Au-pair program in Germany
With an Au-pair program, young people from all parts of the world are given the opportunity to live with a German host family for a certain period of time (usually 6 to 12 months). They get to know the daily family life of their host family, improve their German language skills and get an interesting insight into another culture. The tasks of an Au-pair are mainly in the childcare but also in the occasional assistance in the household, in return, the family provides catering, accommodation, and a pocket money. The Au-pair program is very advantageous and interesting for both parties (host family and Au-pair). An Au-pair is by no means to be regarded as a domestic worker but as a family member.
Requirements for the guest family:
Married couples, single parents or unmarried couples with children;
At least one parent must be of German nationality or nationality of an EU / EEA state or Switzerland and the mother tongue of the family must be German. If the family speaks German as a family language, an Au-pair may not come from a home country of the host parents;
A separate room for the Au-pair within the family home, house must be available;
The family must be financially able to pay for the Au-pair/work.
Requirements for Au-pair:
Age 18 – 26 years;
First-time Au-pair stay in Germany;
Be single and have no children of your own;
Have at least basic knowledge of the German language. (Provable by a German certificate A1-Levels or higher, for German-language students please provide a copy of the diploma or study certificate);
Experience in childcare
Tasks of an Au-pair
The daily tasks of an Au-pair are very different. They depend entirely on the individuality and the lifestyle of the family that the Au-pair has taken with them.
The everyday life of an Au-pair generally includes:
To supervise the younger children, that means, to supervise them and accompany them on their way to the nursery school or school or to certain events, to walk or play with them;
To prepare breakfast and simple meals;
To perform light housework, to help keep the apartment clean and in order, to wash and to iron the laundry;
The house or the apartment helped to guard and to take care of the pets.
The nursing and care of the elderly (care of dependent family members) are NOT the duties of an Au-pair!
Rules and conditions of the Au-pair program
Ana from Mexico, Au-pair-year in Germany: 15.01.2017 – 14.01.2018
The Au Pair experience in Germany completely changed my way of seeing life. It gave me many joys and incredible experiences.
My family was very good with me at all times, with the babies, many times it was a lot of work, however they always thanked me for the extra time of work.
They are grateful to have shared a year with them and with all the experiences that I shared with my Host Family over time, Jonas and Julius (twins) were complicated most of the time however the daily coexistence made them love me little by little and with the smallest Milla everything was joy and he treated me like her second mother.
Despite not being with them I have them in my heart and I can recommend the Au Pair experience 100%.
The factors in favour of becoming an au-pair and against
My own Au-pair experience in Germany (04.06.2016 – 03.06.2017)
Becoming an Au-pair was an important decision for me. The things I went through included improving my German skills, collecting a bunch of documents such as recommendations, doing medical examinations, applying for visa and having an interview at the embassy, and of course, having conversations with potential families. All that was totally worth it. During my year in Germany, I’ve learned more than I could’ve possibly done living back home for another couple of years.
Part 1: The main reasons to start seeking for a family right now
You learn how to be financially independen
Unless you already live alone or away from your family, being an au-pair means you take care of your own finances. The money au-pair gets is not enough to buy everything you would like to, so you need to plan your expenses ahead, or otherwise, you will sit in the host family’s house not being able to go out till you get the next paycheck.
You learn the language as an insider
It is considered to be the best way to learn a language when you go to the country where the language is spoken. Little kids may be the best teachers because they speak slowly and they are constantly corrected by adults around them.
I started by learning the whole vocabulary of my host kid’s (there wasn’t much, he was 3) and helped myself further by listening to my host parents and to the people on the street.
You get a German course paid by your host family
In Germany it is like that: the host family provides you with 50€ per month (600€ all together) for you to attend a course. It is more than enough for one level plus an exam, but if you want to take two levels, you will probably need to pay the difference with your own pocket money.
I took mine in VHS (Volkshochschule) in Mainz, and I loved it! They have a good testing process and I was lucky to get a fun teacher who I would definitely recommend (Mr. Çifçi).
It is expensive though. If you finish one course, it doesn’t mean you’re qualified to pass the exam because in the VHS they subdivide levels into A1/1, A1/2, A2/1, A2/2 and so on. They had the whole 4 different parts for B2 level, so I didn’t seem so lucky to get into B2/2 after all.
Just as a heads-up, Goete exams are usually booked in advance. When I tried to register for a B2 exam, I didn’t find any free spots in the 3 cities near me including Frankfurt.
You get acquainted with the foreign cultures
There are so many different nationalities living in Germany. It wasn’t so easy to find those when living in a Slavic country, like my own. In my German course group there were 16 people from, like, 10 different countries. I’m still friends with some of them!
