So you want to be an Au pair? I’m pleased to hear it, it is one of the most rewarding experiences I believe anyone can undertake. Working as an au pair can provide you with opportunities that would just not be possible otherwise. For those who want to travel, perhaps you want to learn another language, maybe you just want to take a gap year and could do with a significant change. Au pairing can significantly help with those aims and ambitions.
It isn’t a decision to be taken likely and it may be that you are the first person you know to consider this as job. Perhaps you’re having some hard time convincing loved ones that this is the right path for you or maybe you’re not sure if you are up to the task.
It would be easy for me to sit and type away about my experiences but since arriving in Barcelona and socialising with other au pairs it’s become apparent that every experience is different.
I’ve rounded up a few of my new au pair friends and have asked them about their experiences; they range in age, nationality, experience and gender enabling you as the reader to identify with them in some way.
I hope you enjoy these accounts and if you would like to know more feel free to like, comment and share.
Without further ado,
What led you to the decision to become an au pair in Spain?
Ella – I thought it was a good way to live in a country I have always wanted to live in, without having to worry about the cost of finding somewhere to stay and food every week, It’s a big experience, it’s something you can happily put on your C.V
Knowing what you know now, what would you change or would have asked before you arrived?
Ella- I would have liked to have known a bit more about where I was going and more about the tourist attractions as I don’t really know that much and I would bring more money, I would bring as much money as I could.
What do you like and what don’t you like about the role of an au pair?
Ella- I’m quite lucky I have a really good family, who are very understanding. I think for me the only thing I don’t like is that I have to do long bus journeys. If that’s the worst part than I think that’s pretty good. I would also like to have known a bit more about working with kids.
Do you have any experience with children, do you think that would have helped?
Ella-I’d only babysat my mum’s kids and the neighbours kids, so it was kids who knew me, So I think going into working with kids I’ve never met before, is challenging but you just have to find new ways to go around it and if you persevere it gets a lot easier
How did you find your family?
Ella- I found them on au pair world, they messaged me. I would recommend aupair world, it’s a pick and choose thing it’s not you only get one choice, there is a wide choice of people
Was it free for you to use as an au pair?
Ella- It was completely free, it didn’t cost me anything to use
With this experience, what your plans for the future?
Ella- I want to become fluent in Spanish and then I want to use this opportunity to for later in life, for when I go to uni and to eventually study Spanish
Have you encountered any homesickness?
Ella-I think you’re always bound to encounter homesickness, if like me you’re moving away from home for the first time and leaving family members and boyfriends and friends behind that you’ve known for all your life. But once I met people and I realised they were going through the same thing it made it a lot easier and what I personally did was write down how many days there were until I get to go home, so every day I had a countdown, so you feel a lot better, I’ve only got a month left or I’ve only got 3 weeks or 12 days or 1 day. It helps you feel relieved because when you put it in perspective you’re like that’s actually only 20 days
Okay and anyone who’s thinking of doing it, what would you say to them?
Ella- Do thorough research on where you’re going, about the weather, the style of life, the cost of things. I would save as much money as you can and interact with your family as much as possible before you arrive
What made you become an au pair in Spain?
Anna-It’s a good question because I finished high school this year, because in Italy we have one more year than the rest of the world. I finished high school this year but had no clue what to do the year after. I was always sure I wouldn’t take a gap year and I would go straight to university because I am a very determined person. If I want something I do everything to get it, but in the end I was not sure what I wanted to do in life and what was important in life for me. So I started to think that a gap year was an option, I began to search for families on au pair world. I had the idea to become an au pair, because my mother did it as well and was 16 and she went to London. She always told me about her experiences as an au pair and she loved it, so I thought it would be a very nice thing and then I found this family on au pair world from Barcelona, which later became my host family. We skyped a lot and I felt really comfortable with them and they felt comfortable with me. I knew Barcelona already, I knew it’s a huge international city, an open city and a city where a lot of young people meet. That was really important for me, because I am a sociable person, I can not stay alone long term and I want to make new friends so that was really important for me. I thought if I do not take this chance I will regret it
So how are you enjoying Spain?
