The Best Time of Year to Choose an Au Pair Is …

by cv harquail on March 31, 2013

… when, exactly?

Is there really a “best time of year” for selecting an au pair, or is it just the “best time for you and your family”?

We seem to want to believe that there is a best time. By ‘best’, we mean (I htink) when there are the most au pairs to choose from. Somehow we believe that sheer volume of applicants means we’re more likely to find just the right fit.

When More Au Pairs Tend To Be Available

We know that au pairs tend to cluster around certain preferred arrival windows.  Like American college students, au pairs often are ready to start their au pair adventure either right when school ends, or after they’ve had a summer vacation.

Usually, there’s a larger pool of au pairs available at the start of summer or at the end of summer (i.e., just before school starts).  There tend to be fewer au pairs who prefer to arrive in the US winter time (and often these au pairs are from the southern hemisphere, so their ‘summer break’ coincides with winter).

And the smallest pool of applicants wants to arrive just before Christmas/ New Years. There’s too much excitement at home and too high a chance of homesickness over the holiday to want to arrive in December.

When Host Families Tend to Have Time to Orient a New Au Pair

For some of us, the ‘best’ time depends on our family ryhthms. Personally, I’ve preferred to have our new au pair arrive in early fall– late enough that shcool has begun, but soon enough that she has plenty of time to make friends before winter sets in.  The alternative preferred time for us has been about 6 weeks before the end of school. That way, an au pair has a glimpse of the ‘regular’ work week before shifting into a more varied summer routine.

Other times, we think about when we can handle orienting someone new, and — truthfully — when we’ll have the flexibility and back up to deal with it if the new au pair flames out. Host parents have told us here that they’ve waited until after tax season, waited until just before a long vacation, or timed an au pair to arrive 6 weeks after a new baby.

I do wonder how much of a difference it makes to try to hit ‘peak availability’. Instead, I’ve tried to give myself enough lead time so that if we haven’t found a match in the first three weeks of looking, we’re not panicing. How about You?

Parents, how has time of year mattered to your au pair selection process?


Image: 21013 Corgi Calendar Print, by AfricanGrey. Available for purchase on Etsy. And probably available next year too. Adorbs!


Host Mom in the City March 31, 2013 at 8:46 pm

Great post and I’ll be really interested to read the responses. We are on what seems like a weird time (our current AP will leave the third week of November – she arrived the day after thanksgiving last year). I’m considering looking for someone to start in January instead to get us in a better rthym and just piecing together childcare through December.

TexasHM April 1, 2013 at 8:19 am

I’m not convinced that it makes a difference…yet. Although, we haven’t had a rematch either! Our first AP came Feb 13th and we had matched in December, our second AP came Dec 27th and we had matched in September. I have not felt like we didnt have enough applicants even though both times have been supposedly in the low seasons. Both were Brazilians and as mentioned, their summer break is Jan-Mar so perhaps if we looked a different time of year there would be more options from other countries (maybe the pool of candidates is pretty consistent but the country makeup varies meaning a much higher percentage of Germans in June but then many more Brazilians in January for example).

If you find the right match the timing works out. Our first AP we fast tracked and she was here in less than 6 weeks, our second we looked early just in case (first AP was getting married) and asked her to wait (match end of Sept, asked her to come mid Feb, ended up moving that up to Dec 27th). That was a long time to wait but she wanted our family so she agreed and then we ended up moving up the date anyway.

Now, I have a fellow HM friend that just went through rematch and I have heard from her and our LCC that the rematch candidate pool definitely varies. Her 6 day flame out occurred in the second week of Jan and she had lots of great in country rematch AP candidates to interview. Our LCC said that Jan is a big spike because many girls either tough out rough situations because they don’t want to go through rematch and dont think theyll find a family during the holidays and because there is a swell of arrivals in Jan so rematch demand is up plus influx means additional candidates through natural attrition at that time of year. She said end of Sept is similar.
Now, we are with APIA which I believe is the largest so I’ve never heard anyone say they couldn’t find an awesome rematch AP at any time of year but I can definitely see how smaller agencies might be very impacted by the seasonal swells.

We base our timing on what works best for us (first was right after an out of state move, second was a couple weeks before AP 1 was getting married and about 6 weeks before my busy season at work. For us, we figure we only need one AP. Interviewing is a diamond in the rough/find your missing puzzle piece exercise so whether there are 100 candidates or 500 candidates it hasn’t mattered, you’re just looking for that one. We also search through more than one agency so we’ve never felt like we didnt have the breadth or depth of candidates we wanted to see.
I have another HM friend that only picks rematch/extension candidates and she’s had 8 APs, each came in a different month and she said there might be more to choose from at peak times but she’s never had a problem finding an awesome one and if anything, you’d have less competition from other host families at that time. Probably doesn’t matter for those in the ideal AP locations but for the rest of us, I could see how that MIGHT make a difference, ideally the AP is matching for family not location, just tossing that out as another possible variable and can’t wait to hear everyone else’s perspective.

