Pin It
Pages Menu
Categories Menu

Posted by on Jan 16, 2014 in Articles, Inspirational | 17 comments

Live abroad as an Au-pair!

Live abroad as an Au-pair!

Becoming an au-pair can be one of the best choices if you’re a travel lover, if you want to learn a new language,  experience a new culture  and want to feel safe. Do you want to live abroad as an Au-pair?


An au-pair means extra pair of hands, or equal to. This is a mutual beneficial situation both for the young au-pair (male or female) and the host family. Your duties include basic childcare, babysitting and very light housework.


The great benefits for the au-pair?

* An opportunity to live abroad for an extensive amount of time

*All expenses covered (house, food and sometimes other perks) + pocket money

* immerse in a new culture

* Learn a new language

* develop a long lasting friendship with your host-family


The benefits for the family?

* having total flexibility as far as childcare

* Having a trusting person caring for the kids

* Au-pairs are much cheaper than nannies or kindergarten

* The children are exposed to a new language and culture through the Au-pair

* Learning amore about another culture and developing a long lasting friendship


What an Au-pair is NOT?

* A cleaning lady

* A slave

* cheap labor

* A maid


For your Au-pair experience to work out perfectly, both parts have to understand this very well. The Au-pair should enrich the lives of the family and vice-versa. Understanding, communication and respect are key here. Specially when sharing the same living space.

As I’ve said on the previous post, this is how I’ve started traveling when I was only 18. I signed with an Au-pair agency in Lisbon and headed towards the unknown. I was very young and inexperienced, had absolutely no money but had a wanderlust bigger than life! Although I was terrorized with the idea of moving in with strangers, in a foreigner country, different language, different costumes, I was even more excited to be able to live such an adventure without spending a dime!



I arrived in London and rapidly realized my au-pair adventure was not what I had dreamed of. I was very unlucky with my host-family who was rude, unwelcoming and complained about the fact I ate more than a slice of bread a day or more than two yogurts, claiming I was too expensive to support. The oldest child was lovely but the younger one was very aggressive and rude. I had no patience to put up with all that and after 3 months I flew back home.

I don’t regret the experience, I met other amazing au-pairs from all over the world, made great friendships and had more than enough time not only to get to experience London, but also to travel a bit in the UK with my au-pair friends. Those au-pair travels were so much fun! The host family of my good German Au-pair friend, knowing my situation (and my disrespectful host-family) invited me for an extended weekend in the south, where we visited the famous Stonehenge and other beautiful spots.

But I didn’t want to quit, so I signed in for a year in the USA, the land of the dreams. And this time I nailed it! My host family was so nice, friendly, welcoming and caring, we immediately became best friends. I can definitely say that was the very best time of my life. I met so many people, made so many friends and traveled a lot within the US..


My first Halloween 14 years ago



Au-pair USA in 2000

I went back a few times to visit my American host family. They paid my ticket in exchange for babyssitting for the summer. Now, many years later, the little girl I took care of is a mother and I really want to return there this year for a visit.

Last year, I’ve had a very short 3 week volunteer experience in Koh Lanta, Thailand. Unfortunately there were a few strange conflicts with the host-mother and I left after 3 draining weeks. This is why compatibility and mutual respect is extremely necessary when you-re living in.


on a volunteer position in Thailand 2013

As you know I’m currently in Switzerland as an au-pair again, but this time for a very short experience.  I’ve always wanted to visit Switzerland, a country famous for it’s direct democracy, for the never ending wealth, the clean streets, the excellent public transportation that always runs on time, the tri-lingual abilities of it’s residents and the chocolate.

There’s no other way I would have ever experienced Switzerland in such depth unless I’d live with a local family.  Neither could I ever afford it, at least not for such a long period of time.

How did I find my host-families?

In the past I went through an agency. There was no internet back then and that was the only way. The advantages of using an agency is mostly related to safety. The families go through interviews, reference checks, etc. This won’t guarantee you’ll have a wonderful family, but you won’t be scamed or tricked into a dodgy situation. The only disadvantages are a fee you’re required to pay and age limits.

If you search online, you won’t have the same guarantees as through an agency, but if you’re smart, you’ll chose wisely and exchange a lot of messages- emails or Skype with your family before deciding.  It’s very important to make sure you’re both compatible before accepting any offer.

