Getting to know your au pair: Questions to ask
The more you know in advance about a prospective au pair, the better your decision will be in making a final choice. Use these questions to find out more about au pair candidates you are considering.
We recommend that you have extensive contact with young persons whom you are considering as possible au pairs. Communicating with a video connection via Skype is very helpful. Speak in your own language with the au pair – this way you get a direct impression of their current language skills. Use the questions presented below to be sure to find out everything that is important for your family. And take some time to add questions of your own!
Basic conditions of the au pair placement:
- Why have you decided to become our au pair?
- Have you ever been to our country before and if so, did you have the opportunity to learn more about our culture?
- How long do you want to stay and when would you like to start?
- What are your expectations concerning your stay as an au pair?
- Are you willing to accompany us on our holiday and take care of our kids during this period of time?
- Is your driving licence valid in our country?
- Are you an experienced driver?
- How often do you wish to travel home?
- What are the things you wish to do and see in our country?
- Would you help us with light housework?
- Which kinds of meals could you prepare for our children?
- Should you be a vegetarian, would you still be prepared to cook meat dishes for our children?
- Do you like children and have you had any experience in childcare?
- How old were the children you were taking care of?
- Have you already taken care of children for a longer period of time?
- Have you worked as an au pair before?
- Can you provide references for your childcare experience?
Daily routine with children:
- Can you help the children with their homework?
- Imagine you are given two hours to play with the kids. How would you keep them occupied?
- How would you handle situations in which the children disobeyed you?
Personal questions for the au pair:
- What are your favourite foods?
- Do you have any allergies?
- Do you feel comfortable taking on responsibility in a childcare situation?
- How would you describe yourself? What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- What are your hobbies?
- Is there anything important we need to know about you?
- Do you smoke?
- Do you wish to be fully integrated in our family's life or do you prefer to have more space and time for yourself?
- Do your family and friends support your idea of becoming an au pair?
- Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?
- If yes, will they be supportive during your stay as an au pair?
- Have you and your boyfriend/girlfriend talked about how you will deal with the situation of being apart from each other?
- Would you like your family/friends/partner to visit you while you are at our home?
If you have pets:
- Do you like animals?
- Are you prepared to take our dog for a walk/feed our cat, etc.?
If your au pair needs to enter your country on a visa:
- Have you already applied for your visa? When could you arrive?
Furthermore, you should provide your au pair with sufficient information on your family and life. Thus, they will understand your daily routine. Here are a few tips on how to do this:
- Draw up a work schedule for your au pair in which you define the most important aspects of the au pair stay, such as duties, dates and free time.
- Discuss the exact working hours together with your au pair. How often are they expected to babysit for you? When will your au pair get the opportunity to take some time off and participate in a language course? When can they take their holidays?
- Apart from the amount of pocket money, you should also clarify who will organise the language course and pay for it.
Getting to know each other – the most important questions you should ask your host family
You wish to work as an au pair for a family and wonder how you can be sure if they are the right family for you? Here you will find the most important questions you should ask your host family.
There are many factors to be considered in choosing the right host family. It is important that you get to know them as best you can, and well in advance. The best idea is to communicate via Skype. However, email or telephone conversations are also good options. Introduce yourselves to each other, talk about your expectations and above all, do not hesitate to ask the family everything you wish to know. Below you will find a list of useful questions:
Your daily routine with your host family:
- What do they expect from you?
- What will your daily life be like in this family?
- What will your duties be?
- What are the family's habits and hobbies?
- What do they do on their weekends?
- Are you expected to prepare meals for the children?
- Ask the parents what you should know about their children: do they have particular hobbies, friends, special characteristics? What are their preferred meals and games? Is there anything else you need to be aware of?
- Will you go on trips together?
- You should suggest to your host family to prepare a schedule for your stay which includes all important details, such as duties, dates and free time.
Basic conditions for your au pair stay:
- When will you usually be working?
