How to get in…

Just one year ago I signed my Au Pair contract with my first Host Family. Because I feel like this is a special day for my year, I decided to write a post just for this day.
What topic would be more perfect than telling you how to become an Au Pair.

I know that a lot of my readers are Family and Friends. But there also quite a few curious people visiting my blog and hopefully this post can help someone to become an Au Pair as well.

The first question you have to ask yourself is, if you want to find a host family with the help and support of an agency, or if you’re alright on your one.
I wanted to be on the safe side and decided to get the help of an agency.

As it can be quite hard to find a verified agency (I wouldn’t recommend an unverified one!) I think it’s best to use an agency-finder on official websites.
For Germany I can recommend Guetegemeinschaft Au Pair as an agency-finder and rausvonzuhaus for general information. If you are from a different Country the International Au Pair Association may be helpful for you.

Soon I found the agency MultiKultur e.K. International Exchange Programs, which sparked my interest by the amount of different programs to go abroad. As my focus was mainly the Au Pair program, I checked what they could offer me. I really liked that you can choose between just the placement with a family through the agency and the option to keep them as a back-up and support throughout the year. Of course it is more expensive to keep them as a back-up then just being placed through the agency, but it will help you when you need to change families during the year.

The next step is to fill in an application form. When you apply at Multikultur you can choose how you want to do it. Next to the old-fashioned way of applying by post, you can apply on their online portal as well. The good thing with the online application is that you can do it step by step and don’t need to do it all in one day.

Next to a normal application form they also ask you for pictures – preferably nice pictures of you, your family and maybe with children you took care of – a letter for the host family to introduce yourself and most importantly references. Because they promise you only verified families, they also want to offer the families only verified Au Pairs. Apart from at least two childcare references, they also ask for a reference  of  character. With all these information they just want to make sure that you are suitable for the job of being an Au Pair.

After you’ve been accepted by the agency they bring you in contact with one of their english partner agencies. For me this partner agency was the british Au Pair agency smartaupairs.
Before they’ll set up your profile they ask for a chat with someone of their team to have the chance to talk to you and get a feeling for who you are and how good your english is. The 15 minutes chat will be scheduled in advance and takes place on Skype.
When they’ve got all the information they need, your profile will be set up and the search for a family can begin.

Smartaupairs works with “Family Matches”, which basically means that they match your main criteria with the families and then suggest you this family in your family matches section on your profile. You can then read through the Family’s letter for the Au Pair, see their pictures and compare their profiles. Just like you get a family suggestion, the same family get you suggested in their Au Pair suggestions.
As there is contact information provided, it’s up to you if you want to make the first step and send the family an email and show your interest.

It is always  good to make the first step, but there is no shame in waiting for the family to get in contact first. So after I had my first family suggestions I sent out a few emails to try to get into contact with the families and schedule a Skype chat with them.

The next few weeks were filled with Skype chats with potential host families. Some were during the day, some were in the evening. With some families I knew from the beginning that I wouldn’t be the right fit for them, with other families I would’ve liked to go further. In the end it was the 18th May last year, when I first talked to the woman who later on became my first host mother.

They seemed to like me and told me during our first chat that I’m currently on top of their list. This information was precious to me, as they were on top of mine as well and I was really hoping that I could start my journey with them. At the end of the chat we decided to have a second chat – which is always a good sign – so I could meet her husband and the boys.
The following Saturday we had our second chat where I met the boys for a few questions and also the host father. After it were just the both of us again we more or less decided that I’m going to start as their Au Pair for the 1st August 2016.

After this chat I was really excited! I finally found my family!
I sometimes felt really down, because it seems like there is no right family for me, they were already taken or even worse, would turn me down after a second call.
All in all it took me less than two weeks to find my family, which was mostly due to the timing. Most host families look for a new Au Pair in May/June/July, so they have enough time to organise everything before the Au Pair comes over.

Through my search I’ve been in constant contact with both agencies, who were always asking how my search was going, would contact a family for me if they didn’t respond and cleared out the families from my matches I wasn’t interested in.

When we settled on me being their Au Pair, we had to wait till Monday, 23rd May to tell the agency. After they’ve sent the contract to my host parents and they’d filled everything in, I got the contract myself and filled in my part and signed everything. With my host mother’s signature, my signature and the signature of someone of my german agency the contract was valid .
Once my flight was booked, we signed a travel contract that stated when I arrive and where and that the family will pick me up.

Last thing on my agenda before I could leave was the right insurance! Luckily the agency could help with that as well. They don’t have insurances, but they can tell you a good one: DR.WALTER
They are specialised in Au Pair and visits abroad in general, but especially for long-term visits.
Finally my year could start!

