Au Pair Basics

Getting a job as an Au Pair is a great way to get abroad, being one of the most common jobs for young female foreigners in Europe. It was how I originally was able to fund my move abroad, and is also one of the easiest, fastest and possibly cheapest ways to obtain a long-term visa, especially for France, where it originated.


Let’s talk about the basics, shall we?

What is an Au Pair?

Basically an ‘au pair’ is a fancy term for ‘nanny’, but usually with less responsibilities and has a limited amount of working hours allowed per week, which is specified by each country’s government.

Also, unlike a nanny or babysitter, you have to meet certain requirements to be an official au pair.

Such as:

  • Be between the ages of 18 and 26
  • Be a foreigner in your host country
    • (more simply, an American couldn’t be an au pair in America, or a French citizen in France, that would just be considered nannying/babysitting)
  • Be a secondary school graduate (high school) or equivalent
  • Be proficient in spoken English
  • Have no criminal record
  • Be able to commit to a 12-month position

and, no, there is no rule about having to be female to be an au pair.

True, the majority are usually girls, but we can all agree that it’s usually same with most childcare positions, just tends to leans that way.

No harm meant, fellas.

I’ve actually known some kick-ass male au pairs in my time, many of whom probably wipe the floor with me in the child caring arena.


Typically, au pairs take on a share of the family’s responsibility

for childcare as well as occasional light housework and English tutoring.

However, the role of the au pair greatly differs for each family. So it’s very important to have a clear list of expectations specified before you accept the job.


Most of the time, the family you work for, or host family, is in charge of providing housing for the au pair as well. Meaning either a room in their house or sometimes (and preferably) a separate apartment will be offered.

One of the great parts? No rent.


Monetary allowance,

legal minimum is 320 euros per month

but I’ve seen as high as 600


Au pairs can also study part-time, usually focusing on the language of the host country. For those unlucky Americans or Australians who don’t belong to the European Union and have to deal with visa issues, this is actually a requirement.

Let’s get real

The name ‘au pair’ also comes from the French term meaning “at par” or “equal to” indicating that the position  is intended to be one equal to that of a family member for the duration of your stay.

But I just would hate to inflate this silly rumor.

So, let’s be real, folks. You won’t be.

I’m really not saying this as a bad thing though.

It’s true, I have known people who had the time of their lives as an au pair and developed a life-long loving connection with their host families


I’ve also seen the ugly opposite side. When families take advantage of cheap foreign childcare with no intention of thinking of you as anything but a glorified servant.
It’s not a pleasant experience for those doe-eyed gals fresh into a foreign country, obviously.

But don’t fret, because more often than either of those, I’ve heard, plus experienced, the much less scary and more realistic version

and it’s rather simple.

At the end of the day, being an au pair is a job.

and, hey, maybe you will be one of the au pairs that actually does gain that cool new second family.

It does happen, I hear.

My personal experience turned out to include all of the above, plus some, but I don’t regret doing it and would never defer someone from wanting to do the same.

It’s just important that you realize all the possibilities so you can be prepared to handle any of them if they do come around and without crazy breakdown mode via Skype with your sister…


To sum up, basically, like with any job you can have positive and negative experiences from time to time and, most likely, both the good and the bad will pop up to a certain extent. So as long as you think of it as a job and not with overly glorified expectations…

Cue daydream of Sunday barbeques, drinking French wine with your super attractive and insanely hip new foreign family who pay you ridiculous sums of money to just play games with adorably accented children
who would
never, never, never dream of disobeying you,

let alone break into a tantrum in the middle of an intersection with scream pitches high enough for only dogs to hear

then vomiting..

on your lap..

on a bus.

Nooooo, they would never do that,



Well, yes, thankyou. That would be the perfect example of what not to imagine.

so don’t do that,

and you’ll be fine.



2 thoughts on “Au Pair Basics

  1. Great post! Being an au pair is allowing me to move to Paris in 2 weeks and complete a French course! It really is a great way to relocate, especially if you have a limited travelling fund! 🙂 Paris xXx


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