Marianne is a California girl au pairing in rural France. Here she tells us about what au pairing in Brittany, France, is really like!
Hey, Marianne! Thanks for joining us. So tell us a bit about your au pair situation in France.
Where do you live exactly?
I’m currently living in a very tiny town in the department of Brittany about twenty minutes outside of Brest, France. It’s located in the very most western part of France, right on the coast, in an area of rugged seascapes and cow pastures.
How did you find your family? Through a website, friends, etc.
I found my host family through AuPairWorld.net, a website designed for setting au pairs up with families. It’s free to have an account if you’re a potential au pair as well – a much cheaper option than going with an agency (although an agency will do all the world for you). AuPairWorld.net allows you to fill out a profile, put photos up, and then search through family profiles based on your own criteria. In my case, my host family found my profile and sent me a message expressing their interest in having me as an au pair.
What kind of visa are you using to live in France?
I technically have a long-term student visa which is what you are required to get as an American becoming an au pair in France. The only requirements are that you sign up for French classes (which you can later decide not to go to).
Do you go to French school?
Yes. I originally was going because it was required that I be signed up for French classes for my visa. Now I go because I’m interested in learning the language, and because my host family pays for it. If I didn’t go I’d feel bad, like I was wasting their money.
How long have you been there/will you stay?
I have been here since August 2014 and I will stay through the end of the school year – July 2015.
What you love about working in rural France:
I love that I’m living in a part of France that people don’t know of. I find that to be appealing and I like learning about the region while also being able to travel to other parts of France and Europe. I have found that the people who live here are so much friendlier than other parts of France. It’s much more laid back and people don’t frown at you if you go to the bakery in yoga pants. [Ashley’s note- Um, that’s awesome. Definitely not the case in Paris.]
What you dislike about working in rural France:
It’s been a little bit hard to make friends considering I don’t live in a largely populated area so there are not many other au pairs or people my age nearby. Fortunately Brest is larger city that is not too far away and I have been able to meet people there and through my French classes.
Do you have your own room or own apartment?
I live in the same house as my host family, but I have the entire bottom floor (kind of like a basement) to myself. It’s not huge, but I have my own bedroom, my own small lounge area (with a couch and table), and my own bathroom. It’s nice because I can be completely separate from the family if I choose.
What duties do you have? Do you cook for the family?
I get the kids ready for school in the morning, drive them to school, then pick them up after school in the afternoons. I usually have them for a few hours after school before the parents come home, where I drive them to their various after school activities. Wednesday I have them all day because they do not have school on Wednesdays. Sometimes I cook them lunch, and on rare occasions I cook dinner, but in general I do not have to cook for the family. I also do the laundry for the kids.
How do you entertain/educate the children?
I play games with the children, read to them, and try to teach them through play. They have just started learning English with me, so it’s a slow process but they now understand most of what I say and I think they will start to speak more in English soon. Sometimes I do crafts with the kids, or teach them how to bake cookies. If it’s a nice day out, we go on bike rides or walk to the ocean.
How do you spend your free time?
In my free time I blog, read, run, do yoga, practice my French and binge watch probably too much Netflix.
How have you made friends? Has it been difficult in a small town? Are there many expats/fellow au pairs?
I have made a few friends through my language classes. There are a couple other au pairs in the classes, or just general people that I’ve gotten along with well. I’ve also attended a “language exchange night” that takes place fairly often in Brest. This is great because I can meet a lot of new people as well as improve my French skills while not boring someone entirely with my poor grasp on the language. I haven’t made many friends but I’ve always been one of “quality, not quantity.” Strangely enough, I feel like the best friends I’ve made have been through my blog.
What is the dating scene like in rural France?
Haha, thankfully I didn’t come to France to meet a French guy and I haven’t really been looking. I’m sure if I wanted to I could go to the nearby city and I could meet some guys there, but in the town where I am, it would be hard. It’s definitely not a party area, although maybe in the city.
Have you found it easy to learn French in rural France?
Actually, yes. It’s helped with my French because there aren’t many people here who speak English very well. I’ve learned through immersion so due to the fact that French is spoken to me and around me almost all day everyday, I’ve picked up quite a lot. Also it was pretty much a necessity if I wanted to make any friends!
Overall would you recommend working in France?
Yes, absolutely! I think working in a part of France that isn’t Paris, provides you with a unique perspective on the country overall. It also introduces you to that regions culinary specialties (for example, where I’m living is where crepes first originated – so, of course they’re the best of the best), and you can always visit Paris whenever you want!
Any important things to pack?
I totally packed incorrectly for being an au pair. I had heard that if you go to France, be sure to dress nicely. But in reality, if you’re playing with kids all day, especially young ones, you’re going to want to wear clothes that you don’t care that much about. Also, things like shoes (I suggest Converse) that are easy to put on/take off, as well as run around in, are good. Jeans and sweatshirts… Layers in general are a good idea. If you’re going somewhere where it rains be sure to bring a raincoat.