photo courtesy of dreamstime
When I worked as an au pair in Germany, I was the first au pair my host family had, so I broke ground for future au pairs. While it was nice not having any one in whose footsteps I had to follow, it would have been helpful to have been able to learn from someone who was already close to the family.
Lucky au pairs get the chance to speak with former au pairs, either before they decide on working with a certain host family or after. If you are one of those who gets to speak with the au pair before you, it makes sense to learn from her experience. She has spent a lot of time with your host family and knows a lot about them – the good and the bad!
There are three questions you absolutely need to ask the former au pair:
#1 How does your host family deal with problems?
This is important. When you are living in close quarters with anyone, especially a new family in a new country, issues are, at some point, going to arise. This is normal and nothing to stress about, but it is helpful to know in advance how you can expect your host family to react when things gets a bit messy.
#2 How much work do you really have to do?
Depending on the country you work in and your individual contract with your host family, you will have a specific number of hours that you will be required to work. But in the au pair world, it often works out that au pairs end up working less or more than what the agreed upon hours are. I experienced both extremes. Knowing what to expect in terms of work hours (and duties) can help you go into your job with eyes wide open.
#3 What are the children like?
Having a good understanding of what the children you will be caring for are like can make your job a whole lot easier. This is especially true for families with older children who already have strong likes and dislikes. It is helpful to know general things about the kids, such as what they do and don’t eat, which activities they enjoy, potential problems, etc. Some of this you may already have been told by your host parents, but your au pair may actually be a bit more straightforward about the kids then the parents.
Now it’s your turn. What questions have you asked the former au pair and/or host family? Or what questions will you ask them, for those who haven’t reached that step yet?