- When will your host parents be working?
- Will you be expected to babysit in the evenings? If so, how often?
- On which days and evenings will you have some time off?
- How far is the nearest city from your host family's home?
- Can it easily be reached by public transport?
- Are you expected to be a good car driver?
- What and when do they typically eat?
- Does the family follow a special diet?
- Will they take you with them on their holidays? If so: what will be your tasks during that time?
- Will you have your own room?
- Will you need your own laptop in order to use the Internet?
- How much pocket money will you receive each month?
- Have they considered taking out an au pair insurance policy for you or will your own health insurance provide full coverage throughout your stay in your host country?
- When will be the best time for you to attend a language course?
- Will your host family be able to help you find the right language course?
- Who will pay for it?
- Are there other au pairs close to your host family's home?
- You should include all details you agree upon in your contract. This will help you prevent misunderstandings and pave the way for a successful au pair stay.
Experiences with au pairs:
- Why has the family decided to host an au pair?
- Are you the family's first au pair? If not, you can ask for the phone numbers or email addresses of their former au pairs to find out more about their stay with this family.
How do I plan my trip?
You have found your perfect host family in your favourite host country? So now, you can start planning your trip. Here are some useful tips so that you can be best prepared for this exciting adventure!
First, get to know your host family by chatting on the phone or on Skype and do not forget to sign an au pair contract with them. Have you also checked whether you meet all the official requirements of the host country you have chosen? Then, it's time to carefully plan your trip. We have summarised the main aspects you should consider to the following points. The following tips will help you be well prepared:
1. Get through the red tape
- Now that you have signed a contract, go through all the administrative steps you need to take before starting as an au pair. You might need a visa or a working permit to be allowed to stay and work in the host country. But don't worry, AuPairWorld provides a good overview of the necessary requirements for the different host countries.
- You should also make sure that you have all the insurances needed for your stay abroad. Usually, the host family should help you with this point. Discuss this aspect with your host family beforehand so as to be on the safe side!
2. Book your ticket and get to know your host country
- It's time to book your flight! We would recommend you buy a so-called open ticket. It might be a bit more expensive but it's worthwhile – it allows you to choose your return date and could therefore be useful should you have to return home in case of a family emergency or if you do not get along with your host family. It is usually the au pairs who have to bear the costs of their travel.
- How good are your foreign language skills? Do you feel comfortable with the language spoken in your future host country? Bear in mind that you will need to be able to understand the children of your host family. You might want to improve your language skills by attending a language course before your departure and should also start looking for a suitable language course in your future host country.
- How much do you know about your host country and its culture? Be curious and discuss the cultural differences with your host family. They will probably be pleased to tell you more about their habits and traditions. There will certainly be much for you to discover and many exciting places to visit!
3. Now it's time to pack!
- Bring some cash money with you to cover your first daily expenses and any unexpected situations.
- Don't forget your mobile phone. Check out the best way of handling mobile phone access in your host country. You can also ask your host family if they have a mobile phone that you could use during the time of your stay. With this phone you can perhaps buy a prepaid card so that the costs are not so high.
- Don't forget to pack all your important documents such as your identity card, passport and driving licence.
- Write down the telphone numbers and email addresses of your family and firends. This way you can stay in contact with them and call if you have problems on your trip.
- Write down the number of your embassy and also information on possible accommodation in hotels and hostels in your host country. That way you'll be well prepared if something goes wrong on the journey and you need a place to spend the night.
- Don't forget to ask your host family for their contact details and to give them yours! And why not take the AuPairWorld contact details with you as well? We'll be glad to help you should you need some advice during your stay!
- Don't forget to pack your medication, (if needed), and to ask your host family whether you will have the possibility to buy the same in their country if you can't bring enough for the duration of your stay.
