How To Find An Au Pair Position

Last week I mentioned that Olive has found an Au Pair position in the South of France, beginning this fall. She’s very excited, and we’re very excited for her.

In response, several readers asked for a post about how Olive found the Au Pair position. I thought that was a great idea for a blog post, so this morning, I interviewed Olive about the process and am sharing her answers here.

If there are any questions you wished I had asked, please leave them in the comments, and Olive will take a look. : )

What websites did you use to search Au Pair options? And how did you find the websites? Are there different websites for different regions of the world?

There does seem to be different websites for different regions — like I remember seeing a specific site for Au Pairs in France. But I didn’t use a regional site. Instead, I did a search for “how to find a host family” and ended up using the first two websites that came up, which were: AuPair.com and GreatAuPair.com. I set up profiles on both of them.

What was the process of setting up a profile? Any tips or info to gather ahead of time? Did you need a resumé?

Both websites have paid programs — you pay $20 a month and you can email families directly. But I didn’t do the paid option.

You put in the dates you want to start, your contact info, and then you write a cover letter where you can tell all about yourself and your babysitting experience. Your whole profile is essentially the cover letter.

You don’t really need a resume, but there’s a place you can add one if you’d like. And you’ll need to know roughly how many hours of babysitting/child care you’ve done.

What experience do you have that made your profile stand out?

The fact that I speak both fluent French and English, and the fact that I’ve done some longer term babysitting — like I’ve been a vacation nanny for a couple of weeks at a time. Also, I’ve done a TON of babysitting hours and taken care of a wide range of ages.

When did you start looking for your Fall 2019 position?

Way too early! November 2018 was when I first made my account.

Once the profile was done, how long until people reached out?

Well, it was mostly me reaching out. It works like this: You search on the website for the type of position you are looking for. For example, you can search “all families in France who need au pairs from April 2019 or later”. Then, when you find a family that seems like a good fit, you add the family to your favorites.

If the family adds you to their favorites, then you can message each other. Otherwise, you have to wait until a family adds you to their favorites or reaches out to you.

So I would favorite any family that looked like a fit. Then, if they favorited me back, I would reach out right away.

Starting in November in 2018, I would check the site and favorite new families every two weeks or so. But there wasn’t much action until April 2019, because most families just weren’t ready to look for Au Pairs for the fall yet.

I remember you first talked with some families in China, what happened there?

Yes. For a few months, I got very interested in taking an Au Pair position in China. I did searches through the same websites. The families in China seemed to be looking earlier than families in Europe.

I ended up Facetime-ing with one family and had some really good conversations. But eventually, I felt that China was so much more unfamiliar, and I decided to focus my search on Europe instead.

How many emails and chats until the current family said yes?

We messaged through AuPair.com probably seven times. And then, the mother gave me her number and email info and we Facetimed three times. The first call was just with the parents. The second call was with the parents and their children. The third call was with the host family parents and my parents too.

It seems like after months of no action, all of a sudden, you had 3 offers (Berlin, Paris, and the South of France). Is it a timing thing? Are families just now looking for their Fall 2019 Au Pairs?

I think that it was definitely timing. Suddenly everyone in Europe was looking for their fall Au Pair.

What about a contract? How do you protect yourself?

One thing is the age range for Au Pairs is 18-30 (in France, age 17 is okay but there are extra papers you need). So a key thing is just making sure you’re an adult. I’ll be 18 at the end of August, and my position starts the next week.

There are good safety instructions on the websites — and there were spam alerts sometimes when I would message a family because they weren’t legitimate. There are also instructions on types of email addresses to avoid.

The websites offer a basic Au Pair contract you can use. But France is a little different — the French government actually has an Au Pair contract you have to use. The contract has a place where the host family spells out the details — like if you’ll have your own room, amount of pocket money, and any other perks.

With the French Au Pair contract, if you can’t demonstrate you speak (good enough) French, you have to take a French class.

Were the agreements pretty similar for the three positions you were offered? How do you know if you’re getting a fair rate?

Yes, the three agreements were pretty similar, but it’s really up to you and what you’re willing to do, and what resources the family has access to. Each family may offer totally different things. One might offer no pocket money, just room and board. (Though for France, the host family is required to offer pocket money.) You might have your own room, your own bathroom, or even your own apartment. They family might offer to pay transportation within the city. You might have to buy your own plane ticket. You might only need to work a few hours each day. It’s really up to you and the family.

What are pay ranges and benefits like? Do you get days off?

