Can You Recommend Trustworthy Agencies for US Au Pairs Going Abroad?

by cv harquail on January 27, 2016

Any reader of this blog knows — an Au Pair Agency becomes an important support for a young person coming to the USA.

The Agency screens Host Parents, manages all the Au Pair’s training and travel, and is the first place to turn in any kind of relationship, health, or other emergency.

What happens, though, for Au Pairs outside the USA?

How can American Au Pairs evaluate the reputations of the agencies they are using to support their Au Pair years? How can they figure out which Agencies to trust?

il_570xN.893851518_r1uwBecause au pairing is less regulated– if not unregulated — in every country outside of the USA, Au Pairs don’t have federal rules that they can invoke when they are creating their contracts or struggling to set boundaries.

I hope that some of the international readers of the blog (especially some of the wonderful women I met at the IAPA Conference back in March) will offer their perspectives…

Dear AuPairMom —

Our daughter is going abroad for a year as an au pair but we are a little concerned that she is going through an internet brokerage without any support, especially if the placement does not work out.  

We are encouraging our daughter to compare agencies as well as host families. 

Is there a list of 3-5 respected au pair agencies/companies that place Americans abroad?

Is there any kind of rating we can look at for these companies?

Mom of Future Au Pair 


ExPatAupair January 28, 2016 at 4:10 am

Hi. I read this blog a lot but I do not comment, but now theres something I can comment on. :)

I am an American expat currently living in Sweden. I was an aupair here recently and then one for a year in Ireland before that. I made the arrangements all on my own with the family and honestly that is what I recommend. Most of the agencies outside of the US will take your money, arrange a match and then turn their back on you when you need something. I have yet to hear of an aupair who has had a good experience with an agency. They are mostly used by aupairs who cannot speak enough English to make the match themselves.

I have contacts in both of the countries that could get her started if she was interested. Also I´d like to be a resource. Even if it is just someone who´ll be in the same time zone to talk to her when she gets stressed.

ConsideringBeingAnAuPair June 27, 2016 at 9:38 pm

You said you made the arrangements on your own with out an agency. I was looking into being an Au Pair and I was wondering where you went to search for legitimate families looking for an Au Pair if it wasn’t through an agency. I was hoping to do the same because many of the websites seem like scams.

ExPatAupair June 28, 2016 at 8:22 am


If you’d like I can help you on your aupair journey. Email me at and I can let you know about my experiences and what it’s like to set things up and do the job.

FirstTimeHM June 28, 2016 at 8:59 am

The website is certainly not a scam, a lot of european host families look for their au pair there. After that they will register you with an agency (if required by the law of the country you’re going to).

ExPatAupair January 28, 2016 at 4:52 am

Also I´d like to share at least the gist of my experiences aupairing in both countries.

Ireland – Finding a family close to the public bus system is a must because its easy to feel lonely out in the country areas. Rematched from first family because of location and because we both felt I wasnt as good of a driver as I thought I was. But both families I ended up working for were very warm, I felt like family. The culture is pretty close to US so its easier to feel safe there. People in general are open and friendly. There are many aupairs and usually there is a weekly hang out meeting. I was in Dublin first and then in Cork and while Cork isnt great as far as weather it is much more friendly and homey than Dublin was.

Sweden- I am in Stockholm. The culture is a 180 turn from Ireland. People are more distant and closed off. I did feel like family within the family I was working for but it took more effort from both sides I think. It didnt come as naturally. It is much easier to get registered for taxes and such here because the system is very streamlined. My HD went with my to the office to fill out the paperwork even though 95% of people speak great English, he wanted to make sure it was done correctly. He also helped me figure out the tax thing. Its a little different in my situation seeing as I have moved here more or less permanently.

GermanHostMum January 28, 2016 at 5:36 am

First off, “abroad” is a pretty broad concept – if the OP could share the region or country her daughter is interested in, we might better pinpoint agencies operating in that area?

Speaking from my local point of view, I have not found agencies to be very useful to me as a host mom, nor to the aupairs. Our first aupair we found through an agency but decided we could do better without the next time.

As regards Internet brokerage – Aupairworld is the platform we use – I would encourage her to look at families who have had aupairs before, not firsttimers, and ask (after having had some contact with the family, not in the first mail!) if she may contact their prior aupair(s). We have – except in one case where we had a bad relationship with an aupair – always been happy to share contact details (if our aupairs themselves were ok with it, obviously).
Also, while it is perfectly understandable that you worry about your daughter, I have found that American APs are in high demand so it is quite easy for them to quickly find another host family at need.

Used2bAP January 28, 2016 at 5:56 am

Honestly, from what I’ve heard, agencies in Europe are little to no help for au pairs. Those of my friends who went with an agency and had trouble with their HF were just told to search for a new family on AuPairWorld or similar. Some were kicked out of the family home and had to go to a hostel or fly back home immediately. The agency just went “oh well, let us know what you decided.”