Taking a Computer Lunch April 1, 2013 at 8:36 am

We’ve done it all – March arrival, early December arrival (lots of tears at the start but extended with us for 6 months – but arranged to get second visa to go home for Christmas), May arrival, and for the last 5 years August arrival. I wish I could push back the August arrival so that the AP arrives a couple of weeks before school starts. Right now she arrives the Thursday before school starts and everything is completely chaotic for about 3 weeks while she gets settled in and adjusts to a lot of new routines.

PA AP Mom April 1, 2013 at 9:23 am

We have only ever had Swedish and German au pairs. We start our search about 5-6 months before the preferred arrival date. We have had au pairs start in early September (German), late July (Swedish), Early October (rematch from Germany by way of Dallas), beginning of June (German) and end of June (Swedish).

I think it all depends on the flow of the family and the country of origin you think you are interested in. Like the others, I don’t think there is actually a bad time where it would be impossible to find an AP.

Tristatemom April 1, 2013 at 10:42 am

We have APs arrive in July. I think by dumping them into the camp season, the coming school months will feel like a breeze :) It also prepares them for the camp season at the end of their year. Moreover, we like to have a gap between APs to recharge and get rid of any old resentments so we take a family vacation between old and new AP.

Momma Gadget April 1, 2013 at 10:54 am

We’ve matched mostly at off peak times. We never felt we didn’t have enough candidates to look at.
The bigger issue for us was having an AP start right before Christmas. No problem for extending Au pairs, but for first time out of country matches it proved to be too hard of an adjustment at this emotional/sentimental time of year.

Host Mom in the City April 1, 2013 at 11:12 am

Just want to chime in to say that our AP who arrived right after Thanksgiving did just fine over the holidays. We kept her busy, checked in lots, and of course had all kinds of fun holiday things planned, and she said that having so much to do actually helped her get through the first month without homesickness. So it can work with the right AP I’m assuming.

CA Host Mom April 1, 2013 at 11:55 am

Glad to hear this. AP#4 will be joining our family in early Dec (we matched REALLY early this time and are switching agencies). But I suggested to her that she might want to pick the arrival date right after Christmas so that she could celebrate with her family, but she said she wanted to be with us for Christmas/Hanukkah and wasn’t worried about being extra homesick at that time. We’ll see … we do plan a lot of fun activities during that time, and I will keep a really close eye on her so that I can help with any unexpected homesickness that she may feel … but I’m glad to know that you have had success with an AP who arrived during the holiday season.

WestMom April 1, 2013 at 11:08 am

So far, we have only had August and September arrivals (cross my fingers, no rematch). I have to say that I really like that time of year. It’s ‘sink or swim’ for everyone, and a great time for a family reset (new bedtime, new routines, new lunch resolutions, etc.). The weather is at its best in our part of the country, and there are many holidays ahead to plan some quality excursions together to warm up to each other (Labor Day, Columbus, Thanksgiving…).

I start searching early (on multiple agency and international sites). But I have heard that many agencies don’t post autumn arrivals before April, so it’s pretty slim picks until then. But I hate to wait… So 4 out of our 5 APs have been prematches outside the agencies (and I then transfer them over).

I think for us, the worst time to arrive would be the beginning of the summer. It is totally not representative of the grind of the school year… Kids sleep in, play at the pool all day, go on fun field trips, etc. I take 5-6 weeks off from work, and we go away for about 3 weeks. Ideally, I would not even have an Au Pair in August. 11 months would be perfect!

Host Mom in the City April 1, 2013 at 11:20 am

I did find this to be an issue with our November arrival – December is not representative of our grind either. Lots of time off, lots of fun activities, kids are in and out of school, some traveling. Not at all typical and so January required a bit of reset.

FutureAP April 1, 2013 at 1:10 pm

The “funny” thing is, as I was waiting to be put online I checked the other AP profiles to see how many of them wanted to leave at the same time than me. It appeared that lots of them were ready to leave asap (it seems some of them are still online and it was 3 months ago, not sure why they haven’t matched yet, their profile seemed good to me). But also, from all of the early online profiles, most of them were for July. It looks like to me, APs who are not much flexible on their departure/arrival day (depends how you see it) are going to try to be online as soon as they can. I know it is what happened to me, I wanted to leave in August, no other month and it just happened my HF decided to have access to the profiles at that same period I was put online, for the same reasons so we matched more than 6 months before my arrival.

The thing is, to me, there will always be APs online, ready to leave, will they be a good fit for your family is another question. Also, would you rather have to wait for “The” AP or just take an AP who will work fine for your kids and arrive when you need someone although she/he might not be an awesome personnality fit.

And from the contacts I had, with french people, it looks like the ones who are available outside the Summer time are a/ 18yo APs who were waiting for their drivers licence (we have to be 18 to take the test) and their High School Diploma (we get the results mid-July, it would be crazy to match without those since we actually can’t leave for the programm without) or 24-26yos who have started to be tired of their job and want a break.

Dorsi April 1, 2013 at 1:42 pm

Remember, we don’t get APs just for the cultural exchange. We get them because we need childcare (or at least most of us do). Waiting a few months for “the AP” is not a choice for us without a tremendous amount of disruption and expense.

