New au pair: first steps – what to do when you arrive

you're here! Now what?

vacations, airport, aircraft

In my last post, I talked about a few things host families and au pairs could do to keep building a strong relationship between the interview stage and the actual arrival of the new au pair. (If you haven’t checked it out yet, just click here to read it.) But, what happens when you arrive at your new home? There are a few things to keep in mind and which you should try to do during your first few days and weeks as an au pair.

woman, airport, girl

first things first: the day you arrive

Depending on where you’re from and where you’re going, you might have a full day of travel and even a time change from your departure city to your destination. As excited and nervous as you are, try to rest a bit so that you are not completely exhausted when you meet your host family for the first time. The parents will understand that you have had a long day of travel, but chances are the kids will just be so excited to meet you and they will want to show you around the house and probably even play with you. As exhausted as you might feel, try to push through it because this is a great bonding time for you and the kids you will be spending lots of time with in the near future.
This absolutely does not mean that you should arrive and be expected to jump right in and take care of the kids for a few hours. Not at all! In fact, if the parents don’t step in after a short time, don’t feel afraid to tell the kids you’re feeling a bit sleepy and need some time to rest. It’s perfectly normal and perfectly acceptable. Just make sure that before you go off to your own space, you assure them that you had fun with them and you’re excited to play some more when you are rested. As I said before, this is a great bonding time and you want to start things off on the right foot.
bedroom, bed, desk


Depending on how long your trip was and how your first day goes, you may not feel like unpacking on your first day in your new house, but don’t leave it for too long. I would suggest getting yourself unpacked and getting your things in your new space as soon as possible. This will definitely help you with adjusting and feeling like it’s your space. I suggest that you bring some pictures of friends, family and even pets to put up in your room so that it feels cozy and it has a personal touch.

child, play, small child

adaptation period

Depending on how you and your new host family have arranged things, you will likely have an adaptation period before you start looking after the kids on your own for long stretches of time. I usually like to allow for two weeks with me and the au pair at home together before I leave her to handle everything on her own. (Although sometimes it ends up being just a week or even just a few days.)

My advice to au pairs during this adaptation period is to pay close attention to how the parents do EVERYTHING! If you are going to be responsible for cooking, make sure you know where all the pots and pans and spoons are, but also make sure you know how to work the cooktop and the oven and even microwave if necessary. Appliances differ from country to country and if you need to use them, make sure you know how so that you don’t have to call your host mom at work to ask how to turn up the heat on the stove.
making food, mess in the kitchen, mess

Also, pay attention to how the mom and/or dad deals with difficult situations with the kid(s). If the child isn’t listening or if brother and sister are fighting, what does mom do and what does dad do? Maybe they handle things differently and you want to ask them how they expect you to handle a similar situation. Cuz let’s face it, although we’d all love for everything to be sunshine and rainbows every day, the reality is that there will be times where you will have to discipline and put your foot down. So, it’s better to be prepared and know what is expected of you in that situation instead of being caught in the moment not knowing what you should do.

rules, hand, write

making and meeting friends

women, snow, friends
Making new friends is an important part of the au pair experience. If you haven’t already done it before going to your host family, get online and search for au pair and student groups in the city where you will be living. Having a friend who is an au pair in the same city can be a lifeline and can help you keep your sanity some days. They will be the ones who can most closely relate to what you experience on a day-to-day basis.
Try to reach out and make contacts before arriving in your host city so that once you arrive, you can plan to meet up.
Just be careful in the first few weeks that you are in your new family that you don’t give the impression that you only want to spend time with your new friends and that the family is not important. Remember that the first few weeks are critical in getting to know each other better and building a bond between you and your host kids. Your host parents will completely understand that you want to meet new friends and go out and see the city, but make sure that you try to keep a balance so that they don’t feel like you’re only there to put in your hours and then leave.
sibling, children, family


During the first couple weeks is when you will likely be arranging all remaining documents and official paperwork that couldn’t be done before your arrival. Try to work together with your host family as much as possible to get things done quickly and smoothly.

writing, notes, pen

language course

As an au pair, you will probably be enrolling in a language course in your new city. If you haven’t already found a school or a teacher, ask your host parents to help you out to arrange classes. They will probably be happy to show you where the language schools are, and help you get set up in a class. Once you start, if you are not happy in the class or you don’t think it’s the right level for you, make sure you speak up and don’t wait too long. It is usually easier to make a level switch early on in the course, but most times it’s more difficult later on.

laptop, workstaion, office

If you’re a new au pair or just getting ready to start your au pair journey and you have more questions about any of these topics or something that wasn’t mentioned, please ask. If you are an au pair and you think there is something that is really important during the first few weeks and it is missing in this post, let me know.

Host families: It would be great to hear your experiences and any advice you might have for new au pairs.

What do you think?

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