So you’ve made the decision to become an Au Pair – that’s great!
Surely you understand what an Au Pair does, you have weighed the pros and cons, reviewed the technical requirements to become one, registered yourself on an Au Pair platform (AuPairWorld.com) and now are looking for your ideal host family…
When selecting your host family, there are many things to take into consideration.
I’ve prepared a list of 15 questions (and related sub-questions) to ask your potential host family that will help you during the interview process and ultimately lead you to find your ideal family.
1. Have you had previous Au Pairs (and can I talk to them)?
If your Potential Host Family (PHF) has had an Au Pair before, you should first ask them how their experience has been. How many they have had? Have they liked having a foreigner be a temporary part of their family? How is their relationship with their previous Au Pair(s) now? Why did they leave? Additionally, you should ask to speak to their former Au Pair(s) to get another point of view of the family.
2. What role do you expect the Au Pair to play in your family?
If your PHF has never had an Au Pair before, this question is particularly important. In fact, I would say it is the MOST important question to ask.
As you should know by now, an Au Pair is supposed to be “equal to” the family. This means you are to be treated as an extension of the family. Not as another child, and probably not as a “sister” to the children, but maybe more of a distant cousin. The point is that you are not an “employee” “hired” to “work”. You are a temporary member of the family that receives housing and food in exchange for taking care of children and doing some light housework. In that sense, you do not receive a “salary”, but rather “pocket money”, as you would from your own parents if you did some household chores.
3. What is a typical day for your family like?
Do they have a fixed routine, or are they very spontaneous? What do they do on weekdays and weekends? Do they usually cook, eat out, go on outings, etc? It is best to get to know their habits and see if they match with what you like to do. Remember, you will be a part of this family, and as such, are expected to do things together that you both enjoy. This is not to say that whatever you like will not be done, it just means that you both have to enjoy doing things together.
4. Do you have a weekly/monthly schedule outlined?
This is super important guys… I am such a planner, and I like to know how things are going to play out on a day-to-day, week-to-week, and month-to-month basis! Having a weekly/monthly schedule will help you and your host family avoid uncomfortable situations, particularly when you’ve already made plans to go out with friends for dinner, or want to take a weekend trip somewhere. When both sides plan ahead, it can make the whole “free time” experience better.
5. What activities/duties are expected of me?
I have spoken to several Au Pairs and everyone’s activities seem to be very different. This part should be cleared with your family to the very finest detail.
Further questions to ask your family include:
Do I have to drop-off/pick-up the kids from kindergarten/school?
Do I have to take the kids to certain after-school lessons?
Do I have to change diapers / get them dressed / cook for and feed them / play with them?
Do I have to teach them English / another language?
Do I have to clean my own room/bathroom?
Where can I wash my clothes? (Not everyone has a washer/dryer at home!)
Try and be as thorough as possible when asking for duties, to avoid confusion or misunderstanding later on!
6. How involved in family life do you expect me to be?
Again, this can vary from family to family, but the general idea is that you become a member of the family. Although you do get a day (or two) off, some families may expect you to spend time with them during your day off, and others not. It’s up to you to clear this with your family.
7. What are the kids’ interests?
You want to know what kind of games/activities the kids like to do. How involved you will be with play-time is also important. Also, getting to know the children’s likes and dislikes will help you to figure out what to bring them as a gift!
8. What is your neighborhood like?
Ask your PHF about what is available nearby, and if it is a safe area with good public transportation. Also, please please please, Google information about the city/town the family lives in beforehand!! Try and mentalize yourself living in this place. Would you be happy living there?
9. Is there a language school nearby?
Most likely, you will be taking a language course, especially if you are going to Germany. Ask your PHF if they already know a language school. (Ask when the course starts, how many hours a day/week the course is, what it costs, and who will be paying for the course.) It’s also important to consider commute times to and from the school, and the scheduled times you will have to be with the kids.
10. What language do the kids speak?
If your PHF kids don’t speak your language, and if you don’t speak one word of theirs, I can guarantee you a difficult time. (Especially at the beginning.) So do yourself a huge favor, and LEARN their language before you arrive!
I came to Germany having an A1 (basic) level and still struggled a bit, especially with the 4-year-old because he really likes playing “animal role play” and talking while doing so is very important. So at first, it was difficult for me to gain his trust because he felt he couldn’t communicate with me. With the 2-year-old it wasn’t so bad because her language skills were worse than mine!
But what I’m saying is, try and learn your host family’s language before you arrive, it will help you much more in the long run.
11. What day(s) do I get off?
Again, this is related to question four about getting a clear schedule. But you should ask not only when you get your day off in the week, but also when you can take “vacation” days. This varies depending on the country you will be residing in. In Germany, if you are an Au Pair for 12 months, you are entitled to 4 weeks vacation.
12. Will you be paying for transportation/cell phone/other?
My host family was super kind to offer to pay for the monthly local transportation ticket and for my cell phone bill. Both things are not required by law/contract to provide for an Au Pair. You should clarify who will be paying for these things. Also, ask about the airfare cost to their country because you need to consider those expenses. Will your pocket money go towards paying for those things, or how will you pay for it?
13. Will I have to drive?
If you are expected to drive, you should already have a driver’s license and hopefully an excellent track record of driving! Remember, you will be driving in a foreign land, where things are very different! Even here in Germany, there are many road signs that were totally new to me, and I had to learn those along the way.
If you are not from the EU, your foreign driver’s license is valid for up to 6 months. After that point, you will have to get the dreaded Fuhrerschein (German driver’s license).
14. Will I have to cook?
How often? What type of food? For whom? Can I cook food from my home country? Important things to consider, because eating at home will save you money in the long term (trust me).
15. What are the house rules?
Last but not least, ask them if they have any strict house rules, or if they expect you to have a curfew for night-outings, or if you can have guests over. Consider asking them if it is alright to take pictures of the family and put them on social media. Be sure to do things respectfully and if you have a question, just ask them!
So lovelies, those are the most important questions I could think of. Comment below if you think of any other questions you would like to ask your Potential Host Family.