FutureAP April 1, 2013 at 2:18 pm

I know, that’s kind of what I wanted to point out ;) but some families do choose to wait for an AP (it happened to me my first year) when they have another opportunity.

Seattle Mom April 9, 2013 at 1:20 am

THat’s funny, that pretty much describes our French APs, who arrived with us in early December. #1 was 24 years old, motivated to be an au pair so it could help get her career going (as a preschool teacher). AP #2 had just turned 19, and we went into transition as soon as we could.. We would like to get another French AP in the future, but after #2 I’m just not sure.

Dorsi April 1, 2013 at 1:40 pm

We look in the fall for a Feb arrival. We are looking for a Spanish speaking AP, and require an infant qualified. We are with one of the big agencies. I think we have a very small pool of applicants. In our last go-round, there were never more than 20 APs available (lost a few, gained a few every day, usually the pool hovered around 15). Once I threw out APs who had their license less than 3 months, there were less than 10. I would have been happy to have an extraordinaire, but there was never one available during my 2 months of searching (never one that was Spanish speaking, and infant qualified). It was a challenge to find 2-3 to email each week. Though all were technically interested in families with more than 2 kids (or the agency blocks their profiles), many turned us down immediately because we had 3.

I am stuck with a Feb match for now, so I make the best of it. However, I am often bewildered by the lengthy posts about the “dare to match with us” letters and the challenging questions asked over Skype. I am considerably more lenient and still have a lot of trouble finding an appropriate candidate.

FutureAP April 1, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Have you ever thought about getting a 6 month extension au pair so you could have arrivals in August after ?

Emerald City HM April 1, 2013 at 3:18 pm

I’m struggling with this right now. We are currently interviewing for a late July / early August arrival. It’s just what happens to work best for us by nature of when our first au pair started.

I’m quickly learning that scheduling interviews around a DST time change stinks quite frankly. I’m also getting a little burnt out on interviewing and starting to wonder if there are maybe some questions that I should initially ask when sending the first email. We are really interviewing for a personality match, with enough experience, and that’s a LOT of first interviews.

FutureAP April 1, 2013 at 3:42 pm

Have you thought about a chinese portrait ? :)
Or asking about pet peeves can be pretty relevant ;)

Emerald City HM April 1, 2013 at 5:14 pm

I’m not sure what a chinese portrait is.

Asking about pet peeves is probably a good one to ask, though I’d have to figure out a way to re-phrase it to avoid the use of an idiom, since that might not translate to all languages.

FutureAP April 2, 2013 at 12:29 am

What I call a chinese portrait is a serie of
“If you were a… what would you be (and why)?” questions

Dorsi April 1, 2013 at 4:08 pm

After I email, if the AP responds that they are interested, I send them 4 open-ended questions by email, 2 fluffy and 2 not so fluffy. I need to get a decent response in a reasonable amount of time to move onto Skype. The actual answers are not so important, as long as they demonstrate that that AP is willing to share a little bit of her personality and has demonstrated some thought, and shows some responsibility in responding promptly (in a few days.) I also expect (and tell them) that they should ask a few questions about us.

Not my exact questions, but something like: tell me what you have done when a child has disobeyed you, what kind of vacations do you like to take, what is your favorite weekend activity, what do you do when you don’t understand something in school?

Emerald City HM April 1, 2013 at 5:26 pm

With APC we only get to “hold” the au pairs for interview for 3 days (4 tops), sometimes I really wish this was a bit longer since it can sometimes take longer to even work out that first interview.

Though this structure might be a good idea to try and see if we can get a bit more about their personality out of them before seting up an interview. I’ll have to look at our list and see what questions we typically ask that are our personality questions. Something like this will definitely be on our next time list.

Momma Gadget April 1, 2013 at 5:51 pm

Interexchange is the same…but if you ask for more time on a Thursday, they will give you the Friday, and essentially the weekend too, since their offices are closed.
I under stand why they limit time with extending and transitioning APs, but I wish they would give you more time on the new out of country candidates too.

Au pair April 1, 2013 at 9:11 pm

You should try cultural care! I was at least 4 weeks in my hf’s account!they were able to extend all the time! The agency only pressures the hf if the au pair wants to get out or if the au pair wants a decision.

CA Host Mom April 1, 2013 at 11:41 pm

Not true in my experience with CC – sounds like your case might have been a bit out of the norm. They do have limits and will only extend them with solid justification. We’ve had matches stay in our account a bit longer because of difficulties with scheduling interviews, but for the most part, they want you to stick to the same process.

Seattle Mom April 9, 2013 at 1:23 am

CC lets you keep one “primary” match in your account for an undefined amount of time- I’ve held someone for at least a couple of weeks. You can have up to 2 “comparison” matches but they automatically get pushed out of your account after 2 days, unless you purge the primary and make them the new primary.

I can see just telling the AP, “hey, I need more time to get to know you and decide, but I can’t keep you in my account. Can we still talk?”

