Complete Guide To Being An AU Pair In Europe For Filipinos
Before I became a full-time traveler, I worked at an oil company in the Middle East. I can say that I earn a decent amount but I spent most of it on things I didn’t really need. After 4 years of working there, I only managed to save 5,000 USD (and another 5,000 USD that I had to pay in advance for the mortgage of the condo that I bought) and with that amount, I started my backpacking journey. Looking back at those times, I remember that every time I’m on my workstation, my mind is out there thinking how I can manage to travel the world when I have a 9-5 job, bills to pay, and is stuck somewhere in the corner of the office.
Don’t you wish that we can travel anytime we want? I wish that too!
But the hard truth is work and responsibilities keep getting in the way. We have bills to pay, mouths to feed, and some have children to send to school. Well, before you get an idea, I’m not here to tell you to quit your jobs. I will never ever give that advice unless you have a backup plan or you have another job waiting for you. Financial security is very important before you take a leap of faith.
What I’m here for is to give you an idea that you can actually do both, especially when you’re young. It is possible to travel AND work in Europe at the very same time. I’m not talking about a real job. I’m talking about this opportunity which is open to EU/Non-EU Citizens of joining this cultural exchange program of being an AU Pair. In this post, I’ll tell you all the details, challenges, process and tips to becoming one.
What is an AU Pair?
In the French language, AU Pair literally means “on a par” or “equal to”. It means that a person is taken into a household and treated as a big sister where you’re expected to do light household chores like cleaning, babysitting, doing the laundry, preparing meals, etc. This is in exchange for flight tickets, pocket money, your own private room, and free food (depending on the rules of the host country and host family).
Note that they are placed in a special category-- they are neither students nor workers and this is not cheap labor. It is a program which is established to foster cultural exchange so while you’re at it, you can learn their language, understand cultural differences, join clubs, learn a new skill like driving, etc.
Who can be an AU Pair?
As stated by the Commission on Filipino Overseas (CFO), a Filipino AU pair is:
Someone between 18 to 30 years of age;
Unmarried, without any children and not expecting any;
Placed under a cultural exchange arrangement with a European/American host family for a maximum stay of two years.
Some countries may provide more/different qualifications and they usually vary. For example:
France - Need to know basic French and some require you to pay your travel costs.
Denmark - Not be more than 29 years old and must be able to speak and understand a reasonable level of Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, English or German.
Germany- Not more than 26 y/o and must speak basic German (A1 level). You must stay for a minimum of 6 months and some require you to pay for travel costs.
Greece- Up to 35 y/o.
Austria- Basic knowledge of German.
Belgium- Must be 18-25 y/o, basic knowledge of French, German or Dutch, and must pay for your stay as au pair and your return flight.
Italy- Basic knowledge of Italian and must pay for travel costs.
Luxembourg- You have to finance your entire stay in their country.
Spain- Must be able to speak Spanish.
Switzerland- Up to 25 y/o.
Most of them likewise require that it should be your first time to come to their country as an Au Pair.
What are the working hours?
An au pair will be working 25-30 hours a week (again depending on the rules of the host country). Some even require you to do less. With this, you’ll have enough time to go to a language course, travel around, go to a cafe and just do your thing :)
Can I work for somebody else while I’m there?
No-- even if it’s part-time. You should always remember that you do not have a working visa. You can do volunteer jobs as long you do not get any remuneration from it. One of the consequences if you do it is you risk being deported.
HOW TO BECOME AN AU PAIR IN EUROPE?
Now here comes the most interesting part-- the road to becoming an Au Pair in Europe! While it can be really exciting, I suggest you prepare yourself physically, mentally and emotionally especially for those on their late teens. While it can be exciting and overwhelming, assure yourself that you can stay for the minimum months that they require you to. It can be difficult at first but you got this!! :)
STEP 1: See if you meet the qualifications. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be able to proceed with the application and you’ll just be wasting your time.
STEP 2: Register yourself as an Au Pair. Just type in “How to apply as Au Pair in ______” and you’ll find plenty of websites. The best thing is that signing up is for free! A confirmation link will be sent to your email. They will review profile to see if you fit their criteria. If you don’t, it’s not the end of it. Find another Au Pair website. The top websites commonly used are:
Do not limit yourself to these websites. There’s a lot out there! :) But be careful of the scams, you should never pay any to be accepted. The host family will be covering the costs for you!