- And last but not least, why not bring along a small present for your host family? A speciality from your host country or a bag of sweets for the kids? Not only will it help to break the ice but the children will probably also warm to you straight away ;)
How to prepare for your first au pair
Your first au pair will soon arrive at your home and you probably wish to be well-prepared. The following information provides some tips.
Being well prepared is the most important thing to ensure your au pair settles in to your home quickly. Here are some tips for what you can do before your au pair arrives:
- Furnish the room for your au pair as comfortably as possible in order to make sure your au pair feels good from the beginning. You might like to decorate it with a welcome card or a welcome drawing made by your children.
- Tell your au pair not to forget to bring along all important documents, such as passport, identity card, au pair contract, invitation letter and driving licence.
- Check one more time the entry regulations of your country in case you have forgotten some important procedure.
- Prepare your children for the au pair adventure. Explain to them that an older sister or brother will come and will look after them and play with them.
- Take some days off to help your au pair settle in. During the first days, avoid asking too much of your au pair. Show him or her around instead. Best practice would be 1-2 weeks of holiday which would enable the au pair to become accustomed to the new surroundings. Your children also need time to get accustomed to the new family member.
- Be prepared to take out au pair insurance. Ask your au pair whether his or her health insurance is valid in your country. There are special au pair insurance policies that are structured to the needs of au pairs.
- Check our safety tips for the preparation and au pair stay itself to be on the safe road all the time.
Have The AuPairWorld Family Handbook ready for your au pair:
Premium Members receive the AuPairWorld Family Handbook as a PDF document per email. This document lets families collect all the important information that a new au pair needs to get off to a good start as part of the family team. Families can then print it out so – a useful tool and a great part of your welcome package to your au pair!
Help your au pair organise the au pair stay:
- Your au pair should also know your daily routine and special needs or characteristics of your children. In the Handbook you can tell your au pair what he or she should bear in mind when looking after your children: When do your children get up? When do they go to bed? When do they take their meals? Do your children have any allergies? If your au pair is not accustomed to household appliances, you should write simple instructions for use.
- Following the prompts in the Handbook, fill in the relevant information for your own situation in sections such as "Welcome", "Safety", "Behaviour and Discipline", "Food and Meal Preparation", etc.
Family routine and basic schedule:
- Draw up a detailed schedule for your au pair. It should include all appointments, duties and the scheduled free time. In this way, your au pair always knows when to take the children to their piano classes and when he or she has time off. Do not forget to enter evenings when the au pair is supposed to babysit.
- Prior to your au pair's arrival, enquire about suitable language courses near your home. Get information on quality, schedules, language level and costs. In this way, you can help your au pair find the right language course.
- Obtain a map of your city as well as time tables for public transport, such as buses and trains. Consider how your au pair will get to the language course: by bus or car? Show him or her the way to the nearest stop, or pre-programme your navigation system. However, be sure to accompany your au pair in the beginning.
What you should keep in mind!
- Do you know all relevant details about your au pair that might be of importance during the au pair stay: Does the au pair have any allergies? Is he or she vegetarian? By reading our most important questions you should ask your au pair you can check out whether you have asked all the important questions.
- Would you like to provide your au pair with a mobile phone including a credit? Will your au pair bring along his or her laptop? Will he or she have their own Internet connection? Consider how you will deal with telephone and Internet access in general. For instance, in case you do not have a flat rate for the Internet, your au pair should be made aware of this. In most countries it is normal for young people to have the opportunity to surf the web around the clock.
Mobile phone use in your future host country: What's important?
Before you travel, find out from your mobile network provider whether your current plan will work in your future host country. Perhaps there is another plan available that makes sense for you while you're abroad. If you come from an EU country and are travelling to another EU country for your au pair stay, then no extra roaming charges will be made for voice calls and messages. There may, however, be extra charges for data when you are outside your home country.
Talk to your host family about their recommendations for mobile phone use in their country. They should be able to give you some good advice. And maybe they will also make a smartphone available to you for the time of your stay to make sure that they can always reach you.