FutureAP April 2, 2013 at 12:31 am

Does not mean you have to stop talking to the by email ;)
At the same time, my HF asked to APC an extension which she got of 4 extra days ;)

Taking a Computer Lunch April 2, 2013 at 8:06 am

APIA permits me to “hold” 7 candidates for up to 7 days, and I am able to “retrieve” them again and hold – unless they match with another family. We start in April (just submitted my application) for a late August arrival. We’re pretty picky and prefer to interview 5-6 candidates. Often our favorite candidate drops away, but the best one almost always arrives.

One thing I’ve learned over the years – if you find that you’re “settling” then extend the search process. The other – ask your LCC to look into the candidate pool – if it’s low, then wait. APIA has less candidates in March than April for end-of-summer arrivals, so we wait.

Finally, make your agency work for you – you’re paying them after all. If you’re a repeat customer, then ask to see the most recent applications.

FourTimeTexasHostMom April 5, 2013 at 1:37 pm

APC always extends candidates for me, a lot. No way am I going to make a decision in 72 hours. If I don’t hear back in 24-36 hours anyway I usually drop them. I also make APC do a lot of searches for me and other things. MAKE THEM WORK!!

Seattle Mom April 9, 2013 at 1:16 am

After my utter failure with AP#2, I’ve been thinking about asking more questions by email before jumping to skype. And now I will know that it is a HUGE red flag if emails go unanswered for longer than a couple of days.. that happened with AP#2, but it was after we had skyped and decided to match.

Momma Gadget April 9, 2013 at 9:32 am

Depending on the time difference,in this day & age of technology, if I send an email in The AM I expect to receive a reply by the evening. If I send an email in the evening, I expect to hear back by the next AM. I would write anyone off who took longer than 24 Hours to even reply. Even if a candidate is busy, a courteously reply like ” Thank you for your email, I have exams today. I will think about your questions and answer you later this afternoon.” Show that a candidate can communicate and values the time & consideration you put into sending the email in the first place.
Perhaps because I communicate with my China office daily, I have grown accustomed to my emails always being responded to, if not answered in an expeditious manner.

AP-to-be April 9, 2013 at 10:13 am

How about when it is the other way around? I feel like my future HF (haven’t officially matched) is too busy to e-mail and often take a long time to answer or replies with a really short e-mail.
I almost feel like I’m bothering them, whenever I e-mail them

Momma Gadget April 9, 2013 at 11:57 am

AP-to- be: I agree that it should go both ways.
For me, I try to remember how I felt when going on interviews. I always try to respond as quickly to AP emails as I would expect them to do for me. If we need more time to consider different candidates (as we did this past go-round) I email all of them and tell them so. And as hard as it is, I always send a thank you email with some feedback as to why we have decided to release a candidate.
It can be very time consuming to email multiple candidates in the earlier stages of interviewing. I wouldn’t be offended if HF answers are brief… But I would double check and make sure you are not asking questions that are answered in their profiles. I don’t invest a lot of time writing long emails until we are down to our our final candidate/s.

Taking a Computer Lunch April 9, 2013 at 12:38 pm

I don’t expect an immediate answer. Communication has improved so much in the past 12 years – when I first started hosting, many APs did not have an email address, so their first contact with us was a cold call (it did have the benefit of hearing their ability to switch to English on a dime).

Over the years, many APs have apologized because they were away on school trips, or visiting relatives. I have even had mothers respond to my emails saying their daughters were out of town and would respond when they returned.

Personally, I know I am dumping a lot of new information on an incoming au pair, in English, so even if they’re fluent, there are a lot of words to look up and the care of a special needs child to consider. While I tell candidates that it’s ok to say “No” in the second paragraph of my email – right up front, I do have some no responses. Shortly before they would drop out of my queue anyway, I drop them – APIA permits me to say that I never heard back from a candidate. I figure that if an AP complains to her home office that she’s not matching, they will then be able to point on to her that she needs to respond to her email.

Personally, I would never expect an AP candidate to respond to an email like someone working for a business would, and I don’t hold it against them.

AP-to-be, if a potential HF is not responding to your emails at all, then that may be a sign that they are not a good match. HF’s know they are investing enormous amount of time to match (although personally, every year I forget how much time it takes!). You should never feel like you’re bothering a HF with an email.

Should be working April 9, 2013 at 12:36 pm

I do a LOT of emailing before skyping. I like to examine their emails for clues about how they think, and that requires the interaction to be under my time-control. My work is related to analyzing written materials, so this is something I feel I am very good at. On Skype I feel too constrained by the face-to-face. Skype is for me a tool to confirm that the AP is what she says she is personality-wise. It’s not a way to ask basic questions, like about her own family, her own upbringing, what she wants and fears for her AP year.

anotherSeattleHostMom April 1, 2013 at 6:09 pm

Wow, I’m really surprised by how many of you start your search so early! Last year we started looking in December for an April arrival and found 2 candidates we offered match to who said they wanted to come sooner. One of them we never heard from again but the other emailed us in February to see if we were still looking (we weren’t, we found our match at end of January) but our LCC suggested we not look so early next time.