Anna- I love Barcelona, it’s a great city for young people and its very international. The locals are quite open and friendly. I think the public and transport systems are quite similar to the Italian systems, so for me it’s not that hard to adapt to this new reality and the trains are late as well in Italy so I know this kind of lifestyle. I don’t know, I enjoy Spain a lot, I like Spanish culture, I like Spanish as a language, I think it sounds really friendly and funny and yeah, I think it’s a nice play to stay
Is the role of the au pair what you expected?
Anna- Yeah, I think it is what I expected it to be, maybe I expected it to be harder, but I talked a lot to the host family before I came here, so we talked a lot about the chores and the things I have to do. So it’s more or less what I expected to be. I thought that, it might be the relationship with the children, maybe it’s just my kids but it’s not that close of a relationship, the children know that you are working for their parents and it’s not that close relationship I thought it would be, I was expecting to be like a bigger sister but my kids are not interested in that.
What’s the best and worst part of this experience?
Anna-The best part of this experience is that you have a lot of free time, you can spend with a lot of great people and it’s not hard to find people because all the au pairs are in the same boat. We all have to find new friends so it’s quite easy you can enjoy the city a lot because you have a lot of free time. Also you get to know people from so many different countries. I’ve made friends with people from America, Australia, Great Britain and without travelling, I stayed in one place. I think it’s really great, it’s nice to chat to those people.
The worst part of the experience, I think is sometimes you don’t know if you’re getting it right or if you should behave in another way because in the end you are living with strangers in their house and you don’t know how they are used to doing things and how they like the things to be done. You’re never completely comfortable, for the most part you are but at the same time it is a stranger’s house but this can also help you grow.
Did you have any childcare experience before this?
Anna- Actually yeah I had a lot of childcare experience because I did a lot of baby sitting in my village in my hometown I also did a programme in Italy, it’s like a summer camp and we went to the beach for 2 weeks and there I had to look after a group of 13 boys and they were between 11 and 12 years and that was a really great experience, I loved it. I feel that au pairing though is quite different because when I did babysitting or the summer camp, the children were normally happy to stay with me or were looking forward to staying with me. They were enjoying my presence, I’m sure they were angry sometimes but I always felt like they liked to be with me and sometimes as an au pair, I sometimes feel like the children do not want to be with me, they would prefer to be alone or stay with their parents but they have to be with me and they know that they have to so that can make it a little bit difficult to have a good relationship with the children
If you could go back and give yourself any advice before coming out here what would it be?
Anna-I would definitely tell myself to bring less stuff, because I brought too much. It is way easier to travel with less stuff, because you can find everything here. I should have started to find people on groups when I was in Italy because I came here and I was alone for one and a half month, because I didn’t put effort into finding friends before so and I think that is quite important
How did you find your host family?
Anna- I found my host family on au pair world, I think like most people did and I would totally recommend it because it’s free, it’s easy and it’s great.
Any tips for anyone considering this job?
Anna- I don’t know, try it, do it, do not be afraid, it is a really big decision, you do not know what is going to happen in your host family, if you’re going to like them, if you’re going to find friends but you should just try and be brave
What do you hope to do after this year?
I have my contract until the end of December and I go back to Italy and after that I’m still not sure what I want to do. My plan was to search for work and then go to university. I still want to go to university for sure but I’m not sure if maybe I’ll stay here and search for another opportunity, not as an au pair but another job.
What led you to considering to becoming an au pair?
Joseph- Ever since High School I have had the dream of teaching English abroad after college graduation. I had a lot of older friends who I watched move straight from college to their career field, and it didn’t seem appealing to me, even then. The feeling didn’t go away, and since I didn’t know what I wanted to spend my life doing yet, I decided to go through with it. The only problem: I never got my TEFL, and while the time it took to get one wasn’t necessarily an issue, the money I would need was. My friend and fellow comedy troupe performer, Bella Groff, had told me about her plans to Au Pair, and from there everything fell into place. The family I found had an Au Pair who had obtained, during her three year stay in Castellbisbal, over thirty private English students, and was willing to pass them, along with the €300 a week they earned her, on to me once I moved here. This was the proverbial nail in the coffin for me, and I committed to the family.
Tell me why you chose Spain?
Joseph- Spain seemed like an obvious choice for me. My brother-in-law is Mexican and even though he speaks English, I thought it would be cool to learn Spanish and be able to talk to him and his family members that don’t speak English. Besides Spain, most of the Spanish speaking countries are in America, and I wanted to come to Europe because there are so many different countries to see, and they’re all so close and so different.
