Heeeeellloooo! It has been exactly two weeks since my year as an Au Pair ended, and to honor that I thought I would write a post here about my experience as an Au Pair. After talking to several of my friends during my year in France I know these pros and cons are quite common among other au pairs and hopefully they can be of help to futur Au Pairs to come:
So, last year I was an au pair outside Paris. I liked my hostfamily with my two girls, I liked my school which thought me french, I liked Paris and I liked the friends I made. I loved the life I had for the majority of the time but as always some days are better than others. There are definitely things to take into considerations before becoming an au pair.
- It is hard. Espicecally in the beginning when everything is new and you want to do your best all the time, in fear of disapointing your host family but most of all yourself and your own expectations. I remember in the beginning I was always tiptoeing around my host family, constantly aware, constantly being on my bestest behaviour. It was super tiring which meant on weekends I was almost too tired to do all the things in Paris I had planned to do.
So take a chill pill everyone! Ofcourse try to be the best you can be around your family but do not forget that it is ok to say no to somethings that are not in your contract and when you are not working allow yourself your own space. Your family will understand that you dont want to be with them all the time and this way you will have more energy to do stuff on the weekends.
- The importance of a contract. Get a clear and just contract with the family before you start your year as an au pair. Make sure you are not working more than the law allows you and make sure you get paid a decent amount of money that's actually enough to live on. A contract is binding which means you have a good excuse to wave in your hostparents' faces if they ever demand you to do something that you havent agreed to. In my experience it is common for au pairs to get used because you are in such a vulnerable situation, being dependent on our host families, but just remember they probably need you more than you need them so it is ok to say no to things you dont find fair.
- Language barrier. When I moved to France, my french was baaaaaaad, which lead to me not really being able to communicate properly with my host kids who did not speak English (nor Swedish surprise surprise) and I think it took away part of my athority to them. However, it did force me to learn French and over time I got alot better! So really drown yourself in the language you want to learn because it helps you and it is a big part of the whole traveling experience. Music, youtube, litterature, podcasts, movies and the locals are all at your service.
- Homesickness is a fact. I already wrote a blog post about this subject which you can read here but just know that atleast once during your time abroad you will miss the place you come from and people who live there, and that's alright becasue it means you come from a happy home! You are not going to like everything in your host country but try not to think about home and the future too much. You will go back soon but right now live in the moment and if you have a rough day make lots of au pair friends to complain to. They probably want to complain to you too.
- Getting stuck in a routine. I made the move to France becasue I was tired of my life at home and I wanted to see new things but somewhere along the line I got stuck in a routine just like before. I did the same things everyday and forgot why I came in the first place. It wasn't until the last month I realised I had so many things left that I wanted to see. Consequently I tried to squeeze in everything in a very short period of time. Do not make the same mistake I did. Do not get stuck in a routine, instead try to explore your new home as much as possible.
+ Easiest way to travel. You get a free place to sleep, free food, pocket money, a life and you are all of a sudden really close to other countries and places you used to be far away from. It is like going on holiday but having everything arranged for you. Take advantage of this! Explore your new neighboorhood and get on a train and see places you never even thought of visiting. Go to London for example. London is awesome!
+ The friends. You will meet amazing people. Poeple that are going trough the same thing as you, but who can still teach you so much. Since as an au pair you travel alone every other au pair will be alone too which makes everyone super friendly and keen on getting to know you. I miss the friends I made in france alot and because they all live in different places it gives me an escuse to travel even more! Which I löööööve!
+ The change. You change when you travel. You'll gain new perspectives and you'll learn to be on your own. This way you will also get to know yourself on a deeper level. It sounds delusional but when you come back again you will think higher of yourself than everyone else who stayed at home. They probably haven't changed but you are now "världsvan" (= Swedish, meaning you know more of the world and you have a wider perspective of life).
+ It's chill. I know I complain alot but in all honesty the au pair job is pretty easy if you compare it to others. You have loads of free time when the host children are at school and you get many things for free. This was my case anyway, it may differ for other au pairs but atleast for me it was more like I was living as a guest with my host family rather than their employer.
+ I would recommend being an Au Pair. All in all it is a great experience that will stay with your forever. Just rememeber to take a good time to find the right host family and never hesitate to speak up if you are not content. Dont rush, yet still take advantage of the time you have, travel and soak up everything. Before you know it, a year will have past, you will be back home and you will wish you had one more week with everyone in your host country! I know I do.
Hope you enjoyed my tips and tricks! Bon voyage !