Host dad Ferdinand describes his family's au pair. "The biggest problem for us was that, despite giving her prior notice that she should be able to drive a car, it completely overwhelmed her! We'd told her beforehand how important it was for our au pair to have a driving licence, as all the activities our kids do require a trip in the car to get to. But she had a terrible fear of driving and cried a lot about it. Despite this, we still allowed her to drive in the hope that she would quickly get used to driving again and build up her confidence."
Here, the host family has presumably only asked whether their au pair has a driving licence, and not about their driving experience, which is what really matters most to the family. Therefore, make a note of everything that is important to you and your family and make sure to ask your au pair about these things beforehand. The same obviously applies to au pairs. We've compiled a list of important questions for au pairs and host families.
If lines are crossed, taking the decision that host dad Ferdinand finally did, to change au pairs, is often the best solution. "I wouldn't want to repeat this. I can only imagine what may have happened! After a few months we ended her au pair stay, as she began to publicly bad-mouth us on Facebook - that was unacceptable for us."
We at AuPairWorld consider it to be particularly important that the changeover is fair, and that both parties talk to each other about it, respecting each others views. At least two weeks notice should also be given, giving both parties the time to find a new au pair and host family.
Host mum Noelia recalls taking on her first au pair. "We didn't ask for references from the au pair or do lots of cross-questioning to figure out whether we were being told the truth.“
Host mum Noelia shares her family's experience with other au pairs. "It is important to be well informed - even as an au pair! Speak to the family on the phone more than once, chat over skype and try to get in touch with the family's previous au pair if possible. We can't emphasise enough that it is REALLY IMPORTANT to be well informed before choosing a host family."
Our tip: Many host families send a small questionnaire to all the au pairs they are interested in. After that they decide which au pair is best suited to their family, and then continue frequently communicating with their chosen person. It often takes one or two long chats beforehand, to properly introduce yourselves and share important issues with one another, so take your time. Have a read of our How to's and FAQs, and make sure you are well prepared by noting down some questions of your own in advance. The same applies to au pairs.
In a foreign language an au pair can feel quite insecure at the beginning, thus in general it's helpful if the host family takes the au pair under their wing at the beginning of their stay, and helps them to integrate into their new surroundings.
Au pair Sofia wanted to learn Castillian in Spain, but didn't realise that her chosen family in the Basque country spoke Basque. "These evenings are very sociable and fun, well, if you can speak Basque! Because unfortunately that is a whole new language in itself, which has absolutely nothing to do with normal Spanish. People told me that attending a Basque course at a language school would be a waste of time, so after a month I still didn't understand a word of what was said to me. People didn't take this into account and simply didn't speak to me. I didn't really feel integrated."
To ensure that both au pairs and host families can begin their au pair adventure by being well prepared, AuPairWorld has made a lot of important information accessible to its' users. Have a look for example at important key words in the Au Pair A-Z, information on host countries and visa regulations under Info host countries, and tips for a safe au pair stay under Security. Always inform yourself beforehand about the customs and traditions of not only the country you will be in, but also your specific region. And make sure to discuss with your host parents exactly what your duties will include and what your expectations of one another are, either by a trip to get to know each other or over Skype. That in itself will test whether you are fundamentally suited to one another.
Christina from the USA wanted to au pair in Germany. "I failed the German oral test when taking my first language test at the consulate."
Perseverance is key! Au pair Christina gives it another go and is more informed this time round. "I didn't give up, and one month later I tried again and passed! I was so excited about it! I had already started researching the region I was going to live in, and I continued studying German until the day my big adventure began. So finally, after a few troubles with my flight (...) I landed in Frankfurt, and my first challenge was buying a train ticket to my new city."