Best tips and insights on becoming an Au Pair in the US
Are you thinking about becoming an Au Pair in the US or have already started your application process? If so, I’m sure you have plenty of questions. I’ve been an Au Pair twice, with two different agencies, in two different cities, with two different families. I met many Au Pairs along the way who shared their thoughts and experiences with me. In this post, I will try to address some of the most common questions, with insights and tips you can only get from a former Au Pair.
Table of Contents
What agencies are out there and how to choose one?
Popular agencies: Cultural Care, Au Pair in America, Au Pair Care, and InterExchange
How to choose one?
x check their websites
x compare their prices and offer
x once you’ve done the above, you can choose based on your feeling
There are many Au Pair agencies out there to choose from.
Some of the most popular ones are Cultural Care, Au Pair in America, Au Pair Care, and InterExchange.
As far as I know, Au Pair in America and Cultural Care are the most popular agencies.
I’m sure all the official agencies follow the same rules, have very similar requirements, and most likely similar offers.
So it’s really up to you which agency you choose.
What is most important to you? The costs, how long the agencies have been involved with the program, what agency has the most Au Pairs?
I recommend comparing their offers as well as prices, checking if any of them offers a special deal at the moment when you wanna apply, and so on.
The agencies offer informational meetings, which I highly encourage you to attend. Due to the current circumstances, I’ve seen most of them offering online meetings, so just check their websites for the most recent updates on events and deals.
Au Pair in America vs Cultural Care
Au Pair in America and Cultural Care might be the most popular Au Pair agencies. I’ve been an Au Pair with both agencies so I will also share my experience, but keep in mind at the end of the day it’s a subjective opinion and in most cases, it’s not the agency that will determine what your experience will be like. I’ve met happy as well as disappointed Au Pairs from all the different agencies out there.
Moreover, I’ve been an Au Pair with Au Pair in America in 2014-2015 and Cultural Care 2017-2019 so things might have changed since then.
Au Pair in America
“Au Pair in America was the first and original program sponsor and now, almost 30 years later, we have sent an estimated 90,000 young people as au pairs to America.” – Au Pair In America Website
I could describe what they offer and what their requirements are, but there’s no need for that, you’ll find all the detailed information on their website.
What I know is interesting for many wanna-be-Au Pairs is that this agency offers 3 different variations of the program. Those are:
x AU PAIR IN AMERICA: the standard program where the rules are the same as in all other agencies, same weekly stipend, same amount of working hours as well as credits for education
x AU PAIR EXTRAORDINAIRE: for those who have extra qualifications or professional childcare experience; if you’re eligible for this option you’ll get paid a little more and of course are qualified to work with special needs kids, bigger families, etc. depending on your experience and skills
x EDUCARE IN AMERICA: this basically means you will have fewer working hours with the kids and more time to take classes
Fees vary by country, for details check their website: Fees &Benefits
x oldest agency with the most experience
x Au Pair oriented
x a lot of Au Pairs, from my experience most host families located on the East Coast
x gives you the time and freedom to find a perfect match + connects you with many families at the same time
When I was applying this agency was not pushy at all when it came to choosing a family. What was also great is that they allowed a lot of families to be on your profile at the same time. I’m pretty sure I had 12 families on my profile at one point! Why is that a big plus? Families might add you but then never contact you or you might not choose to match with a family but they take forever to “release” you from their profile. Moreover, you might like a family a lot but are still a little hesitant. Then it’s great to be in touch with 1,2 or 3 other families as well to have a little bit of a comparison and to make your decision easier.
x more host families on the West Coast
For some reason, a lot of future Au Pairs hope to find a host family in California.
I don’t know what the official statistics are but if you dream of being an Au Pair on the West Coast, preferably in California, I would definitely say your chances are way higher with Cultural Care.
x Finding your match– the process is not as enjoyable as with Au Pair in America
I didn’t like the process of looking for a family with this agency, to be honest. Well until I told them my honest opinion. I’m aware that this will also depend on the country you’re from and the people who work for the agency there, but I must say many Au Pairs I met who went with CC had a very similar experience with the application process. Let me explain:
The agency was pushy, with every family I rejected they would contact me, but it didn’t feel helpful at all. They were just putting more pressure on finding a family fast and sounded quite annoyed. If that would have been my first experience I am not sure I would feel so confident about becoming an Au Pair. Also, they only allowed 1-3 families on your profile at a time. Those numbers might be different now.