Have you encountered culture shock yet?
Joseph- Not much. I really like the diet here, and it hasn’t been a weird adjustment at all. Aside from the language barrier, which is strong when you speak almost zero Spanish, I haven’t felt any culture shock.
What is your favourite part and worst part of the role for you?
Joseph- My favorite part of the role is that I can tell I’m having a positive effect on the two host boys. They have a single mom and begged her for a guy to be their Au Pair this year, so it feels good to sort of act like the big brother they never had. I feel like I fit right in with the family. The worst part is definitely not knowing when I’m supposed to be working and when I can relax in my room. I’ve finally just started going to my room when I wanted to, and decided that if my host mom needs me she will come get me.
How do you cope with homesickness?
I know a lot of people say calling loved ones makes their homesickness worse, but for me it is the opposite. I call my family or my girlfriend every few days, usually more. I have also put a lot of time into my creative pursuits. I want to use this year to really find the things I love in life, because I think many people rush into careers they don’t like. Recently I have been teaching myself to animate, and have been making a cartoon. Between that, reading, and playing my guitar, I stay busy, and being busy is the best cure for homesickness.
What advice would you give to other male au pairs?
Joseph- Definitely get to know your family and the responsibilities expected first! I was lucky enough to find a family that wanted an older brother type of Au Pair, and I don’t have to do a lot of cleaning or any diaper changing. I’m not at all saying those are jobs for women, but if you’re at all like me, you won’t want those types of responsibilities. Another piece of advice is not to care if people think it’s a job for girls or not. The point is, you’re getting payed to live in another country! And living for free! Yeah you’re not making a lot of money, but you can tutor for extra cash. When my friends call me a ‘Manny’ I embrace it. Hell yeah I’m a manny, and you are taking a year off to see more of the town we grew up in.
What do you want to do after this year?
Joseph- This is the question of the year. Really one of the biggest things I want to work towards answering by the end of my stay here. If I don’t know by then, I’ll give myself more time because I think that’s what humans need when choosing their entire life path. In the meantime I’m researching as many fields I can to see where I would fit l, and most importantly, be happy. I’m going on a road trip across the U.S. with two of my closest friends next summer, and after that, we will see.
Would you recommend becoming an au pair?
Joseph- If you find the right family, definitely. But I wouldn’t commit to the idea of becoming an Au Pair before finding a family you connect with. It also isn’t for people who need tons of privacy. You have your own room and a lot of alone time, but you’re living with another family, so it’s not like having your own apartment by any means. It’s a great opportunity for the right people though.
This is the second time you have worked as an au pair is that correct?
Naomi- Yes it is, I was an au pair in London last year for one year.
What made you decide to do it again?
Naomi- It was so good in England and I had a nice experience. The family was so nice to me I decided to do it again in Spain to learn Spanish
What advice would you give to a new au pair?
Naomi- If you want to do it, do it It’s a nice experience for you. You will make new friends with whom you’ll share wonderful moments with during this year. You can discover lots of things, improve your language. After this experience, you’ll gain lots of maturity. It’s just amazing.
What is the most important thing to do as an au pair?
Naomi- You can’t stay alone for one year, it is impossible, you need to make friends and it’s very easy to make some. You just post a message on an au pair group of where you are living and that’s it, you’ll get lots of girls who’ll answer it and you just need to meet them and the party will start. You’re weekend off will be very busy, I promise.
What do you do with your free time?
Naomi- I use my free time for seeing my friends, visiting the city or going to the beach of course
What is a typical day for you in your host family?
Naomi- Every morning I prepare the breakfast for the children, take them to school, free time, pick them up from school, cook their dinner and look after them till the mum and dad come home, then more free time.
So there you go peeps, I hope if you are a worried mother dealing with your teen daughter convinced she needs to live abroad that this alleviates some fears.
If you’re a guy who hasn’t heard of another lad taking on what is perceived as a female role (it’s really not, care giving crosses all genders) then have the confidence to follow your dream too.
Perhaps you’re a person who needs to turn 180 degrees on your life but want some security then this post can give you a balanced and honest view on what the role is like.
That’s all for now,
Lots of love,