Your au pair year in 7 easy steps
Once your paperwork is done and approved, you`ve found a great host family, bought your plane ticket and said bye to your parents, siblings and friends, your au pair year is finally about to start!
This is a super exciting time for you - moving to a new country, learning a new language, getting work experience - these are all incredible things.
But it is also easy to get overwhelmed and carried away with how much things are suddenly changing.
That is why we've put together a little step-by-step guide, so you don't miss out on any of the fun, but also don't feel too stressed with how much you`ve got going on.
The 7 steps of your au pair year:
Step 1 - “Fresh off the boat”
These are your first couple of days with your host family.
During this time it is important for you to:
Talk to your host family as much as possible to get to know them and feel at home
Find out what the “house rules” are - what time are they usually waking up, eating their meals, are you allowed to bring home guests - everything you need to know in order to live a stress and conflict free life with your host family
Establish what your routine will be - what time are you expected to work, what the family routine is like (sport practices, parent`s date nights, family evenings etc)
Learn how to use the household appliances (washing machines, dishwashers, tv and Internet connection etc)
Get to know the children - they are the reason you are there after all. Make sure you know their names before you arrive (ask the parents how to pronounce them and teach them how to pronounce yours - names differ greatly between cultures and countries, so this is an important thing to remember)
Find out your tasks and chores (and also when and how the family would like you to do them). Every home is different when it comes to the way people fold laundry, organize things, prepare food for children, clean etc. Make sure you know how the family is used to doing things and try to follow that.
Step 2 - “Taking your first steps”
These are the days after your arrival, when you feel ready to start exploring the neighbourhood a little.
During this time it is important you take a closer look at:
All your essentials - Do you have your bus pass, a local phone number, know how to get around in your area? If not then this is the time to work on that. As an au pair you work around 5-6 hrs per day, so use your free time not just to get to know your family, but also your neighbourhood.
Make an appointment to extend your visa and sort out other paperwork.
Start inquiring about language school options - your host family will contribute to your language learning, but ultimately it is up to you to know your options and make a choice that works for you.
Be independent, but don`t exclude your host family - ask them when is best for you to go exploring (time when they do not need you to help at home) and ask what recommendations they have, especially if they've had au pairs before. Maybe they would like to show you around themselves, if not go on short walks in the evening/during the day when you have time.
Step 3 - “Finding your tribe”
This is probably within the first month of your au pair experience
Now that you know your family and their routine pretty well already and have taken a few strolls in your area it's time to start getting to know your community.
For that it's good to:
See if there are other au pairs in your area (your agency and Facebook are both good for this)
Set up a meeting with your agency (most agencies will want to schedule a meeting with you during your first weeks/months to check in and see, if you`re doing ok)
Think about hobbies or sports activities you'd like to do
On top of that it's time to start working on your financial year plan -
What`s your budget as an au pair?
What are the things that you need to spend on (toiletries, clothes, computer etc)?
What is your savings plan (how much you want/can put aside each month for travelling etc)?
Step 4 - “Finally unpacked”
These are the first 4 - 3 months of your au pair experience
Use this time to properly settle in, get used to your routine, and most importantly - enjoy your experience!
Step 5 - “Thinking ahead”
From about month 5 of your au pair year it's time to start thinking “what's next?” (and yes, we know you`re not even half way through your year, but by now you should know that everything in Germany takes a lot of time).
Use this time (because you can!) to think about what you`d like to do next.
Do you want to stay in Germany or any other country after your au pair year or go back home?
If you want to extend your time abroad - start researching your visas and options now so you can apply in time!
If you choose to go back home - make a list of places you want to travel to/see before you leave and start looking at tickets - booking early means lower prices!
Step 6 - “Taking action”
Now that you`ve had some time to think about things and plan, it's time to start taking action for your next step after the au pair year is over.
This should happen around half way through your experience (so month 6/7).
If you plan to apply for university/social year etc - this is the time to start your applications and active research into viable options.
Step 7 - “Bittersweet goodbyes”
Hopefully all your ducks are in a row, you`ve had a great time with your host family and you've created a loving community for yourself. But now it's time to say goodbye. We've got a whole article on how to do this.
Make sure you have ways of keeping in touch with your family and friends so you don't`feel like you`re leaving them forever.