I posted a message at the couchsurfing website, where I found couple of specific groups dedicated to au-pairs and host families. I was surprised by how many invitations I got, from all over Europe and even USA. I chose the Swiss family after keeping contact with several of the families. The ages of the kids were perfect, I had never visited Switzerland and was very curious to get to know this country in depth. My host-mother is a well traveled woman, very open minded, flexible, caring and easy going. We both knew what we wanted out of this experience, so we were the perfect match.

How much does an a-pair earn?

Not  much, but remember your expenses are all covered and in many cases, families offer a language course, public transportation pass or flights to and from the destination. Each country has it’s own regulations as far as pocket money, certain countries such as the UK the Au-pairs are basically legal slaves whereas Switzerland, Belgium, Canada and USA offer better options.. Check this for more info: pocket money around the world

Do I have what it takes to be an au-pair?

We’ll, only you can answer that one, are you patient, love spending time with kids and are open minded? Will you be willing to accept, respect and embrace different costumes, cultures and ways of raising children? Then this might be perfect for you! Give it a try!





  1. I probably would have passed on by without reading to the end except that, many many years ago I met and hung out with a young lady who was an Au-Pair in Paris. I was there attending the “British Institute” and so was she. She had much nicer digs than I did (I was living at the Cite Universitaire which was somewhat spartan, and I’m being kind) so I did stay over on a few occasions.
    She lived with her host family just off Avenue Mozart as I recall. (memory’s dim)
    Recently we became “friends” on Facebook. Haven’t seen this person in 30 years, but there was a connection with someone else who was also studying there at the time and out of the blue there was a “friend request”. Too funny. She’s now a music teacher in Ottawa.
    Not sure if she ever stayed in touch with that host family, but it was certainly an interesting look into the lives of a fairly average Parisian family. Well, one that can have an Au-Pair girl I suppose.
    Thanks for the read.

    • Thanks for your comment on your old friendship with the Parisian Au-pair. Sometimes I wonder what happened to my old au-pair friends, from when I was 18, back then there was no internet, only regular post mail and we ended up losing contact. I wish I could find them online and get to know what they did with their lives :)

  2. Great article! It was incredibly insightful. I was wondering if you knew of any websites to utilize in search of an Au Pair opening?

  3. What a great way to travel! I love that you continued to try again after having a bad experience the first time.

    • I had a couple of horrible experiences in London. Actually, all my au-pair friends in London were miserable and I always tell people NOT to go there as an Au-pair. In Thailand I had another horrible experience (i wrote a post about it) and i was working for free. That experience was actually quite traumatizing and I have to admit I was super scared of what I would find in Zurich, but… My host family is the BEST in the world, I’m very happy with my experience! Sometimes we just have to push our fears to the side to give space to great opportunities in life.

  4. Being Au pair was my dream a couple of years ago. I filled in the application and applied for a year in the States. I was rejected as I didn’t have my driving licence. I might try is next year, still feel like doing it for a year or two!

    • As a Polish national, you might have a really hard time getting a J1 visa to the USA. I know Canada softened it’s borders for polish people but the US hasn’t. I didn’t drive when I was an au-pair there. I recently put an ad on the couchsurfing nanny and au-pairs group. I’m now in Zwitzerland with the best family ever which I found through CS. When you’re an au-pair you have to worry about nothing and have all expenses taken care of, plus pocket money.

  5. Did all your au-paring families speak English? Or did you have to try to understand them?

    • I was an Au-pair in the UK and USA, so their language was English. Now in Switzerland my host mother spoke perfect English but the children didn’t. The older boy had some classes at school, so he was able to pick it very fast and the little one didn’t speak, but after a few weeks understood everything I said. Communication was very easy, even though we spoke different languages. It was very rewarding. Are you planing on doing Au-pair somewhere?

  6. Where did you au pair in the USA? I want to au pair in Paris next year for a while then go to New York and au pair. I have a European passport even though I’m australian so do you think I should still go with an agency?

  7. Thanks for the amazing post. I live in Swizerland and I’m glad to hear that you made a good experience.
    I intend to apply for au-pair aswell but I’m just 17 now.


  1. Confessions of a Former Au Pair: An Interview with Yara Coelho - Nomad Wallet - […] Coelho is the author of the Heart of a Vagabond travel blog;  a solo female traveler in constant search…
  2. Workers of the World #15 - […] Pairs & Nannies Live Abroad as an Au Pair Deciding to become an au pair can be one of…
  3. How I Saved Thousands Of Dollars Living In The World’s Most Expensive City | Thought Catalog - […] My time as an Au-pair is over, but you can live exciting adventures across the world too, while being…

Leave a Reply