In Europe, pocket money offers can range from $120 Euros to $400 Euros per month. You are typically offered a Metro Pass or other transportation within the city. You are typically offered your own room. Most of the time, you are offered your own bathroom (but I will be sharing a bathroom with the kids).

For some families, they want it set up like you’re like a sibling — you eat with the family and share the home. For other families, it’s more like you’re an employee. My position is more family style. And when the kids have school breaks, I’ll have an Au Pair break too.

What about a Visa?

This is different for every country, so you have to look it up and figure it out.

For France, you need to make an appointment with a French Embassy office. Luckily, we have one in San Francisco, but when we lived in Colorado we had to travel to Los Angeles to get to a French Embassy for a visa appointment.

At the appointment, you have the Au Pair contract signed by the family and signed by you. You need to show savings and financial documents — your own or your parents. You need to show that you are registered for a French class, or show that you speak French. There are forms and documents you can find online.

How do you plan to make friends? Are you worried you’ll be lonely? What are you most nervous about?

I’m probably most nervous about making friends, because I don’t quite know how i’m going to do that yet. But the good news is I’m moving to a college town (Montpellier), so I’m hoping I can take some classes — especially art or fashion classes — and meet friends that way. I would love to do that. I’ll check out the church there too. And I hope I’ll become good friends with my host family as well.

What are you most excited about?

Getting to explore a new region of the world! A new city! I’ve never been to Montpellier and have only spent two weeks in the south of France, so it will feel new to me.

Plus I’m excited about being back in Europe where everything is so close. In fact, I’m hoping to travel on my breaks. There are $30 plane tickets to Malta! There’s a $10 bus to Barcelona!

When do you head out? Will you be coming back for Christmas? Graduation?

I’ll head out the last week of August and start my Au Pair position the first week of September. I hope to come back for both Christmas and for Graduation in May. Definitely I’ll come back for Christmas, and we’ll see if Graduation works out with my schedule. The position ends in July when the school year ends.

Speaking of graduation, if you’re skipping your senior year of high school, how will you be able to graduate?

Well, I only need three classes in order to graduate and I’m taking them this summer. I’m taking a PE class (ballet) and an English class at Laney College. It’s a local community college, and because I registered through my high school, I don’t have to pay to take the classes. Both classes start this Monday and end on July 26th. I also need a Gov/Econ class. I’m taking that one through BYU’s online classes (Maude did the same class when she moved to Paris).

I want to finish the online class by the time I finish Ballet and English. That way I’ll be completely done with high school before I move to France.

——–

Thank you, Olive! That was awesome.

Here are a few notes from my point of view as a parent of the Au Pair:

-This search was totally Olive led. She would give us updates once in awhile, but I didn’t know what websites she was using, and really was not involved at all until she was ready for me and Ben Blair to Facetime with the family.

-You may remember that Maude did something similar (skipped her senior year and was an Au Pair in Paris instead). But she didn’t find her position through a website (it was via word of mouth).

-We didn’t take Maude to Paris and help her get settled, but wish we had. (Sorry Maude! We’re learning!) So we’re making plans to take Olive. It will be either Ben or me (or both if we can find childcare). We want to go and meet the family in person, and help Olive set up her room — it’s almost like setting up a dorm room or first apartment. We want to get to know the town a bit and be able to picture where she is.

Okay. I think that wraps it up. Again, if you have additional questions for Olive, please leave them in the comments. And if you have tips to add, or other advice, be sure to leave that in the comments as well. I’d also like to hear if your kids are interested in trying something like this, or if you were an Au Pair yourself.

26 thoughts on “How To Find An Au Pair Position”

  1. What a wonderful opportunity! Glad your earlier French adventures gave her that language ability and confidence. Bon voyage!

  2. Hello Olive,
    Thank you very much for this, it was very interesting to read (for my daughters later on). And Montpellier is simply fascinating and beautiful I am sure you’ll love it. And I’ll have an eye for an update here on the site.
    I have one question to Gabrielle, why do you wish you had accompanied Maude when she moved to Paris? When I was 19 I found a roommate in Paris and just moved, my parents didn’t think about it any further. I found it exciting all by myself. But I am not sure I would let my daughters move to some place with unknown people. I’d be curious to hear your thoughts about this meandering line of letting go and support. Or maybe a link to the matching post if I missed it. Have a nice Mimi

    1. Good questions, Mimi. I think Maude would agree with you that it was exciting doing it all on her own. But we had regrets — perhaps because a roommate situation is different than an Au Pair situation, because when the Au Pair is young, the host family takes on some of the role of caretaker.