STEP 3: Find a host family that is compatible with your skills and preferences. Once you’re registered, find your host family that suits your preferences. Make sure to review the family’s profile before getting into any kind of rash decision. If they have 5 kids, ask yourself if you can handle all those 5 kids. If not, then move on and find a smaller family. If they require driving, then they expect you to drive well so if you’re not sure about your skills yet, move on. There’s plenty of them so just take your time :)
STEP 4: Fix your papers. Once you find a host family and you both agree to have you as their Au Pair, it’s now time to fix your papers. The requirements differ from one country to another but don’t worry because your host family will be there to guide and assist you throughout the process.
STEP 5: Know your rights. Now that you’re bound to your dream destination to become an Au Pair, make sure you know your rights, among which are:
To be treated as a family. Remember, you’re not a nanny nor a servant
To defined working hours and leisure time. This is usually discussed by the host family and the Au Pair on clear and concise terms appearing in the contract and should be in accordance with the law of the host country. (The host can ask you to work longer for some days but you can ask for it to be set-off to your other working days)
To defined tasks. Your tasks should likewise be clearly agreed upon with the host family. If they say that you have to just do the dishes, care for the kids, prepare meals and do the laundry, then that’s all you have to do. Sure they can sometimes ask you to go to the market, drive the kids to school, pick them up, watch over them while they’re in their ballet classes, etc. but know when to say no especially when you feel abused in some way.
To your own private room. This should have a size of at least 9 square meters, be lockable and have a window. It must also be furnished and heated. You are still entitled to board and lodging in case of illness.
Free access to food and drink in the host’s home. Sure you may open the fridge anytime you want and share meals with the host family.
To receive pocket money. The rates vary from one host country to another. Check this link for more details.
To participate in a language course. This is usually paid for by the Au Pair but some host country requires otherwise. Nevertheless, you can always bargain with your host family if they can pay for even half of it.
To holidays and holiday pay. Again, this depends on the host country’s rules. Usually, you get 4 weeks paid holiday if you’re staying for 12 months.
This link gives you a brief overview of your rights but if you want a more detailed one, just google “Rights and obligations of Au Pair in ________”. Note that Au Pairs and Host Families should be very flexible. These may be violated sometimes (it can’t be helped) but know when to draw the line.
STEP 6: Fly out and enjoy your experience! Once everything is ready, you’ll now be bound to meet your host family. Make sure to treat this as a beautiful experience rather than a lousy job and you’ll have the greatest time of your life. You’ll meet beautiful people, learn a new language, learn new skills, and explore an entirely different country.
Not everyone will have a good experience though. If you have any trouble with your host family, you can review your contract and call out the attention of your host. Talk to them. Open communication is the key. If the problem persists, then report it to the Au Pair website where you registered and they will take appropriate action. You can also switch to another host family or terminate your contract.
Wishing you all the best on your Au Pair journey! :)
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1) When do I receive my pocket money?
Usually at the end of the month but you can always agree otherwise.
2) Will I receive extra pay if I work longer?
No. The working hours are well-defined. You can just offset this to your other working days.
3) Is the pocket money taxable?
In Australia, Denmark, Finland, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland. In Germany and Italy there may be taxes depending on the exact amount of pocket money you will be getting. Otherwise, you can clarify it with your host family.
3) Is babysitting considered as working hours?
4) Is going to an amusement park with the family considered as working hours?
It depends. If it is made for the Au Pair’s cultural immersion as well, then no. But if it is to really watch over the kids, then yes.
5) Do I need to have an insurance?
Yes, it is required and is usually paid by the host family.
6) Do I need to pay for my flight?
Usually, yes. Unless it is otherwise agreed upon by you and your host family.
7) What about public transportation costs in the host country?
The host family is encouraged to pay for this.
8) What if my host family offers me an additional salary?
Be careful as this could be a scam but if you’re already working and they love to give you a bonus then accept it with gratitude. Host family knows what the rules are and they should know that Au Pairs are only entitled to a pocket money.