After the first few days the agency was already in contact with me to make sure I’m fine and everything is alright. These check ups happened regularly during my stay with the host family.
But the agency wasn’t just helping with the family, they also provided different ways of getting to know other Au Pairs and finding friends. Next to the Au Pair meet ups organised by the agency, we also had a facebook group to organise smaller Au Pair meetings and got a list with all the Au Pairs and where they live in London to help to find Au Pairs in your region.

Being an Au Pair can be quite risky! Since I’m here, I’ve heard really bad stories about how families treated their Au Pairs. Luckily I wasn’t treated too badly, but with the time I just noticed that this family wasn’t as fitting as I once thought.
If I wouldn’t have had my agency and with that the safety and help, I may would’ve never considered leaving my host family and start looking for a new one.

But as you may know I’ve decided to leave my first host family after 2 months. Because I was quite uncertain how this whole changing process works I took the chance at a big Au Pair meet up and spoke to a member of my english agency. Not only did they understood my situation, but they also helped by giving me advice on how to go on with the family.

They would start looking for a new family for me as soon as I ask them to, but before they start the search I had to give my host family a two weeks notice and tell them that I want to leave their family. However I would still have to stay with them for another two weeks to give them the chance to find a new Au Pair and to give me the chance to find a new host family.

As I gave my host mother the two weeks notice on a sunday, I called the agency straight away on Monday morning and asked them to start my search again. Part of this ‘quitting’ process was that they had a chat with me and with my host mother about my reasons for leaving, so they can decide if they want to find a new Au Pair for the family or a new family for me. After they decided that there was no problem with either one of us in general but we just didn’t work out together, they updated my profile and put it back online.

The task of finding a new family had begun. Depending on the time you want to change, it can be quite hard to find a new family. It seems like I didn’t choose the right time. Even though I still had quite a few family matches, there was no right fit for me.
After one week had passed I was positive that I was settled, however the family then decided to not choose me but a different Au Pair.
Therefore I kinda had to start my search all over again. As I had only one week left and time was running out, my german agency expanded the search and involved all of their other partner agencies here in England.

But there is one more option: AuPairWorld.
AuPairWorld is a webpage that connects Au Pairs and host families without an agency. It is free of charge for Au Pairs and families have to pay a rather small amount in order to get all access.

After filling in all of your information and writing a bit about yourself in your profile, you’re ready to start looking. Because there is no agency behind it and it’s as good as free, there are no checks on the families either. Therefore you can find all kind of families on there and you have to be a bit more careful on who you choose to get in contact with.
Another problem is that a lot of the families won’t respond quickly. I think I still have over 10 unread and unanswered messages to families in my AuPairWorld inbox.

You would think that you’ll find a new family quite soon when there are three or four agencies searching for you and you have a profile on the worlds biggest Au Pair platform. However I was still without a new family when I had to leave my old host family.
Luckily I had a place to stay and therefore I could keep looking while still in England. Other Au Pairs are not as lucky and have to go back to their country until they’ve found a new family.

While staying with friends I kept on talking to families from the agencies and from AuPairWorld. At the beginning of November, nearly a whole month since I’ve left the family, I finally found a new host family on AuPairWorld. The risks for the rest of my Au Pair year are going to be that there is no agency that could help me if there will ever be a problem. Knowing this risk I still decided to stay with this family, because I didn’t know when the agencies would find a ‘better’ family or if there’s even something better.

The main downside to he family not being an agency family is that I’m now no longer part of an agency either. While the english agency dropped me completely, I can still call the german agency for advice – which they will gladly give – and I could even ask them to find me another new family, if I would consider changing again (don’t worry, it won’t happen). However they can only give me a certificate of the time I’ve been with one of their host families and therefore just for the first 2 1/2 months of my year,

As I still had three weeks till I could start with my new family, I tried to find somewhere else to stay for the time being. I only needed a short-term host family, or how I like to call it a gap family. Finding a host family only for a short time like two weeks is quite hard and neither agencies nor AuPairWorld were really of help.
However there is a third way of finding a host family. When you’ve already been an Au Pair, you’re already part of all kinds of Facebook groups for Au Pairs. Most of these groups are not only for Au Pairs, but often for host families as well and some of them are just for finding a host family/Au Pair.

I posted in two different groups that I’m looking for a gap host family for just two weeks and no interest of staying longer, as I’ve already found my new family and just have to wait until I can start there.
I was really lucky to have found a family that was up for it. Even though I only got paid half as much as they should have paid me, I was just glad to get a bit of money again while staying for free in London.

