Have you ever considering work as an au pair?
An au pair is a nanny for international families. The job can include child care, tutoring, driving and more for the family that you get placed with, and work can be found around the world.
I interviewed Josh, a 22-year old Australian working as an au pair in Germany. He shared some serious insight, so if you want to work as an au pair and get paid to travel, keep reading to find out everything you need to know to land the job!
When you work as an au pair all of these numbers can vary by location and family so you need to be sure to get everything in writing in your contract before you start. These numbers reflect Josh’s experience with a family in Germany in 2018.
Average Income: 250 euros a month + 60 euros per month toward a language course
Free Housing/Utilities: Yes
Tax Free: Yes
Free Healthcare: Yes
Vacation Days: 2 days of paid vacation per month
Certifications Needed: No college degree is necessary, but offering a police clearance can help as you’re working with children. Any other work experience with kids or training can be helpful as well.
Contract Length: 6 months
Finances can vary drastically when you work as an au pair but just know that the numbers are never going to be too high.
One of the main draws of work as an au pair is integrating into the local lifestyle. That means more often that not you’ll live in the family house, share your meals with them, and even use their car. All of those benefits are free of charge, which makes your actual salary go down to accommodate them.
Each country has a different pay rate, but in Germany Josh works less than 20 hours a week for 310 euros per month plus free food, housing, utilities, and use of a car. He was already in Germany when he accepted the job, but it’s also common to negotiate with your family to get part or even all of your flights out to their home city covered.
Other benefits of being an au pair are having plenty of free time if your family goes on vacation, or even the opportunities to travel for free along with them. If you’re uneasy about living in your family’s home, it’s also possible to work with one that provides an off-site apartment for a more private living space.
Taxes can be really tricky when working abroad, so you’ll have to look into that in your home country. Right now, Josh isn’t making enough money to break the tax threshold in Australia so his income is tax-free. His host family also provides insurance through “Au Pair Dr. Walter,” which covers most healthcare options. Again, this is very country specific, and you’ll have to look into each separate situation that you consider.
The salary is pretty low, so it’s hard to save money with the job. Instead, most au pairs use it as a way to see the world for cheap, and travel longer than they otherwise would be able too.
How to Find Work as an Au Pair
Josh recommends using Au Pair World to find a job for two reasons: it’s easy to navigate, and even better, it’s completely free. From there, you can start the application process.
It begins with either you or the family sending a message stating that you’re interested and think you may be a good fit. After that, you can move on to Skype meetings. If you’re applying from within the country you want to work in like Josh was, it can even be possible to schedule in-person meetings before you commit to a family.
I asked Josh for tips on becoming a desirable candidate and he says “you really must be yourself, relax and don’t stress about anything. Ask questions and be interested.” If you have experience or qualifications for working with kids make sure you mention them as well.
And the hardest part of getting the job? Accepting the offer. This is where you need to take the most care to ensure the family is a good fit, and more importantly, that your contract is fair and includes everything you’ve agreed upon.
Some ways to do this are visiting your family before you sign a contract, or contacting previous employees and asking for an honest review of their experience. Once Josh heard their positive recommendations it made it easy to choose the right family for him.
“The contract is also the most important part of your employment, so you need to be incredibly careful with your negotiations. Read it, highlight the potential things you have questions about before signing to clarify it, negotiate if needed and of course mention/include anything that you would like e.g. paid phone bill each month, personal use of car etc. Some families draft up their own contract, some go with the contracts offered on the website. See that the daily tasks are roughly outlined with the working hours stated and don’t get stung!”
Josh shared on example of a friend that’s an au pair and didn’t ask about the pets. Now his friend is stuck watching the family pets every time the family goes out because it was outlined in their contract, but they didn’t double to check to make sure they understood before they signed it.
Be careful to go over each and every task that’s expected and make sure you agree before you sign anything!
Lifestyle When You Work as an Au Pair
So, what does the day to day life of an au pair look like? Josh broke down his schedule for me and it looks like this:
“Every morning I wake up at around 6:45 to be in the kitchen at 7:00 helping the mother prepare the boys lunches.
I make the kids beds, then we all have breakfast together and I ride a bike with the youngest one to school at around 8:00.
After that I go to my language school, then visit the gym usually for an hour and finally return home for some lunch with the family.
When the youngest is finished at around 3:00 I go with my bike to pick him up. This is where my work usually starts every day.
From about 3:00– 6:00 I help the parents drive the boys to and from sports. They are a very active family and the main requirement for the au pair job was to be a driver. I also mind the kids on a couple weeknights and usually one weekend night.”
So, the workload doesn’t look too bad, but what if you want to travel?
I asked Josh how easy it is to take vacation, and he shared that it’s not usually a problem as long as he schedules it with the family a month in advance. You can also get approval for special holidays, events, or trips you may already have planned for the future when applying with your family and ironing out the contract. He’s already explored some of the major nearby cities and has visits to Berlin, the Netherlands, and France marked on the calendar.
Josh was given his own bedroom in the house with an ensuite bathroom and feels safe in the neighborhood. Of course, one of the best things about traveling is the food, and working abroad as an au pair is no different. His meals usually consist of breads, meats, and chases for breakfast, and hot meal at lunch, and more charcuterie or cooked dishes at dinner. Yum!
At the beginning of a contract living with a family can take a little getting used to, but Josh quickly found a work/life balance. He has no problem recharging in his room, hanging out with the boys to play games outside of work, or making plans with other au pairs in the area based on the local tips and suggestions of his family.
Work as an Au Pair: Josh’s Experience
Many people work as an au pair to extend their travels and supplement their language learning. Josh agrees that work as an au pair is “the best way to explore a culture and to see other countries in Europe without breaking too much of the bank.”
After working as an au pair for two months he recommends it for those who are looking for the same lifestyle. You won’t be able to earn and save a lot of money, but you will definitely become immersed in the culture, kickstart your language learning, and get some great experience working with children.
Josh says another bonus he didn’t expect is that “I have made some amazing friends from community pages setup on Facebook. It’s a great way to meet people from all around the world.”
Surprisingly for him, one of the biggest downfalls is how close he has come to his family and how difficult it will be to say goodbye when his contract ends. “It’s going to be sad to have to leave one day… but life goes on and the boys become older.”
Work as an au pair isn’t a permanent position for most people, but a way to extend travels and stay abroad longer. Josh plans to use his savings to continue backpacking through Europe for 3 or 6 months after his first contract ends, then sign up for one more au pair stint in Germany to complete his language courses before he heads home.
Work as an Au Pair for Language and Cultural Immersion
Out of all of the jobs in the working abroad series, working as an au pair pays the least. However, it also is the best ways to learn a language, get involved with a local culture, and make friends and connections that last a lifetime.
It’s all about what you are looking for in both your travels and career at the moment. If you’re not ready to jump into a full-time position or just want a way extend your backpacking trip without taking on too much responsibility, working as an au pair could be a perfect role for you.
PS still exploring your options? Visit the Working Abroad Series to learn more ways to make money while you travel and find in-depth guides to teaching ESL online classes, starting a digital marketing business, getting a job as a flight attendant, finding work as a translator, landing a full-time position teaching in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, breaking into freelance writing, or even working on a yacht!