Birte from Smartaupairs Australia has won the worldwide IAPA Au Pair of the YEAR award!

Birte from Smartaupairs has won the worldwide IAPA Au Pair of the YEAR award!

Birte with IAPA Chair Jack
Birte Smartaupairs Australia IAPA Au Pair of the Year Winner

We are immensely proud of Birte Klusmann who has been awarded the IAPA (International Au Pair Association) Award for 2012.

Birte is from Germany and she was placed as an au pair by Smartaupairs Australia – I (Tuuli from Smartaupairs UK) had the pleasure of meeting Birte in Budapest for the awards ceremony. Her host family nomination letter and video leave no doubt as to why she is the winning au pair!

Birte’s sending agency in Germany is partners both with Smartaupairs UK and Smartaupairs Australia.

Below is part of the heart-warming letter received from the Bess family to nominate Birte for the award:

“She is so instantly warm, friendly, and full of creativity. And now, after having lived with us for 7 months, she is family and we love her dearly. We will forever have her in our lives. In fact, she is flying to the US to visit us this Christmas and spend 2 weeks with us, and the kids are counting the days! I can’t even begin to detail everything she did for our family. She was always doing projects with the kids – from making life-sized drawings of them to colouring/painting. Her personality is so special…she‘s always smiling or laughing or re-telling something funny she heard. You simply cannot be depressed around her. She became so much a part of our family that the older kids would not go to bed at night without seeing her. They still to this day, over 4 months later, ask for her almost every night.

Birte also helped me so much around the house. I never had to ask her to do anything. In fact, I had to ask her to STOP doing so much and take some time for herself! To which she would always reply “We are family, and this is just what family does for each other… And then, when the kids would go to sleep and my husband was working late (again!), Birte and I would chat about life and love and our experiences…and we would laugh and sometimes cry…and watch our favorite shows together. She is like an older daughter and a sister and a best friend, all rolled into one!”

Letter from Birte:

How can I describe so many unforgettable moments I experienced while I was an Au Pair in Australia. I love to think about all the incredible adventures and funny little situations. When I look back I always remember the warm welcoming feeling when I saw my host family for the first time. It was Keira’s 3rd birthday party (I quickly had a huge butterfly drawn on my face) and as soon as I saw Sean, Sara and the kids it felt so comfortable being around them. I never had a second thought that this would not work out. The more time we spent together (family outings, playing games, talking, special girls outings…) the more I got to know them and the more I got attached to them. I loved getting up in the morning, go upstairs and see the kids running at me asking if we could make German waffles for breakfast or if we could just play together. I will always remember Kyler asking me: ‘Are you happy, B?’ – And I answered him ‘Yes, I am’. (Because it was the truth) I was happy about everything – it was like being home! His kind and enthusiastic personality always cheered me up. Keira and I had our very own girl’s connection. After the twins were born Keira would hold my hand and tell everyone that the two of us were also twinsJ. In the beginning, I wasn’t sure how disciplining the kids would work coming from someone new, but it was very natural. Kyler and Keira seemed comforted that I held them to the boundaries they were used to. Sean and Sara helped me with that a lot. We worked like a team: They accepted me from the first day, responded to me and respected my opinions and techniques with the kids. I could always ask them how they would usually react in a certain situation. Kyler, Keira and I loved to play, to draw, to paint, to sing, to dress up and to do “silly things” together but they also respected me when I had to correct their behavior. At night when the kids were all asleep Sara, Sean and I were sitting on the couch talking (about everything), laughing, doing quizzes and eating cookies. Having Sara as my best friend, someone I could always (!) talk to, and being part of this family helped me in so many situations – I never felt alone in a country where I hardly knew anyone. When I first learned that Sara was pregnant with twins I didn’t really know what to expect. But now, looking back, I can say it was an amazing experience to be around for Aidan and Isaac’s arrival and first months. It was a huge change in the beginning and I am still impressed with how great Sara and Sean handled the whole situation. (When I visited them for Christmas again the twins had grown so much – unbelievable that I have known them from their first day on.) During my time in Australia, I took a few days off and flew up to Darwin. I drove down to Alice Springs with a group of backpackers– to see the real Outback. I really enjoyed my trip. While I was gone the older kids counted the days until I came back (and so did I). Every night they called me before they went to bed to say “Gute Nacht” (I tried to teach them some GermanJ). When it was time to leave Australia in August it was really hard to say good-bye (lots of cryingJ) but I visited them for Christmas and I got introduced to many more members of this great family (My German family is very small but now I am also part of a big American family) And I am even more excited to see them this summer again. I miss them every single day! I am honored that Smart Au Pair chose me to be “the Australian Au Pair of 2011” (although many Au Pairs are just that!!) but at the same time I know thatnothing would have been the same if I hadn’t gotten connected with the loving, kind and caring Bess family. Thank you Smart Au Pairs and magoo_international (partner agency)! This whole experience was beyond wonderful!”

