Last August, I left my own rainy country for exotic England. And no, I didn't move to London, Liverpool, Manchester or one of the other larger cities in England. I live in Aldershot, a smallish town that is about an hour's drive away from London.
When future au pairs look for a host family, they usually look for families in larger cities. And this does make sense. There is a lot to do in those cities, and there is a good chance that you will find plenty of other au pairs to talk to. Besides, young girls and boys have this image in their heads of what their life will look like living in the centre of London and walking the kids to school past Big Ben. Or they have some other romanticised view of what life as an au pair should look like.
A different perspective
And that is all good and well. Finding a host-family in a big city is easy. But I think au pairs that choose to live in a big city are missing out on some very important things.
Now, I grew up in a small town in the Netherlands, and all I wanted was to leave that town. There were so many amazing things to do in larger cities, and there really wasn't anything to do near where I lived. I couldn't imagine ever wanting to live in a town like that. But now that I'm living in an equally small town in England, I couldn't be happier. I still love getting on the train or taking my car to visit other places, but I also feel a sense of relief whenever I see the sign that welcomes me back to Aldershot.
Here are three reasons why every au pair should seriously think about choosing a small town:
- It's not as overwhelming
Adjusting to a new family, new culture and new country can be very overwhelming, especially if this is your first time not living with your parents. Throw in all the things that happen in a big city and you might just find yourself on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
- It's cheaper
Living in a city is expensive. In Aldershot, I can go out and get a full English breakfast for less than four pounds. I don't even want to think about how much that same meal would cost me in London. In a small town, you get more for your money and that is important because as an au pair, you don't earn that much and you are going to want to save as much as possible for fun things to do on the weekend.
- It's more of a cultural experience
Because I live in a small town, I can actually experience real day-to-day life in England. As much as I love London, there are thousands of tourists walking around there and it doesn't actually show you how people live their lives in England.
Another reason why you should want to be an au pair in a small town is that people look after each other. If you lose the kids (which I don't recommend doing, but sometimes they just run away, and it can't be helped), there will always be someone that knows them and can take them back to you.
Now, I'm lucky in that Aldershot has a lot of au pairs. I've talked to other girls in small towns and some of them don't have any au pairs living near them. This can make it harder because you’ll actually have to explain to people what it means to be an au pair and complaining about the kids and parents won't be the same. On the other hand, this also means that you get even more of a cultural experience because you'll be hanging out with the natives (if you leave your bedroom, that is).
All in all, I would say that living in a small town instead of a big city is one of the best things you can do if you want an authentic cultural experience or to study the language under the best conditions. And I thoroughly recommend it to everyone that is considering a year abroad as an au pair.
About the author:
Maartje van Sandwijk is a twenty-two year old freelance translator by day and writer by night. Hufflepuff, feminist, vegan and lover of coffee, good books, art and travelling. Check out her blog: https://caffeinatedchapters.com/