I and most of my friends went solo. Some found perfect matches, others not so great but still managed to complete their time abroad. Some came across problems and decided to switch families halfway through. One got kicked out by her family in Germany and started in a new HF in Italy the next week :)

I would rather recommend a very thorough matching process with lots of Skype, e-mails, pics and such. If possible, maybe choose a family with previous APs who you can talk to. Google your heart out. Be a part of the matching process with you daughter, because she might not be able to see the red flags. If you get a weird feeling, if it sounds to good to be true (moneywise or something else) go with your gut.

Have an emergency fund equivalent of a last minute ticket home+a few nights in hotel handy, and make sure there is a quick way to access it.

NEVERRRR give passport information or anything like that directly to the family. Scan the passport, visa etc. to a safe e-mail account just in case.

American Host Mom in Europe January 28, 2016 at 6:45 am

I’m in Scandinavia, and haven’t found an agency to use here — there was one, some years ago, but they were worse than worthless (they wasted my time). I use Great Au Pair generally to find my candidates (12 au pairs thru GAP, including 6 Americans), and sometimes Au Pair World (1 AP). I would encourage the OP to be more open-minded on this — given the lack of regulation, the agencies outside the US are NOT necessarily focused on the au pair’s best interests, so I wouldn’t rely on them categorically.

I think what the au pair candidates need to do, as others have said, is ask questions, get information in writing, follow your gut… and be prepared. I have heard of families who send their au pairs packing, or are less desirable hosts, so it is true bad situations can happen (and this goes both ways – I’ve also had an au pair who was effectively a no-show!), but I doubt that is the norm. Talking with previous au pairs is always a great idea — and I’m always surprised that candidates rarely take me up on my offer to talk with my previous au pairs.

Especially when interviewing younger AP candidates, I’ve frequently offered that their parents are welcome to write me or speak with me, and would have no problem with a parent asking to do so. You have to be careful – no host mom wants an AP who’s mother has to do everything for her (we want our APs to be independent and able to act on their own) – but we understand a parent’s concern about safety and security.

Bat Mum January 28, 2016 at 7:46 am

I am in Ireland and have only used an agency once and they were less than useless. I found my last couple of aupairs through AuPair World. I second the advice of the other euro-mums. Skype call, talk to previous aupairs and ask to see a copy of their aupair handbook/contract. Very importantly, google the area – I mean REALLY check out the area – get the exact address and look at it on google maps and find out about buses, trains, distance to airports etc. Join facebook groups for aupairs in the county/town you are considering and ask them about the place (library, cinema, sports and social clubs, cafes and bars, handsome young men … what ever you are in to). This is a small country and lots of girls assume we are 5 minutes down the road from Dublin… I live in a rural area about 20 miles from the nearest city but I know plenty of aupairs in the area that had no clue what to expect and were disappointed to find themselves in a seaside village rather than the heart of the Latin quarter they had imagined.

Here at least, most families go for European aupairs as there is an abundance of them and travel costs and car insurance are lower and there is free movement within the EU. From outside of the EU there are restrictions. such as a requirement for aupairs to be enrolled in an approved course of study which permits them to work part time.
I have hosted a Canadian au-pair for a year but not an American but the requirements are similar. I have interviewed several US girls but many of them had not even considered the visa requirements and most did not meet them. Most US/Canadian/Korean/Australians find the student work/travel visa is the most accessible for people becoming an aupair (must be enrolled in college or have graduated within the past year, must have health insurance and must have access to a certain amount of funds). They have to be registered with the authorities here and there is a fee for that also.
If the aupair has a parent (or possibly a grandparent) born in Euorope, they could be able to get a passport for that country to get around the visa issue and many girls do this.
Also, it is nearly impossible for US aupairs to get car insurance in this country.

So to summarise…. for Ireland at any rate you are better off going it alone through a website, but be thorough in your checks of the family, the area and the paperwork requirements. Aupair world has reasonably good info on the situation in each country which is a good place to start.

FormerNLaupair January 28, 2016 at 7:56 am

I’d like to echo that this is largely dependent on where OP’s daughter is looking to work. Different European countries have different visa requirements. Also, just because a country is cool to visit does not mean it is an adequate country to host an au pair.

I was in The Netherlands, and it’s a pretty good country for au pairs, so I do recommend she consider it. Everyone speaks strong English, Amsterdam airport is a pretty big hub making it easy to visit Europe, densely populated and easy to travel around with their train network, and lots of other au pairs (she should look to be in or around the major cities, in my opinion: Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam, Leiden).

She needs to understand the au pair culture of any country she looks at. What is typical for families to expect for chores, relationships with the children, etc. She needs to know that what is “normal” and what is “legal” may be different. Legally au pairs in The Netherlands make 320 euros/month and work a maximum of 30 hours. I made 500 and worked 40/week — my family weren’t bad people looking to break the law and exploit me, we just *both* found those restrictions ridiculous, and found a way to go about it where we were both happy and satisfied.

