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.