Twenty-three year old Yu-Lim wanted to travel away from her native South Korea and she knew exactly where she wanted to go. The musical young woman had her heart set on Germany, the land of Beethoven. Her plan was not only to work in Germany as an au pair, but also to learn everything about the country and the language and the culture. In the Internet portal “AuPairWorld” she made contact with Vanessa Jantsch, who was searching for an au pair. Jantsch is a physician and the mother of two children and she wanted to have more flexibility in her demanding everyday life.
We met together with Yu-Lim and Vanessa Jantsch in Erlangen, Germany.
myself.de: Mrs. Jantsch, why did you decide to invite an au pair into your family?
Vaness Jantsch: I'm a doctor and depending on my working schedule I have to adjust quite spontaneously to late shifts or night shifts. Previously, we had a student who took care of our two children, but we simply need someone who is really flexible. That's why we decided to have an au pair. Yu-Lim is already the second au pair we've had in the family.
Why did you look for an au pair using an online service?
With our first au pair we took the classic approach and tried to find her using a traditional agency. But when you look this way, the selection is not so large and very quickly one is put under pressure to choose a particular girl. That's why we tried out the online portal “AuPairWorld”. For sure, it's quite work-intensive because the portal offers so much choice. But after about 4 weeks, I found someone good both times. Then we were in contact via Skype and email and were able to find out in advance whether we had the same expectations.
For which kind of families would you recommend having an au pair?
Actually, any family that is looking for flexible childcare. At the same time, the families should, of course, be tolerant and open for something new. And they have to be ready to adjust to having a little less privacy. You can't simply walk out of the bathroom without a towel around yourself. But such matters have not been a problem for us. In comparison to many other childcare possibilities, an au pair has real advantages. Not the least of which are financial.
How much does an au pair earn per month?
In Germany, an au pair gets €260 pocket money. Besides that you need to arrange for health insurance, liability insurance and repatriation insurance. Some families also pay for a language course or take care of the au pair's mobile phone bill.
Have you ever had problems with one of your au pairs?
No, there have never been larger problems. Now and then there have been disagreements about the chores of the au pair, like cleaning up the kitchen for instance. But we've always been able to clarify things by talking about them. Yu-Lim and her predecessor often were homesick, and that can sometimes be really difficult. Finally one feels truly sorry for the girls when it's like that for them. Besides that, many au pairs come to Germany with the aim of staying here, for example to pursue their studies. And the authorities don't make it easy for them to do that. Seeing up close how difficult that can be also makes one feel sorry. Yu-Lim, for example, would like to study at the conservatory in Nuremberg. Of course, I really hope that works out for her.
How do you help a new au pair settle in to her responsibilities?
When Yu-Lim came to us I took two weeks off from work. At the beginning I took her everywhere with me. This let everyone get used to the new situation step by step. One shouldn't expect that everything is only going to be easy. My children at first were rather sceptical when Yu-Lim came; they were missing her predecessor, our first au pair. Little children can be totally disrespectful to strangers. When the little ones, for example, say to the new au pair: “I don't want to sit next to you!” that can really hurt. In a situation like this, the parents have to intervene.
What is a typical day like for your au pair?
In the morning, my husband and I bring the children to kindergarten. The au pair gets them in the afternoon and depending on what shift I'm working, I make dinner or Yu-Lim takes care of that. Besides the childcare, our au pair also is responsible for keeping the kitchen clean and vacuuming the apartment. Because of my working schedule, Yu-Lim has to be quite flexible and that makes it harder for her to plan her free time than for some other au pairs.
Is it important to you which country the au pairs come from?
No, that doesn't matter to us. We simply find the cultural exchange interesting and exciting. You learn lots about the customs in different countries. In South Korea, for example, it's seen as impolite to open up a gift immediately after receiving it. It makes you seem greedy. Child rearing in Korea is also completely different from what we do here in the west. The children learn a lot from the au pairs, in particular that there are people who look totally different, but in the end we're all very similar. Besides that, our kids can now say hello and goodbye in Ukranian and in Korean. I think that's great. And I've also learned from Yu-Lim how to cook really good sushi rice.
How many au pairs would you like to have in the future?
Seven more. Until our daughter is 10 years old. And in the end, we'll have a party and invite them all to come (laughter).
Then we wish you lots of good experiences with all your future au pairs.
Interview conducted by Sophie Sonnenberger.