How to find an au pair job in Spain
Heidi Marchant is studying English Language and Literature at King's College London, and has been an au pair in her summer holidays three times. Here is her advice about how to find an au pair job in Spain, an insight into her experiences there, and her five top tips...
In the spring term of my first year at university, I sat around wondering what I should do with my summer. The obvious thing to do would be to get a job in a Spanish-speaking country. I’d taken an A Level in it but, having chosen English Literature for my degree, had neglected it since then, making feebly weekly attempts to watch news clips in the language and always ending up disheartened by my non-comprehension. Spain is famous for its cuisine, its eating out culture, so perhaps there’d be a few waitress jobs going, I reasoned. But small talk in Spanish was beyond my capabilities so I abandoned that idea. Neither did I feel like being a club promoter on the Magaluf strip. Au pairing, it seemed, was the only viable option. Two years on, with three au pairing experiences under my belt, it’s safe to say I’m an au pairing veteran.
1. How to find an au pair job in Spain
The first thing I did to go about getting my first job was to google ‘au pair Spain’. The results were a mixture of job boards with adverts from families seeking au pairs and au pairs seeking families and agencies. I used an agency because it was free, you were almost guaranteed a job so long as you were female and within a certain age range, and it meant less work; the agency matched my preferences to my future family’s. Aneta, the head of the agency, put me in touch with a family in ¢Madrid with three children, aged 15, 11 and 4, and a dog. We skyped, I smiled a lot to make up for not understanding anything they said, and all too soon I was on a plane bound for Spain, distracted from nerves by two people in the row of seats behind me, swapping information about their au pair positions.
2. Au pairing in Spain: my experiences
I’d imagined au pairing would involve cleaning, cooking, and nappies, but my main responsibility was to give two hours a day of English classes (this was a common experience among the other au pairs I talked to). I had weekends, afternoons and evenings off and every few days I’d catch the bus to the city. I had one friend there but made my social life busier by joining the various Madrid au pair Facebook groups. There were pub crawls but I preferred meeting up in the day in twos or threes to sightsee and eat frozen yoghurt and chat on the frazzled grass. Perks of the job were many: the food (paella and empanadas to die for), the long hours off, the pool in the garden, the way the family treated me like a guest and showed me round the nearby towns. What struck me was how easygoing and funny los espanoles were, and how much emphasis they put on family. I resolved to move there permanently as a real adult.
My host family invited me to au pair for them again the following summer – this one just gone – so I did, but the novelty of the experience had worn off, and while it was pleasant, it was no longer exciting. Nevertheless, they recommended me to their friends in the north, in Asturias, parents of a seven year old, and I took the train up there, to their house by the sea and among the mountains. Caring for a seven year old all day was way more exhausting than stopping the odd fight between two secondary school-age brothers, but again, the experience was rewarding: they brought me along to family dinners, showed me their parents’ villages, nearby towns, the mountains, the beach.
Au pairing left me with too many anecdotes, a much improved palate, and lots of wonderful memories. ¡Vayan ya!
3. My five top tips
1. Use an au pair agency for find a family. It’s less work for you, plus you can afford to be fussier with your preferences for city/countryside, younger children or older children.
2. If you au pair in a city, search Facebook for au pair groups. I’m usually not very forward about meeting new people, but a month of speaking to just family members and their relatives made me so grateful for any social interaction.
3. Consider location carefully. I au paired for two weeks in a small town, and for six weeks in the suburbs of Madrid. Cities are, in my opinion, better for longer-term au pairing jobs, as months of just interacting with family members is dull.
4. Consider the length of your stay carefully. A month at home passes much more quickly than a month au pairing—don’t agree too readily to a long contract.
5. Bring a present on your arrival. Wine and chocolates are always good, but what they’ll really appreciate is an age-appropriate game or toy for the kids, such as Lego or a puzzle.