The Complete Au Pair Experience
It wasn’t long ago I was headed east on a jet plane with a one way ticket. Twenty-one years young, with one goal in mind: to see the world.
I didn’t have a lot of money, and with a mix of blissful ignorance and little responsibility I was determined to make it work.
Of course there are many different ways to live and work abroad; From farm work in New Zealand, to teaching English in Thailand. In my case, there were two determining factors. One, I had experience working with kids and enjoyed it. And two, I knew (and my bank statement reflected) that I didn’t have tons of money. The summary: I couldn’t galavant around the globe without a job.
The decision to move to Spain was almost natural after interviewing with dozens of families around the globe. One of those “if you know, you know” kind of situations. I laugh, but the process of choosing a family to au pair for (and vice-versa) is much like online dating. You have your criteria, they have theirs and so you set out to find the perfect match. The truth is, I knew I wanted to see the entire world and so I didn’t necessarily care where I ended up. I met my host mom on Skype and the rest was history.
If you are interested in becoming an au pair or hosting an au pair, I recommend two websites:
There are hundreds of families around the world in search of an au pair to host. Of course, the expectations and pay vary depending on country. In Spain the average pay is 60-80 euros per week, where as in Australia the average pay is much higher. Taking into account that the cost of living varies greatly among the two.
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be an au pair in the Land Down Under? One of my closest friends, Samantha, was an au pair in Melbourne, Australia and you can read all about her experience, top lessons learned, and favorite memories in All of Your Questions Answered about the Australian Au Pair Experience.
Aupair.com is a wonderful resource for aspiring au pairs. Their credible website features family and au pair profiles and the key information that they both need before the au pair experience. In addition, they have their own blog which helps readers to understand the real life au pair experience and answer any questions before the journey abroad!
In Spain, the transportation, food, clothes, coffee, and wine can be found fairly cheap; especially when you venture outside of the big cities. The au pair salary may be low, but it’s plenty enough to afford your basic necessities and then some.
Although the cost of living is extremely affordable, I will admit that the au pair salary is not one that enables you to save much money. That being said, there are many benefits to the au pair experience that outweigh the salary. Experience makes you rich, am I right?
I lived together with my host family in their apartment and they provided room and board (aka food and a roof over my head). On top of that, any time the family traveled or did certain activities, I didn’t pay a dime. I had the opportunity to visit places that I would have never visited if it weren’t for being an au pair, and better yet, I got to visit them like a local. Like most things, I believe that what you put into something, you get out. I chose to spend many of my free weekends during the year with my host family and we’re stuck like glue to this day.
Because of my Au Pair experience, I have a family abroad for life. To this day, it has been two and a half years since leaving Spain and I have had the opportunity to visit them twice. Staying in touch with my “Spanish fam” and having the opportunity to watch the little ones grow up is one of my favorite things in life.
In addition to family, you have the opportunity to make friends from all corners of the world. Like I mentioned before, many people choose to work abroad as an au pair and the communities are big and close-knit. Facebook groups make meeting others in your area easy (thank you Facebook), and I still keep in touch with my fellow au pair friends.
Because anything in life that’s worth doing isn’t easy, some rough patches were crossed, too.
Let me touch on the basics first; Living abroad with a language barrier, unending wi-fi search, time difference, and weird food (I will never understand the tuna on pizza- shout out to my host mom) is an experience in itself. On top of that, the first time being truly alone in a foreign country can be more than overwhelming and intimidating. This is coming from a stubborn, independent Oklahoma girl who did whatever it took to escape post grad. Throw three babies under the age of two in the mix and you’ve got yourself a whirlwind of a time.
All humor aside, I took with me a life changing experience.
In 2016 I wrote these words that still hold true to this day,
“I’ve spent the last 22 hours traveling, reflecting, and wondering how a year has gone so quickly.
Whether you believe in faith or fate, isn’t it funny that life has a way of giving you people you didn’t know you needed. People that immediately accept you without judgement and change your life for the better. That accept your greatest strengths, but more importantly, your greatest weaknesses. That, without knowing it, force you to get to know your true self, scars and flaws included.
That’s exactly what (my host mom) did for me. She took me in without a blink. She taught me to follow my heart and unapologetically chase my dreams…
I saw many beautiful places, learned many valuable lessons, but the family and friends gained is what has changed my life for the better.
We all have a purpose in this world, no matter the journey. I don’t think we have a single purpose though, or that in one “ah ha” moment we find out who we are. Rather, with each passing moment, memory made, or lesson learned we grow, figuring out our next chapter or journey, another purpose.
I found that traveling half way across the world, immersing myself into a new culture, surrounded by different languages, food, people from around the world made me happy. It made me realize how important self-happiness is, because self-happiness guides us in being the best version of ourselves.
Never in a million years did I think this experience would give me all it did. I am so extremely blessed & thankful for all of my friends and family who encouraged me to follow my heart…”
Because of my au pair experience I recognized that you don’t have to be rich to travel, that the opportunities are plentiful for those struck by wanderlust, and that it’s okay (and safe!) to travel alone.
Whether you’re looking to improve your experience with kids, your foreign language skills, or you just want to be in one place for a while to slow down your spending and take in all the tapas and vino, there is sure to be a family out there waiting for all you have to offer.
chin chin to my future au pairs!