We are trying to do some overlap this year (our AP is currently doing a 6 month extension) to get more toward a summer arrival. This just works better for us in terms of getting someone acquainted to driving, etc. We don’t need a summertime driver, particularly, but both of my children are in preschool so with the April arrival I was having to leave work to pick up every day for the first few weeks. Exhausting!

Pokermom April 1, 2013 at 11:27 pm

Our first year we decided to start looking for an au pair in Dec. We started interviewing in January, although we were asking for info and trying to get things going at the end of Dec… ugh, for an early March arrival. By sheer luck it works out really well for our family! She arrived two weeks before spring break so she got a little extra time to get to know the kids and get acclimated and then she was ready when summer hit but wasn’t too burnt out yet. Our country of choice has school that ends in Dec and starts again in Jan so there were plenty of applications to go through. This time around we wanted to get a male, and their applications tend to sit longer, so I had a bunch to choose from, even with our smaller agency. I did start the process a little earlier since we have kids with special needs, and I didn’t want to run into the holiday slow down we experienced the year prior. We had one week of overlap with our APs and that worked out really well for transition for the kids. We will be an early spring matching family (hopefully, with no rematches!) as long as we can!

American HM in Europe April 2, 2013 at 4:48 am

I’ve had au pairs arrive in May, November, January, May, June, March, and August — almost all based on when we needed someone rather than being able to be planful about it. The August start was my most planned one, and the month I aim to continue with — I find the pool of candidates for me to be bigger then (beginning/end summer), and it is generally a good time for me as we are returning from summer vacation and the kids are returning to childcare, so everyone starts the “normal” routine together. I generally try to have my au pairs overlap for 1 week which helps too, and August seems to allow this to work.

As I require an experienced driver and good English skills, I find most of my au pairs have come from the US; I can see that the timing could be different for candidates from other countries. FWIW, I start looking now at least six months before I need someone — partly because I’m so busy, it takes me a while to get through the back and forth interview process (no agency involved), and partly because I want to allow 2-3 months for the visa process if possible. It is meant to take 4-6 weeks…but not always, and there is about 1-2 weeks of au-pair specific pre-work before applying that I have to do (register them for Swedish lessons and get a signed letter from the school confirming it).

oranje_mama April 3, 2013 at 4:24 pm

AP1 and AP2 both from Germany, both December 26 arrival. Started looking for AP1 in late October, matched in mid-November. Started looking for AP2 a bit earlier, more like early September, and matched by mid-October.

The Dec 26 start date has 2 major drawbacks: (1) New Year’s Eve falls on the AP’s day 2 in your home (AP1 had terrible homesickness), and (2) with a German, you’re unlikely to find an AP over 18/19 years old. Also a minor drawback: (3) no AP driving course offered with a Dec 26 arrival.

Both of our APs had been in the pool a long time – they wanted end summer start dates but didn’t find a match before us. My theory on why they didn’t match sooner was: with AP1 a fluke of their educational system (in 2011, high school converted from 5 to 4 years, so there was a double class of high school grads that year – hence a bumper crop of German APs). And with AP2 – now that this educational fluke is less of a reason (although apparently still a lingering issue because university spots are in short supply) – I think all the good German AP candidates that are age 20/21+ and/or have had their drivers license for 1 year+ have been snapped up by the time fall rolls around.

We asked AP1 to extend (even for 6 months, just to get on a “summer” AP schedule), but she declined. We thought about getting a 6- or 9-month extension AP, but that pool was EXTREMELY limited for Dec/Jan arrival. We’ll see what happens with AP2.

I’m coming around to the point of view that maybe Dec 26 is not such a terrible start date. One plus is it is at least after Christmas (in this sense, I would say better than a November or early Dec start date). Right around the 3-month point – when homesickness can really kick in – days are getting longer, brighter, and you are spending more time outside. Summer – with its atypical non-school schedule – falls right in the middle, as does our summer vacation (which is vacation for AP too). And till now, we’ve had good APs. They are young, but this hasn’t been a problem. You have to have some faith in the German drivers license system since most likely you end up with a German who has only had a full license for less than a year.

Host Mom in the City April 3, 2013 at 7:24 pm

WHile I do agree that there are lots of 18/19yo Germans, we also found both times that there were lots of 20/21yo Germans. And this for a late November arrival. What agency are you with? I’m surprised you found very few slightly older, driving experienced Germans.

Au pair April 3, 2013 at 11:02 pm

I have to say, that you really should trust a german drivers license. I’m swiss, but we have a similar process. Our written exam has 50 questions, I also had to attend two classes ( each one 8h) one CPR, other one how to behave if u slipp with car on ice, how do stop quickly, how to change a tire, oil change etc. then we had to take at least 10 lessons (1h each) usually you take more if you don’t have someone to practice with you. Then on your exam day, a guy sits next to you and let’s you drive for 45min. Freeway, country side, city (in my case Zurich) if examer felt unsafe, you returned right away. It is not unusual to take the test 2 or 3 times. They really make sure you can drive! When I came to the us, my hm told me I have to take the test again for insurance purposes. Oh my gosh, I thought this guy in my car that tested me was kidding;) all I had to do was drive around in a parking lot;) and for the thing; driving in the us is different than in Europe, you are right it is. It is easier. Streets are bigger, you don’t drive as fast. Stop signs everywhere. Just my insight.