After a while, I contacted the agency and explained that it’s my 2nd time becoming an Au Pair and I know exactly what I want, both as far as the family and the location are concerned and that I’m willing to wait and understand that it’s on me if I find a family or not and to please not contact me about every rejected family. And well, they let me do my thing. Shortly after I found a nice family living in Redondo Beach, LA.
x Training school
Similar experience with both agencies.
*I’m mentioning this just as an example of why APiA felt more welcoming and Au Pair oriented:
One thing that was more positive with Au Pair in America is that all the participants got t-shirts, hoodies, pens, etc. whereas with CC the experience was very odd. We didn’t all get a goody bag, which is not a big deal, but what was weird, not to say sad to me is that different Au Pairs got different things. And that’s because the agency let the host families choose whether they want to get some “cultural care gear” for their Au Pair or not. Plus, what they wanna get them. So we’re all there together, nervous and excited about meeting our families and the whole experience and then some people get big gifts, some just something small, and some were left with absolutely nothing. Which again, is not a big deal, some families chose not to get any of the CC gear, instead had some awesome gifts ready for their Au Pair at home. So it’s not about the gift or about the family, but I must say in that moment, when you’ve just arrived in a new country it can definitely influence whether you feel welcome or not.
This might have changed tho. We gave the feedback to the agency and they agreed and promised to change that in the future, so I’m actually curious to know if they did. I sure hope so.
x LCC and help during your stay
LCC = Your Local Childcare Coordinator
The help offered is very similar in both agencies and I’m sure strongly depends on the people you’ll be in touch with, not so much on the agency.
However, I did not go to rematch or had to suddenly go back home, so I cannot tell how each agency reacts in case of an “emergency”.
The pros and cons mentioned above are subjective so take them with a grain of salt.
How to choose between those two agencies?
x check both websites and look for reviews
x attend the informational meetings and ask any questions you may have, then compare the answers
x compare program details and fees
x know that at the end of the day it’s not the agency that determines how your experience will look like, that’s on you and of course your choice of a host family
x create your own list of pros and cons
x keep in mind that you don’t have to pay until you choose a host family, so don’t stress about it! You can apply to both agencies or change during your recruitment process if you’re unsatisfied with how it’s going. So don’t put extra pressure on yourself. Just choose one and start the process.
Application & Skype interviews with potential host families: TIPS
x share your honest opinion
x share your values and be honest about your expectations and goals for your Au Pair year
x be honest about your driving/language/childcare/swimming skills and experience
Being yourself goes for the whole Au Pair experience, from your application, through the interviews with host families to your Au Pair year. You won’t feel good and be able to make the best out of it all if you compromise your values and priorities. You won’t find a perfect match if you keep thinking about how you should be and what a particular family wants to hear. Be honest. Yes, show yourself from your best side. Yes, there will be things you will have to compromise, but make sure that at the end of the day you’re staying yourself and are feeling good about yourself.
Letter for the host family:
x take your time to write it
It does make a difference and the families do pay attention to it.
x share detailed but relevant information
x write it yourself and with the English skills you do have but make sure to check your spelling
To do that, I highly recommend using Grammarly (website or google chrome extension)
x show your personality
x make it fun to watch, be creative, and don’t repeat everything that’s written in your application forms
x use daylight while filming
x avoid loud background music
I’d say make a video that’s fun and creative. The families will watch it with their kids, so it’s not the time to list all your skills or diplomas and make the video super long. You can put all that in your letter or other parts of the application. Instead, show them. Show them your hobbies, skills, family, pets, or whatever you feel like but most importantly show your personality. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy and loud, be yourself to find a family that’s actually right for you. It can be a simple sit-down video, with a calm voice and a friendly smile.
x ask all the questions you might have
This is not the time to hold back. Ask all the questions you may have. If you don’t understand something, ask. If you have doubts about something, ask. If the family gives you a vague answer to your question, ask for details, examples, an extra explanation.
