I am 24 years old and come from Indonesia. For most people in my country, or even in whole Asia, Au Pair programs are really unknown. “What’s that?” people generally ask me.
For me, going to and living in France had always been a dream because I have been studying French Literature for a couple of years at university. I’m too in love with French arts and culture. I love to travel and face challenges, so being an au pair was interesting.
As of September 2010, I started to look for a host family on AuPairWorld. It’s the best website I’ve ever seen. But actually, it wasn’t that easy to find a family. I needed a long-term visa, which is always complicated to apply for when going to France. That’s why a lot of families prefer hosting someone from Europe: they don’t need one.
But I didn’t give up. After two months of research, I found a host family living in Caen, Normandy, France, which is only two hours away from Paris. We met on Skype and they accepted me as their new au pair. They have two beautiful girls: Lily, 4 and Mina, 2. So, I arrived in Paris and went to Caen! I was so excited! I had never been to Europe before!
All I can say is, the first month was a disaster! Maybe Asian people could understand what I mean because most of the testimonials on AuPairWorld are from America and Europe. I mean, I know that every country has its own character, but maybe we can say that the culture, the lifestyle or the living costs between Europe and America are not so different.
But Asia and Europe are: Indonesia and France are 100% different. The kid’s attitude, the weather, the culture, the food, the house tools, the mentalities, the traffic rules, etc. are absolutely DIFFERENT. Can you imagine how you feel when you go to a country where you don't know anyone and whose lifestyle is the opposite of yours? It’s like living in another world!
I don’t want to lie and say you’ll be happy all the time during your au pair stay. Nope. All you need is bravery. This is a challenge. After two months, I tried everything by myself in order to get adapted to all things in our house and in a community. I was becoming so independent and tough!
And the results were positive: I had a lot of French friends from my university (I had French classes everyday), I was getting closer to my host kids, my French skills were extremely better and I was getting great at cooking. I enjoyed my life! My host family was so kind and I loveeeeed my host kids so much. I took them to the park almost every day after school, we picnicked together or we just drew at home.
I remember that I had never enjoyed my life like I did in France. I felt so free, independent, and open-minded there. I traveled a lot across Normandy – they had borrowed me a car that I could always use. France is a very beautiful country when you explore it. I mean it.
I also had big responsibilities with the kids at home as well as in class, but I enjoyed it. I'm not lying when I say this: I traveled to 10 countries in Europe during my stay. I did backpacking so it was not expensive. I don’t know why I was lucky, but I was always free during the weekend, the holidays, etc. My family really understood me; they gave me a lot of free time to travel because they thought it was important I stay happy.
After nine months in Caen, it was time for me to leave and go back to Indonesia. My host family took me to the train station. Lily cried. But the most impressive thing was Mina, who was crying so loudly and even asked me to stay. She was so sad. I was crying in the deepest of my heart. I loved them so much. I didn’t want to leave, but I had to.
I admit that 2011 was the best year of my life: France, Europe, my host family, my friends, the beautiful buildings and houses, historic places, cold air, snow, nice people in Caen, driving to the Normandy beaches, French cheese, and what have you. I really really want to go back. I still miss Lily and Mina, my host kids. Sometimes I skype with them. Oh, these experiences are priceless...
I now speak much better French than before, and I’m working for one of Indonesia's French institutes. My year in France was really worth it. Believe me, it’s unforgettable and very useful – if you make the best of it – for your future life.