How to Become an Au Pair in Europe
Are you ready for an adventure? Perhaps looking for a way to justify living abroad and indulging in a “gap year”? Becoming an au pair is the perfect way to find out to travel and live abroad. At the same time you can figure out what you want to do in the future. This experience offers a once in a lifetime opportunity. That is to live in a family setting (which may ease homesickness) while living like a local. You don’t have to justify to anyone why taking 2-24 months off life is a good idea because we totally agree. But where to begin? Follow these steps to start your journey.
How to Become an Au Pair in Europe
There are several options when deciding what site to create a profile on. But, how do you know which one is the best? While they all claim to be secure and proves to work, you need to choose which one is best for you. Use caution before you pay to create a profile. It may not actually be the best option. There are plenty of great options that have free profiles.
- Create a personal profile
Tip: NEVER pay for creating a profile!
We suggest using www.aupairworld.com to begin your search. This site is easy to use. It allows you to list what you are seeking to match you with potential families. It asks you to formulate 3 short essays. The first is to explain your past. Second, your experience. Last, your desires to be an au pair. The best part is you can find families on the exact city or area they live in. You’ll find there are so many families searching for au pairs. So, it’s convenient to be able to narrow the search a little bit by choosing one city or area, to begin with.
- Decide what you want from your experience
Tip: Create perimeters & be a realist!
Once you open the flood gate into this au pair world, you will find that there are SO many options regarding families, cities, countries, and expectations! It can be overwhelming if you are not honest with yourself about what you want and can handle in regards to your willingness to help with housework, homework, disabilities, a number of children, and hours of work. Therefore, before you begin your search, set your perimeters. Because when you start to see photos and read profiles, you’re going to want to think you can do it all. And you might be able to, but just remember to pull from your experience with child care before you fall in love with these families!
Also, it is quite easy to feel persuaded from the connection you may have with a family you meet online. Or, from the compensation they may offer you. However, if you said beforehand that residing in a big city was important to you because of its central location and sightseeing, do not compromise this for a family who will offer you a competitive compensation package to live in the middle of nowhere on the side of a mountain. (Unless that’s what you want of course).
- Write essays from the heart & be honest
Remember that you can’t redo a first impression!
These families read what feels like hundreds of essays and profiles each month, so what can you say that sets you apart? The best thing you can say comes when you speak from your heart. No one else will say the same thing when you write with a personal honesty. One key tip that every site will tell you is: Do not begin your essay with “Hi, my name is and I come from…”. This gets redundant to families and does not say anything about your personality.
Most families want an au pair that step in as an older brother/sister figure to their children, so you want to showcase that your personality in hopes that you are a good fit for that special family. Also, honesty is HUGE! A single au pair experience can last anywhere from 2-24 months. The au pair horror stories you read about usually stem from one or both sides of this being dishonest. If you pretend or claim that you love ‘animals’ and speak German, then arrive and fear that their ‘animals’ include a goat and a snake you have to feed daily then you will have problems if what you meant by “animals” is cats. Also, language is a quite obvious key component for communication. If your host family wants to brush up on their German skills and you are hardly at an A1 level, you both will be disappointed.
- Skype, skype, skype!
Tip: Trust your gut
You can’t believe everything you read on the internet, so that’s why you’ll have to get over your fear of Skype. Remember, it will be slightly awkward for both sides at first. But, be yourself because it will ease tensions and is the only way to truly get to know a family before you arrive. Instantly you’ll both get a feel for one another along with the environment you chose to meet at. (So make sure you chose a clean room with nothing that isn’t true to your character in the background!)
It often is the case that a family is perfect on paper. But maybe, once you meet them the connection isn’t there. Remember, you’ll be living with this family. So, you have to feel comfortable enough to talk to them. Ask them questions. Or abide by the rules of their home. Also, children have that inapt way of feeling out people’s vibes and energy. So, it will be a good way to see if you like them or if they’re a total brat!
- Look into Visa/ language course for the area you chose
This process isn’t all fun and games, but that doesn’t mean it has to be difficult. Once you decide on a host family, you will have to look into their countries embassy and rules for entry and for your stay. This will depend greatly on where you are a citizen from as well.
If you are a natural born US citizen, you can stay in any country in the Schengen Area for up to 90 days without a visa. However, if you choose to stay for a longer time you will need to obtain a visa. Of course, you will ALWAYS need a valid passport. Make sure you have at least 6 months of validity otherwise you may get turned away at the airport!
Vaguely put, you have options! There are work visas (which are the hardest to obtain), student visas (simpler to obtain), or some countries offer an “Au pair” visa. It is more likely than not you will have to apply for a student visa. This will require you to enroll in a language course in your host country which will then give you a paper to declare that you can enroll for a student visa.