The biggest agency in The Netherlands is House of Orange, and an agency is required for her visa (this is a newish law, in my day agencies were optional, but still frequently used). I will echo was others have said, I’ve never heard an au pair say “yeah, there was a problem and the agency totally had my back!” Your daughter will need to stick up for herself if there’s a problem, and the onus will still be on her to approach a problem head on. If she ignores something that’s bugging her then so will the agency and the family. However, her native English will be a HUGE advantage, and if she has problems with a family then she should be able to find a new one with relative ease (barring terrible performance reviews, putting kids in danger, etc.)

AuPair in the Netherlands January 28, 2016 at 10:52 pm

The law currently is 300 euros a month and 30 hours a week maximum and I think there is also a max pay now as well which is 340 euros. I seems like you were in the Netherlands a little while ago but the laws on working 30 hours a week are pretty strict. In fact in order to get a residence permit your family has to submit a weekly schedule to the immigration people. And if you are found breaking the 30 hour a week rule you can get into alot of trouble.

But still I am not sure when you went so it could have changed since then. I only know what it is like now. :)

I also recommend that she look at the Netherlands. The Hague is a great place to be an aupair or so I have heard ;)

Frankfurt AP Boy January 29, 2016 at 5:07 am

“However, her native English will be a HUGE advantage, and if she has problems with a family then she should be able to find a new one with relative ease (barring terrible performance reviews, putting kids in danger, etc.)”

Regrettably, even if she does perform terribly and/or put the kids in danger she would still have no problem as, in my experience, most European families do not ask for references. Although I have found that offering them helps get the job.

FormerNLaupair January 29, 2016 at 7:54 am

Yeah, that’s terrible. The family I worked for checked references, and the family I work for now (as a live out nanny, mind) checked my references after they hired me. I did know one American au pair who was God awful who was fired for reasons I can only assume she didn’t tell me the truth about, and then found a new family and continued to be awful, and then was sent home. I sort of hoped that was an anomaly.

@AP in Netherlands — things certainly could be stricter now. Immigration has always asked for a schedule when a family begins the application process, and their max has always been 30 hours and a list of duties the AP will be expected to do, with or without an agency. Regardless, many of my friends worked more and earned more for it without complaint. After I finished my year is when they began requiring all au pairs to go through agencies, and perhaps began to toughen up on the rules.

The Hague is lovely. Dutch people are also great, even with their quirks. I can get on board with any country that has essentially worked chocolate into every meal of the day while still staying thin and fit. I still haven’t left, and no real plans to return to my home country anytime soon :p

FirstTimeHM January 28, 2016 at 9:06 am

Personally I would recommend she’d go through au pair world. It’s a good site and actively bans AP’s and HF’s that don’t follow the rules.

Europe is quite big and the cultural differences are huge. I think the OP and her daughter would have to think in which country/culture and in which type of family she would feel comfortable and fit in.
If she’s determined that, she can do a bit of research into the local laws, because there are real differences in the protection of the AP between all European countries.

AuPair Paris January 28, 2016 at 9:52 am

I have a few friends who had agencies in Europe, but found them expensive and worse than useless. There was no system involving paying for flights, so a lot of the security was self-motivated – i.e. having savings for emergency flights home or contacts in-country for if things went wrong.

I’ll add my voice for aupairworld – I found both my families there, as did everyone I know. Though I’m surprised to hear about them banning people who break the rules. My first family were abusive in egregious way – that is, it wasn’t a situation of “they said, she said”. They sacked their cleaner when I arrived, despite advertising “light cleaning” because they said, since I’d be home all day, I might as well take care of it – and then withheld my salary, saying that they’d found a hair in the HP bathroom, meaning I hadn’t cleaned properly. When I contacted aupairworld about this, after having already left that family, they offered mediation – though I was actively scared to speak to the family again due to the more emotional/less quantifiable aspects of the abuse there. This was despite the fact that I sent my email in conjunction with the Au Pair who’d been with them before me (chance meeting – we rematched in the same suburb!) and the one who’d lasted a week there after me (not chance – when she left, my friend put her in touch with me) who supported my claims.

Wow that was a rant. I guess that I’m still angrier about that experience than I thought I was.

Ok. So that is not supposed to scare, but just a reiteration that in Europe, most of your “security” is common sense. It is VERY easy for an English native speaker to rematch – at least in Paris. You’re very unlikely to be stuck without a family to take you in, and APs support and look after each other. This is because we know there isn’t any official system to do so. SO, if concerned about your daughter, I’d suggest really strict screening processes – difficult questions should be asked, and you need to insist on a contract, because people do tend to stick to their agreements much more when they’re written down (even if it means nothing). Find the facebook groups before you go, and encourage your daughter to go to meet-ups right away to have other APs in her corner if she needs to get away. If you have family friends in the country, write a quick email in advance, and make sure your daughter has enough money saved for emergencies.

