Well it seems that the run of gorgeous weather here in the UK is over. At least in the South East it is. As I write this it’s currently 16 degrees celsius and raining, a cool 20 degrees cooler than it was two days ago. This post is pretty long so grab a cup of tea and get comfy.
It’s been a busy couple of days for me back home here in Suffolk. I’ve been busy Skyping and having phone calls with potential families over in Paris. I briefly mentioned in my first post that I’ve decided to go down the au pairing route to begin with. I have a friend who has just moved to Amsterdam to do the same thing and after speaking to her it really felt this was the best option. One of the most important things for me when I move to Paris is that I learn French. I eventually want to move back into marketing which is what I was doing in London and I know that to do that my spoken and written French needs to be pretty strong. Au Pairing will allow me to have free time during the day to attend French lessons whilst also living with a French family who can help me slowly learn the language. It’s no doubt a great way to get integrated into a new culture too, you’re living with a family from that country, looking after their children and getting out and about in the community. There’s also opportunity to meet other au pairs who are in the same boat at the school gates, I think there is even a Facebook group for au pairs in the area I’m moving to!
Now, how do you go about finding a family? I was recommended Great Au Pair by my friend so I started there. I created a profile and got searching but wasn’t finding the results I wanted. As we do with everything these days I decided to head to Google and do some looking around. I stumbled across another site called Au Pair World and really liked it, I set myself up on there and immediately starting having better results. The signing up process is pretty straight forward and I was up and running in no time. The website also has loads of helpful tips from identifying if a family are genuine, how much you can expect in ‘pocket money’ (I’ll explain more later) to best practice. At first I was set on being in central Paris so limited my search to include only families who fell within that area. I also wanted a live in position and it was important that they had hosted au pairs before. As a first-timer myself I thought it would be helpful if I stayed with a family who had some experience.
I started receiving applications pretty quickly and was also working through search results reading profiles and adding families to my ‘favourites’. I think you should definitely make sure you have options but not too many as this can become overwhelming. It seemed that being slightly older (I’m 27) and having had some experience of the ‘real world’ appealed to a lot of families. Most au pairs are coming straight out of secondary school and aged between 17-20 so often have less experience of responsibility or independence. I’m of course not saying you can’t be responsible or independent at that age, more that I might be approaching the experience with a slightly different mindset. A couple of applications I received were from families who lived in the suburbs of Paris, about 30 mins out of the city centre. At first I wasn’t going to consider these but in the spirit of looking at a broad spectrum of options decided to respond and find out more. You’re able to message a family directly or they you in the first instance to find out more or simply say you like the look of their profile. After a bit of back and forth I arranged to speak to four families on a mixture of Skype and over the phone.
Not going to lie, I was incredibly nervous before the first Skype but the family were lovely and really made me feel at ease. Make sure you find out what is included with being their au pair. This means asking how much you will be given in ‘pocket money’ per month (as they don’t view you as an employee you’re given pocket money rather than payment), what duties they’ll expect you to carry out (picking the children up, cooking dinner, taking to activities etc.) and what hours and days you’ll be needed. Other things you might want to consider are whether they’d provide a phone, travel card or insurance for your belongings. Knowing this will help you be able to budget properly. If like me, you want to learn the language the family will probably be able to recommend local schools or courses you could take.
I talked with the first family for nearly an hour, I spoke to all of the children and it felt very comfortable. I found myself really hoping they’d want me to be their next au pair. I surprised myself a little as they live in a suburb about 30 minutes from Paris and as I said originally I was set on being in the heart of the city. However, having gone through the process and contacting several families I realised who you’ll be living with is far more important than being right in the thick of it. I also reminded myself that in London getting anywhere takes nearly an hour and I managed that for six years so 30mins on a train is nothing at all! Having said that, I knew that I had to speak to all four families. You need to have the chance for comparison to bring about the right decision.
I got on with all of them, but I still felt a real affinity with the first. I looked at all my notes, discussed with my parents and made the decision that I would be happiest with the first family. I popped them a message saying I’d like to au pair with them, sat back and crossed my fingers hoping for a positive reply. Thankfully that’s what I got! We set up another Skype call as I had a couple of questions to ask and it’s also good to start getting more familiar with them. I knew as soon as we started talking again I’d made the right decision. They seem to be such a genuine, friendly and welcoming family. We confirmed my start date and discussed when I would be flying over, most likely Saturday 1st September to start working on the 3rd. I’ve since been sent a contract confirming all the finer details and I’ve started looking at flights…it’s really happening! I was surprised at how quickly everything came together but I found this website made everything very easy and straight forward.
There is a lot to do before then and I’ve no idea how I’m going to fit 9 months worth of clothes into two suitcases and one carry on but I’ll manage somehow. For anyone thinking about au pairing I’d highly recommend taking a look at Au Pair World to answer any questions you might have. I found the website so useful and it helped me know what to ask/find out from prospective families. I think I’ve gone on long enough so that’s all for today, next update coming on Sunday.