What can an Au Pair expect from a Host Family?

by cv harquail on May 3, 2010

In the mirror post to this one, we’re generating a list of ways that families interpret and execute the rules, but with the effect of having the au pair feel mistreated.201005030944.jpg

Here on this page is our chance to list what an au pair can expect from a family when both the family and the au pair are fulfilling the basic program requirements.

Let’s assume that host families are already doing the basics, like giving the au pair her or his day & a half off each week. Let’s take the next step, and consider how families can do this in a way that helps the au pair feel as though he or she is being treated appropriately or well.

In terms of how the family interprets and executes the program requirements:

What can an au pair expect from a host family?

Image: Victorian maid in Miss Havershams…from Gauis Caecilius


English Aupair...x May 3, 2010 at 8:10 pm

All i expect from my host family, is my own room, food, weekly pocket money and a little respect… anything other than that for me is a bonus :) I am lucky though as my current family give me lots of privelages, a lovely room with internet, tv, phone usage, lots of free time, great food and a lot of love and respect (plus a great wage :) ) So i am extremely lucky and would never expect or ask for much else :) I have a lot of time on my own if i want but theres always the option of a lot of great interaction and quality time which i love to take part in :)…x

English Aupair...x May 4, 2010 at 11:32 am

just read the quick update on comments post, so just put my email in :)

Euromom May 4, 2010 at 10:28 am

House diaries are a must.

I schedule everything and I mean everything, her classes, her friends coming over for dinner nights, her time off, everything. This way my au pair can clearly see her off duty time, how well she is treated and the allowances and flexibility given. It also means that if she wants to schedule in something months in advance – like a concert – she puts it in the diary and we can work around it.

It’s a gentle reminder, past, present and future.

I repeat House Diaries are a must! :o)

anon HM May 4, 2010 at 10:33 am

Can you tell us more about your House Diary and how that works????

cv harquail May 4, 2010 at 1:37 pm

Coming up in a post of its own… stay tuned! cv

Should be working May 4, 2010 at 1:51 pm

I’m a Google Calendar person; everyone gets their own color, incl. AP.

sad May 5, 2010 at 12:58 am

ii dont want to sound ungreatful or like a princess or anything, but i am really sad here.

I feel like my host family lied to me they were nothing like they said they were. First off i was under the impression that i would have a car here which i would be sharing with the host mum who doesn’t use the car all that much. Then a few days after i got here her car went to get fixed and its been getting fixed for 4 months already. My host family wouldn’t let me share there other car and instead gave me the option of buying a car or not having a car at all. where I live is very rural and there is no public transport nor anything in walking distance
so i had to buy the car myself. the car was about 1000 dollars and i had to pay for it all including insurance 1300 for the year regerstation about 150.
i dont think its fair they are making me pay this! i am an au pair i only make 195 dollars a week and at least 30-40% goes towards automotive issues.

i think the host family should have bought the car and kept it as an au pair car for there au pairs to make there stay more comefortable. no one i know of has had to buy there own car only me and no one i know of pays for insurance. even though i will not be driving the kids in my car would you do this to your au pair? alot of my au pair friends dont drive the kids and there host family still provides a car for them and handles all the insurance regerstration etc. i have no prob paying for gas.

i think my host family want me to stay in the house 24/7 as well they took 5 weeks to take me to a bank to cash my weekly stipends in so i was without any money for 5 weeks! they also plan fun family things on my only weekend off for the month and expect me to be there! i truly don’t know how they feel about me i feel like they are nice to my face but behind my back is a different story. i just feel like there all in it for them and they don’t care about anything but money! i even have to pay for myself when we eat out and im on the clock! is that right? am i just being a cry baby or do you think i should transition? i had great communication and everything everyday with my host family for months! as soon as i got here they just seemed like totally different people! please help me! I’m really unhappy but to scared to transition as i don’t want to go home! :( is any nice home families looking for a nice au pair?? well thanks for hearing me everyone

FormerSwissAupair May 5, 2010 at 8:36 am

No, that is not normal. The whole issue with the car is just ludicrous. I would call your LCC and start looking for a new family.

HRHM May 17, 2010 at 12:03 pm

I really think that it would not be unreasonable to say “When I accepted this AP position, it was with the understanding that I would be able to use the car on a regular basis. I would never have taken the position in this rural area if I had known that I wouldn’t have use of a car” Of course, they may not have had a way to predict that the car would break, but how are they now planning on getting you to cluster meetings and classes? So if you want to rematch, I don’t think that’s unreasonable.

Having said that, there are plenty of host families that don’t provide a car for APs that they don’t NEED to have drive for the job. So if you aren’t driving the kids and they are willing to take you to the cluster meetings and classes, they aren’t violating any rules not ever letting you drive their car. I have never heard of an AP buying her own car before – you either use the family’s or you don’t. So if you chose to buy it, it’s your choice (probably should have just rematched instead)

Taking a computer lunch May 17, 2010 at 12:40 pm

We had that happen in the cluster in which our household used to be placed. An AP while touring NYC with her HF her first weekend in America had an accident (I can’t imagine anything more stressful – being given a tour, having to drive in metro NY, and figure out American rules – it was a recipe for disaster). The family wouldn’t let her drive their vehicle and insisted she buy one (actually, at first they insisted that she ask our AP to drive her everywhere because they were both from the same country and their previous AP had been best friends with ours – even though we lived 5 miles apart in the suburbs of Washington).

It can be difficult, as an AP, to assess what is reasonable and what is an unreasonable expectation of your HF. Buying a car is an unreasonable demand. Paying for gas for personal travel is a reasonable demand.