It was a hard journey and looking back I sometimes have to ask myself if I always made the right choices. But I learned a lot through it all and no one can take these experiences ever away from me.

If you want to be an Au Pair you just have to decide for yourself if you want to be on the safe side, but my example is the best one to show you that there’s really no safe side. However I would always choose Multikultur again and probably wouldn’t use AuPairWorld again.

I hope this was of any help for someone who’s not quite sure how to approach this whole thing. If there are any questions, feel free to ask! I’m more than happy to share all my experiences with you and give you advice, as long as you want them.

Love,
Vicky Xx

Helpful links:
Guetegemeinschaft Au Pair (Verified Au PAir Agencies)
rausvonzuhaus (Programmes for visits abroad)
International Au Pair Association (International Verified Au Pair Agencies)
MultiKultur e.K. International Exchange Programs (Au Pair and Travel Agency)
smartaupairs (Au Pair Agency for UK and Australia)
DR.WALTER (Insurance Company especially for Au Pairs and long-term visits abroad)
AuPairWorld (Free Au Pair and Host Family platform)

On a last note: I really want to send all my love to Manchester today. I’ve been to the city just recently and it left me quite shocked to hear what happened. I feel sick thinking how someone could willingly do this and even more so when children are involved! I hope everyone recovers well and the missing children will find their way back home!
#PrayForManchester #MissingInManchester

 

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21st December: Starting all over

Today is all about my new family. I’ve mentioned them a few times now, but I never really wrote about them and my time with them.

As I was getting more and more desperate to find a new family, I decided to make an account on Aupairworld.com. Every one can sign up for free and can start to look for a host family or host families can look for an Au Pair.
I got in contact with several families, but never found the one I thought would be the right one for me. At the beginning of November I finally got into contact with a family I was quite sure could be a good match. On the 4th November I had the first chat with my future host mum and just a day later I talked to my future host father too. As we were all quite happy and confident that we’re a good match, we decided that I would be their new Au Pair.

But as good as the family was, there was also a problem. I wouldn’t be able to start with them until the end of November, which means another three weeks without a family. I was now for two weeks with Andrew and his family already and knew I couldn’t stay with them for another three weeks. Nonetheless I said yes and started looking for a gap family.
After another week I went back to London to stay with a gap family.

On the 21st November I went to see my new host mother for the first time. I arrived shortly after 12pm and had a nice little chat with her. A few minutes before 1pm we went to pick up the youngest from school. It was the first time I got to see one of the boys I would start looking after in just a weeks time.
Back at home we sat down with a little snack and  I tried to solve a Baymax Puzzle with him. At 2.15pm they had to go, so I left too.

A week later it was finally time to start all over again, by moving in with my new host family. As Is was supposed to be there at 11am, I left around 10am in Oakwood. When I arrived with bag and baggage, I was showed to my room before we sat down for a little snack. Again we had to pick up the youngest from school around 1pm. This time we walked to his school and went groceries shopping on our way back.
Later we went to pick up the middle boy.

Meeting him was so different to meeting the boys of my first host family. You can tell that he’s british as he introduced himself with a posh ‘Hello, my name is V.’. Then he came around to me and hugged me, looked up at me and said with a fond smile ‘You’re nice!’.
I was so amazed at how affectionate he was so already, especially because he just met me.
When we came back he showed me around the house and to his room.

Normally I don’t need to cook, however if my host mum is too late and needs me to cover for her, she would ask me to help out. As she had to bring the oldest one to an afternoon thing, she asked me to cook while she is dropping him off. When they both came back we all had dinner together. After dinner it was time for the boys bath and then bedtime.
Around 8pm I was finished for the day.

The next morning I started at 7am again. In the morning time I would prepare breakfast and make sure that all the boys had eaten before they would get dressed. At 8.30am the latest the mum would leave with them for drop off. That morning I went with her to get to know the boys schools, so I could help out with the school run if needed. At first we would drop off V. at his school and then would drive to H.’s (the oldest) school. Last but not least we went to L.’s (the youngest) school.

Back at home I had some free time until 3pm when L. and H. were both back from school. When the mum had to leave to pick up V., I was alone with them and at first a bit over challenged, but that feeling was soon gone and I knew what to do.
The next day was quite similar to the other two, except that V. and L. had swimming in the afternoon and my host mum showed me how that’s done.
Friday just changed a bit as I had to pick up L. on my own, so I know how it’s done and could do it the following weeks.