The Skype interviews are THE time to get all the information you need to know to make your decision a little easier. Of course, the families will show themselves from their best sides and might promise you something and then not follow through with it. But you don’t want to match with a family and then second guess your decision while on the flight to the US just because you have questions in your mind that you were afraid to ask before. Trust me, some questions and doubts will come up anyway, that’s normal when you’re stepping into the unknown. So make sure you ask all the questions that you do have during the application process.
x you can change your mind
If you agreed to something or even said yes to a match but then while thinking about it or sleeping a night over it you suddenly feel completely different about it- that’s ok! You can say you need more time to think about it or you can completely change your mind. It’s not the time to please everyone or be “fake polite” at the cost of your own happiness, compromising your goals, needs, or values.
Questions to ask your host family
Besides all the obvious questions that you might already have and the ones the agency advises you to ask, I created an extended list of questions that you should ask your potential host family.
To check the post with all the questions click HERE.
Is the family or the location more important?
There is no right answer to this question, as both the family and a location can positively or negatively surprise you.
x It totally depends on your priorities as long as there are no “extremes”. The agency will tell you not to focus on the location. I can tell you, the location does matter, especially if you have a dream one in your mind.
What I mean by “extremes” is that if the location is perfect but the family is far from what you’ve imagined, then don’t choose them just because of where they live. And vice versa. If you find a family that seems like the perfect match, except they live in a very remote area then I’d say don’t choose them as it will be hard to make the best out of your experience. Yes, you will still be able to go on vacation and whatnot, but during the week after a tiring day of work, there’s a difference in whether you go watch the sunset at the beach or stay closed up in your room watching TV cause there’s nothing to do and nowhere fun to go.
So should you make a choice based on the location or the family?
x Make a list of your “non-negotiables”, both location and family-wise
However, leave some room for compromise. Keep an open mind and don’t fixate on just one city or a certain age group of kids, unless of course, you know 100% that it’s that or nothing, then put that on your non-negotiable list.
- West Coast (even if you have a particular state or city in mind, at least you’re on the right coast and can easily go on road trips)
- No more than 3 kids
- A family that doesn’t speak your native language so you’re not tempted to use it if improving your English skills is one of your main goals
- A car at your disposal
You can make it as general or as detailed as you wish. You could also list your locations and qualities of a family from what you think would be most to least ideal.
Should you become an Au Pair?
Good and not so good reasons to become an Au Pair
x improving your language skills
x getting to know the culture and real life
x getting out of your comfort zone
x starting an adventure
x way of spending your gap year
x growing as a person
x when you need a (longer) break from your daily life; this experience can totally shift your perspective on life in many ways
x cause you always wanted to live in the US and keep thinking about becoming an Au Pair
Check my post all about: 10 reasons why you should become an Au Pair HERE
Not so good reasons:
x earning/ saving money
Even though I don’t agree with many other Au Pairs who complain a lot about the salary as I think if you set your priorities right, it’s definitely enough to have a lot of fun and do/see/experience all you want to. Nonetheless, earning money should not be the goal, this is definitely not a good reason to become an Au Pair. It’s just not what the program is about.
x finding the love of your life/dating
Although there are many former Au Pairs who have amazing love stories with happy endings and marriages and whatnot, don’t focus on that. It sounds like a silly reason to mention, but trust me, there are many Au Pairs whose goal it is to find a partner, who then are very disappointed when that’s not the case for them. It might happen for you, of course, why not?! But please don’t let this be your reason for becoming an Au Pair.
Fears and worries: are they normal?
Whether you’re still thinking about applying, you’re in the middle of your application process, you already found a host family or are in the training school. Fears, worries and doubts will come up. And that’s totally normal! You’re about to embark on a completely new journey. You’re entering the unknown.
The good news is that all new Au Pairs feel that, you are not alone, you will immediately have people around you who are going through the exact same thing. Just share your thoughts and feelings with someone in the training school and you’ll see, they feel the same way!
Moreover, with time you’ll overcome all those fears, get to know yourself better, become more confident and create endless amazing memories.
What to pack?
I won’t create a whole packing list for you, the agency does that already. It will also depend on your personal needs and of course on where you are going to live.
