Three ways to guarantee you keep your Au Pair job

Young woman (photo courtesy of dreamstime)

During my time as an au pair in Germany, I had an unnerving fear of losing my job. Seriously. I imagined myself homeless on the streets of Stuttgart, wondering where to go next. It isn’t something I obsessed over daily, but randomly throughout my stay with my host family, fear of losing my job – and therefore my temporary home – would come to mind.

It was probaby an unfounded fear founded more in paranoia than in reality, but I know that I was not the only au pair I knew who was afraid of losing her job. Because when you live where you work, which au pairs do, your job is not just your source of income, but your room and board as well.

With that in mind, I have three tips for au pairs who want to keep their jobs. From my experience with au pairs and host families, if you follow these three rules, you are very likely to keep your job and have a great time as an au pair.

  1. Work hard – A good work ethic and willingness to go the extra mile is priceless and will win you respect with your host family and help cement your position with them. If you put effort into your job, even if you aren’t perfect, your host family will most definitely want you to stay.
  2. Be reliable – Host families need au pairs whom they can depend on. Be ready for work at the scheduled time, get done what is needed, and be sure to be honest about your expectations and what you can do.
  3. Don’t hit on your host dad – This one is obvious, but I thought it worth mentioning (because according to a 2009 poll in Au Pair Mom, over 40% of those who answered have heard of this actually happening). Even though most au pairs wouldn’t think twice about their host dad in that way, some out there do, and I can’t think of a quicker way to lose your au pair job.

What about you? I would love to hear from au pairs and host families on this one. What do you think helps make an au pair someone a host family would never, ever want to lose? Please let us know in the comments field below.

Au Pair in China – part 2 – One au pair’s story

Chinese countryside(photo courtesy of dreamstime)

In our last post, we talked a little bit about the growing popularity of China as an au pair destination. One of our readers, G. M., who is working as an au pair in China, has been gracious enough to share her experience with us. Here is some of what she has written about her time in China so far …

“I’ve been here for 3 weeks now. The agency told me that the first week was the ‘honeymoon’ phase, and then it gets hard. That didn’t happen to me … I hated the first week … “

She goes on to say that the first week she was very depressed and homesick. She was having some trouble getting used to such a different culture, and was even working more hours than she should. She was more or less wondering what she had done and if going to China had been the right decision. But she did go on to say…

“After the first week things started to get better and are continuing to get better.”

After getting over the initial sadness of leaving home and culture shock of living in such a new and different place, G. started to really appreciate China. Except for maybe the bad weather … About the country, she says,

“China is amazing in every sense. The size of Beijing, the number of people, the weather is bad, and the people somewhat difficult.”

She also says that people who can’t adjust quickly should not go to China, which is probably very true. For many westerners, Asia can be a BIG change, so you need to be sure that you can handle such a drastically different place and culture.

Like most au pairs, there has been the occassional issue with her host family, but for the most part, the au pair job in China is working out. An email sent several weeks into the job reveals that things are working out great. The agency she is working with is great and encourages other au pairs in the area to get to know each other. She has also made friends outside of her family and au pair circle, and she her work situation has balanced out nicely. She works 30 hours a week, taking care of the family’s son, whom she is getting along with very well. Of course, things haven’t been 100% easy, but G.M. is happy she made the decision to work in China as an au pair.

So, the final verdict on working as an au pair in China? Totally worth it, but not for the faint of heart!

Are there any other au pairs working in China? Or interested in going? If so, please speak up – we’d love to hear from you!

Au Pair in China – part 1

Shanghai China(Photo of Shanghai from Dreamstime)

Due to its strong economy and growing number of high-income-earning families, China is emerging as a popular au pair destination.

Requirements for working as an au pair in China

To be an au pair in China, you have to be between the ages of 18 and 29 years old and single with no kids. Minimum education requirements are a high school diploma. No Chinese language knowledge is required, as au pairs in China speak English with their host families (unless of course they want to learn Chinese, and they will be placed with a family who will speak Chinese with them).

Au pairs usually have to cover their own travel expenses to China, and the length of stay as an au pair in China can either be 6 or 12 months.

Pay and benefits

Monthly pay for au pairs in China is approximately (or 60 Euros). This is not a lot of money, but China is a very inexpensive country, so you can get by on this.

Those are the basics about working as an au pair in China. Our next post will share the personal experience of one of our readers, who is currently an au pair in China. Stay tuned

Getting an au pair job – do you have to love children?

children in snow (photo courtesy of dreamstime)

I was recently criticized by a host mom on a popular blog for host parents for saying that au pairs don’t have to be “kid people” to be good au pairs. After reading this person’s negative comments, I had to stop and think for a minute whether I should defend myself, ignore the comment as if I’d never read it, or take back what I had said. I don’t believe in senseless blog wars, so I didn’t respond to the comment there and then. But I do stand by the fact that you don’t have to be what is considered a “kid” person to be a good au pair. You don’t. 

When I applied for a job as an au pair, my host family knew that I was not a childcare professional and that I had no intentions of ever working with children again. I was very honest with them with my reasons for wanting to be an au pair: cultural experience and language learning. That was it. And they accepted me as their au pair and did not regret it. Of course, I worked hard and did a good job, which is what is important to most host families. I took good care of “my” kids, enjoyed my time with them, and actually grew to love the family’s children, despite myself. But am I a “kid” person? No way, man! And I know that I am not alone in this.

Most au pairs work as au pairs for the opportunity to live and experience a new country and culture cheaply. The au pairs I know aren’t in it because they adore children. In the case of the au pair job, children are a means to an end. That might sound crass and may be offensive to host parents who think their children are the reason the world turns round, but it’s the truth. Sure, some au pairs love kids, and that’s great. But those who don’t can also make good au pairs. It’s all in the motivation.

So if you don’t work as an au pair to be with kids, why work as an au pair? Check out this post for a few good reasons.

Enjoying the Christmas season with your host kids

kids at Christmas (photo courtesy of dreamstime stock photos)

The Christmas season is officially here, and this is a great time of year to have a lot of fun with the kids you take care of. Even though the days are shorter, colder, and rougher than the rest of the year, there are lots of things you can do to keep the children you take care of occupied.

Depending on where you live, there are probably a lot of different kid-friendly activities being offered in your local community. For au pairs lucky enough to be working in Germany, Christmas markets abound and a trip to one would be a great afternoon outing with kids, both younger and older. Most Christmas markets do not have an entrance charge, and the games, rides, and snacks are not all that expensive.

Other fun activities centered around kids can be found at theathers and museums. Many theaters, even smaller community theaters, offer special programs for children at Christmas. Matinees of the Nutcracker, puppet shows, and other offerings, such as theather workshops, could be a lot of fun to go to with your children. Local museums may also have special exhibitions centered around the holidays, so be sure to check out what they have to offer.

Another great way to have fun with the kids during Christmas is baking. You can never go wrong with Christmas sweets, can you? Baking treats – or even preparing a festive meal – can be a lot of fun with kids, and your host parents will likely not complain about having something yummy to sample. Take this time to introduce your host family to Christmas traditions from your home country.

And if you need some inspiration, check out these kid-friendly Christmas cookies. Enjoy!