On Monday morning, after the school run, my host mum and I sat down together to talk about the week’s schedule. My normal working hours are every morning from 7-9am and then from 3.15-7.30pm again. Wednesday and Thursday are the only exceptions, as I would have to start working at 1pm already to pick up L. and spent some time with him.
But of course all these hours include some flexibility, which is normal, as no week is like the other.

My schedule for the week included to pick up V. from school at 4.30pm, but I had to take L. with me in the baggy. Although the Tuesday was just a normal one, the week changed on Wednesday as my host mum’s mother would arrive in London to stay for a few days. Because she wanted to spent some time with her grandchildren, I was free until 4pm and then just had to pick up V., while the grandma stayed with H.

On Thursday I was free until 3pm and then had to bring H. his backpack to his school, as he would spent the afternoon with his social worker. When I was back I was free again, while the mum and grandma went to the swimming pool with V. and L. for their swimming lessons. Around 5.45pm H. was back and we had some bonding time together until the others were back.
As the grown ups wanted to go out that night, I was asked to babysit. This includes reading a story to the boys and making sure that they had all their medications and then just being available if they wake up during the night.

Friday must have been the most relaxing day, as I only had to work during the morning hours and then was off for the rest of the day. Since I was traveling back to Germany for a weekend and my host mum had her mother there to help, she said it would be fine and I could take an earlier train to the airport.

The last week was quite hard. I was back in London at 12.30am in the night from sunday to monday and had to be back at work at 7am the next morning. Needless to say that I was quite tired and spent my free time in the morning catching up with sleep. The day was just a normal day, but I was asked to babysit in the evening. The same for Tuesday and Wednesday. For Tuesday I was also asked if I can start at 1pm again instead of 3.15pm.
On Wednesday I had to bring L. to school and then was off till 3.15pm, because I had the early start the day before. Originally I was asked to babysit that night again, but didn’t need to as my host father stayed home.

On Thursday everything changed again. As Christmas was just around the corner, the schools of the two youngest had already started their christmas break. Therefore it was only H. who needed to get ready for school in the morning. After a small break of two hours I was back at work at 11am. From 2-4pm I took the two younger ones to the park to power them out a bit and when we came back they had to get ready for swimming already. Again the mum would do the swimming and I would have to wait for H. to be brought home by his social worker.

Friday morning was quite similar to Thursday and H. was the only one who had to get ready for school again. As they would leave for their holiday directly after school was over, I was asked to work in the morning instead of the evening.
At 11.30am I once I again took the two younger ones to the park to tire them out a bit, so it would be easier to sit down in the car for a while. When we came back at 1.15pm I got them ready for the car and after H. was picked up and the last things loaded into the car, they left for their holiday.

After I’ve spent three weeks with the family I can say that so far it was the right decision. Thanks to my experience with the previous family it was easier to understand if the new family will work out or not. But as everything that I didn’t like with the old family was completely different with the new, I’m pretty sure that I’m with the right family now.

Lastly I can only say that, no matter how hard it was to get there, I’m not regretting anything because it’s part of my year and the experiences I had to make.
Now I can really enjoy my time in London!

Vicky! Xx

Radio Silent – Rematch

Ok, I think it’s finally time to write a new post. I’m sorry that I went completely radio silent, but a lot has happened the last few weeks…
The reason for that is that I left my host family to find a new one.
As you may remember I sometimes wrote about me not connecting with the boys properly. That wasn’t so much of a problem, but I sometimes felt like they don’t even want me there.

Being an Au Pair can be quite a challenge. You live with people together who are supposed to be your new family, but in the same time you have to work for them and get paid by them.
Some Au Pairs get really lucky and find a new family in their host family and feel like it’s their new home, but others – like me – are just hosted so it’s easier for them to work for the family. At least that’s what it felt like for me.
But it wasn’t only that I didn’t find a connection with the boys, I also had the feeling that the mother had expectations that I would never be able to fulfill and I didn’t know of before, or I may have never had chosen this family.

I had some ‘nice’ conversations with my host mum from time to time where she would ask me why I’m not connecting with the boys. During this talks I always had the feeling she made it out to be my fault only, while I had the impressions that the boys just don’t want to do things with me and therefore I could try as much as I want.
Often I also had to put up with a 11-year-old boy scolding me for things I haven’t done. Or he would tell me that what I’ve said is wrong. I know I came here to improve my english, but the things he corrected weren’t even wrong but rather something he didn’t like personally.

At one point it just all was enough. I’ve been there two months and at the beginning everything was looking fine, but soon the first problems arose. Back then I thought it’s not that bad and you can go through with it a whole year. However, it didn’t stopped with these few things but more came along. Things started to pile up and then I started thinking if I really want to put up with all this for another 10 months.

