What qualifications do I need to be an au pair in Europe? How much do au pairs get paid in France? In which countries can I be an au pair?
I will answer these and more questions you might have about doing an au pair program, as well as tell my experience as an au pair in France and a couple of pieces of advice I wish I knew before I become an au pair.
#aupair #jeunefilleaupair #europe #france The word Au Pair is French, pronounced /ô pérr/ and has an idea of parity, equality. That is because an au pair is essentially someone (usually aged from 18 to 30 years old) who goes abroad for some time (between 3 months to a year) to live with a local family and be the person to take care of the kids. So is it an in-house nanny? Not really. Unlike a child caretaker, the au pair is housed and fed, being considered another member of the family, and the main goal remains to enroll in language courses through the entire period to learn the local language and culture, a.k.a. a cultural exchange.
Well, the au pair program is one of the exchange programs with the best bang for your buck, especially if you're in your early 20s since most expenses are paid by the family, and also he or she typically has a good deal of free time than an exchange student if things work out according to the law (at least in France).
Now the question that everyone wants to know: About the paying: An au pair doesn't get paid a full salary but you will get some pocket money that may change from country to country. The idea of pocket money is because in general the au pair will have zero expenses (like housing, food, or bills) but there are still a few expenses you want to take into consideration when doing the math.
Main expenses of an au pair:
- Air Fare
- Visa fee
- (Eventual au pair agency fee)
- Language course tuition (in some cases the family can agree to share this one)
- Transportation (also open to being shared)
As mentioned previously, the pocket money varies depending on the local cost of living.
Here is the legal minimum average pocket money for a few destinations in Europe:
Au Pair in Belgium- 450€
Au Pair in Denmark- 4.550 DKK (610€)
Au Pair in Finland- 280 €
Au Pair in Italy- Between 250 and 300 €
Au Pair in Luxembourg- 440 €
Au Pair in The Netherlands- Between 300 and 340 €
Au Pair in Spain - 280€
Au Pair in Switzerland- 480 and 670€
By the way, each country has its legislation for the au pair exchange program. When it comes to France, the basic requirement foreseen by law and updated for 2022 are:
What are the requirements to be an au pair in France?
- Be between 18 and 30 years old
- A visa if you're a citizen from outside the European Union
- Proof of basic knowledge of the French language. Many French families do not speak English and communication can be challenging at first. I can help you prepare for this with classes specially made for au pairs in French, English, Spanish, or Portuguese. More information on this page.
- An agreement must be signed with a host family. The official form of such an agreement to apply for a visa can be downloaded here.
What you have to know to be an Au Pairs in France
- The country has a student/ au pair visa option, meaning that you will need to attend French classes and work within the hours allowed by law.
- The duration of the exchange is from 3 months to 1 year and can be renewed for up to 2 years.
- The maximum number of hours worked is 25 hours per week. The division of hours may vary according to the family's needs. Paid vacations and holidays are also mandatory.
- L'argent de Poche or pocket money in France in 2022 is 320 euros per month, always paid weekly. This is the minimum set by law, it can be higher in some cases.
- Everything is provided for in the contract: age and number of kids to watch, how many hours per week you'll be on duty, what care services, and small household chores you'll be providing. Keep your copy of the contract in a safe place in case you have any problems. If you have any problems, you can contact the court of justice in your town or city.
Tip: I recommend you save this page. It is the official website of the French Government with all the practical and legal information for the au pair exchange in the country. If the family you are talking to is proposing to you something out of this, you can send them this information.
My experience as an au pair in France
When I was 17 I found out about the au pair exchange program by searching on the internet. The idea of looking after children, traveling, and experiencing a new culture attracts many young people around the world.
In 2014 I was already doing an exchange in China and was going back to Brazil (my home country) I had already lived in Colombia as well and knew that I was quite a "world citizen". I had recently graduated in Marketing but I was still feeling lost about my perfect study field.
That's when I found the perfect course for me, and it was in France: Langues, Littératures et Civilisations Étrangères. To enroll in this bachelor I had to have a B2 level in French, at least, and of course a student visa. I wasn't ready at the time as I didn't speak any French. That's when I remembered the au pair exchange program. This option was the best fit for me at the time as in one year I could have the necessary level, save some money, and get to know the French culture.
I made an account at Au Pair World and after doing loads of research and talking to several families for months I found a young couple with a baby in the Alsace region, northeast of France, next to Germany and Switzerland. We've been in contact for months, sending photos, talking on Facetime, signing contracts, waiting for the papers to come from France to Brazil and the whole process took about 2 months.
As French was not mandatory for this host family, but speaking Spanish and English when I arrived I didn't know much yet. I started going to classes, but at home, we spoke only English and Spanish until the third month.
By the third month, I was able to speak well. As I mentioned, they were a young couple, so we had many interests in common. We would go out together, and today they are two of my best friends in France. They've taught me so much about culture, History and even offered me my first book in French which was a dictionary of swear words. La culture générale.
All this was seven years ago. Just after my au pair year, I was ready to start my uni. I moved to Southern France for my trilingual Bachelor of Languages, Literature, and Foreign Cultures at the University d'Aix-Marseille. Among the many language options offered, I picked English (the only compulsory language), Chinese and German. The courses were taught in French and English.
Today I teach four languages to adults and kids and also help other au pairs to follow their dreams. If you want to know more about French, English, Spanish, and Portuguese learning or au pair consultancy, you can reach me on social media @we.language or the contact form below.
Advice for future Au Pairs
Honestly, I see many advantages of doing the program when you are in a good family. The first one is the question of learning and immersion in the culture. Let's say you are going to spend a year studying or working in a country. You will probably live alone and have contact with many foreigners, but you will never experience the culture 24/7 as you can do as an au pair.
I want to share with you some advice that can make your au pair program better.
- Try to find a host family from a big city
Europe has a crazy amount of small little towns that shocked me as a citizen of a country almost bigger than this continent. More shocking: My host family lived in a town with 500 inhabitants when I first arrived. Even if it was incredibly charming to live in a town like that, it would cost me a lot of time to go from my town to Strasbourg, the city where I took my French classes and where all my friends live (go from my town to the city next door by bike+20 to 30 min train journey+ tramway or bike to reach the school). Besides that, if I wanted to party I had to crash over some friend because of the trains schedule.
So, even if small French villages are charming, try to focus on medium and bigger cities. You will still be able to reach the charm any time on a train journey.
- The kid's ages matter
I love babies and I took care of le petit Mathieu. He was 8 months old when I arrived and even if a baby can be more demanding when it's awake, it does take a nap which means you're only passively "on duty" he would stay part-time at this babysitter. Personally, it was the best age (and he was the best baby ever!). Plus: If you choose a small family with a single child you'll have less work.
- Dive into the culture as much as you can
This is the best part of being abroad. To be able to immerse into culture this way. So the gold tip here is not to get yourself inside the English bubble or whatever your mother language is. It would be a pity to end your au pair year with a poor level of the language and the culture and unfortunately, this is a very common thing.
If you are thinking about being an au pair in France and want to know more, please leave your questions in the comments. I also want to hear about your experience if you have already been an au pair somewhere!