Getting along with your au pair host family can be tough, especially if you live with the family. Living where you work isn’t easy, and often it can feel like you have no privacy and that you’re always working.
But forming a good relationship with your host family will make your overall au pair experience so, so much better. So read on for tips on how to get along with your au pair host family.
DO make your limits clear before even arriving.
Oftentimes au pairs and au pair families will have completely different expectations. For example, my host mother expected me to work every weekend, and once I arrived we renegotiated that my Saturdays would be free but I would work Sundays.
So if you don’t want to cook, tell your family beforehand. If deep-cleaning is out of the question, make that known. If you need at least 150 euros a week to make ends meet, ask for 150 euros a week. It’s better to tackle tough topics before even arriving.
DO talk about issues but not in front of the kids.
Sometimes you will bump shoulders with your au pair family. (I find it’s almost always with the mother.)
So address these issues, but not in front of the children. Ask your host mother for a word after dinner once the kids have gone to bed- it’s just bad form to air dirty laundry in front of the kids.
DO make your bed and clean your room.
If you live with the family, keep your living quarters clean at all times. You may think “I’ts my room, they won’t notice.”
But they will. It’s still their house.
So pick up your clothes, make your bed every morning and keep things tidy.
DO remember birthdays, mother’s day etc.
Thoughtful gestures with your host family goes a long way. For example, on mother’s day in France I bought my host mother flowers at the local market and she was thrilled.
Remembering birthdays and other little events shows you are invested in the family so make the extra effort. A little really goes a long way!
DO make food from your home country.
When I lived in France I made chocolate chip cookies all the time, and my French host family loved it. Whether your home country specializes in feijoada or bibimbap or Käsespätzle, make something from home!
DO become close with the mother.
Unfortunately, for female au pairs it can be difficult to become close friends with the father. But oftentimes the mother can end up being a good friend. While this is not always the case, be friendly and be willing to see what kind of opportunities arise. One of my au pair mothers is a close friend and confidante of mine who I hope to always be friends with.
DO make the parents’ lives easier.
I always told my host mother, “I’m here to make your life easier.” Whether that was picking up a baguette for the kids’ afternoon snack or preparing hors d’eouvres for a dinner party, I always tried to do a bit extra to help out.
DO be professional.
Regardless of how close you become with the family, try to avoid complaining about your hangover at breakfast, or making off-color jokes about sex or drugs. Ultimately, you’re employed to take care of the family’s children so keep things PG.
DON’T lose your key or cell phone.
Obviously no one wants to lose things, but make a concerted effort NOT to lose your keys or cell phone. I lost my cell phone and it was awkward. First of all, I was phoneless for a while and secondly my host family had to purchase me another one. Avoid.
When I first arrived in France I complained a ton. I complained about how I couldn’t make friends, how far we were from Paris, how lonely I sometimes felt.
In retrospect this was a bad choice- it got me started off on a bad foot with the family and made me look like a whiner.
Long story short, no one wants to hear you whine. And especially not your host family. So Skype a friend back home when you just need to vent.
DON’T talk smack about the parents or kids to the other party.
This may sound obvious, but you may be tempted. Keep your mouth shut on both fronts.
DON’T wear a skimpy bathing suit.
I’ve heard au pair families complain about their au pairs wearing thong bikinis. Feel free to wear a bikini, but avoid anything too revealing.