I really think abuse is unusual, and that Au Pairing is *not* dangerous. But you have to plan for the worst.

Heather January 28, 2016 at 4:04 pm

I was an au pair abroad in France from September ’14 – July ’15. I worked with the agency InterExchange in New York while I was still in the U.S. during my application process. I found them through a general Google search and saw that they offered exactly what I was looking for. Through this agency, you can choose to be an au pair in a variety of countries, but since my dream has always been to live in France, that is where I chose to go. I’m not knowledgeable on all of the requirements for the other countries available, but I’ll state what I do know about France’s process.

First off, working with this agency was the best choice I could have made. I never had a single problem with anyone I dealt with, and they were extremely helpful during every step of my process. The application that a prospective au pair completes is very detailed, as the screening process for someone going to take care of someone’s child should be very precise. It took several months to gather all of the paperwork I needed to complete the file, but I was certainly glad my host family would feel comfortable in their selection with as much information as possible. Once I submitted my entire application and paid for what would essentially be my room and board while abroad, I had a Skype interview with InterExchange that helped them asses my ability to work well with a family abroad. I then waited for my file to be sent to France’s cooperating au pair agency in France, Fée Rêvée. The wait for a response was a few weeks, but that was the time they took to find me a suitable host family to contact. Once they let me know there was a family that seemed a good fit for me, I was provided with an e-mail address and it was then up to me to send an e-mail to whom I hoped would be my new host family. I received a highly detailed file about the host family; including pictures, information on the family’s daily life and hobbies, extended family, and a letter from a previous au pair. I then exhanged a few e-mails with the parents (some in English, as the father spoke English as well; some in French), and then we swapped Skype contact information and set-up a video chat on there as well. I was nervous before that call, but once I got into the conversation, it was very enjoyable. My host mom asked me during our Skype chat if I would be interested in being their au pair, and of course I said yes! I had to continue the application process with my visa (which took a while since there was SO much paperwork!…one of the most challenging parts about working in France fyi!), but I now had a definitive host family!!

As stated, InterExchange was constantly there to help me during this process. Anytime I had a question, I received a reply within 24 hours (excluding weekends/holidays, of course), and they were consistently helpful and detailed in their explanations. I always felt supported by this agency. I received a great packet from the lm before my departure with booklets and tips on the job responsibilities, which I read thoroughly on my 10-hour plane ride to Paris! When I got to France, InterExchange’s cooperating agency, Fée Rêvée, was immediately involved in welcoming me to the country. I received a welcome package at my new French home from them with contact information, tips for the job, a map of Paris and the metro/bus system, and other helpful tools. This agency regularly organized social events for all of the au pairs in the Paris area. I attended one event, but made instant friends there. There were au pairs from all over the world at these events. If you go to these meet-ups, you have a great chance to have a group of terrific new friends that will make your time abroad even better! I ended up with an outstanding host family whom I adore, but I know that is not always the case for every au pair. However, the agency there in Paris helped a friend of mine change her host family immediately once she knew there was a problem. They worked wonderfully with her and I know of a couple others who switched families during their time there as well. However, these au pairs came from other countries and didn’t work with InterExchange; they had mostly searched for families completely on their own. I would still highly recommend this agency as its matching process is very thorough and they are constantly there to help you.

As my experience was as good as it was, I’m currently working with InterExchange in order to return to France this summer as an au pair once again. While completing my new application, I was surprised to have some of my previous documents uploaded by a coordinator at the agency in order to assist me a great deal. Once she saw that I was re-applying, she called me almost immediately and seemed delighted to have my name in the files again. I’m thrilled to work with them again and I can honestly say this may not be the last time I do.

Frankfurt AP Boy January 28, 2016 at 4:09 pm

I found all my families through Aupairworld too. Au pairing is just a different thing in Europe than it is in the US. Generally we get around 70 euros a week for 20-30 hours a week. It is not surprising that neither families nor au pairs are generally that keen on paying an agency for the small amount of money.

I will back up what Paris says about the demand though. There are many countries in Europe that desperately want native English speakers (Spain and Italy come to mind) and your daughter will be able to find a family without any problem. She will also be able to be very selective about the families she picks. As a rough rule, as a native speaker with experience with kids I would rule out any family that asks you to work on a Saturday, work more than 30 hours a week or do any heavy housework.

Australian Au Pair In Austria January 28, 2016 at 4:12 pm

I’ve been reading this blog for about a year and I’ve never posted anything, but right now I feel like I have something to add here.

I agree that the first thing to do is to work out where you are wanting to go because “abroad” is VERY broad. I’d go about finding a host family in a very different way depending on where I was going. I’d say the main categories you have are “Western Europe”, “Australia/NZ/Canada/UK” and “Everywhere Else”.

