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How to Get a Great Au Pair Placement

Written by: Sarah Sutton

Find Your Perfect Au Pair Family

Au pairing is a great way to get out and see the world on a pretty tight budget. There are placements available all over the world, and families based in many exciting cities and destinations are actively looking for an au pair to become a new member of their family.
But becoming an au pair for a family you’ve never met is taking a massive leap of faith, and can be a risk for both you and them. While you can never know until you arrive whether things will work out, following the steps below can increase your chance of finding a good placement.
Au pairing might just be the best thing you’ll ever do.
Make sure you're cut out for au pairing

Make sure you’re cut out for the job

Do you like kids? Because there’s no hiding it if you don’t: au pairing is not for you if you find interacting with children difficult or boring. Most of the time you’ll have to engage with them in a foreign language too, so you need to be up to the challenge.
Likewise, although being an au pair is a great way to move out of your parents’ house, you have to be prepared to enter and live in a family environment where you will be expected to share meals, chores, and respect house rules. I managed to avoid the curfew rule, but not all au pairs are so lucky!

Join an agency that works for you

There are lots of agencies out there that offer specially chosen au pair placements for your needs once you register with them and pay the fee. Personally, I found all I needed and more in AuPair world.
It’s a free service for you (the family pays a fee) and it has many placements available in countries all over the world, with advice on everything you need to know about the law and your rights as an au pair in your country of choice. It’s very easy to use, and gives you the chance to choose the family yourself after looking over all of the important information they’ve listed about themselves, plus pictures of course!
Pick an au pair location that suits you

Pick a location that suits you

With all of the options available, it may be tempting to choose an exciting country on the other side of the globe, but do so at your peril. Au pairing may be easy on the budget, but you shouldn’t try to push yourself too far when it comes to location.
While Japan may be exciting, if you know a little French and would like to be able to go home for Christmas, choose France and vow to see Japan another time. Living abroad can be more emotionally draining than you’d expect and sometimes it’s really comforting to know you can be back home within a day if you need to be.

Be selective

As you look through the profiles on Au Pair World, you will see a whole range of families and living situations. The worst thing you can do is decide to ‘make do’ when it comes to your own requirements. Although that might be tactful when you are messaging the family, remember you will have to live there for an extended period of time – you must have everything you need.
There are many families out there to choose from and, although at first it was tempting for me to ‘make-do,’ I was able to find a family that offered a private room with a bathroom and had no pets, and I was much happier for it.

Make Skype your new best friend

Once you’ve chosen a family that looks suitable, and you’ve messaged each other a little, set a date to Skype them. It is the best way to truly get to know the parents, and maybe the kids (if they’re not too shy to talk!), as well as to get a house tour.
Don’t be afraid to spend a considerable period of time talking things through with, in all likelihood, your Host Mum, and really make sure you’ll be a good fit for each other.
Try a sample au pair weekend

Try a sample weekend

If the family you’re considering is close enough, consider trying a sample weekend with them. They might suggest it themselves, and in that case may even offer to pay for flights so you can do so. This gives you a chance to meet the kids, and really get a sense of what it’s like to live and work there.
Most importantly, it can be a chance to talk to the au pair you’ll be replacing, if they have one. They can tell you all about the family, and also show you around the area, which can be invaluable information when you’re new to a place.
If a sample weekend isn’t an option, it is definitely still worth getting the contact details of the previous au pair and having a Skype to discuss everything with them.

Don’t be afraid to say NO

Even if you’ve been talking to a family for months, and have had a sample weekend with them, the most important thing to remember is you do not owe them your service, and you should never be afraid to say no if you feel like things won’t work out between you.
Unfortunately I fell prey to this temptation on my second placement, and said yes purely because I’d been flown out to Germany for a sample weekend free of charge. If I’d said no like I should have, I would have saved myself two months of struggling to work with a family I was unsuited to.
There are perfect placements out there for every budding au pair; you just need the patience and the courage to choose the right one!

Find more articles about being an au pair abroad

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