“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language – that goes to his heart.”
– Nelson Mandela
I still dream of my dream summer living in the French countryside. I got very lucky during my Au Pair experience and landed myself the perfect young family, the most adorably well behaved children and the perfect, most picturesque village to immerse myself in the French language and culture.
Saint-Pabu is an idyllic town of about 2000 inhabitants on the coast of the North-Western region of France, Brittany. I had no idea what to expect when I started my journey as an Au Pair so I thought I’d do a guide on what how to find a family and how to get by.
I just want to add a disclaimer to say that I am not speaking for all Au Pairs or all families. This is my opinion on my experience – the only one I have knowledge of – so do not quote me!
How to find a family:
Personally, I used AuPair World. It’s basically a dating website for Au Pairs and families who want Au Pairs. It’s also tried and tested by me and seems to be safe and secure. You set up a profile, with a picture, what you’re looking for and what your motivations are and the families do the same.
You can also ask anyone you know that has au paired in the past if their ex-family needs a new au pair. I know I’d be delighted to recommend the family I worked for to a friend.
Alternatively, there are websites you can pay for to find a host family, but I’d try the other options first. Considering I found the perfect family after only emailing 3-4 families.
Depending on the family you might have to set up a skype interview with them (to prove you’re right for that family and to prove you’re real!). Mine was short and sweet, we realised we were bother exactly what we were looking for and the mother and I agreed on a date for me to arrive and the amount of time I would stay.
Before you choose a family:
Decide on what you want. My main motivation was to be 100% immersed in the French language. I did not become an Au Pair for the money nor the location. Hence, I didn’t choose to au pair in Paris. As much as that would have been incroyable, I knew that unless I was removed from a city and distractions, I wouldn’t learn the language to the level I wanted to. If you’re considering becoming an Au Pair for the wage; I’d reconsider. Families usually bank on the fact that they are providing you with food, accommodation and a fast track to learning the language and therefore, you aren’t going to become a millionaire by au pairing.
The family I happened to work for owned a Chambres d’Hôtes, so I happened to get restaurant quality food for dinner every evening and a lovely little room overlooking the French farmland but to counter act that I worked from the minute the children woke at 7am most mornings until they went to bed between 8 and 9pm everyday for €65 a week. So you see what I mean about not doing it for the money. There are families that pay a lot more than that. But none of the families that suited me and I didn’t have anything to spend my €65 on every week in the countryside so I actually ended up saving it, ironically!
Once you’ve found a family:
Buy your flights and send them your itinerary so that they can collect you at the airport. I flew Dublin – Paris – Brest, and they were on the other side waiting for me. It was probably one of the most awkward moments of my life… “Hi, how are you? Nice to meet you, now we’re living together for three months…”
Do your research. I’m giving you this advice, because I didn’t take it! I went to Saint-Pabu with no experience in child care. I had babysat a lot so I thought I was experienced, until the first rainy day when I couldn’t think of any activities for a 5 year old and an 18 month old to do, it was then I realised I had only ever babysat children for an hour or less before bed time. I actually had no idea how to entertain children!
Also, because you should have weekends off, research what you can do in the area when you have some downtime. I used to go into Brest some weekends to explore and to do some shopping, I’d sunbathe on the numerous beaches nearby, meet up with the one other au pair in the village and hang out with her family (for a bit of variety) or I’d cycle the coastline until I got tired!
Also, here’s a link to the Cambres d’Hôtes my French family run. They’re stunning and I would highly recommend them. The countryside it beautiful, the beaches are crystal white, you’ll have the best food to eat and they run a dairy farm so you’ll get homemade yogurts for breakfast while you’re there as well as the freshest milk you can find.