3 things to consider before becoming an Au Pair
Lola Ojo is a third year student of International Relations in French and Spanish from Exeter University. She spent last summer working as an au pair, and here she is weighing up the pros and cons of doing it again this year - while passing on her seasoned advice...
So I’m on my annual summer vacation with the family. I’m sitting by the pool, ice-cold Sangria in one hand and resting lazily on a wooden deck chair on the ground floor of our hotel resort in Malta.
Now some of you might say that going on holiday with your parents can be the most TEDIOUS affair, and yes sometimes that is true, but for the most part sitting aimlessly by the pool isn’t that bad. It gives you the opportunity for some of that all important personal reflection.
Sitting here this afternoon in the Mediterranean sun sparked memories of being an au pair last year in France, and how challenging that actually was. Even though I’ll be moving to France in a couple of months and still have nowhere to live, the thought of jetting off in a plane to Barcelona to work as an au pair for six weeks seems to be even more unnerving.
Let me give you 3 things to consider before being an au pair abroad:
1. The Neighbourhood
So many of you planning on being an au pair this summer tend not to focus on your location. This is a MISTAKE! I can’t emphasise how important it is for you to be comfortable in your environment, if you don’t like the countryside, DO NOT choose a family who live by a farm in the middle of nowhere! It took me a good hour to walk to the nearest shop for goodness sake!
2. The Money
Haha! Anyone who knows anything about the au pairing industry knows that the money you make is pretty much pointless. I mean, with an average wage of around €50-80 per week, its practically one level above slave labour! This can be especially frustrating if the host family decide not to pay for your flights, so quite often you end up worse off financially. My advice? If you’re planning on working as an au pair this summer to actually make some money then you’re better off working in a grocery store part-time. Trust me.
3. The General Awkwardness
Personally, I found this the most challenging aspect of being an au pair. Living with a bunch of randoms is definitely not easy. Part of being an au pair is to behave like a member of the family, yet you always feel like the outsider no matter how welcoming the family is. In fact, there is no way that you would behave the same way as you would in your own home. Should I stay up and watch TV like I usually do, even though the rest of the family go to bed at 9pm? Can I really ask for more food even though everyone else seems to be satisfied with their meal? Now these problems may seem trivial to you but you’d be surprised how often questions like these play over and over in your head.
I know what you guys are thinking... why on earth is she going to Barcelona to work as an au pair if she finds it so difficult?!
4. Why it's worth it
Despite all the hardships involved, being an au pair can be the most rewarding experience of your life! Yes, the money is awful. Yes, you can end up in a really ‘dead’ location and yes it’s going to be awkward sometimes but the pros definitely outweigh the cons. You get to experience a new culture, meet new people, improve your language skills and really get out of your comfort zone!
Am I nervous about my forthcoming adventure? ABSOLUTELY but I’m sure as hell excited too! Stay tuned to see what I get up to in the Catalonian city ;)