It’s been a long time since I was an au pair. Heck, my host family is on their second au pair since I left. It’s actually been 17 months since I moved out of their home. Somedays it feels like longer, sometimes it feels like yesterday. I never blogged much about au pairing because I did my best to respect my host mother’s I-hate-all-things-internet-policy. Yet, thanks to my best friend Google, this bloggy gets a lot of eyes from potential and current au pairs alike.
80 percent of the questions I received by email are either 1) What questions should I ask my potential au pair family? 2) My au pair family [insert complaint here]. What should I do?
Not pictured: Liam
This post will address part 1. I have no idea what I initially asked, as I was more concerned about avoiding awkward silences, but here is what I would ask if I could do it all over again.
Questions to Ask your Future Au Pair Host Family
1) Have you ever hosted an au pair before? If so, may I contact her as well to discuss her experience living in [insert city]?
If they have had an au pair before, they know all about the process and the kid’s probably enjoyed it. This is normally a win-win on your end. If they will not allow you to speak with them, it is probably a red flag. If you can speak with them, ask any concerns you have about life abroad, the family, etc.
2) How does the visa process work? Will you help me obtain a residence permit?
First time host families may not be familiar with the system. It saves a lot of stress if you know they will handle it.
3) What would my typical day be like?
Ask if your hours are set or flexible. When is/are your day(s) off?
4) What do you expect out of your au pair?
5) What can I expect out of my time as an au pair?
6) A huge motivation for me becoming an au pair is to travel. How much time will you allow for me to pursue this interest?
7) I would like to learn [insert language]. Will you help me achieve this goal?
Whether through financial assistance, time allotment, speaking the language with me, etc.
8) What is your parenting style? How do you reward and punish your children?
You want to be on the same page with the parents. Some parents like you using your own style while others find it frustrating when you are not on the same page.
9) What are your children’s interests?
This can be a good gauge of if you will get along with the children.
9) What is the greatest strength and weakness of each of your children?
It can be helpful to know before you arrive whether the child is a picky eater, misses mom during the day, is short-tempered, struggles in school, etc.
10) What is the compensation?
Beyond pocket money, some families may help pay for language courses, your flight, a public transportation pass, take you on vacation, overtime hours, etc. It’s crucial you know what benefits you will be receiving.
11) How far is your home from the city center?
Or essentially, how far are you from a social life? You will want to know how you can get to the city, whether by subway, train, bicycle, and how long it takes. You should also ask if there is a university in town. This is an indicator of if the city will have a young population.
12) What is my living situation?
Will you be living with the family in their home, in an attached guest facility, or your own apartment? Will you have your own bathroom? Is there Wi-Fi in the room? Is there a phone line I can use to call home?
13) How does your family address conflict?
Different cultures address the elephant in the room differently. Germans, for instance, are very straightforward. Some people prefer written communication over verbal. These are important notes to make in case a situation arises during your stay.
I skipped over the obvious questions, i.e. what are you children’s names and ages, but I hope these questions help you gain a better understanding of your potential au pair host family and instill peace with whatever decision you make. Choosing your host family should not be taken lightly. Address any questions and concerns you may have as early as possible so that it does not create tension later. The family understands this is a big decision and that you have concerns. As I always say, trust your gut.
What questions do you have for a future host family?