Congratulations Birte from both Smartaupairs UK and Australia teams!!

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If you are looking to be an au pair in Australia, click here

If you are a UK host family looking for an au pair, click here

We welcome any questions may you have also via e-mail at info@smartaupairs.com or on 0800 917 81 66.

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Feedback from Host Families

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We were delighted for all the support and feedback we received as part of our recent survey.

Please see below for some of the testimonials:

“I am extremely impressed both with the service offered and with my au pair. Not only is she fantastic with my children, she is also lots of fun to have around. It feels as if she has always been part of our family. I will miss her when she has to return home.” Clare, Surrey


I want to say a big thank you to both of you for finding me good aupairs and supporting me throughout. My experience with both of my aupairs has been great. My current au-pair Gesa is leaving in early April and we are really going to miss her. “ Seema, Longfield

“The smart au pair service has been great throughout. I know four families who have used smart au pairs and none of us have been disappointed!” Name Withheld

“Smartaupairs is a very professional and reliable agency that made me feel secure and confident about taking on an au pair for the first time. I would highly recommend their services to anyone.” Victoria, London

“The service I have received from Smartaupairs has been excellent. The well thought out information and attention to detail has made smartaupairs stand head and shoulders above any other au pair agency I have ever dealt with.” Jenny, Surrey

“We’ve had au pairs for a number of years but this was the first year I’d used Smart Au Pairs, having been let down by my previous agency. We’re delighted with our au pair and I found Smart Au Pairs very efficient and helpful with a broad range of potential au pairs to choose from – I will be using you again. “ Wendy, East Finchley

“I’ve had a lot of au pairs before but this is the first time I’ve used smart aupairs and Alex, our au pair is one of the best au pairs we have had. ” Kate, Salisbury

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All of our customers rated our website and written information excellent or good. Our verbal communications were rated excellent or good by 97% of our customers.

94% of our customers are highly likely to use our service again & recommend us to their friends.*

Feedback from Families:

“I am writing to let you know how much we all love our au pair.
She is super sweet and really fantastic with the boys.
She seems to be settling in very well and has already met some other local aupairs she is becoming
friends with and enrolled at an english school.
I am grateful to find her at short notice, so thank you.” Host family,  Middlesex

“Thanks for all your help in getting our lives organised… Good au-pairs are mother’s saviour!
Denise”  Host Mum in London

“I was anxious, as a lone parent, as to how I would adapt to live-in help. But within weeks of our au-pair joining us friends and family have commented on how much happier we seem as a family. Help with the children and in the house has made such a positive difference to my life and as a result my children’s.” Name Withheld,Host Family

“I wanted to say how delighted we have been with the service provided by SmartAupairs, from the search to the handbook to the welcome pack and other little touches.
“We are also thrilled with the wonderful girl who has joined our family. She is everything we hoped she would be. Thanks so much.” Host Mum Suzie

“Jennie is leaving us tomorrow and I just wanted to say that she has been a HUGE success, thank you very much.
The last 4 weeks would not have been possible without her help as I had very big jobs on and we have been packing to move house. She came into our home when things were upside-down, I was preoccupied with work and was able to give her little guidance, and she took it all in her stride and just got on with everything, mastered public transport and just cracked on with life.
The children loved her immediately and are really sad that she is leaving, and my husband has voted her ‘best au pair ever’ (well, that includes our lovely Polish Aga who has helped us for years!) So thank you, it has been great having her and we are sad that it is not her staying in Sep, but we have high hopes for Elisa and look forward to seeing her” Thanks Beth xxx

“Thank you for the folders which I received yesterday for both myself and Kate. I have to say the professionalism with which this has been dealt is fantastic and I want to thank you all for your hard work and commitment to ensuring that this au pair placement goes well.” Kind Regards Samantha

“This was an extremely quick and effective process, thank you” Lennon Family, Tunbridge Wells

“We are delighted with our au pair and I am pleased to learn she is happy with us. We just need to help her find some dance classes! We have enrolled her on an English course.

I have been very impressed with the agency and it was nice to accompany our au pair to London on Saturday for the induction session (her first visit to the city). We also appreciate the packs you sent out. She was very pleased with the handbook and other information which I think was very well put together.//

She was pleased with the links recommended on the induction session.  Thank you again.” Best wishes Chiquita, Gloucestershire

Girls Talk…

Girls talk……….

