My name is Sarah, I'm a nineteen-year-old girl from Germany. Last year in August I went to my first au pair family in Ireland. I had met them here at AuPairWorld and skyped with the mother and the family's previous au pair a couple of times. They sounded nice and I accepted the job as I had already been searching for a family for about two months.
Looking back, their welcome should already have tipped me off. My host father picked me up from the airport telling me that his wife was at work and that he would also have to go back to work. He drove me to their house, gave me the keys and code for the internet access, and quickly showed me around their house. It was probably for the best that he had picked me up, because he proved to be the friendliest member of the family.
I had a good start, but then things started to spiral downwards
He was really kind and helpful towards me. However, unfortunately he had left the handling of the au pair to his wife and so things began to spiral downwards very soon. I had to look after a nine-year-old girl and they had told me that I had to do some housework throughout the week, as well. The child was spoiled in my opinion and only wanted to watch TV or play Sims on the computer. Occasionally you could play tennis with her in the garden as she went for tennis coaching.
Ironing for the whole family, cleaning the house: this is not what au pairing is about
Some housework turned out to be hoovering and sweeping, dusting and polishing on a daily basis on either the ground or upper floor. The latter included the cleaning of the bathrooms which had two bath tubs, a shower and loads of mirrors. Once every week I had to clean the glass doors and do the ironing for the whole family.
It hadn't started like that, at all. I had to hoover and sweep the floors from the very first day and was also told to do most of the ironing. At first, I agreed. However, the mom kept adding more and more tasks, making it look as if they were a one-off thing first, but later telling me that I would have to assume them on a regular basis. „If you find any time, could you please...“ became the code for a new task. I refused to clean their oven at some point. Sometimes I didn't react to that at all and just told her that I had to take her daughter to the bus. When I came back, she had already gone. I just never did it.
They didn't want me in their house over the weekend
The father was nice to me and the oldest son was polite, but everyone else was rather dismissive. After dinner the mother told me that I was allowed to go to my room, as I no longer had to look after her daughter at that time of the day. I got more and more frustrated because, although she knew how to sound interested and generate the right sounds at the right time, her disinterest towards me was more than obvious. The family didn't want me in the house during the weekend apart from sleeping and maybe eating there. The weekend was family time and I clearly didn't belong to them.
Finding a solution was actually difficult for me
I found it outrageous. As they were living in a seaside village, you had to cycle to the next town and get a coach that would take you to Dublin in about an hour or anywhere else you wanted to go to. With a Leapcard a return ticket would cost eleven euros – quite a price just to get away from them. They didn't even pay me that well. It was acceptable and I could make ends meet but I met some au pairs who didn't work as much as I did and earned more money.
Around November I told them that I didn't want to come back after my stay in Germany, as the family had told me from the start that I would have to leave them over Christmas. I knew that the mother didn't like me anyway, but she booked a Ryanair flight back home for me and when they drove me to the airport I simply felt relieved. When I told her that I wasn't coming back after Christmas I began to search for another family. I reactivated my profile here and found my current host family two weeks later. This time, I would be off to Britain, where I would have preferred to have gone to in the first place, as one of my school friends is volunteering in the area around Birmingham. I have no objections to Ireland, though. It is a beautiful country and definitely worth a visit.
More detailed questions about their expectations
During the skype calls with my new host family it became clear that we seemed to have the same expectations and it proved to be right. Although my first experience wasn't that nice I really wanted to give it another try. I thirsted for the experience of living abroad and always liked the English language very much so I was determined and didn't want to be defeated that easily. However, this time I asked my host family about their expectations much more openly and also told them what I wouldn't want to do (not as much housework as in Ireland, for example) and discussed this topic in more depth than I did with my previous host family. If you don't have the same attitude towards being/having an au pair it just won't work out.
The first weekend: my new host family showed me important places to go
After celebrating Christmas and New Year's Eve with my family in Germany I caught another plane. This time to Manchester were I would need to take a train to Lancaster. I arrived in the evening and all family members picked me up from the train station. We had dinner together and they showed me around the house. The first weekend with them was wonderful as they showed me the city center, how to get to school and all of the other important places. They also registered me with their local library and showed me where I could take English classes.
Now I am looking after a five-year-old girl who is being brought up to be bilingual. I talk to her and her father in German and English to her mother. In the first week it was really quite hard for me to switch between languages, but now, after almost four months, I am really good at it. I can tell everyone who is searching for a host family that this is nothing to be intimidated by. Yes, you have to get used to it, but it is a really useful skill in my opinion.
I am really happy here
I get along very well with my host family. They are interested in me as a person, treat me with respect and not as a servant as it was the case with my first family. Their daughter and I are great team players. She is determined and can be a handful if she wants to, but all in all she's a joy to look after. I am really happy here and am even thinking about staying for a longer period of time than originally planned.