Darthastewart May 17, 2010 at 1:30 pm

_jaw on floor_ This just sounds crazy.

fwiw, I’ve heard of plenty of host families that tell the AP they will have access to a car, and then when the au-pair gets here, it’s a different story. I think that they frequently have no idea how much the au-pair driving will cost them, and it’s a shock. (Yeah, they could have researched it beforehand, but frequently don’t). I think that the total cost of hosting an au-pair is a huge shock to many families. They are quoted a fairly low price, but once all of the hidden costs start adding up, it can be a huge shock… ($200/month in food, extra utilities, car insurance, cell phone, preschool for the little ones for socialization, activities, etc)… It can easily end up costing $25-$27,000/year to have an au-pair. YIKES. I’m just trying to present a different perspective.

It sounds like this host family has expectations that the AP is an employee, not a member of the family. That might be okay if you had the same expectations, but in this case, it doesn’t sound that way. Have you talked to them?

I’m afraid that your host family is well within their rights of making you pay for eating out, etc- especially if you’re off the clock. On the clock? not what I’d do. But I’ve heard plenty of stories like that. I.e. going to an amusement park, and asking the AP to pay for it, or making a trip, and asking the AP to pay, despite having her work some of it.

Also, as a guess, your HF hasn’t had the car fixed yet due to cost.
Have you spoken to your LCC/AD?

Lori in MN May 31, 2011 at 1:15 pm

I would disagree that a host family is within their rights to ask an au pair to pay for her meals out, a trip or amusement park ticket if she is working. When on the clock, the au pair’s activities are dictated by the family, and it is the family’s responsibility to incur these costs.

The car issue is a bummer, but if the family has just one car due to an unforeseen repair, they probably can’t afford to be without it if transportation to a job or other activity is needed.

Previous au pair May 5, 2010 at 2:13 am

If you are really unhappy with your family talk to them and you agency about it. If you dont feel you click with the family you should do something instead of letting it drag on for months..which is what I foolishly did… Speak up. You deserve the right to be happy on your year abroad

theGermanGirl-FutureAP May 16, 2010 at 8:22 pm

I would want my host-family to be honest with me from the get go.
I’ve got three pages of questions I’m going to ask my future host-mom/dad and I really want them to answer them truthfully so that I see if we are on the same page of things.

Especially so that something like sad’s story doesn’t happen because they have not been fully honest. For example I will ask if there are any guns in the house and I would hate if they lied about it because I really don’t want to be anywhere near guns (unless one of the host parents is a cop or something alike and it’s inevitable).
So bottom line, I think the least they can to is be honest from the start so there’s no misunderstandings and bad blood.

Apart from that…well an own bedroom would be nice and to be able to use the internet connection, I wouldn’t mind paying for that and the phone calls home etc.
A car would be great if you’re ending up somewhere remote but if public transportation is well, I wouldn’t need a car either.
I think the material things aren’t as important as the feeling and attitude your family has towards you, as long as they are willing to let you into their hearts and are honest, it can only be good.

Au Pair Pa August 3, 2010 at 4:16 pm


Some of the things you said “would be nice” are things that you should expect to have. Your own private room should be an expectation and you should accept nothing less. These days, an internet connection is again a thing that I would like to thing a HF would provide…it’s a lifeline for an AP, especially with Skype and is in the best interest of the HF to provide this. If your HF lives out in the suburbs, making sure you have access to a car, again, is something that is a lifeline of sanity for the AP.

Now, that being said, AP’s should also be aware that many HFs go out of their way to make sure their AP’s time with them is comfortable. In our instance, we went into debt finishing our basement so that our AP has, essentially, her own apartment. She has a large bedroom (12′ x 20′) with a Queen sized bed and a sitting area. We provided her with a laptop that is solely for her use (Wireless internet connection in the house with no restriction on use). She has her own private full bathroom (Sink w vanity, Toilet, Shower/Bathtub). She does, however, have to share the common area downstairs which is a big room with us on occasion, but generally it is mostly just left to her use.

Fortunately, we have a very nice AP and we like her a lot. It’s early days (2 months so far) and we believe we have found a very good match.

One thing (a little off subject) that if anyone would like to pass on some advice, is regarding our 2 1/2 year old son. (Our AP takes care of our infant daughter and our son) Our son is walking all over her and we need to figure out how to get it across to her that she cannot allow him to run roughshod over her…she’s being TOO NICE!!! He needs his Time-Outs for when he acts up and we don’t think she’s doing them. So, we end up with a toddler that is running wild with her and then trying the same stunts with us when we get home. Any suggestions?

Euromom July 12, 2010 at 11:30 am

Expect one of two basic relationships from a family.

(a) you are part of the family and will be treated as such (warts and all); or

(b) you are an employee and you are there to do a job.

In both scenarios you can expect the family to give you direction and encouragement but you must decide (preferably before you leave home) which relationship you expect to have and make this extremely clear to the family.

Expect grey-areas – not everything is black or white / right or wrong nor can HP’s foreseen and cover every eventuality in advance

Expect to compromise – you are not going to get every single thing you want – (no more than you own family grants your every request)

Expect highs and lows – there will be times when your HF annoys you, the kids are horrible and the parents awful – and times when you laugh until hot chocolate squirts from your nose while at the zoo on a summer’s day.

Expect homesickness – have a “culture” day – cook up the foods you like, invite friends around, get a movie in your native language from the local library and indulge – then get up, shake it off and explore your new home – enjoy the opportunity.

Expect culture shock – my AP cannot get over how relaxed we are (sometimes too much so!) on the weekends then during the week it’s a mad house.

Expect to be a team player – no matter what relationship you have with your HF – you are going to be a very big part of their lives.

But mostly EXPECT to make it through your year. I think that this is the most important – come with the expectation that you are here for a year and plan accordingly.

mrs smith August 17, 2010 at 11:42 am

hi there i am looking for a live out au pair in the edinburgh fife area if interested email me thanks

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