The answer was: NO!

So I had to think about what to do… I was pretty sure that no matter what I’m trying to tell the mother, nothing would change. The only option that sounded as if it would work, was changing the family. But I was so happy when I found a family and I also didn’t want to let the one family down, so I didn’t just want to make this life-changing decision without thinking about it thoroughly.

Because I also had a big Au Pair meet-up coming up and knew some people from my agency would be there, I decided to talk to them in person. Tell them the problems I’m facing, how I feel with all of this and then ask them what I can do in this situation.
As I hoped the talk went well and they told me that I would have to tell the family that I want to leave and then the two weeks notice would start and they would start looking for a new family for me.
But they also told me that they can understand my trouble and my wish to change.

A big help in all of this was not only my family, but also the previous Au Pair of my host family. After a long talk on the phone we realised that we had all the same problems.
Not only the same problems, but also the same conversations with my host mum.
Sadly she was too afraid that she wouldn’t find a new family in the two weeks notice and therefore she stayed with the family.

On Sunday, 2nd October I then finally told my host mum my decision. Even though she said she couldn’t understand why, she would just have to accept the fact, since I’m grown up and old enough to make my own decisions and also because she can see that I already made up my mind.
We agreed that I won’t tell the boys anything and that we’ll talk to the agency the next day to get everything started.
Th next day I was asked if it would be ok for me to work two more days after the two weeks notice and then would leave either Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning.

The agency started to look for new families for me straight away, but sadly there weren’t that many. Even though I had quite a lot Skype calls with families and also met with two personally, I still hadn’t found a new family.
After week 1 of my two weeks my german agency sent my profile to all their other english partners and I signed up on aupairworld.com, but that also didn’t helped to find something new.

On Wednesday, 19th October I then had to leave the family. Sadly I haven’t had the chance to say goodbye to the boys.
After my host mum dropped me off at the tube station I took the tube to Finchley Central where I went to my language school to meet a friend from my class who offered me a bed for one night.
The next day I went to my ex host family’s cleaner. She also offered me a place to stay. And even though I could have stayed with her for longer, I didn’t want to bother her too much. But I really enjoyed being with her, especially because she has two really sweet children!
On Saturday morning I then took a MegaBus+ to Scunthorpe to stay with friends of my family for a while.

Originally I never planned to stay in Lincolnshire that long, but in the end I stayed there for nearly a month.
It took me all this time to find a new family and even though I found my new host family at the beginning of November I had to stay there a bit longer since I can’t start there until the end of November.
After being away from London for nearly a month I felt the need to finally go back to London.

So on Monday, 14th November, I packed my bags and went on my way back to London.
After looking into different options, I found a family who was happy to host me until I can move to my new family.
They have a 1-year-old girl they asked me to help look after. When I arrived at St.Pancras National Train Station I changed to King’s Cross and took the Piccadilly line to Oakwood where the family collected me.

On Monday evening they just introduced me to most of the things I had to know and let me settle in. I then had to work on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday morning the family left to visit friends and family in Poland. Luckily I was allowed to stay alone at their house and therefore had enough time for myself. On some days I just stayed home and on other days I went to central London.
Tuesday night they came back from Poland and I was back to work on Wednesday. After just three days of work another week was over and I off for the weekend again.
Yesterday was then my last day of work with this family and after I’ve packed all my things I left the family this morning and travelled to my new family.

Finally, after such a long time, I can start with my new family! Fingers crossed that everything will work out this time around and I will have a good time!

You may wonder what this family is like… I can just share some facts with you as I don’t know the family that well yet.
They are a dutch family with three boys from the age of 3, 6 and 8. They live in Fulham, a nice area quite close to central London (Zone 2).
The family seems really lovely from the chats we had and also from getting to know them and finally meeting them on my first day.
But also the things the previous Au Pair had to say about them, helped to choose this family. She told me that she haven’t had any problems with them and they accepted her as a new family member and it’s going to be hard to say goodbye.
It gives me hope and confidence that this time everything will be different!

But it already feels different to my first family – in a completely positive way!
When I met the second oldest, he first introduced himself in a proper way and not only a minute later he hugged me and told me that I’m nice. And that wasn’t the last time that happened.

With all this being said I want to say goodbye for now, but a lot more is to come!
Another chapter begins and hopefully you all want to come along!

Sorry again for keeping you waiting for so long and thank you to all the people who checked on me because I haven’t posted for so long! You’re the best!!

And also a very big thank you for all the people who helped me out, either by taking me in or just storing a big part of my belongings! THANK YOU!

See you again soon!

Vicky Xx