You learn new ways of raising children
To some extent all the families in one country follow the same pattern, so you never really learn what else is possible to be done.
I’m talking here, again, from my own prospective. Soviet behaviour in Ukraine has passed on to the next generation and the generation after that. I came to Germany and I was amazed how much differently Germans raise their kids: they supervise but not smother; they explain how things work and help them do it; they give them the freedom to make their own mistakes; they may not believe, but they humour their funny stories; they stand near them, but not above them. All that may sound like something every parent should do, but I’ve got to admit, I never saw the flaws of my own country’s mistakes till I moved to Germany. And I was lucky with my host family being really patient. I learned that quality and I brought it back home.
You travel around
If you live in a different part of the world, it takes a long journey to get to EU. I’m from Ukraine, thus it was not easy for me to just buy a ticket to, let’s say, Poland. I had to get a visa, put enough money on my account, wait a long line to cross the borders, etc. But after getting into EU-zone, I could just jump on the next bus to Paris. Being an au-pair opened a free-pass around Europe for me.
All that is great, right? You see those positive posts all over Internet when you Google ‘au-pair’. But did anybody see the points not to start an au-pair life
Part 2: Things to consider before you start looking for a family
When you live with people you will always have some daily routine issues. So despite all those “negative” aspects I mentioned below, I assure you, my family was one the best I’ve ever heard from other au-pairs, and I owe them SO MUCH!
They eat differently
When you suddenly change your eating habits, it may come as a shock to your body. You have probably experienced that if you ever suddenly jump-started a diet.
Germany has great bread and trustworthy organic brands of packaged foods, no doubt there. However, eating bread for dinner may not be the best option health-wise. My host family did this every day. Dinner was just bread with a range of cheeses, sausages and spreads. If I hadn’t made a salad, nobody would have. Their breakfast was always muesli. And on weekends my host dad would make a meal mostly consisting of carbohydrates like potatoes, noodles and gnocchi.
For me, as a person who had been working hard to give up all those carb-enriched eating habits for 2 years, this was not that easy to deal with. The money wasn’t ment to buy my own food, so the host family was nice enough to buy some things for me for weekdays while they were away. Still, we were usually having Abendbrot in the evenings. All I’m saying is that you have to be careful if you have a sensitive stomach.
You never have money
Even though you don’t have to pay for accommodation and food, you still need things like clothes, hygiene items, snacks when you’re out, etc. Those 260 Euros is not really enough to constantly treat yourself. Plus, if you plan on travelling (even for a couple of days), you pretty much waste everything on tickets and hostels.
Now, I may not be the thriftiest person in the world, but I’ve heard other au-pairs say the same. After all, those who become au-pairs are still young, and when you get to a new country you always want to try things.
Your day off has to be away from the house
That’s amazing to have kids around. They are funny, positive and cute. And they are also annoying when you have a day-off and they wake up and start yelling and running around the house. Or when they wake you up!
I was running away from the family every time I had a day-off. Not because they were terrible, but because kids don’t really care whether you have a day off or not. They will want you around them, or – if they see you leaving – they will want to go with you. So I left the house early enough and went back quite late, after they went to sleep, so I would actually have the whole day off before I had to start it all over.
You may not have many friends at the beginning
Germans tend to make friends either in school, university or work. If you are just hanging around the host family’s house, children with parents will probably be the only people you know.
I was craving for some company in that small town we lived in for a couple of months. I felt quite lonely back then. Mr. Grenz was nice enough to send me the contact info of some of the au-pairs nearby. And I made friends with this one girl thanks to him, then – two more during my course, but still, it wasn’t enough.
Something that really helped me was Couchsurfing website. I started using it when I was travelling and I needed a place to crush in for a night or two. Then somehow via that platform I started finding more and more people in the towns around me, creating events or attending the existing ones. It would’ve been so depressing without Couchsurfing for me there!
You live in the place you work in
In the days when I was working in an office, I was constantly thinking that at 5 p.m. I would finish whatever I was doing and go home to chill. Living with a host family means you already are home, so you don’t actually have to go anywhere. Now, it may sound as nothing bad to you, but to me, as an introvert, I needed to have a safe place where I could relax, but I always had this feeling that I had to be alert in case someone calls me from downstairs.
I repeat, these are just my own thoughts. It all may be completely different for you. But if you are something like me, you should consider my key points before applying for an au-pair position.
Anyways, I want to end on a positive note. The au-pair year was an amazing experience and an incredible way to challenge myself. If you do make this decision, I don’t think you will ever regret it (I never heard anyone say that). GOOD LUCK!