Tips for Life as an International Au Pair

Photo via  LAN .

Photo via LAN.

Paris was great, but I needed a change.  I wanted to experience the American way of life.  I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in International Business in 2008, but decided to become an Au Pair.  I was matched up with family from San Diego and hoped to make the most out of this endeavor.  You will spend a great portion of your time around small children and that can be tons of fun however, it is important to recognize this career path isn’t for everyone and could bring unexpected changes.  Here are some key points future au pairs should keep in mind and suggestions for families who are contemplating the services of domestic assistant.  

To the Au Pairs:  

Keep an open mind.  Interesting changes will come about with your new career path!  You will  experience a new culture with your host family.   As a tourist, you will eat new foods, see new places and make new friends.  Not to mention, you will touch up on your English ;).

Be respectful of the choices parents make while raising their children.   As the Au Pair, you must adhere to the standards of discipline the parents have decided upon.  Although you will reinforce that discipline, ultimately it is the parents' decisions on how it should be done.

Show gratitude for the opportunity you’ve been given.  Be considerate of your host family.  Small gestures such as 'pleases and thank yous' will translate into appreciation for their generosity and strengthen your relationship.

The job requirements can be laborious.  This isn’t spring break, ladies!  Hot summers, cold winters, cranky babies and sometimes contagious illnesses become part of the job.  Being a domestic assistant is serious business therefore, you should prepare to work diligently. 


To the host parents:

Be patient as you welcome a foreigner into your home.  Give your Au Pair some time to orient and adjust to their new surroundings.  Home sickness and culture shock is to be expected.  It's important that you treat your Au Pair with kindness to establish the loving culture in your household.  This will ensure that the transition is as smooth as possible for everyone.

Communicate with your Au pair.  Detailed instructions, calendars, pictures and face to face interactions are always helpful!   Show her the different rooms in the home.  Allow her to return the demonstration of appliances to ensure she is able to properly operate the machinery.  Schedule periodical meetings to clarify any concerns she may have. 

Make your Au Pair feel welcome.  Invite her to family outings and traditional American holidays as she is an extension of your family.  Bond with her in the same manner you wish for her to bond with your children.  In doing so, she will gain confidence in her duties of caring for your home and children.  I enjoyed everything from the candies offered to me on Valentine’s Day to watching fireworks off the balcony on 4th of July parties. 

Give positive reinforcement. Your Au Pair is not perfect and will make mistakes along the way.  When something is not to your liking be sure to use constructive criticism.  If you’re pleased with her work, make sure you’ve disclosed it. Good feedback will boost her confidence and reflect in her job performance. I’ve kept the many thank you cards’  from my host family near and dear to my heart.  They are synonymous with the trust and love my host family has for me.   

Being an Au Pair was much more than I expected.  I was fortunate enough to view the world thru a little one’s eyes and document milestones such as his first steps, his first swim lessons and even his understanding of my native language.  He is now a 6 year old who is equally fluent in both French and English.  Not only did I gain knowledge in a new culture, but I have an American family I can always count on and a city I call home.  I followed my heart and it brought me to a marvelous place where the realest language spoken is love.  


Fiona Adigo - Guest Blogger

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