|A happy au-pair with happy kids. Cute. Pic from mpena.aupairnews.com|
For example, as the aforementioned friend found, you can have a really great time working as an au pair - spending time with a lovely, welcoming family whilst also being paid (not much, admittedly) and improving your language skills is a pretty sweet set-up. Said friend also got lucky in that she spent half the time in Paris and the other half in Cannes. Quelle glamour, n'est-ce pas? However, another friend who organised to work for an Italian family didn't get quite so lucky and ended up coming home early as she just hated it - the kids were rude, she was completely alone and really homesick. It's hard not to feel like a lot of luck is involved when it comes to au-pairing.
So, perhaps you're reading this thinking "I want to give this au-pairing business a go... It's a risk I'm willing to take, but how would I go about it?" Well, the website I (and loads of my friends) used to organise our au-pair jobs is http://www.aupairworld.net/. It's pretty simple to use: the wannabe au pairs and the families seeking them set up profiles, and both parties can then contact whoever they're interested in. There are also a lot of handy guidelines about technicalities for each country, which is useful.
However, there are some issues I've encountered that no-one really tells you how to deal with - the question is: just how "at home" should you make yourself as an au-pair? My current room in the Austrian family's house is two floors below the shower... Is it OK to walk back from the shower past members of the family in my towel? I've been walking round in my PJs every morning as I make breakfast, but could the family be thinking this is really inappropriate? I nearly started singing in the shower earlier, but luckily stopped myself just in time, as I feel this may have been one step too far. I decided my rendition of One Direction's album may not have gone down too well with two Austrian teenage boys. Although I'm sure they would have appreciated my dulcet tones just as much as my family back home do. Ahem.
Every au-pair's experience seems to be different. Some have to do a lot of cooking, cleaning, childcare and entertaining, whereas others like myself are there to speak English to the children and help them improve their language more than anything else. I'm over half way through my time working here in Austria so perhaps I'll have a different opinion at the end, but overall I think I would recommend working as an au-pair. Of course, there's that unknown element, but you could say that about any new job. Usually, living with a foreign family is one of the best ways to learn about another culture, and if you get time to explore your surroundings, make friends, and - of course - sample some local culinary delicacies, that's all the better! So... Sacher Torte anyone?