„My host family was gorgeous“
Miriam from Australia chose Ireland as her host country. She never regretted her choice and even found herself a second family there.
I spent two months au pairing in Dublin during July and August 2011, and had a brilliant experience. I used the EasyFind on AuPairWorld to find a family, but also searched manually and sent a lot of messages to try to find the family most suited to me, because the EasyFind didn't take starting month or length of stay into consideration.
I narrowed it down to two likely looking families, one in Germany and one in Ireland. We used email to sort out basic details, then skyped to get a better idea of each other. They both seemed lovely but the pay was higher in Ireland! In the week or two leading up to my flight to Dublin, I began making lists of activities I enjoyed as a child, recipes kids could master, games that could lure them outside when they didn't want to go out.
When I got to Dublin, the family met me and I was very relieved - the parents were super lovely and the kids very vibrant. It was a summer holidays job, so my routine was to basically mind the children from when the parents left until they came home. We played games, did art, went for walks to the park or shops and played with other neighbourhood kids. I vacuumed and mopped the kitchen/living area each day and the rest of the house once a week. I did the washing up during the day and occasionally took down the dry clothes.
My main problem was keeping the kids in line - it was my first Au Pairing experience, so I was unsure about how to impose my own rules without intruding on the family's routines, etc. And the kids fought over toys quite often, but usually compromising worked fairly well. The kids weren't huge fans of going outdoors or playing games, so I found it much easier to entertain them when their friends were around, as I could include their friends in activities and the kids would then want to take part much more.
I had heaps of time off - I got weekends and evenings off unless the parents were going out, and usually one day during the week when the kids' grandma would take them out. In my bags of spare time I explored Dublin City (which is a traveler's dream-it's literally set up for tourists) and some other cities like Kilkenny and Cork. Dublin is an incredibly friendly city.
One Sunday morning I stumbled across the Temple Bar Book Markets and just chatted to as stall-holder for half an hour. I took some coach tours on the weekends to the Wicklow Mountains and the Eastern Coast, which are both beautiful. Ireland is probably the easiest country to get around in, with an awesome and cheap public transport system.
My host family was brilliant - they were happy if I made my own plans or spent weekends with them. I went to the coast with them one weekend which was fun, and I met a lot of their extended family who all made me feel very welcome. As I was working in an English speaking country, I didn't get to learn/improve my other language skills, although I did learn all of my LUAS (tram) stops and a bunch of road signs in Irish! All public signs are written in Irish first and then English, and when I was able to understand them without looking at the English, I felt like a true traveler rather than tourist!!
Facebook is a great tool for keeping in touch with people you meet while working - it's how I keep in touch with my host family and a number of friends I met in Dublin. I'm still in contact with them and planning to visit again before I go home to Australia! It was a really really really great experience, I've recommended Au pairing & AuPairWorld to friends, and I'd love to Au Pair again.