The romantic fantasy of living an international life and intimately discovering the hidden treasures of a foreign city is something that many people dream of after a trip abroad, but no need to just visit. Maybe you unexpectedly fell in love with a charming city and can’t help but toss and turn over it or somewhere unexplored is calling your name. Whatever the reason, au pairing is an excellent way to live and work abroad. It is also the perfect way to spend your summer abroad while in school.If you have experience with children, can commit to an extended period of time, and are a native English speaker, you’ll easily find an au pair job abroad, merging wanderlust with work.
The growing need for native English speakers means families all over the world are willing to offer room and board and a weekly stipend in exchange for having an individual to look after their kids and help them to learn English. Most parents want their children to start learning English young, and even though some families may already speak a little English, they often want their kids to become fluent faster and early. Although speaking English is a high priority for most families, there isn’t typically much structure involved to teaching the kids. Families that hire au pairs generally just want a native English speaker to converse with them frequently. The need for au pairs abroad is astonishing and it’s hard to believe that this well-kept secret hasn’t been leaked more prevalently in the States.
Amongst all the amazing benefits like a free place to stay, some meals, feeling like part of the family, and getting paid, au pairs working abroad will also have ample time to explore. Rekindle your passion for the location or start a love affair with a new place.
A Secret Too Good to Keep. It isn’t something a lot of people think about when they imagine living abroad. Though TEFL certification abroad(Teaching English as a Foreign Language)seems to be the most popular route, but often time contracts are longer and placements can be more limited. Plus, a good sized investment is necessary to get started, while beginning work abroad as a nanny only requires the cost of the airfare to get yourself there. Although it is possible to find a host family that will pay for your travel in full, it is very rare. Families may agree to pay for a portion of your travel if you ask, but don’t depend on it.
Western Europe. Au pair jobs abroad are most popular in Western European countries, especially in the U.K., France, Austria, Germany, and Italy. This region is where the highest concentration of au pair positions can be found and short term placements are commonplace in Western Europe too (and in Mediterranean countries). These au pair jobs can be a perfect fit for students looking to spend the summer abroad in between semesters. American citizens can stay in the E.U. for up to 90 days on a tourist visa. Age restrictions vary between E.U. countries so be sure to check the guidelines right away. Some countries, such as Austria, have a maximum au pair age of 28, for example.
Australia & New Zealand. These island nations are both very popular locations for au pair positions abroad. Australia has a wonderful working holiday visa program for people between the ages of 18 and 30 which makes it easy to live and work there for a longer period of time. This is fitting because many nanny contracts in Australia are more long term.
United States. This is a great way for international students to spend some time in the States or have some quality time practicing English before studying in the U.S. Foreign au pairs coming to work in the U.S. must be from a country which has diplomatic relations with the U.S. The regulations are somewhat opposite of au pair placements in other countries. There is minimum study of 12 months with host families in order to qualify for the J-1 visa in the U.S., while in most countries overstaying is more of concern.
No Matter Where You Live. Investigate the cities you find au pair jobs in and the families who may be interested in hiring you. There will be times when you receive messages expressing interest from families who may live in another part of the country you searched, or another country entirely. Give it a try and explore your options.
Helpful Hint: Always be sure to do your research on all the specific city names mentioned in a family’s profile. “Just a train ride away from Rome” may actually be a small town, in the middle of nowhere, and the train ride they are referring to is 10 hours long.
When To Start Your Search. Families begin their searches for au pairs well in advance. Start putting yourself out there and researching at least six months prior to when you hope to leave. You might find a great family sooner than expected. Once you have found the right family for you, it’s okay to start making plans. “It’s so soon” you might think. Don’t worry, some things in life just happen on their own time.
Requirements. The organization will probably do a background check, to reassure the family that they have no reason to be concerned about a criminal history. First Aid and CPR certifications are typically required and having these certifications will make you much more marketable as an international au pair. The application process for most au pair abroad jobs requires sending your personal information to the family or job finding service. Families will want to know as much as possible about the person who will be spending time alone with their kids, but it works both ways. NEVER send money directly to the family or sign something you don’t understand, get to know them before committing too.