Everybody knows that girls talk. And in our case the girls are au pairs. Too many of them have told their friends that the au pair program is, at best, old hat, at worse, a program open for abuse by families looking for a cheap cleaner.

In the last couple of weeks I have witnessed long e-mail discussions between members for the British Au Pair Agencies Association, many of whom have been placing au pairs in British families for decades. They say it has never been as tough as today to find nice girls who want to be au pair.

I think there are many parties who may have contributed to this, all a little bit in their own way. Some agencies were driven more by commercial decisions rather than by finding the right people or the right match. I suppose, if you have 100s a month to place, it matters less if some don’t work out.

There may also have been families who realised that some girls will do a lot more than just 25 hours for little (or no) extra money. And on top of light housework, why not save on the cleaner and make the au pair do it…………. And many girls in the past may have felt they had not choice but accept.

At least once a week I get a call or e-mail with examples of girls who would like to move to another family because

  • She is asked to clean the shower with a toothbrush (a cleaner’s job)
  • The family wants her to paint the room (painter/decorator?)
  • She is doing all the ironing, including sheets (dry cleaners job)

Most of us know that a bad experience is generally shared with at least 10 people, whereas a good one may only be told to a couple. And girls talk has most certainly been about the disappointments and the false promises, rather than the amazing opportunities!

European girls now have more choices than ever before, with job opportunities for intelligent and ambitious young people increasing by the day due to strengthening economies. Many of our candidates are of graduate calibre. Still, even more potential job opportunities are open to those with a degree PLUS fluent English, proven experience in time management, flexibility, adaptability and team spirit, all of which can be gained from the au pair program.

The responsibility for change lies with all of us. Agencies should try harder to inform both families (and au pairs) of the guidelines of the cultural exchange. If a housekeeper is needed, don’t try to fit the jobs around the au pair, but recommend a true housekeeper! (or housekeeper agency). This may leave you with fewer clients but at least it leaves you with the right ones in the long run……..

And families should share this responsibility. I think many of them know where they may have asked a bit to much, simply because ‘they could’. I always ask my families ‘would you expect your daughter to do this, if she was on a cultural exchange?’. In my case, I think ‘would I ask Charly?’ she is my savvy 19 year old niece, who helped in my office for a couple of months to give me feedback on ‘what young people want’.

If we can jointly make the au pairs program desirable (again) as a cultural exchange option, every host family will have a choice of au pairs again.

And I don’t think it is hard……… this is what we need in my view;

  • An agreed list of acceptable tasks in advance, the role has to be mostly childcare (80% = 4 out of 5 hours should be activities with the children) as this is the ideal way for au pairs to improve their (language) skills, a BAPAA agency clearly defines what tasks could be done by the au pair and the family confirms which of those are applicable.
  • Help with research of affordable quality language courses in your local area, this can save a lot of money and make all the difference to her happiness; it is her main objective to improve English.
  • Minimum pocket money of £70 for 25 hours, now that language classes are no longer free, some au pairs truly struggle on less, we want this to be fair and enjoyable.
  • Any positions over 30-35 hours should not be called a cultural exchange program as time and energy for language classes is minimal if you work long days. There are plenty of girls who wish to take on these positions, but let’s call them what they are; mother’s help jobs and pay accordingly.
  • Make time to talk to your au pair, even if it is just 10 minutes of quality time per day, this is a relationship too.
  • Praise and reward, if she is trying hard or has done something extra, why not put in some extra pocket money, pay for a train ticket to London or even a flight home after a few months.

As a relative newcomer in the au pair industry, I think my in depth telephone consultations with each prospective host family at the start of the au pair introduction means that the vast majority of my host families are happy to stick to the above ‘guidelines for success’ already and it has given our agency and our families a very high success rate and many of my families agree it is great return on investment.

In Europe the above is already regulated. The European Committee for Au Pair standards makes sure that all recognised au pair agencies follow the same guidelines, making the au pair program something to be proud of.

And pride is want we want, proud mums who show off a happy au pair at the school gate and proud au pairs who go home and tell their friends to follow in their footsteps. Because girls talk…………..with pride!

Host Family Testimonial

We received this lovely feedback from Frederique, host family in London about Jessie, her Dutch au pair:

Hi Nicole – Actually I kept meaning to email you to wish you a Happy New year and let you know that things are going fantastically well with Jessie. She is such a sweetheart and is the best au pair we have ever had – and being forever the optimist, I am already worrying about the next one not being as good!

With Kind Regards

Frederique