Essential Questions to Ask your Host Family as an Au Pair
Host families are understandably picky when it comes to choosing an au pair to stay with them; this person will be a part of their family, taking care of their children, and teaching their language for an extended period of time. It is important they ensure that the person who will be teaching and molding their children will be a good influence, and it is just as important that your host family is able to provide or assist in providing the experience you are looking for. You have to find a family that you mesh well with! Otherwise, that will be an awkward year.
In effort to avoid this awkwardness, ask these questions of your host family.
Why do you want an au pair as opposed to a nanny or babysitter?
How old are your kids? How many do you have?
This is usually on their profile, but in case it isn't or it is not clear, ask!
When do the kids go to school/daycare? When do they get out?
What language do you speak at home/as a family? What language do you want me to speak with your children?
This is the main reason they want an au pair. Very important to ask!
Should I bring my cell phone and get a SIM card? Or....?
Important because you will have to call the parents/school/daycare in case of emergency or to touch base.
Do you require knowledge of CPR/Infant or child CPR/Heimlich/AED?
Any special medical conditions of your children or in your family?
On which days will I have time off?
This isn't a job, per se, but a cultural exchange! Your family should provide you some time to explore and take language classes. Make sure what they can offer is in line with the experience you want (within reason).
Will I have my own room/floor/attachment/condo/guest house?
Do you have pictures of my bedroom/room?
How do you see the au pair fitting into your family?
I think this is a key question and it is something I have asked every host family I chat with. Some families see the au pair as a big brother or sister, welcome them into their family, hope that they get close with the children, and even come along on family vacations as a member of the family! Others, see it more as an arrangement and consider the au pair more of a caregiver and language tutor. There is no right or wrong way, just be sure you are both looking for the same thing.
What will a typical day look like? Can you prepare a weekly schedule?
It is important to have a good idea of what is expected of you before you get there! Make sure you are comfortable with the tasks and time assigned to you.
Are you close to public transport/do you have a car?
Do I need a driver's license?
Some families live in more isolated or rural areas and may not have direct access to a bus line or train station. If you are going to be picking up the kiddos, you will need to know how you are getting there.
Do you/the children have a special diet?
Vegetarian? Kosher? Gluten free? (I have found that is mostly an American thing!) Vegan? Any food allergies?
Am I paying for air fare?
This may feel awkward but you do have a right to ask this! This means will you be dropping $600 dollars before I join your family? Some expect the au pair to pay, some will pay a part of the air fare, and some pay all. Just approach it without any expectations..
What do the kids like to do for fun? Any games, sports, activities?
Any rules on activities for the kids? Anything they cannot do?
Will I be cooking? If so, what do the kids/family like to eat?
Try not to lie about your cooking skills...they will find out when they come home and the kitchen is on fire! :)
What house rules do you have?
Super awkward if they believe Pokemon were created by the devil and you arrive in your favorite Pikachu shirt.
Do you need copies of any of my documents?
Driver's license, international driving permit, passport, travel insurance, health insurance, CPR certification, visa confirmation, contact and reference details
I have a XYZ/facial piercing or visible tattoos. Are you okay with this?
Some people are very protective of their tattoos and piercings. Just make sure you find a family that respects that and that you can respect the family's wishes.
How much pocket money will I receive each month?
Again, this is not a job and you should not rely on this to pay ANY bills. This is some spending money for you during your time.
Most countries have a minimum amount that families must pay their au pair, but some pay more. Some families pay more if you are willing to take on more chores and responsibilities. Do they pay biweekly? Monthly?
Are there language courses available nearby? Can you recommend some to me? Who will pay for these courses?
Most families pay for your language courses and in many countries it is required that they do. Make sure you check the country's requirements and be sure to ask your host family for any info
Are you close to public transportation? How far is town/city/airport/train station?
What is the climate/weather like?
Do you require housework/yard work?
Do you live in a rural area or in the city?
Important! This is a clue into their lifestyle and the activities you can enjoy.
What is your neighborhood like?
How long do you want your au pair to stay?
Many countries have a minimum and a maximum. Some families will want you for a year. Others more, others less.
Have you had au pairs before? How many/how long?
What was easy about having an au pair? What was difficult?
Do you need elder care?
Some families will need help with elderly family members in addition to the children.
I like to do XYZ. Are there clubs/stores/places/resources/whatever where I can do XYZ?
I like libraries. Well, I LOVE LIBRARIES. DO YOU HAVE A LIBRARY AND WHEN CAN I GO?
I have an allergy/restricted diet. Can you work with me on this?
Are you religious/do you go to church?
This may be important to you, and they may not have any strict religious practices. Worst case, you have opposing religions. They may ask that you help bring the kids to church. Or they may say they don't go, but there are churches you can attend if you wish.