"I'm still in contact with the family I stayed with in Cologne. I plan to visit them again next summer. Being an au pair was a great experience for me." (Sue, 24)
‘Au pair’ is French and means ‘equal to’ which is the perfect description: you come to another country and become part of local family. You will be responsible for looking after the children and supporting the family. If you love kids and enjoy being involved in family life, this is the opportunity for you to discover a foreign country and improve your language skills.
As an au pair in Germany, you can gain maturity and self-confidence and take a break from your everyday life at home. You get the ultimate insight into the culture and discover what’s behind ‘Bratwurst’ and ‘Lederhosen’. In your free time you can discover interesting cities and make friends from all over the world. Maybe you even have the chance to travel through Europe during a holiday with your new family. Here you will find what you need to know about how to start your adventure.
It is possible to organize your stay as an au pair in German all by yourself. If you already know a family living in Germany through friends or relatives this might be a good alternative. Otherwise it will probably be easier to choose an au pair organization that will match you up with a host family. They can also guide you through the visa process and make sure you meet all the requirements. Additionally an organization can provide you with help when you need it and make settling in easier for you. Often au pair organizations arrange au pair meet-ups where you’ll make friends with other au pairs living in your area quickly.
Generally speaking, there are differences in the rules and regulations for EU-citizens and non-EU citizens wanting to be an au pair in Germany. While EU citizens as well as citizens from Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein are allowed to take up work as an au pair when they are 17 to 30 years old, people coming from other countries have to be 18 to 26 years of age. Citizens coming from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, Chile and South Korea can apply for a Working Holidays Visa. This is the easiest way to get a visa if your country doesn’t have an explicit au pair program. Whatever country you come from though, you should have basic German language skills. Additionally you shouldn’t be married and don’t have any children of your own. To work as an au pair, you also need a valid health insurance which covers potential medical expenses while you’re living in Germany.
As well as the visa requirements listed, there are more standards you should meet. Of course when coming to Germany, you should be interested in getting to know the culture, becoming part of your host family and be keen on learning the German language or improving your language skills. Working with children can not only be pleasant and rewarding but at times quite exhausting. That’s why it’s important that you’ve gained previous experience in childcare. Maturity is expected from you. Therefore you should have at least graduated from high school. Ensuring your own and the children’s health you have to be a non-smoker and of good general health. Additionally it is crucial that you have an clean criminal record. If you meet all the regulations and requirements, there’s nothing stopping you from starting your au pair adventure in Germany!
Pocket money, health insurance, language course and more
Deciding on whether to be an au pair or not certainly depends on what you can get from the experience and which conditions you can expect to work under. Living together with your host family under one roof, you will get to know the German language better and improve your language skills in everyday life. The cultural experience should be prioritised. Still, your host family also has an interest which is good care of their kids. Therefore you are expected to work a maximum of 30 hours per week , though no longer than five to six hours a day. Your family might ask you to babysit in the evening – this is totally fine if you have agreed on it before. You will also get paid extra for additional hours, such as caring for the kids in the evening hours or at special occasions. You will have at least four evenings a week to yourself, ensuring that you can meet new friends and explore the surroundings. Depending on how busy your host parents are, if they are working in the weekend or have time off, you might need to play with the kids on Saturdays and Sundays as well. Nevertheless, you will have at least one whole weekend off per month to do whatever you like. Adding to the free weekends you also get two paid vacation days per month. You can decide yourself if you would like to save them up for a long vacation at the end of your stay or if you would like to go on holiday in between.
On the financial side you will get a monthly 260 Euros pocket money. This might not sound like a lot but keep in mind that your private room and all your meals are included already. So basically you can spend all the money on free-time activities and personal goods. Additionally your host family pays for your health insurance and accident insurance. You can decide yourself if you would like to attend a language course; your host family will again contribute 50 Euro per month towards the course fee.
In most cities there’s a public transport system and your host family pays for your travelling costs to your language school and cultural events.
While these are mainly material and financial benefits, becoming an au pair has many more advantages. You will become part of a family and live like a local. You will be able to discover not only Germany but travel through all of Europe during your holidays. Learning a language is easier when you are confronted with it in everyday-life. You will see how quickly you improve and be proud of the progress you make. Maybe you will even dream in German after a couple of months.
Kids, school and kindergarten
As an au pair you are mainly required to look after the kids. Each family is different and has different daily schedules. Your tasks also depend on how old the kids are and if they go to school or kindergarten.
Usually you will help dressing the kids in the morning, prepare some breakfast and take the children to school or kindergarten. Depending on how far the educational institutions are, you either walk or take the bus, or some families might even let you take their car.
Afterwards you might have some free-time to go to a language course or meet up with friends. Maybe you will have small cleaning duties like doing the kids' laundry, tidying up their rooms or vacuuming the kitchen.
In the afternoon you might need to get the children from school or kindergarten and prepare some snacks for them. You'll be helping them with their homework and play with them until the parents come home.
Depending on the individual family situation, your schedule might be different and you might need to take up a couple more tasks like going grocery shopping, taking the kids for a bath or preparing dinner.
Even if you get pocket money while being an au pair you should have some additional funds. There’s money you even need to spend before starting your au pair adventure. You will need to pay for travelling to and from Germany yourself. Depending on where you come from and which form of transport you will use this can cost up to 1,000 Euros. If you need a visa, you will need to pay certain visa fees at your local German embassy. Are you organizing your stay with an au pair agency? They will charge you a maximum of 150 Euro for matching you up with a host family. If you’ve got your driver’s license outside the European Union, you should also think about getting an international driver’s license that allows you to drive in Germany as well. A license is not compulsory to become an au pair but increases your chances of finding a suitable family.
Once you are in Germany, you might want to take up a language course. Your host family will contribute 50 Euros per month to your course fees, but this will probably not cover all of it. In addition you should always have a bit of money spare to take part in social events, leisure time activities and travel: While you’re in Germany you might as well make the most of it!