      In our case, we know we want to meet the whole family in person. And we’re also mindful of something we learned early on as parents: we like to publicly shower our kids with affection whenever we are putting them in the care of another adult — a babysitter, or a teacher, or a coach, etc.. We’ve found people are likely to treat our kids with more care if they know our kids are loved and treasured. Do you know what I mean? Maude ended up having a good experience, but I remembering wishing we had done that for her.

      The other thing is that of course the contract is there to make sure everyone is in agreement, but we found that there were some things we couldn’t predict until Maude was living there, and wouldn’t have known to bring them up in a contract. So we want to see Olive settled in, and make sure she understands exactly what her days will be like, so that she can confidently negotiate any unforeseen issues right from the beginning.

      Of course, we’re confident she’ll be fine if we don’t end up being able to take her. And I’m sure we’d feel differently if she was 22 instead of just finishing her junior year of high school. But right now, based on Maude’s experience, our instinct is to accompany Olive to France.

      1. “And we’re also mindful of something we learned early on as parents: we like to publicly shower our kids with affection whenever we are putting them in the care of another adult — a babysitter, or a teacher, or a coach, etc.. We’ve found people are likely to treat our kids with more care if they know our kids are loved and treasured.”

        This is SO wise and true. I have always done this with my children too.

      2. Dear Gabrielle,
        Thank you so much for answering all my questions, not just one but actually many… making sure other caretakers know how your kids are treasured and loved… How wonderful that you support your daughter in this way. All the best, Mimi

  3. How fun! I hope Olive has the best time.

    My cousin (originally from NY) and his family live in Montpellier. He has three kids ranging in age from 10-15. If Olive needs a local contact, I’d be happy to share their info with her.

  4. Oh this is fascinating and what a wonderful opportunity!!

    Question – so did your host family pay for your ticket to come over there? Or is that something you have to pay for yourself?

    As the mom of a everything-France loving teen, I could totally see my daughter being potentially interested in something like this someday.

    All the best wishes Olive!

    1. Hey Melissa!

      My flights between France and the US are the one thing I have to pay for myself, the French family will take care of all the rest such as transportation within the city, room and board etc. :)

      1. This is so exciting! I worked as an Au Pair in the South of France as well (Monaco) and making friends was surprisingly easy because all of the Au Pairs hung out and went out together. We met each other through the families were worked for and would spend all of our off time together. It was life changing and SO much fun. Good luck!!

  5. We are have been hosting our first au pair, from Germany, since this past October. In fact, her parents and boyfriend are visiting with us right now from Germany. We treat her as an adult (no curfew) but also let her know we care, ie asking for travel details when she is heading out of town or to notify us if she is sleeping at a friends so we do not worry. We had some gifts for her when she arrived, (Target gift card, American flag soccer ball, a bathrobe) and she brought a few things for our young girls also. We keep a common calendar where I write her schedule down, and I notify her verbally if there are any last minute changes. We also discuss any time off/travel she wants to take in advance so that we can both make arrangements. We really love her and will be sad to see her leave! In the US au pairs going through an agency can stay up to 2 years but have to return home after 2. I hope she has a wonderful experience!

  6. Congrats on finding a good host family Olive! I’ve been a host mum in Australia for a little over a year and we are currently hosting our 3rd au pair. It can be such an amazing connection when both parties are keen for it. I know these wonderful, strong, smart, caring young women will be a part of our lives for years to come. We are already figuring out travel to Austria to see one of them again!

    I reckon you’ll connect with other au pairs; as an expat myself and seeing our au pairs make friends, there’s a natural gravitation to people in the same boat as you. We found our gals through AIFS and they have a WhatsApp group for au pairs and another for host families. This has been super helpful for them to find friends and have their own community.

    There’s also no words to accurately express the level of gratitude I feel for these young women caring for my sons. The bond they have is something I’ve seen all of them work hard at and the love is genuine. It’s a truly unique bond and I know they are in the absolute best hands when I leave for work every day.

    One last thing: boundaries for you are super important. As parents, the line between caring for kids and just being home is basically non existent. You’ll have to decide when you need your own space and be okay with saying no at times. I can’t speak to the host family but for us, we are never upset when our gal needs to enforce a boundary.

    Best of luck Olive!!

