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.
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!