you. Au pairs often must try different approaches with the children as well as their host parents to create a cohesive environment for everyone.
If things don’t work out, it’s a freaking LONG walk home.
Au Pair Question #3: Am I good at making friends?
When first starting out, au pairs don’t know anyone in their new town. Unless they’re fine staying in every night, au pairs have to make some friends…and fast.
Luckily, there are plenty of networking sites out there to help get plugged in. I had success using Couchsurfing. You also might have luck using Facebook groups.
Au Pair World has a great post with a bunch of different ways of meeting people in your host country. I love their suggestion to look for Instagram hashtags (like #aupairindublin) to find other au pairs in your city.
If making friends isn’t your cup of tea, au pairing might not be for you. Half the fun of moving to a new country is meeting new people!
Au Pair Question #4: Am I comfortable traveling on my own?
Up until I moved to Spain, I’d always traveled with a buddy. I’ve been fortunate to share my adventures with family members, friends or a significant other.
Then, my first month in Spain, I booked a hostel and spent the weekend in Madrid. I was a little nervous at first but ended up connecting with another solo traveler at the hostel bar and having an epic night out!
Solo travel is a reality of au pairing. But, it’s hardly a bummer. Solo travel can be empowering, especially for women. Just make sure you’re smart about!
Always be cautious and observant of your surroundings. Make sure your host family knows where you’re going and what you’ll be doing.
Au Pair Question #5: Do I like kids?
Au pairs don’t need a degree in education or a babysitting resume as long as your arm in order to be an au pair. A little experience working with children is nice, but even more importantly, au pairs need to have a good attitude.
You don’t have to LOVE kids, but it will make everyone’s expereince better if you at least LIKE them.
I know you might be thinking: “Duh, of course, you need to like kids.” But, lots of people just get into au pairing for the free room and board. That rarely turns out well.
You don’t need to be an aspiring professional daycare provider to be a good au pair. I reccommend finding a host family that doesn’t look at you like a caretaker or nanny. My host family in Spain considered me a big sister, and it made all the diffference.
Why Being an Au Pair was Right for Me
As I mentioned at the start of this post, there were a few different reasons I wanted to au pair in Spain:
- I wanted to continue traveling but didn’t necessarily have the funds for another backpacking trip.
- I wanted to really immerse myself in a different culture which would require me settling down a bit.
- I wanted to improve my language skills.
But, it wasn’t until asking myself the five questions in this posts that I decided becoming an au pair was right for me.
- Do I have an open mind?
- Am I patient?
- Am I good at making friends?
- Am I comfortable traveling on my own?
- Do I like kids?
If the answers to these five questions are YES, then au pairing is likely a good fit for you.
Thinking about being an au pair? Got questions? Leave them in the comments!