Bonjour tout le monde! J’espère que vous profitez bien de vos vacances.
Hi everyone! I hope you’re enjoying the holidays. I think that my bloodstream consists of 90% turkey right now. Je ne regrette rien!
Most of my views so far have been on my post about my rather unsuccessful au pairing experience. Bearing this in mind I’ve decided to do a quick posts with a few tips for anyone considering going au pairing. Again, I urge you to not let my particular bad experience put you off- I really think that I was just unlucky and that it could have been great with another family. C’est la vie!
- Go through an agency
This was a fatal mistake of mine. I found my family through a free au pair site, which unfortunately didn’t offer me any real protection against my family or the unfortunate situation that arose. Although agencies obviously cost money, the majority of them do screen the families to ensure suitability and will be present to offer any advice if there are any difficulties. While I did sign a contract which was adhered to by both parties, the lack of any real “agency” protection may encourage some families to take advantage of you or present unfair working conditions. Many agencies incorporate language classes into their agreements which is always an advantage if you’re learning a language!
- Have a backup plan
Again, there are millions of successful au pair stories and I encourage you not to be disheartened from my personal experience. However, I would encourage you to have a backup plan that enables you to leave at short notice if it doesn’t work out. Luckily (after the pyjama bottom stealing incident) I had enough money to pay for a flight home, and a vague idea of where the train station was so I could enquire about train times. On a side note- a fitness level is also recommended for all getaway missions. I can still feel the sweat from my running attempts. My getaway consisted of (shamefully) leaving a note in the empty house stating that I was going home, grabbing my suitcase and running to a train station ten minutes away. The train (that arrived after two hours of tense waiting for my family to somehow capture me) also managed to break down for two hours in the town where the father of my family happened to be working that day. Let’s just say I didn’t take a window seat. When I eventually arrived in Paris I was petrified- it was my first time in the city and I had no idea how to get to the airport, but I got there in the end with directions from locals.
- Trust your instincts
This is definitely a regret of mine. Looking back, I definitely felt uneasy around the father of my au pair family from the beginning, but against my better judgement, I simply put it down to “cultural differences” and hideous stereotypes about French men (apologies). A few days later, I managed to track down the Irish au pair who had fled the family before me and messaged her on Facebook. She confirmed my uneasiness- she too had experienced the same level of strangeness from him. By this, I knew I hadn’t simply imagined/ exaggerated his weird behaviour- apparently he tried to introduce a “only wear vests around me” rule to her. Gross. Honestly, I just wish I’d left earlier- there is no point feeling uncomfortable or unsafe. After all, my pay was €30 a week. I’m grateful that my stolen pyjama bottoms were the extent of his creepy behaviour- even if my friends tormented me with mental imagery of him sniffing them for months to come.
- Go to a city/ large town:
I worked in a tiny village around two hours from Paris. The village itself was beautiful and I’m eternally grateful to have got the opportunity to experience a “vrai” French village, as since that I’ve mainly just lived and worked in cities. While there were some hotels in the village I never met another English speaker…. although that may have something to do with the fact that I only lasted ten days. Ahem. If I were to do it again (if the emotional scars ever disappeared) I’d definitely go to a large town or a city instead. I was relatively lonely during my stay there- unfortunately there wasn’t really anyone my own age there so I spent all free time by myself. If a city isn’t an option, I’d opt for a large town with good transport links so that you have the option to spend any days off on day trips. Large towns/ cities also undeniably offer more opportunities for au pairs- I would have loved to meet another au pair in my area, but unfortunately there weren’t any.
As always, feel free to hit me with any comments underneath!