For beginners: The term AU PAIR describes people who go abroad to work as a home help in a host family. They are live-in home help from another country.
Read the other 2 parts of the au pair series:
Once upon a time, a wise man said:
When we understand what an au pair wants, it’s easier to make different choices. Instead of viewing the time we spend with au pairs as luxuries, we can see that these relationships are among the most powerful determinants of our wellbeing and survival.
Kidding. I changed the original quote to give this message: Au pairs are friends who know how to survive in a new country, travel, have fun, and find things cheaper!
After having lovely feedback on my first post “How to Date with an Au pair?” I decided to share my experience further. The content of this post only reflects my own experience with my au pair friends. It may not apply to other au pairs.
So, what does an au pair want?
1. Subway sandwich
Every au pair I met is an expert financial advisor and planner. No matter what their age or educational background is, they are incredibly amazing about saving money (I think they get training on how to save money during their orientation program in New York). They use their financial skills to find good food at the best value. I think that’s why Subway is so popular among many au pairs.
I have almost never seen an au pair who doesn’t like Subway sandwiches. Once I met an au pair during a trip. I asked her if she wanted to have lunch at Subway. She said she didn’t. I was shocked and disappointed! I asked her why. She said she didn’t know what Subway was and what kind of food they served! I took her to the closest Subway branch. Bam! That was the moment I changed her life. She fell in love with the sandwiches and prices at first sight. It’s her favorite fast food chain now. She keeps thanking me. I am proud of myself.
2. Life without kids
Many au pairs truly love their host kids. However, after a short conversation you will notice that they are tired of babysitting. It’s not hard to understand how they feel. After a few weeks of babysitting those adorable babies and kids may easily turn into little monkeys and monsters!
Excluding a few friends with unique personalities, I haven’t seen any au pair who wants to have kids in the next 10 years. I couldn’t figure out why, but 10 is the magical number. Somehow they always say “I don’t want to have kids for 10 years”.
She (before being an au pair):
I want 5 kids
She (after au pair program):
Okay, maybe 2 are enough
3. Host mom to go away
We all want freedom and flexibility at work. The further away your manager is, the happier you are. It’s the same for au pairs. Since their workplace is home and their manager is the host mom, they are not very happy to have host mom around while babysitting her kids.
It’s not just about having the boss around, it’s also about the kids’ behavior. When their mom is around, they want to play with their mom instead of their au pair. I can imagine the au pair’s frustration.
I kind of like this situation though 🙂 Since kids are with their mom, my au pair friends have time to message me.
4. A weekend without an agency meeting
This is one of the things au pairs like in their first months and then they hate it. They like it first because it’s a great opportunity to meet new people when you are new in the country. Then they start hating it because they make enough friends so they want to travel with them instead of attending a boring agency meeting.
However, some au pairs really enjoy the gossip going on about host families in those meetings. I think some meetings quickly turn into a “Sex and the City” episode. I have never been able to attend any of these meetings though. It’s one of my life goals to attend one.
5. Go on a trip and not come back
When you make travel plans with an au pair, you will quickly notice that she utilizes her free time in the best way possible. If they are off at 5pm on Friday and back to work at 8am on Monday, they will want to start the trip at 5:10pm on Friday and come back on 7:50am on Monday. Those 10 minutes are for sneaking some snacks from the kitchen. Don’t think it’s for preparing their luggage or dressing up. They somehow pack their stuff and get ready while still babysitting. I haven’t been able to figure out how they do all these tasks at the same time. I think it would be a perfect topic for a master’s thesis in quantum science of multitasking.
Their speed on the way to a vacation turns into extreme slowness once they are back. It’s the moment you should give flowers and chocolates to her!
6. Take millions of photos
Literally! Okay, maybe not millions, but thousands for sure! Once I went to Hawaii with an au pair friend. OMG! She took a photo with almost every tree! (Guess who took her photos). I quickly became exhausted and asked her if it was possible to leave the trees alone. At least some of them. She refused my request and kept asking me to take photo. Her excuse was “I probably won’t be able to come to Hawaii again”. Guess what? Me neither! So let me have a nice time here please!
I knew that her phone battery was going to drain quickly, so I could finally relax. She had a portable charger with her though. Fortunately that was the cheapest portable battery on Amazon, so it didn’t really help. Once she noticed that her phone was not able to serve her anymore, she asked me to take her photos with my phone. When my phone went low on battery, she took my tablet and started recording everything around. Once the tablet died, you should have seen the sadness on her face (and the happiness on mine 🙂 )!
7. Snap every second in her life
Are you wondering how come Snapchat is worth $35 billion? Because of au pairs! You can watch their entire lives LIVE on Snapchat, especially when they travel!
I went to New York with an au pair friend once. You know New York. It fascinates people, especially if it’s their first time there. Everybody gives a different reaction when fascinated. My au pair friend decided to react by recording and posting every second while walking in Manhattan! You know what is the good thing about Snapchat? It uses your phone’s battery. It means you can’t use Snapchat when your phone dies. There was a lucky moment for me. Her phone’s battery died right before going up the Rockefeller building to see that amazing Empire State view. Her world fell apart. She stopped talking and smiling. I started smiling 🙂
8. Party without reasons
I have au pair friends who party from 10pm to 5am every Friday and Saturday! I am never able to catch up with them when it comes to partying. I really wonder where they get that much energy and motivation from. Maybe it comes from the snacks and candies they eat with their host kids all day long. Hopefully I will figure it out soon.
9. Shop like it’s Christmas every day
Au pairs generally complain about getting paid very little, which is true. They use their budget carefully and say no to spending money except for one thing: SHOPPING
The excitement in their eyes when they enter Forever 21 is PRICELESS. Time stops as they enter the store. The world refuses to turn and birds hold their wings where they are while the wind doesn’t move even a leaf and the sun stays still.
Shopping is their meditation. You should avoid disturbing them at all cost. I saw an au pair who picked up about 10 garments in minutes after entering the store. It doesn’t matter if they have a budget. Even trying things on is one of the best feelings in their lives.
10. Stay forever
9 out of 10 au pairs I met want to stay in the country after their program is over. It’s not hard to understand why. The USA has more opportunities and it’s more fun to live in than many other countries.
The thing is that they don’t know if they want to stay here until their program is about to be over. I have had many au pair friends who had only a few months left but tried to figure out in a hurry about how to stay here.
11. Find parking
Finding a parking spot is challenging even for a local who has been living in the city for decades. Imagine the situation of an au pair who has just got to the country. However, they are really good at scanning the area and finding an available space. I’m always amazed by their exceptional vision and fast environmental analyzing skills. They use these skills to spot cool guys in a bar too.
12. Everything FREE
I saw an au pair who was tasting every single sample offered in a food festival because they were FREE! No matter how the samples looked or smelled, she went for them. I think she caused a huge financial damage to the festival organizers. I enjoyed hanging out with her. Au pairs know how to discover new things and discover them for free!
13. To see her family 🙁
I left the sad section to the end. Au pairs miss their families a lot. Their “real” families. Even if their host families are super friendly and sincere, it’s inevitable to become homesick at least at some point in the au pair program. I wish all au pairs to be able to visit their families as many times as possible!
One more last word 🙂
I am planning to open my own au pair agency. Once I have my own agency, I will tell host families to pay au pairs $500 a week. I will give au pairs 6 weeks of vacation per year and 2 months for traveling at the end of the program. There won’t be monthly agency meetings. PLUS, for those who are interested, I will help them find an American husband. So help me to open my au pair agency! SUPPORT JACK by SHARING THIS POST!!!