Making a Profile. Think of an au pair profile like a relaxed version of LinkedIn. There are sections with questions that you answer based on what families want to hear about the most and you get to sell yourself a little. Sometimes there is no formal application process unless you go through a website for which you pay a membership fee. As far as personal information goes, it's not anything serious, they shouldn’t ask you for your SSN, your mother's maiden name, or the promise of your first born child or anything.
Search for the Right Fit. There are so many au pair and nanny jobs available you will probably feel overwhelmed when you begin your search. Be sure to cross reference, check for trustworthiness, and do your research to find the au pair job abroad that is right for you. Don’t put all your time and effort into something sketchy.
Be picky. You will be living with this family in another country for an extended amount of time, so make sure they are a good match.
The interview process greatly depends on the family you choose to contact or are matched with. Since you will be in different time zones, an agreed upon time for a video chat interview will be set up and you will get to meet your family for the first time via something like Skype or Facetime. Topics of discussion will range from what your daily life is like here at home, where your previous travels, your hobbies, to what your experiences are with kids and what your expectations are for becoming an au pair abroad.
Items To Discuss with a Potential Family
- Do they expect you to speak their language?
- What do they want from you as their au pair?
- Will you be expected to participate in family events?
- What is the schedule?
- Can you have other responsibilities? Tutoring, babysitting, a cooking class, etc.
- Will you be able to travel to nearby cities in your off-time?
- If you will be living in their home, are there house rules you should know?
These are all important questions. If they are not already mentioned in their profile, just ask. You should both be clear about expectations and responsibilities.
Tickets and Contracts. The final and most exciting step: making it a reality! Some families will have a written contract for you to sign before arriving; some may just use the Honesty Policy and expect you to take their word for it. Always draw up some sort of contract that at least outlines pay, time period, and responsibilities. If you go through an organization they may have an across-the-board contract that all au pairs and families sign or that is tailored based on individual positions. It is also a good idea to keep all of your email correspondence for reference. Then finally buy that ticket; nothing says commitment like a non-refundable, international plane ticket!
The amount of time your au pair job abroad will last varies from family to family based on their needs and the country’s regulations with work or tourist visas. In most European countries, a group known as the Schengen States, a 90 day, no-paperwork-necessary Tourist Visa is offered. This visa allows you to work as an au pair and travel amongst those countries collectively for a maximum of three months from the date of arrival, without further permits or visas required. This is perfect for the many summer nanny positions and means less paperwork for everyone. (Yes, Europeans just give people three whole months to run amuck before anyone starts asking questions – lucky you!)
When looking into other countries, be sure you are aware of their laws before you agree to take a job or make plans to move across the world and work as an au pair abroad. Breaking serious immigration or working rules abroad could result in having a block or suspension put on your passport, which would prevent you from entering that country again for as long as they see fit, which could be years or even forever. A harrowing tale about being pulled aside in an airport and being banned from a country may be a great story, but it is one that is much better heard rather than experienced.
- Logistics. Figure out your arrangements beforehand. You never know what could happen.
- A Plan B. Have enough money to execute a Plan B if needed. Have another au pair position you could pursue or a different job, if it’s not a good fit, or enough money for a one way ticket home.
- Keep in Touch. Don’t stop communication once you are hired for an au pair job abroad. Keep in contact via Skype or email and get to know each other even more. Be sure to keep them up to date on flight purchases, changes in plans, and just to check in to let them know how excited you are to be their new au pair. The anticipation will keep you excited and looking forward to it too.
Being an au pair could be the greatest experience of your life and you’ll never know until you try. Your days can be filled with outings to the park, tutoring a child in English, cooking, and enjoying a new place from the inside. Eventually it will be impossible to forget the tantalizing smells that filled the air, the mesmerizing sights, the decadent cuisine, and the buzz of family life abroad.