mother, child, walking

Challenges as an au pair in rural Germany

field of rapeseeds, oilseed rape, lane

Expectation vs Reality

When I was searching for my future host family, I was most concerned about the family and less concerned about where, and I’m really glad I chose the family that I did. We had a really great connection and I had a spectacular au pair year. The only downside was living in a small rural area where there was no opportunity to connect with people my age or meet new friends. To be honest I didn’t really put much effort into looking for au pairs in the area or anything because I just assumed there weren’t any. Plus, 10 years ago, things were a bit different than they are now, and there weren’t as many au pair groups to join on social media.
Because the village I was living in was not far from Frankfurt, I expected to be able to travel there often and meet friends in the big city, but it wasn’t exactly the way I had expected. Although you could go to Frankfurt by car in just under half an hour, the train took 45 minutes or more depending on the connections and the time of day that you went. This meant that I didn’t visit Frankfurt nearly as often as I had imagined I would.
I did join an online group for people interested in meeting up in Frankfurt but as a young foreign girl, I was extremely cautious and never ended up actually meeting up with anyone in that group because I didn’t feel particularly safe doing so. It was useful, though, to talk to people from the area and get some suggestions about what to see and where to go.
train, db, railway

Coping with life in a village

Having a good relationship with your host family is important in any situation, but I personally think it is more so when you live in a remote area. This is because when you live in a small village you have two choices: spend your free time with your host family or spend your time all alone. I think that living in an area where I didn’t have much opportunity to go out and meet people helped to create a stronger bond between me and my host mom. She became like a friend to me, and we had a lot of fun and laughs together.
Another point about living in the village is that you don’t have many activities to take the host kids to, so you have to be creative. My host kid had just turned one when I arrived so she was still quite small and having a park nearby would have been ideal, but it was not the reality. Instead, we went on many nature walks on paths between farmers fields and dirt roads. We explored the neighbourhoods of the village (there were 2) and we played in the garden at home a lot. Thankfully living there meant having a large backyard to play in and we made the most of it. We played in the kiddie pool that they had, and we had a small tent that we set up to read books and play with blocks and other toys.
gravel road, lady, walking

Take advantage of weekends

I  had weekends off and occasionally a Friday afternoon as well and I really tried to take advantage of this by doing some travelling around Germany. Through a mutual friend, I had met many university students who lived in various parts of Germany, so I took the opportunity to grab the train and spend my weekends visiting the acquaintances I had met and seeing more of the country I called home during my au pair stay. When you live in a secluded area, it can be more difficult to get train connections, but with some careful planning in advance, it is possible to make the most of your time off. Since it wasn’t possible to do much sightseeing during the week, I really tried to take advantage of the weekends, and I’m so glad I did.

düsseldorf, tv tower, rhine
architecture, cologne, city
beer garden, chairs, dining tables

Language courses

Living in a rural area meant not being able to go to German lessons where I lived. The closest one we could find was in a suburb of Frankfurt, so I didn’t start going right away, but after half a year in Germany I decided it would be worth it to make the bi-weekly trip to the city. And boy was it worth it! Not only did I meet my current partner and father of my two beautiful children at my language lessons, but I also made friends in the city. Friends that I am still in contact with 10 years later.
Taking language lessons it a GREAT way to meet people and make new friends, and I can’t recommend it enough. I always encourage my au pairs to take language lessons because it is a way to break up the daily routine with the kids, get out and meet with people from different parts of the world.

my advice

Although living in a village or rural area can have its downsides, I wouldn’t trade my au pair experience for anything! For some people it might even be a better option because it means a more relaxed and tranquil lifestyle versus the hustle and bustle and noise of living in a city.
Whatever you decide for your au pair year, I hope you make the most of it by taking advantage of your free time to discover other areas of the province or country where you live and by taking language lessons.
What do you think?

As always, I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to share your experiences as an au pair, host family or expat. Leave a comment below, message me here or send me a message on Instagram.

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