I worked as an au pair in Germany from January 2009 to December 2009 in a small town in South Germany, in the federal state of Baden-Württemberg.
I had been abroad twice before my au pair experience. But those stays were just two short-time experiences, both in Europe. I could already speak French and English, so my country decision to apply as an au pair was a country where I would be able to learn a new foreign language. I had studied 3 months of German, but I knew it was not enough, so I decided to study by myself.
I was "found" by my host family in September 2008. They sent me an e-mail and a lot of photos, and also their profile on AuPairWorld. The first time I saw the kids' pictures, I was sure that I should take care of them. I was only a bit concerned about the fact that they lived in a small town. But as it was clear in their profile that it was 15 min near the biggest city I calmed down, and decided to continue the contact. Just a few weeks later, after some e-mails and some phone calls I received the au pair contract. So I had to go to the nearest German consulate to have all the visa, documents and interviews done.
At my first test at the consulate, I failed the German oral test... I didn't give up, and one month later I tried again and then I passed! I was so excited about it! I had already started searching about the region I was going to live in, and I continued studying German until the day of my big adventure. So finally the day arrived and after a lot of trouble with my flight (I had an overbooking, both of my flights were too late, they lost my luggage...) I landed in Frankfurt. My first challenge was buying a train ticket to my city.
At first the weather in Germany really confused me. It was cold, snowy and dark. I was not used to it, but after two weeks I was feeling more comfortable. I was taking care of three kids. I used to take care and play with the youngest ones (three and one year old). They were really kind and polite, and they even learned to sing some songs in Portuguese. :) And then in the afternoon, after we had lunch together (and with their mother too), I was free to attend the German course and take care of my things.
The family respected my schedule, and I had a good relationship with both parents. I travelled with them twice: to Austria and to France. The family was half French, half German, and that helped me not only to learn German, but also to improve my French language skills. In my free time, I used to travel a lot during the weekends, and also to meet some friends. At the beginning, I had only Brazilian friends, but after some months I met some nice German people and I had an awesome time with them. This was really important to me. Because to get in touch with people was the way I could also get in touch with the German culture. I had the opportunity to take two German courses during my stay.
This experience completely changed my life and the way I used to see it. Being an au pair in a foreign country gave me a new perspective of the world. I can't wait to get back to Germany to visit my host family and all my friends. After the return to my homeland, I got an internship at the German Chamber of Commerce. So I can say I have really improved my German language skills in Germany.
I recommend everybody who has an open mind and - most importantly - an open heart to become an au pair. :)