Returning HM April 4, 2013 at 10:14 am

We have had excellent luck with our young (19 yr old) German APs as drivers. I will say, though, that I will no longer allow an AP, no matter how good a driver, to simply exchange her German license for our state license (both states we have lived in recently have had agreements with Germany to swap licenses), but instead will require them to study for the test. We had initially told our current AP that she would need to take the test, but the insurance agency and DMV did not require it so she didn’t take it. Lo and behold, six months into being here, she drove past a stopped school bus with its lights on — she didn’t know that she was required to stop (and I didn’t know she didn’t know this so never told her). Naturally, it caused an enormous mess – she nearly hit the child, cars all were beeping at her, the bus driver was screaming, etc. She came home shaking and upset. She was very nervous that a cop would come after her, but no one saw it — luckily she learned the lesson without anyone getting hurt. But it has since made me wonder: What other rules doesn’t she know?

I can see the benefits of the license exchange (though to our previous AP’s adorable chagrin, her actual physical license was not waiting for her in Germany – she had to apply to get a new one rather than them just handing her back her original license), but it does make me wonder about what US rules of the road the APs who get licenses this way are missing. Being an excellent driver is of course enormous, but one needs to know what the rules are to be a truly safe driver.

Emerald City HM April 5, 2013 at 6:10 pm

Wow. Thank you for posting this. We specifically just matched with a driving au pair and never would have thought to look up the different driving laws. In a number of other countries they pass stopped school buses. So even if she does study and pass the exam (because it’s only 20 questions), she might not remember this and we will be sure to remind her.

CA Host Mom April 5, 2013 at 6:47 pm

Excellent point. No matter where they have come from, I have required all of our APs to take (and pass) our state license exam. If nothing else, it is a refresher on the laws in a new environment that they are not used to. Even though our insurance company doesn’t require it, we do.

Should be working April 5, 2013 at 8:57 pm

Yes, I send our state’s driving rules to them before they arrive and ask them to study them, and make them take the state test within 60 days of arrival. I will now remember, however, to emphasize the school-bus law!

Taking a Computer Lunch April 5, 2013 at 10:32 pm

This happened to us as well – not-quite-19 yo driver sailed past a school bus on a narrow side-street – in front of another parent who participates in our carpool. (And after DH had explained to her the need to come to a full stop when she saw flashing lights.) We had to ask the other family if the were okay with her continuing to drive, and they said they were. Fortunately no one was hurt!

The same AP did end up nearly totaling the “AP car,” late at night, and so we suspended our no curfew on the car rule because she had had two “distracted driver” incidents. (Our car insurance required that she get a US license, but it was trade-in.)

Our state used to print driver training manuals. Now they’re all online. Giving an AP a link to a manual to read is not like handing her a hard copy.

Seattle Mom April 9, 2013 at 1:29 am

I was sooo excited to find a printed driving manual last fall, when I was in the state capital on business. I was late for a meeting and couldn’t find the right building- but I accidentally walked into the department of licensing, where they had a bunch of driving manuals up for grabs. Big score! My first AP never got one, and I really tried. But now I know where to get them, if the one I gave to current AP goes missing.

Should be working April 3, 2013 at 8:03 pm

We prefer an early August arrival, which works well with German APs. I start searching really early, like December of the year before. I feel like the ‘early bird’ applicants are likely better planners and more mature, and I don’t feel like I’m competing with other families much. And I’m very picky. After 6 weeks I had only seen 3-4 whose little mini-profiles made me want to contact them at all.

Taking a Computer Lunch April 4, 2013 at 7:13 am

I warn the contact at HQ that I am picky (my LCC already knows it). I do the first round of reviews and put the candidates that I think could minimally do the job in our “folder,” and then DH reviews them. At that point, he will disqualify those that he thinks won’t be up to the task. Then, we start sending out emails. For every 5-10 emails we send out, we usually get one affirmative reply (it’s a big responsiblity to care for The Camel and my second paragraph tells the candidate it’s okay to say No).

I think that any candidates we consider are competitive anyway – because I’m looking for young women who have sought out caregiving experience with special needs children, so they tend to have a lot of childcare hours beyond babysitting for friends’ children. I’m not worried about “the one” getting away, because I know up front I’m going to spend at least 6 weeks matching.

oranje_mama April 4, 2013 at 4:09 pm

We are with APIA. While there were a few 20/21 yr old German APs still in the pool in Sept/Oct, my feeling was that they were not good candidates. Main thing was that they seemed aimless – they were not in school and had just filler jobs without a clear plan of what they wanted to do. The younger APs still in the pool that we were interested in generally were certain that they wanted to study (or do technical training) but wanted to take a one-year AP year in between. A 20 yr old who has been working on and off in a gas station or whatnot since graduating high school – not so interesting to me.

