Are you thinking of becoming an au pair or nanny as a way of traveling to France or finding work? Or are you an employer seriously looking for that special someone to take care of your most valuable possessions: your children? I’ve been a nanny twice and here’s my story…
I first worked as an au pair back in 2010 when I decided to move to France after graduating. My first au pair experience was absolutely amazing, and I had a fantastic year. I made some wonderful friends, learned to speak like une vraie Parisienne and was welcomed into the family like I was one of their own.
Then, in 2015, I became an au pair again after deciding to quit my job in management to pursue my dream of being a writer. My current employers are equally as marvellous as the last, with two adorable little girls. They too, have welcomed me into their family with open arms and I couldn’t be more grateful. They are extremely fair and kind and genuinely care about my wellbeing and my personal projects. I’m really lucky.
Now, you need to understand that. Read it again: I’m really lucky.
Why am I lucky? Because I’ve had fantastic host families during my time as an au pair. How do I know this? Because I’ve heard, and continue to hear, horrible stories about mistreatment of au pairs. My intention is not to scare you out of being an au pair, but to help you find the right family. There are SO MANY wonderful families out there, you just have to make sure that you find one of them.
It is extremely important to do your research before coming here to ensure that your family is treating you fairly on both a personal and legal level and you are doing your job correctly and fulfilling your responsibilities.
First things first. Here are some things you should ask your employer before you agree to work for them:
1. Will I have a contract?
It is imperative that you sign a contract and that you are declared so that you can receive Social Security and medical care if necessary.
2. How many hours a week will you be expected to work?
The legal number of working hours for an au pair is 30 hours per week (5 hours per day).
3. What housework will you be expected to do?
You should only be expected to do light housework; you are not a maid. Light housework examples: emptying the dishwasher, washing the children’s clothes, making the beds, wiping the table after breakfast etc.
4. How many times per month will you be asked to babysit? Will you be told in advance? Will you be paid extra for babysitting?
Usually you are not paid extra, but you also should not be babysitting an unreasonable amount of hours. Sadly, there is a big loop hole in the law about babysitting; so the best thing to do is draw up an agreement in your contract beforehand.
5. Will you be insured with the family?
This is very important because you need to be insured in case of a medical emergency. If you don’t have any insurance and need to go to the hospital or doctor, you may have to pay a large sum of money for treatment.
6. How much holiday will you receive? Will you be required to go on holiday with the family and work or will you be free to take your own holiday?
I recommend that you come to an agreement with your host family well in advance because there is no specific law about holidays for au pairs. Au pairs are usually entitled to a two-week holiday if they stay with their host families for six months, so you may use this value to individually calculate your holidays.
7. Will you be required to take French lessons?
Non-EU citizens are required to take French lessons.
EU citizens have the choice, but it is highly recommended.
8. Will the family pay for your French lessons?
Families are not obliged to pay for your lessons but they should help you enroll. Most families do not pay, and schools in Paris are expensive, so keep that in mind when planning your year abroad.
9. Will you be paid when you’re on holiday or when the family is away?
This usually depends on whether you go with the family or stay in France. However, this is again something that should be negotiated with your family in your contract.
10. Where exactly do they live?
Suburbs can be difficult to navigate and some can be far from Paris. Find out what your public transportation options are and do the research yourself before agreeing to the position.
11. Do they pay for your phone and Navigo?
Au pairs generally earn between 70 and 90 euros pocket money per week. Your family should pay for your phone contract and Navigo pass because you don’t earn enough. I would advise you not to accept a family that does not pay for these things.
12. Find out what their general expectations are: Are you obliged to have dinner with them? Are you going to be treated as part of the family?
Some families want you to have dinner with them every night, whereas others don’t socialize with you at all. This is the same with regards to being part of the family; some families treat you like a big sister to their kids, and others will treat you as an employee. Find out before you sign anything!
13. How are we going to communicate the schedule?
Some families are very disorganized and this can be a real issue for au pairs. Make sure that the schedule will be communicated regularly and in advance.
14. How do you discipline your kids?
This is an important question, because you need to understand your family’s attitude towards discipline, and if you agree with their forms of implementing it.
15. If the position is live out, will they give you an allowance for groceries?
This is particularly important if you will be living in an independent studio. Paris is a very expensive city so you would need a little extra help from the family for food and apartment supplies!
So there you have it, just 15 quick questions that could change your entire experience! 15 questions that will guarantee that you get a great family and are well taken care of. Rest assured, there are hundreds of wonderful families in Paris, and you just have to take the time to find the right one. If you know what they expect from you and vice versa, there is absolutely no reason why you won’t have a brilliant year!
Good luck and happy searching!