During my gap year, I wanted so desperately to get out of the UK! What could I do? How could I get out? I thought to myself. Then I came across the idea of becoming an Au Pair. Au Pairing is a cultural exchange where you get paid to look after kids in a different country. It sounded so exciting and fun. I quickly decided that I wanted to do it.
Finding a family:
To begin, I joined a few Au Pair online websites. However, it’s important to note that you should be as careful as possible on these websites as there can be many scams and dangerous people. Two sites I recommend is Aupairworld.com and Aupair.com. Aupair.com is where I found my host family and is free to join for Au Pairs. Next, I created my profile. I added friendly and interesting pictures that represented me well, for instance, photos of me with animals and travelling – NO pictures from parties or alcohol! I don’t drink personally, so this wasn’t really on my mind; however, I do sometimes have mocktails, which look like alcohol so I had to be extra careful about uploading photos like these as I wouldn’t want to give the wrong impression. I also didn’t want to upload any party photos as I didn’t want to come off as a ‘party animal’, even though almost everyone in the world has gone to or hosted a party. Just try to give off a good, responsible impression. I then changed my settings and preferences to Au Pairing in a European country as travelling to Europe seemed more likely during covid times. Then I found some families that I liked and got in contact with them, and they arranged interviews if they liked me back.
Initially, I found a family living in Berlin, and we arranged an interview. It all seemed really nice…until they sent over the contract. The minimum wage for Au Pairs in Germany is 250 Euros a month, however, on my contract, they said they would be paying me 150 Euros per month. Confused, I messaged them asking why and they replied they would be paying for my metro card. I then googled how much the metro card was, and it was 43 Euros per month. Now, I’m not that good at maths, but I love money, so I can easily tell when someone is trying to rip me off! I then told them that the metro card is 43 Euros and 150 + 43 is 193 Euros altogether, so what about the other 57 Euros? They got flustered and said that they would pay me the complete 250. MAJOR RED FLAG! I then had a few days to think about the offer but ultimately decided not to go with these people. I politely declined, and they blocked me, which is very telling of their character. By fate, another family got back to me the next day saying that they would like me to be their Au Pair. They seemed so much nicer, and the children were older than the previous one, which I instantly liked as they would be more independent. The contract was perfect in comparison, so I agreed to be their Au Pair.
Au Pairing in Poland:
I packed my bags, found my flight and completed all the necessary covid documentation. I said goodbye to my dog, my dad and my boyfriend and was off. I was so excited. I landed in Krakow, met the daughter and her dad, and drove to Warsaw, where I would be living for the next few months.
My typical day consisted of: Walking the dog, hoovering, and playing with the children when they got back from school, as well as correcting their English. On weekends, we would go on many trips, such as to Lublin, the Masurian Lake District, Wladyslawowo and many more. Luckily, it was soon the summer holidays for the children, so we got to do more activities together, such as bike riding, cooking and kayaking. They even took me on holiday with them to Croatia! It was so fun, and I was so happy. I knew I had made a great choice.
The main challenge that I found hard was missing my dog as I just wanted to cuddle her sometimes, and I also found it a bit awkward to go down and eat food when I was hungry. There was no reason, in particular, to feel like this, but I just naturally felt a bit rude going through someone else’s cupboards to eat food for myself. As time went on, I felt more comfortable.
The time quickly came when I had to return home to start university. It was really sad as I really enjoyed myself. However, I missed things at home such as sleeping in my own bed and reading books in English – I was also missing the meal deals back in England, haha!
Overall, if you are thinking about Au Pairing, then do it! You won’t regret it. If this is your first time, I would suggest going through an agency, as you may feel more secure if that is something you’re worried about. I would also urge you to double-check the legal requirements per country regarding Au Pair working hours and money paid, as I know I would be in a bad position if I haven’t. Last but not least, I would tell you to not worry about anything. If you don’t like the family, then you can leave – you’re an adult, and nobody can make you do something you don’t want to do.