Same experience with driving as Returning HM. Both my APs are good drivers but some rules are just different! With our current AP we had her do an “assessment” with a driving instructor who specializes in APs. He talked through rules & got her comfortable with beltway driving. School bus is a big one, and also they are not used to all the stop signs and *really* coming to a full stop at each stop sign.

FutureAP April 5, 2013 at 1:35 pm

The biggest differences for me were:
-Not having to stop at a red light if I’m turning right unless said so
-School bus rules
-You have no traffic circle (or at least I never found one whereas in France they are everywhere).
-Driving licence test is almost a joke (especially the written test !) compared to France where it get harder and more expensive (about 1200€ AT LEAST to get it now, some spend 2500€ because each extra hour is over 50€)
-You don’t have to give “yield” to anyone coming from right unless the opposite is said like we do
-When there is a stop sign, there is one at each street and first one to arrive, first one to start (made me laugh so much when I saw that)

That’s about what I remember :)

Seattle Mom April 9, 2013 at 1:31 am

You DO have to stop at a red light before turning, but then once you stop you can go. I know this because I got a “camera ticket” for doing this. It’s pretty lame, but that’s the rule :)

Seattle Mom April 9, 2013 at 1:36 am

One additional problem with the pre-holiday arrivals: if you end up with someone who you realize immediately will not work out, and you need to go into re-match, you could end up stuck with them in their 2-week transition period during Christmas/New Year’s. That happened to us. Well we weren’t technically in rematch until Jan 2nd, but needed to tell her before the holidays.. because to do otherwise just seemed cruel. It was very odd… we still spent the day with her and exchanged presents, but it was an awkward and unpleasant situation.

We had two APs come in early December- the first one was great, and the second one not. Then we rematched with a 1 year extension AP, in mid January. That seems like it will be better than right in the middle of the big holiday season.

jkwh35 April 20, 2013 at 8:37 am

Our aupair just arrived to NC from Colombia. The weather upon her arrival has been great, and it got me thinking and talking with her. Depending on where you live and where your aupair is coming from, I am glad we had her arrive in spring when things are green and flowering and the weather is good, it seems more like home to her she says. I think it would be very hard to leave a very warm climate and arrive in the middle of winter or the beginning, it might lead to more homesickness early on because it is such a change. I am hoping because she has arrived during a time similar to her own climate she will be well acclimated and comfortable prior to the cold and winter season setting in. Maybe this will ward off some of the problems associated with homesickness and difficulty in adjusting to her new home. I know we don’t choose an aupair based on time of year, but on our needs of when we need an aupair. But, it maybe a point worth considering, if you are getting an aupair from South America where the weather is generally nice, it might be best to have her arrive when the weather is good in your area as well. Just my two cents ;)

Taking a Computer Lunch April 20, 2013 at 12:46 pm

My 2 Brazilian APs also arrived during the Spring and it really helped them to adjust. The 2nd one Skyped all the way through our summer, mistaking our year for hers. Boy was she disappointed when Fall arrived (that’s when she realized her city didn’t actually have 4 seasons ;-) ).

Au Pair Australia April 23, 2013 at 9:20 pm

the high season for au pairs to travel is from July to October, as must of them finish university and have holidays, lots of families in Australia look for au pairs to start in January, however this is the low season for them to travel as it is winter in their countries

Stefy April 30, 2013 at 3:30 pm

Good morning Families!
I’m Stefania, an italian au pair with Cultural care au pair. I’m 23 years old and I’ve studied Pedagogy at the high school. I’ve great childcare references as kindergarten tutor, babysitter, library and playground children tutor (and also as aunt of 3 wonderful children :) ) I really love children and I like spend time with them, particularly in outdoor activities. I love practice sports, travel and cooking (italian and international foods). Currently I take first aid and CPR lessons and I’ll have my certification soon. I work as babysitter for a little girl in an American family that lives in my city but I’m registered to Cultural care au pair agency and I’m looking for another family to leave as au pair in the USA. I began to swim when I was 6 years old and I’m an excellent driver (I’ll have also the international driving licence before my departure). I love animals and I’m totally comfortable with dogs or cats. I love travel and meet people with different culture or traditions-recently I’ve been in South Africa and New york. I speak italian (mother tongue), english, basic german and basic french.
Please, feel free to contact me for any questions or informations.
All my references are available!
Thank you so much!
Best regards.

Stefy April 30, 2013 at 3:32 pm


Host Mom in the City April 30, 2013 at 4:30 pm

Hi Stefania – I just looked for you with the search and select feature, but you didn’t pop up. Are you in the system yet? Best of luck to you for a great year!

Stefy May 1, 2013 at 10:35 am

Good morning Host mom in the city!
Yes I’m! but an hostfamily is currently reviewing my application so probably for this reason I don’t pop up.
Are you loocking for an Au pair? If you prefer please feel free to write me at
Thank you so much and Good luck too for an unforgettable year!