“Western European” countries tend to have very well developed and defined au pair programs and in general I would definitely disagree that “in every country outside of the USA, Au Pairs don’t have federal rules that they can invoke when they are creating their contracts or struggling to set boundaries.”

This is certainly not true although quite a few people here and aupairmom seem to have this impression. Austria, where I am, for example, has VERY clear au pair rules similar to those in the US, with an official national contract that all host families and au pairs must sign, stating working hours (20h/week), holidays (5weeks/year), contribution to language courses (50%), duties (majority childcare, some light house work), notice period (1 week), pay (405eur/month + bonuses) etc. The only difference to the US is that agencies are not required, and in most cases pretty useless (with the exception of the Netherlands where they are compulsary). Instead of going to an agency in cases of problems, you should generally discuss with your host family and if you decide to end the contract you have 3 months (Schengen Visa) to find a new host family if you do not have an EU passport. If the host family has broken the contract then you can report them to authorities (in Austria you’d go to the Arbeitskammer/Work Chamber).

Austria, along with (in my opinion) Switzerland/ Belgium /Scandinavian /Netherlands /Luxembourg countries tend to give the best deal to au pairs, in that they are paid a comparatively high salary for their work and the role and work hours/pay are clearly legally defined with a national contract and official au pair program. France /Germany /Italy /Spain generally get away with paying au pairs less for more work for one reason or another, I’d generally only go to these countries if I had a really important reason to only go there. There are a couple of other outlying countries.

To check out the specific regulations for each country you can check here:, however in general all these countries are a fairly safe bet in terms of not getting exploited as long as you can a) find a host family whose idea of what an au pair is matches yours and is ready to follow the law, and b) have a plan and the confidence to act if a host family isn’t respecting your rights. Both of those are also true for the US, you just are supposed to have a second person who is mediating and advocating for you if you report something to them, whereas in these countries you generally have to advocate for yourself in terms of getting a fair deal, and the government will only stop law-breaking families from continuing to host rather than also supporting you personally.

“English Speaking Countries I listed” as far as I’ve found don’t have an official au pair program, au pairs generally go on a type of working holiday visa and negotiate everything with their host family. Generally minimum wage and other employment laws are the only restrictions on the arrangement. Note that some countries restrict how long a working holidayer can work with the one employer, down to 3 or 6 months. Definitely check out the au pair wold page I indicated above.

“Everywhere Else”, unless I’ve forgotten some countries, generally don’t have any real defined way to be an au pair. If you see any host family from these I’d be very wary unless you have evidence to say that the arrangement are legal, in that you can get a valid visa that allows you to work in that country, and that you have rights in terms of holding the host family to agreements made.

Assuming that you’re planning on going the Western Europe route (this is what I know about the most, and the way that most resembles the US model, any other countries may as well call the role domestic worker or nanny, as there is really no difference in terms of rights and regulations), here is what I recommend to anyone looking into this:

– I would not recommend a agency at all (obviously with the exception of the Netherlands where this is compulsory). I know very few au pairs that have gone through agencies, and I’ve never heard any one ever say “thank heavens I went with an agency”. Never. Agencies here are not the same as agencies in the US. Think of agencies here like travel agencies. They help you organise your trip, maybe give you a bit of information, maybe help you find a host family (although all they’re really doing there is reducing your options. It’s not hard to get into contact with host families on Au Pair World or GreatAuPair.) and maybe help you a bit with a visa.

Agencies aren’t there to solve disputes with your host family. They aren’t there to pick you up and let you stay at their place if your host family kicks you out. Just as a travel agent isn’t going to pick you up and drive you if your train gets cancelled in France. Essentially all they do is give you information and host families if you can’t be bothered searching on your own. If you can’t even do that without somebody helping you, then I’m honestly not sure you should be moving to a foreign country as an au pair.

– You need to take on the responsibility of
a) making sure you know the rules and rights for au pairs in your host country,
b) making sure your potential host family also knows them and
c) making sure you agree on the interpretation of them and what your au pair role will entail.

This means having a contract, verbally discussing the rules (you’d be surprised how many au pairs don’t do) and then for your own sake, I’d suggest emailing them a written “so this is my understanding of our agreement, do you agree?” detailing all the things that aren’t explicitly in the contract such as how you’ll be given your schedule (for example “You’ll give me a schedule a week in advance as far as possible, which will generally only be changed by mutual agreement or in emergencies/sickness/unexpected circumstances”), the fact that you’ll have a defined schedule at all (so many au pairs don’t even talk about this and get surprised when their host family expects them to hang around and pitch in when needed and then just let their host family know when their hours are up), if you would ever work more than the general hours and pay (long story short, this doesn’t have to necessarily be a huge red flag considering your max hours are generally 20-30, as long as you and your host family are on the same page about whether this is regular/occasional/emergency only/never, and it’s only ever by mutual agreement and PAID at a rate you agree on).