However, I just want to confirm what you probably already heard (if not, you will), don’t take too much and don’t buy too much new stuff before you leave. Whether you into shopping or not, you will buy quite a lot during the year. Remember that once the year (or two) are over you will either have to get rid of some things or find a way to transport all of your belongings.
What to do to have a good experience
What to remember once you’re with your host family
x be honest, be yourself and ask questions
x talk to your LCC when in doubt or feeling uncomfortable about something
x get out of your comfort zone
x say “yes” to opportunities, adventures, meeting people, taking classes, etc. even when you’re not in the mood or tired. Time will fly by, make sure you make the best out of it
x make an effort to meet locals or at least connect with Au Pairs from other countries not just from your home country
x spend your money on experiences and adventures
Make sure to check out my post all about ways to save money while living abroad HERE.
x remember why you became an Au Pair in the first place and go after your goals
x don’t let anyone walk all over you
x don’t spend forever complaining about your host family, the program, or feeling sorry for yourself
you can always go to rematch and you can always go back home
x you are there to take care of kids, not be “everything” for the family
x you have to respect them and their privacy and vice versa
x track your spendings from day one
x look for tickets in advance
x get yourself a library card
x stay in touch with your friends and family back home but focus on making new friends
1 powerful thing you should do before moving abroad
So you’ve decided that you’re going to live abroad for a while. You’re making plans, you’re packing your bags, you’re daydreaming about your travels and your new adventurous life. You’re simply excited. At this point in your preparation, there’s one powerful thing you can do, that will help you get through tougher times on your journey.
Know, remember, and embrace your WHY.
Something drove you to make the decision to move abroad, you have your reasons and you have your goals. Don’t worry if your only reason is that you don’t want to be where you are now. It’s a damn good one!
It might be one thing, it might be multiple things. Regardless, focus on your feelings and visions behind them. That’s your true WHY.
So you know your WHY, what’s next? Remember it!
Be present in your current state of excitement, drive, and wanderlust, so you’re able to, later on, recall that feeling.
When you have a strong WHY in your heart, being stressed, tired, homesick, or confused won’t get to you that fast.
So before you embark on your journey write down how you feel right now and why you’re doing it. You can even record a voice memo or a video of yourself to make it easier to get back in touch with your inner fire.
I know it sounds ridiculous right now, but imagine yourself weeks or months into your time abroad, when the first great impressions fade, the adrenaline wears off and you’re sitting somewhere alone, tired, confused and doubting what on earth you’re even doing there (don’t get me wrong, not saying this to stop you from leaving in the first place, you will have an awesome time 99% of the time!).
Embrace your WHY
Getting back in touch with and embracing your WHY feeling, might be just what you need to push through, to snap out of the state of desperation, and to get that excitement and motivation back. It will help you see the bigger picture, stand up for what you want, and stop you from giving up and going back home too soon.
It will also give you an instant sense of clarity and being proud of yourself as you did have the courage to take the step and you did already turn some of your dreams into reality and you did find some answers to your questions. You basically turned the unknown into real places, people, and experiences.
Basic To-Do List before becoming an Au Pair
x do your research
x gain childcare experience
x save money
x create a list of non-negotiables
x go through the application process and match with a family
x get a visa, sign documents and pay all the fees
x visit your doctors (dentist, gynecologist etc.) before leaving
x write down your “why”
x create a bucket list (both with personal goals as well as traveling/experience related ones)
x Au Pair Classes
x Travelling: Au Pair Adventures- a company organizing affordable tours mainly for Au Pairs
“Au Pair Adventures is a small company started by a tour guide in 2010 who had a vision for doing things quite a bit different. The trips we offer are travel experiences that are positively life altering for many, in a good way! They are designed to be a cost effective, safe, and efficient way for young adults to see and experience so much in a relatively short period of time. The untold story of group travel is the magic that happens among the group members that cannot happen when traveling alone. When you get like minded individuals together from different cultures, all embarking on a real adventure together for one week, the entire travel experience is elevated. There is really no way to accurately describe the energy on one of our tours…tour doesn’t even seem like the right word! You need to experience it to fully understand it…and once you do you will know exactly what we mean.” – APA
x 10 reasons why you should become an Au Pair: Read here
x Super Important Questions To Ask Your Host Family: Read here
x 8 Great Life Abroad Money-Saving Tips: Read here