  7. Nicole Durkin

    This is going to sound terrible, but we got a “deal” on our au pair because we were her third family. The first family she stayed with the mother became jealous of her realtionship with the kids, so after 2 months they said they could no longer afford her. The next family had 3 low functioning autistic children and after 3 months they said they could no longer afford her as well. We hosted our au pair for 7 months and I LOVED having another set of hands in the house to help with my four children (including a new born). We still keep in touch with her and exchange Christmas gifts none years later!!! I think we paid her $200/a month and a placement fee of $3500. We also had to pay for a college level course for her to take. It was a wonderful experience.

  8. Hi Olive,

    You will have a wonderful experience! I’ve read your mom’s blog for a few years now, and admire your strength and determination. I was a nanny in the US for about 6 months. It was between careers in my early 30s. I loved the children and would not change that part, although the parents were difficult, unreasonably demanding, and unpredictable at times. They were also very generous at other times. So as with everything in life, there was some light and some dark.

    I’d echo a previous commenter’s point about really setting clear boundaries upfront. For example, what hours are you expected to be with the children, what days? If that changes and you take care of them for additional time/days, will you be given other time off?

    I wish you a wonderful time! If you decide to take a trip to Southern Netherlands, I’d be happy to meet you or show you around (if I’m home)!

    p.s. Gabrielle, I totally get escorting Olive, having clear parental support always makes a difference! The invite for the Netherlands is for you too!

  9. We had a couple au pairs when I was a child over the summers. They were great. We kept in touch over the years. We even went to Poland for one of their weddings years later!

  10. Curious if you have a sense of whether boys do this as well, and if other kinds of experience (coaching younger kids in sports, for example) are also useful

  11. How exciting! Best wishes for a fabulous trip, Olive!

    Gabby – I’ve heard and believe the same. People tend to treat kiddos better when they see their family pour on the love.

  12. Olive, I applaud your gumption to figure out how to spend the year in France and skip your senior year. The only part of this that bothers me is your reference to “pocket money”. This is hard-earned salary that you deserve in addition to room and board. The range you quoted seems far too low. I know you will “only” be 18, but I bet you’ll bring tons of energy and creativity to the household and the children will love you. You will be indispensable to the family. If it isn’t too late, maybe try and get your salary increased so you can take advantage of all those cheap flights and the wonderful food and gelato.

  13. It is really interesting to read how this works now. I was an au-pair in the nineties and it was totally different pre-cell phones and internet! I generally had a positive experience but I can remember being very homesick as my family didn’t want me to phone long distance on their phone and it wasn’t always easy to get to the pay phone – guess nobody has that problem now!

  14. I worked as an au pair in the South of France when I was 17, loved it so much I did 2 more placements, also in the South of France but different cities. I can honestly say it was the best time of my life! I loved it so much I spent a year of my university course in France (I’m from the UK) and met my now husband, lived for 2 years in Nice before we moved to the UK.
    Living with a family from another country gives you such a unique insight into their way of life and is an experience like no other. I’d definitely say join a yoga class (or whatever) or do a college course to meet friends and try to explore the whole of the area in your time off – trains are relatively cheap there. Nimes Avignon, Marseille, Cannes, Nice, Antibes all beautiful and definitely worth visiting. Oh and Carcassonne – a medieval walled city near Montpellier is out of this world!
    Oh to be 18 again! Have the best time!

  15. I just did a two week intensive French course in Montpellier, and the area is so, so lovely. She shouldn’t worry about making friends, there are so many college age kids around, and it’s a small city where it’s very easy to meet people. Excited to hear more about her experience!

  16. Good luck, Olive! I was an au pair (found my position through Greataupair.com) for an American family (not planned) in the Netherlands 16 years ago! I LOVED it. I really wanted to learn a language however, so in retrospect, I wish I had chosen a country and city where English is not so widely known. It meant that everyone spoke English to me and I had no need to learn the language (I did end up learning a little, but not as much as I would have liked). We are hoping to hire a French Au pair in about a year so that we can all work on the language (we’d like to move to France at some point soon).

    Question: What was your experience in terms of the non-childcare work that is expected? With the position I had it was very ad-hoc (I would prepare the occasional dinner, help with light house work, but there wasn’t anything formal that was my responsibility outside of childcare). what will the expectations be for you in France and what did you learn as you talked with other families about what they would expect?

  17. I’m late to this conversation, and this question may be very naive, but are there ever male au pair’s?

  18. Good luck! Looking forward to hearing about it. If it’s the south of France I definitely recommend visiting Nice – it’s a beautiful place. Many fond memories relaxing on the beach, there’s a nice waterfall there too.

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