The top 3 things I wish I knew before becoming an au pair (and other tips)

3 Things I wish I knew before starting my au pair stay

Being an au pair is a very unique experience. There are some who absolutely love it and would do it again and again if they had the chance. And, there are others who have a less than perfect experience.
No matter what your reason is for becoming and au pair, where you go or how long you stay, there are a few essentials to keep in mind – things I wish I’d been warned about or had thought about before starting my journey abroad.

The first thing is…

Get ready to be more tired than you have ever been in your life!

newborn, baby, child
Seriously. Even if you’re young and full of energy, being with kids for hours on end can be utterly exhausting. I don’t just mean physically exhausting, but also mentally and emotionally. You are responsible for caring for, entertaining or helping with homework, and possibly taking kids to and from sports. The first few weeks and maybe even months, will have you feeling worn out in a way that you have never felt it before.

But…. it will get better. Hang in there, your body and mind will adjust to your new lifestyle and it will get better. Just remember that kids don’t have an off button and if they like you (which we all hope they do) they will want to spend time with you even outside of your “working hours”, so be prepared and make sure you talk to the host parents if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Chances are they feel overwhelmed sometimes too and they’re the parents!
people, kid, child


Really think about what you need to pack. Do a little bit of research and talk to you your host family before packing your suitcase.

suitcase, girl, woman
In my case, I knew I was going to a village, but I still brought a lot of dresses and clothes for going out which I mostly didn’t end up using. It would have been more useful for me to have brought more lounge wear and casual wear as I spent a lot of time at home in the garden or walking in nature with my host kid. I was thinking that I was going to be spending more time in the city than I actually did. Obviously you can’t always predict the exact things you will be doing and it’s good to be prepared and have an outfit for each occasion, but talking to your host family or former au pairs might help give you an idea of the types of clothes you will need.
Also, check online for average temperatures and weather for that area during the time you will be there. Again, the host family will also be able to help you out and tell you what some of the essentials might be for the time of year that you will be there. For example, we always advise our au pairs to make sure they have a good pair of waterproof shoes or plan to buy some when they get here. It rains a lot in our area during the winter months and having a decent pair of waterproof shoes is a MUST!
human, person, child
Toiletries and Cosmetics
Another suggestion is not to load up your suitcase with bottles of shampoo and lotion. Unless you NEED to use a very specific product, don’t waste your suitcase space hauling around large bottles. Nowadays it’s easy to look online to see what products are available at local shops in your destination city. You might have a certain cream or face-wash that you love or need to use, but chances are you can find the same or something similar where you are going. If not, bring it! Buying make up and shampoos and lotions in a new country can be a bit daunting, especially in the first few weeks when you are still trying to get oriented and settled, so bring travel sized containers of these things. But, finding new products in your new city can also be fun and who knows, you might find your new favourite face-wash or toothpaste!! 

Another thing to check with your host family beforehand is whether they will provide you with a hairdryer. It’s a bulky item that if you don’t need to pack your own, better. Plus, depending on where you come from and where you’re going, the outlets and power sources might not be compatible for yours
mirror, beauty, beautician


Do some research and planning before you leave home.

holidays, thinking, post

If you’re thinking about doing any travelling during your au pair stay (and I highly recommend that you consider it), be realistic. Travelling around your host country or from your host country might be cheaper than if you were travelling from your home country, but it still has its costs. 

When I went to Germany, I was a bit clueless about the costs of travel and I was planning to do lots of it. I still travelled a lot and am thankful for all the experiences I had, but I hadn’t expected it to cost so much. Make sure that if you are planning to do some travelling during your au pair stay, you have some money saved up before starting. Also, if travel is one of your priorities, make sure you consider how you will be travelling and how easy it is to get to bus or train stations or the nearest airport from your host family’s house.

If we know that our au pair is interested in doing some sightseeing, we always make sure to tell them about the closest bus and train stations and the nearest airport so they can research some of the destinations they would like to see and to find out some costs and timetables.
architecture, train ride, railway station

other tips…

Another thing that I wish I would have done is to try to join more groups in the area. There are so many online groups of au pairs and students and language exchanges, and I didn’t take advantage of any of it. I highly recommend looking into these kinds of groups before you get to your host country or even once you arrive and get settled in with your host family.

friends, girls, happy

One final thing to remember is that homesickness is real and sometimes it can hit HARD! There isn’t really much you can do to prevent homesickness, but you can choose how you deal with it. Firstly, try to set up video calls with your loved ones back home. Also, talk to your host family. Sometimes sharing funny stories or talking about your favourite memories can help a little bit. Remember that it will pass. It might take a day or two or even longer, but once you start making new friends and getting into your new routine, it will get better. Find ways to make new memories and try not to concentrate on what is happening at home. If looking at social media and seeing your friends together makes you sad, avoid it for a few days until you feel ready for it again. 

people, friends, group
What do you think?

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts, ideas and stories. Leave me a message in the comments, by email or on Instagram.

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