This email doesn’t legally carry much weight but your host family will know and remember that they have agreed to that, and if they forget or slide on the the things agreed you have this to back you up.

– You need to find a ‘good’ host family. Just like with choosing an au pair, there are things that are down to individual preferences, but there are also things that are always necessary and there are things that are always going to cause a lot of problems.

Beyond the fact that they have signed a contract and have verbally also agreed that they will follow it, you need a family that has agreed (verbally and in writing) that

1. They are going to give a well defined schedule (so many au pairs don’t even ask basic questions like this and are expected either to “work as we need you and let us know later how many hours it was”, “work based on a schedule that you get each morning” or “hang around and work what we feel is ‘fair/equivalent to about approximately 20 hours, with your day of a week as your only true free time”. This happens SO. MUCH. I discussed this with my host family before hand and never had this problem.)

2. You have an agreement on how much they treat you as a family member, versus an employee, and they are going to allow you access food in the house freely and welcome you to join them for meals (if this is what you want). Of course there’s variation based on your own personality and preferences and those of your host family, but a situation where your host family interprets “board” as you being allowed to eat meals with them but otherwise buying all food yourself isn’t going to work unless that’s what you want.

3. You have defined your work roles, responsibilities, and relationship with children and how discipline works in their house.

4. You have an agreement on whether you will ever go over your work hours and in what circumstances and with what compensation. (Continuing on with what I said earlier, this isn’t necessarily exploitation in the sense that working 28 vs. 20 hours isn’t going to ruin your au pair time, whereas working 53 vs. 45 hours in the US would be a pretty big deal.

If you have an agreement with your host family that you are both find reasonable and are happy with, that is. For a lot of au pairs that are EU citizens in an EU country or otherwise have rights to work outside of their job this also isn’t the same legal issue. In my case, as an EU citizen in Austria (grew up in Australia however), this means that for me, working extra would only really be a tax evasion issue, and possibly a contract issue rather than a working illegally issue.)

5. Transportation and how you can get around, who pays for public transport etc.

6. Language classes and which ones work for your host families schedule, what they’re willing to compromise to give you time to go to these etc.

7. As others have said, it’s highly preferable that your host family has had an au pair before, both so that you can contact them to ensure they’re telling the truth, and so that you know that the family finds the regulations and the things you’ve agreed to the be reasonably in practice and not just in theory.

Those are all that I can think of on the spot, but I’m sure others can think of other must-asks and I’ll come up with a few more in the next couple of days.

All in all I’m really glad that I discussed these things with my host family, which has lead to a great time as an au-pair.

I have in fact extended my time because I had such great opportunities here, even as someone who had a lot of great opportunities waiting for me in my home country. I personally find the regulations and contract here to be very clear and useable and it is definitely not as unregulated here as some people assume.

The biggest issue I see here among au pairs is that there families don’t schedule in a way that allows au pairs to have reliable free time (of course au pairs need to be flexible and will sometimes work at the last minute and have schedule changes. The problem here is that a number of families (definitely not all) think it’s okay to define that au pair’s one day off and have the rest as on-call time, where the au pair should be ready to work at any second, sometimes even expected to stay within the family home until the child ‘wants to play with them’ or the parents ‘need to quickly do something’. If you can avoid these families and get references to know that you’re family is going to stick to what you say, then you’ve reduced the possible problems greatly to mostly those also found in the US Au Pair program.

Other than that, the only difference is that you really need to have a plan b and the self-confidence to be able to enact it if your host family still doesn’t follow your contract and the law. For me this meant savings and a close friend who now lives in Finland that I knew I could fly to if things went wrong. For other people this might be funds to stay in a hostel until they find a new family or funds for a flight home.

I also know many other au pairs who have families here that follow the rules and are having a great time, my closest friend here is also extending and another friend is now staying here indefinitely (EU citizen) while studying. Please don’t discount a lot of these great opportunities just because they don’t have the same agency that they would have in the US.

PS. I kind of alluded this above but I’m a bit worried that it was written in the description here that “Because au pairing is less regulated– if not unregulated — in every country(!!?) outside of the USA, Au Pairs don’t have federal rules(!!?) that they can invoke when they are creating their contracts or struggling to set boundaries.”. This is very very much not true and I’m very surprised that it was written here. They vast majority of countries in Western Europe definitely have regulated programs, where there certainly are federal rules that definitely can be invoked, and generally a signed contract is required to be given to the government at the beginning of the placement. When the laws and contracts are not honoured, the au pair can, as I said, go to different government agencies.

cv harquail January 30, 2016 at 10:09 am

Hi A AP-

Compared to the USA, all other countries have fewer regulations and less oversight. Some countries have stepped it up recently (e.g., Australia) while other countries have loosened their Au Pair regulations (e.g., England). See this article in Political Economy Revue

Also, asking an Au Pair to appeal to a government agency in a foreign country so that s/he can have their contract enforced is a big expectation…and for most au pairs unrealistic.