SKny May 26, 2013 at 2:30 pm

Not sure this is the best place to ask but lets go… My first Au pair was a disapointment in many levels. By the time she left I had loads of resentment and was ready to be done.
We were giving up Au pairs, but decided to take an Au pair we already knew and was in rematch. We love her. Truly. Can’t imagine it getting any better.
I had always known her plan was to return home (lawyer), but now that we are counting down last 3 weeks of her term, I have made huge offers to get her to change her mind and stay longer…
Oh well… I am having trouble finding a new Au pair. There is a part of me afraid to get someone as disappointing as ap1… There is a part of me afraid there will never be someone as good as ap2. I know it is crazy but I am going through matching anxiety.
After many interviews, I found one who seemed ok. husband seems she appears to be good, but there is something telling me she is not going to work… Obviously hubby wants her because she is ready to come (has visa already), and won’t find anyone to come in 3weeks. He also says that (as a teacher) he will be off all summer, and if it does not work he will be home to watch the kids.
I on the other hand feel that if he will be off maybe we should go slow, and try to find someone i feel more confident about.
Anyone been through matching anxiety before? Any tips?

Should be working May 26, 2013 at 5:44 pm

What are the hints that the prospective AP won’t work? What are the signals you are responding to? That makes a big difference. If it’s a sense that she’s not level-headed, pay attention. If it’s a sense that she’s “not like the other AP”, you do, as Momma Gadget says, need to look closer.

Somewhere CV has a post on the ‘contrast effect’, where we get overly focused on good or bad traits of a previous AP when looking for the next one. This is really hard to work against, but being aware of it is helpful.

I almost matched with an AP who “reminded me so much” of our beloved departing AP. Then I saw a profile for a very-different one, talked to her a bit, and realized that she would be better for us. The one who reminded me of the old AP looked similar, was from the same area, and had some conversational-style similarities. But I had to notice my very tiny concern that she was passive and tentative. And then get over how different the new one was, because ultimately she was energetic and active.

Try to look with ‘fresh eyes’ this time around. If you are not excited about a candidate, then pass. If you are too much mourning the good one or worried about the bad one, follow an objective list of criteria and then start winnowing it down to the ones who impress you in conversation.

SKNY June 1, 2013 at 6:51 am

In this case, the girl seems very sweet, but says she will call us/contact by some time and doesn’t.
Or, will send Facebook messages while supposedly working with the kids she watches, ages 1 and 3.
Makes me wonder why she is so busy on her free time to answer messages, but spends a lot of her “work” time facebooking.
As in: will she spend all her work time in my home also facebooking from her smart phone?

JJ Host Mom June 1, 2013 at 11:44 am

Eek. I had that happen with a candidate. I wondered why he was always so available to interview while he was supposed to be working. Turned out when he got here he was constantly chatting on the phone, to the point where he was ignoring the kids. That among other reasons led to a quick rematch. I’m biased, of course, but I’d pass.

Taking a Computer Lunch June 1, 2013 at 6:52 pm

Three weeks to go? She’s saying goodbye to absolutely everyone she knows. Friends & family are arranging goodbye parties for her. She’s buying new clothes.

I know I promised to write a post for CV about contacting an AP in the weeks before she arrives, but, well, my days and nights have been packed (with two teenager, I literally drove someplace every day last week – and some events went past my young one’s bedtime!)

With three weeks to go, a good way to attract your next AP’s attention is to write an email with a subject line: Thinking about what to pack? In my particular climate it doesn’t matter whether an AP is from equatorial Brazil or central Sweden (I have hosted both), they can’t imagine the climate in my city. In addition, The Camel is called The Camel for a reason, so I always tell APs to pack old clothes that won’t make them cry when a mouthful of spinach hits them full force. Incoming APs need to know that the hotel will have a blow-dryer and theirs won’t work with American electricity anyway. They need to know not to bother transporting the weight of sheets and towels and to save it for jeans and a warm sweater. They need to know the thermometer be 100 F — and what that translates into Celsius so they really understand.

If you want to break through the coffee her grandmother throws, and the discos with her best friends, then throw her a bone about what life will be like.

Another good question, with three weeks to go, is to ask her what she likes to eat for breakfast (and tell her not say “anything,” because you already know she doesn’t mean it) so you may have it available for her first morning with you.

Failure to respond is not necessarily a red herring. It could be a young woman overwhelmed by the fact that she’s saying “See you later” to a lot of people for the first time in her life.

Anna May 26, 2013 at 8:33 pm

From my experience, go with your gut feelings. If you have childcare (your husband) in the summer you can afford to go slow and find someone who has answered all your doubts.

Momma Gadget May 26, 2013 at 4:05 pm

I wish I had some sound advice for you, but as some one with a sketchy out of country matching record herself, the only thing i can offer you is “those who foresee catastrophe suffer it twice.”
I can offer you my empathy though. It is always hard going into rhe matching process for us- especially after a stellar AP.
I think tou have to take a look at from where your doubts about this AP are coming from: do you doubt her qualifications/abilities or is it your own judgement because of the mistake with AP#1?
I can say it is the AP’s I was most “sure” about that ended up being the biggest disasters. Perhaps, for us at least, a little doubt makes for more dilligence in acclimating/training a new AP…setting up more of a foundation for success.
I think that you need to trust that which ever decision you make, you and your husband will be able to deal with the outcome… Good, bad or mediocre.
Good luck!

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