Finding the right host-family can be a little tricky but is perhaps the most important thing if you want to enjoy your time as an au pair. Even if it seems like the family is ideal at first you should definitely spend time in sorting out where your priorities lie and if they meet with theirs. I had to learn that the hard way.
When you get in touch with host-families the key is to ask the right questions and not to be shy to ask anything you want to know. Before you do that however you should think about the things that are important to you as well! Write down all your questions and also their answers so that you can always refer to that if you need it!
This is a list of questions I asked (and wish I had asked!) when talking to my family the first time. Maybe it will help you and be something like a guideline for your interview.
However the most important thing is to just be yourself and don’t answer anything not truthfully because you want to impress the family! Don’t be scared those interviews are just to get to know each other nothing is settled yet! And always remember: It’s not just you who talks to strangers, the family doesn’t know you yet as well and they are probably just as excited as you are!
- Why do they want an au pair?
- How many people would you be living with?
- How many children would you have to look after? How old are they?
- Does the family have pets? Would you have to take care of them as well?
- Do you have your own bathroom? If not: Is there a bathroom-schedule?
- When does the family eat? Do you all eat together?
- What are the kids’ hobbies? What do they usually do in their free time?
- Do you have a car or a bicycle?
- What would be your tasks concerning the children?
- Do you have to cook? How often? What?
- Do you have to do anything besides taking care of the children?
- Ask them about their definition of light-housework if they mention it! That’s an important question! I have friends who had to do all the laundry, take care of the garden and clean the whole house twice a week. Light-housework should be things like hoovering, doing the dishes, cleaning up after (or with) the kids and maybe doing the kids’ laundry. Everything else goes beyond your job as an au pair!
- Ask them if they can give you an example of a typical day and let them explain your tasks.
- How much free time would you have?
- When do you have to get up in the morning?
- Is it ok if you stay out late from time to time?
- What about the weekends? Are you free?
- How flexible are they if you need a day off during the week?
- What time would you be usually free during the day?
- How often do they expect you to babysit in the evening?
- When does the family eat?
Your Role in the Family
- Is there a possibility to talk to the parents on a daily basis?
- Would they like you to join family celebrations e.g. Christmas, birthdays…? In my opinion this says a lot about the family. If they say yes they probably want you as an actual member of the family. If they say no they might only want a babysitter and somebody to help in the house. Both can be good, depending on what you are looking for in the family.
- If it did not become clear after the last question: Do they want you to become a part of the family?
- Would you be included in family activities? What would those be?
- Could you have friends over? Only in your room?
- How much would your pocket money be for a week?
- Who pays the food if you want something special like sparkling water or cereals for breakfast? (They definitely should pay for basic food even if you are the only one eating it! Obviously they don’t pay for your personal chocolate supply ;))
- Do they pay for a language class or college? (That’s not obligatory but some families actually do.)
- How much payed holidays would you have? (Usually about 2-3 weeks per year.)
- Do you get paid during the holidays or rather do you work?
- If you do things with the kids like going to the cinema, who pays your ticket?
- If you have a car: Do they pay the gasoline? (They should pay for basic weekly errands, if you do longer trips by yourself it’s your expense though.)
- Would they pay your mobile contract? (Usually they do!)
- Are you allowed to look for other jobs to do in your free time to gain some extra money?
- How far away are the next shops/cafes?
- Where is the next train/bus station?
- Where is the next gym/college/language school?
About the Kids
- Ask about their hobbies, favourite movies, games, music, food!
- Are there any restrictions for them? (E.g. mobile time, sweets, tv…)
- What did former au pairs do with the children? This will give you an idea of what you could do with them and what they like to do!
- Does the family follow a special diet?
- If you are veggie/vegan/allergic to something: Will it be a problem to consider that in the daily meals?
- Have they ever had an au pair that changed to another family? What was the reason for that?
- Is there a possibility for you to speak to a former au pair?
- What language will you mainly speak in the family? Some families want au pairs so the kids can improve their language skills, so maybe they don’t want you to speak their native language with them after all!