Advice and tips for Au Pairing in Germany

Advice and tips for Au Pairing in Germany by Evan Carroll

This article was written by Olivia Morton, published on 27th January 2013 and has been read 5743 times.

Olivia is spending this year working as an au pair in both Germany and Austria. She can be found on Twitter at @MortonOlivia. Here are her top reasons to be an au pair, tips for finding the right family and ways to make the most of the experience.

How to find the right family

You can choose to find a host family through an agency or an au pair connections website such as Au Pair World. Once you have narrowed your choices down to a selection of families, a Skype interview is a fantastic (and free) way of getting to know them before you make a commitment. Remember to ask to see some photos of where you will be living. Most importantly, go with your gut feeling.

How much will I earn?

In Germany, an au pair earns a minimum of €260 a month and in Austria a bit more. Lots of families pay more than this, especially for an English-speaking au pair.

If you find a great family who pays well, that's the best-case scenario. However, don't necessarily be tempted to pick the family who pays the most. It's much more important to find a family that fits your expectations and you get along with.

Although the amount you earn doesn't sound very much, don't forget that you won't be paying for rent or food. The family should also take out an insurance policy on your behalf, in case there is an accident whilst you're looking after the children. Your healthcare will also be free with an EHIC card if you're an EU citizen.

Top reasons to be an au pair:

1. Language skills
By living with a German-speaking family, you will learn so much from this continuous exposure to native speakers of the language. In particular, the children will be an invaluable resource to learn from and, chances are, they won't be shy about correcting you.

2. Traditions and customs
As an au pair, you will be fully-integrated into the traditions and customs of family life in a German-speaking country.

3. Standard of accommodation
Families who employ an au pair are likely to have a relatively high standard of accommodation and live in a good area. This might not be the case if you were to rent a shared flat.

4. Getting to know other German-speaking people
If you choose to work as an au pair, you shouldn't be short of opportunities to get to know people and improve your language skills. From the kids' classmates to other relatives to family friends to neighbours, you'll constantly meet new people and build your confidence in speaking German.

5. Holidays/weekends away
Find out what your host family's holiday plans are, because they may consider including you. Whether it's visiting family in another part of the country or going on a summer holiday, you're likely to get the chance to travel around Germany and maybe around other parts of Europe very cheaply or maybe even for free.

6. Career with children?
If you're considering working with children in the future, time spent working as an au pair gives you invaluable experience.

7. Being a tourist
As an au pair, you should have plenty of free time whilst the children are at school and on weekends to be a tourist in your own local area and to visit new places further afield in Germany. It's a great opportunity to go to the places you've always wanted to visit and to discover new places.

Things to watch out for

1. Be clear from the start whether you, as an English-speaking au pair, will be expected to speak English all the time.
In some families this is the case, as they will be hiring an au pair in order to help the whole family learn English. If you're looking to improve your German, make sure that your day-to-day life will revolve around speaking German.

2. Discuss any problems or questions you have with the family straight away.
Don't forget you have to live with them and it's just not worth letting resentment build over something small.

3. Don't forget you can always leave.
You need to make sure the situation is acceptable for you and there are always plenty more German-speaking families looking for an au pair.

4. Before you start searching for a family, think about where you would like to live.
Would you prefer a city, a small town or a village in the countryside? Consider what method of transport you will be using to get around and explore the local area. If you're working in a village with little to no transport links, you'll potentially feel isolated. 

5. If you're working in a rural area, you may be expected to drive the kids to school.
Think about whether you feel confident enough to drive on the other side of the road, to drive on snow and to drive whilst being distracted by two kids throwing a tantrum at 7.30 am because they've got to go to school.

How to improve your German whilst au pairing

1. Spend time with the kids
Whether you're taking them to the cinema, playing a board game or baking, it will provide you with great exposure to the language you're trying to learn.

2. Consider taking a course at your local Volkshochschule
Maybe a German course or a completely different course as an excuse to pick up an old hobby and meet new people.

3. Get a library card
The library in my town in Germany costs €12 for a year. Regularly reading German books and watching German films will massively improve your language skills.

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