That said, all your advice to au pairs is wonderful and helpful. In virtually every email we get from an Au Pair outside the USA who’s having problems, the issues can be traced back to a failure on the part of the Host Family and the Au Pair to discuss and agree upon the specifics of the au pair’s contract.

Australian Au Pair In Austria January 31, 2016 at 2:10 pm

I would definitely agree with you about the USA having the most oversight, the statement I really disagreed with is that there are no federal rules to base contracts on, which is definitely not true.

As an Australian who follows a lot of discussion about au pairs in Australia, I haven’t heard of regulations being stepped up in Australia, only that they’re cracking down on people working as au pairs on farms but claiming to do farm work so they can apply for a second year-long visa, even though they’ve always said this wasn’t allowed, as au pairing doesn’t make you eligible for a second year in Australia. Oh and that they’re now taxing au pairs more. Was there something else that I haven’t heard of that you’re thinking of?

WarmStateMomma January 31, 2016 at 2:17 pm

“you really need to have a plan b and the self-confidence to be able to enact it if your host family still doesn’t follow your contract and the law”

Every young person traveling abroad needs a plan B and the confidence to see it through. My guess is that the confidence side of the equation is more of a problem than the plan B side, which could just be cash or a credit card to bail on a bad situation. I would never support my child going overseas if I didn’t think she had the nerve to leave a bad situation but I’d feel more comfortable with her taking a risk if I trusted her to know when to call it quits.

NZ HM January 28, 2016 at 8:40 pm

There is a lot of discussion about the use and benefit of agencies on local (NZ/ Oz) websites and facebook groups. Generally, HF like to go through websites like greataupair or aupairworld to save the sign up fee and because the overall feeling is there is not much advantage in it for the families.

For APs however, it seems to offer a safer way to go about finding a family and some HF feel that they can find candidates who are more committed to being an AP through the agencies (there seems to be an absolute glut of candidates out there, with some HF profiles attracting 300+ applications, most, however, either not serious, not outstanding, unreliable (not replying after first contact) or just testing the waters).

From my experience, the usefulness varies depending on agency: aupairlink (I think they work with AIFS in Germany, not sure about US) has a very well set up, strictly regulated programme with monthly home visits, AP outings and weekly playgroup for APs and children. Other agencies we went through offered little contact post matching (but some!) but did an ok job supporting an AP that wanted to leave us.
One thing to note about NZ is that APs, agency or not, are legal employees here and thus protected under the NZ Employment Law and can enjoy all its benefits (annual leave, extra pay for working on public holidays and weekends, being paid minimum wage less cost of tax, board and accommodation, sick leave, max work hours, etc) and any AP coming here should insist on an Employment Agreement. This is information that is not available on websites like aupairworld; my advice would thus be for anyone considering an AP position to familiarse themselves with the rules and regulations of their country of choice, incl. the legal position of APs to ensure they know their rights and duties.

Taking a Computer Lunch January 28, 2016 at 9:42 pm

While it may not be transparent to APs in the U.S. – or their HF for that matter either, the State Dept. actually has a formula for pay (based on U.S. minimum wage – not state or local minimum wage – minus room & board). The 10 weekday minimum for APs working in the U.S. is based on a formula, which becomes apparent when there is a rematch (because the worksheet falls one way or the other). The State Dept. also controls maximum hours and mandatory time off (although agencies obviously differ in interpretation as has been discussed extensively on this site), so it sounds like NZ is a bonus model based on the U.S. model or vice versa (because the U.S. model does not allow for federal holidays or sick leave).

Frankfurt AP Boy January 29, 2016 at 5:02 am

I am not sure about NZ being based on US policy. Paying minimum wage and not exceeding a maximum number of hours per week is consistent with the legal framework of many countries.

NZ HM January 30, 2016 at 3:54 am

It’s basically that anyone working in NZ needs to be in possession of a valid permit (being a NZ citizen, permanent resident or holder of a student or work visa or a working holiday visa, which is the visa aupairs come in on); they are all the same as far as the employment law is concerned regardless of their immigration status and have thus the same rights and duties. This gives a huge amount of protection to short term employees, incl. aupairs. On the downside (in comparison to the US system), there is no one looking out for them as such if they don’t have an agency, in the sense that they have to know and fight for their rights if they feel they are being exploited.

AuPair in the Netherlands January 28, 2016 at 10:40 pm

I highly recommend Interexchange working abroad as an agency. Most Americans don’t go through an agency but when I was looking to be an aupair I did not feel comfortable using websites like aupairworld. Interexchange working abroad while there is an agency cost and the application process is more intensive than just creating a profile on aupair world I do still believe that it is worth it. Throughout the application process the Interexchange employees would contact me to make sure I was up to date on the application deadlines and they also made sure to answer other questions. Some perks of having an agency is that the family is screened and they tend to have a house check which aupairworld does not have. Another perk is that if you were to use an aupair website if something were to go wrong with the family you were staying with you would have no one to contact in order to help with an agency there is someone in the country that you are staying in that is there to help you.

AuPair in the Netherlands January 28, 2016 at 11:26 pm

Also a good website to find agency reviews is goabroad if you want to look up reviews for interexchange working abroad they have reviews on that website.

FirstTimeHM January 29, 2016 at 4:16 am

In the Netherlands the HF has to have an agency by law and that agency is there to help the AP where possible. I’m a HM in the Netherlands and we were screened and had a house check prior to AP visa application.
Aupairworld doesn’t screen host families, that’s for the local agencies.

The Netherlands is one of the most regulated countries in Europe regarding AP’s, an AP is very well protected here. HF’s have a lot less protection from lying/stealing AP’s as we found out when our first AP got here omitting some minor details like epilepsia on her doctor’s report, and the fact that she planned to stay just a week before moving to her friends to spend her time in Europe without having to pay for flight tickets, insurance etc. and taking the contents of the kids piggybanks on her way out.
We’re now on our second AP, a lovely South American girl. She’s the reason we’re still in the programme, the agencies here are there to take the money and propose another candidate if your AP does a runner.

California93 January 29, 2016 at 4:44 pm

I recently moved from California to France to be an Au Pair, and I have had a wonderful experience with Interexchange who partners with Accueil International Services which is the European agency that works with me.
Everyone who I have worked with in these agencies has been extremely kind, supportive, and attentive. The application process was vey thorough, which gave me a strong sense of security, and they went above and beyond to prepare me for moving abroad and au pair life. I have been placed with a wonderful family, and further more upon my arrival in France, the agency hosted an orientation where I met other au pairs, learned more about French culture (which helped combat my culture shock), and was given a lot of helpful tips about being an au pair. I feel so secure knowing that if I had any kind of issue what so ever, the agency would be there for me in a second.

Au Pair in NZ January 30, 2016 at 9:51 pm

I’m an American who is currently an au pair in New Zealand. I didn’t use an agency to find my family and I’m really happy with that decision… I recommend using AuPairWorld. I was able to find an amazing family on there… I made the decision to not use an agency because I wanted to have more control over choosing my family. I’m really glad I did because there were definitely some families I contacted that seemed nice on paper but I just didn’t get a great vibe with them when I Skyped them, etc. The nice thing about not using an agency is that you are paid more overall and you don’t have to pay some absurd placement fee. If things go south, there are always plenty of families looking for a new au pair ASAP. A lot more trust is required when you aren’t using an agency, though… Make sure you ask plenty of questions, request the handbook, ask for a picture of the bedroom, search the area on google maps, talk to past au pairs…

Before and After an Agency February 3, 2016 at 2:04 pm

Speaking from someone who had a firsthand, awful experience without an agency, and then returning back to France with an agency supporting me, I must say I am surprised to see so many comments speaking negatively towards foreign agencies.

My first experience was set up through mutual friends so if anything, that would seem to work out more than being set up with complete strangers. Little did I know I was about to embark on a journey where I was yelled at, never cleaned well enough, never had free time, no social life, all while occupying 4 children (one being a baby). By the time I decided it was not a healthy environment for me, or anyone really, I ended up having to move out. I had to face one of the scariest moments of my life – being 4000 miles away from my family with no where to go. I actually ended up moving in with the neighbor during my last week.

Regardless of my first experience, I was not about to let that cast a shadow on my interpretation of what an au pair experience should look like, nor my idea of France. I signed up with an agency and was given lots of options. I was able to look at different families, Skype with different families, and politely decline when I didn’t feel it would work. When I found the perfect family, yes of course I had the concern as to if it work out decently – there is risk to anything – but I was not afraid, because I had this agency behind me. They provided me with the support I needed. I knew that if something extreme were to happen, I would not again have to be stranded in a foreign country.

Luckily, that is the least of my worries, as this agency has placed me with an incredible family. I honestly cannot describe how much I enjoy this family, and any questions we have, we always are able to go the agency. We were able to Skype before deciding and all expectations were made clear and have been followed. Within my first week, the agency even had an orientation where they told us what to expect and that of which gave us useful information about the culture. I made friends there too, some of whom I still hang out with. They also organize a weekend to explore other areas of France, all at a reduced rate. Never have I felt taken advantage of – they didn’t even have a deadline to pay them. They were extremely flexible and understanding, just like this great family I am an au pair for right now.

I’m sure there are good and bad agencies just like anything else, but as long as you do your research, (I called my embassy and asked of embassy approved agencies), it’ll all work out okay. The agency is named Accueil International Services.

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