Where Au Pair?

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So many au pairs like to be in a busy environment of a city or a town, as these places are generally easy to make friends with other au pairs, close to language classes and a social life. Some of the au pair favourites where we make regular placements are London & Greater London, Canterbury, Cambridge, Oxford, Bath, Brighton, Bournemouth, Portsmouth, Southampton, Liverpool, Manchester, Edinburgh, York and Harrogate.

Au pairs in the countryside or in a village usually settle very well if they have access to a car, also in their spare time, and are close to a town or city.

We also often have requests from au pairs to be in coastal towns, especially those known for good language schools such as Margate and Ramsgate. We also get requests for Hastings, Blackpool, Norfolk, trendy Brighton (again), but also the picture-postcard villages of Devon and Cornwall are popular with au pairs.

The location of the host family is often very important to an au pair, especially before arrival. We always try to explain that we try to match people, not places, but we do appreciate that the location plays a bit part, especially for some candidates.

Pictures this, a Spanish au pair, who at home can walk out of her house every evening and meet up with friends outside her front door, walk straight into town/city center and meet up with yet more young people, for example in places like our popular short break destination Barcelona, would find it hard to settle in the English countryside, where the car must be used for every journey and meetings are more likely to be planned in advance.

In general, the above applies to Spanish au pairs, Italian au pairs and Turkish au pairs the most. Also, if you have travelled to Turkey for example, you may have noticed what it would be like to live in the ‘Turkish countryside’. It is mostly empty, the main exceptions being elderly people, who continued to live in the countryside whilst the younger generation moved into town. So for a Turkish au pair, the countryside brings up pictures of old people growing vegetables, so not very appealing for an au pair experience!

In general our most flexible au pairs are our German au pairs and our Dutch au pairs. They are very open and often already speak good English. This means they are less daunted by the ‘task’ of making friends and also they tend to be confident drivers, so provided they can have use of the car, they are usually quite flexible about their location.

French au pairs from small towns, countryside or Alpine regions (!) are also usually fine with a less urban location.

We also often have au pairs who ask to be placed with a family with horses. ‘Horse au pair’ is getting more popular for girls who want to be like a live-in groom with the chance to do lots of horse riding but usually the au pairs are happiest placed in a family where they can look after children and help with the horses also. So far we placed Dutch au pairs and German au pairs with interest in horses and our Swedish au pair agency tells us that many of their candidates love riding too!

And then we have many male au pairs, also usually very flexible about the location and confident drivers. Au pair couples are mostly placed in rural locations, as these are the homes where often one au pair can help with the children and the other au pair can help in the garden and with the animals for example. They have each other for company and will be less concerned about meeting other au pairs.

Final note on location, no matter where the au pair is placed, smartaupairs will help finding au pair friends nearby. We share an online service www.aupair2aupair.com and every au pair who is placed though our service received a passport to register. This allows the au pair to search by postcode which au pairs are close and contact them to arrange a meeting. This service is shared with all member agencies from the British Au Pair Agencies Association, so we have au pairs on this service from more than 25 agencies making it a safe place to meet other au pairs, first online and then in person!

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How is your manny? (or male au pair?)

How is your Manny?

There is so much written recently about ‘mannies’, male nannies and male au pairs. Some of our families have also shared their experiences with us. These are some of their observations.

A Male au pair is usually very flexible about the ‘practical aspects’ of the au pair stay, without generalising, they are usually not fussy about what they eat (but they may eat more!) where they sleep (a simple bedroom, very simply furnished is fine!) so is sharing the bathroom (and they’re quicker too!), a more rural location and pets in the house are all right also.

As an agency I can add to this that we have never had a male au pair quit the program due to home-sickness or ‘lack of chemistry’ between the au pair and the family. They simply seem to ‘get on with it’!

One of the questions we get asked is about their ability to help with the housework, and stereotypical as it may be, I do try to answer this……

First of all, an au pair, male or female, is not a (trained) housekeeper, but on a cultural exchange program, however, they are expected to help with light housework. Most au pairs will need guidance at the beginning, even if they have helped out at home, your family routines and requirements are unlikely to be the exactly same as theirs and if you set aside some time at the beginning to ensure the au pair is fully settled and understands your expectations, you will benefit from this for the entire stay!

At smartaupairs, we recommend for all au pair ‘training

Explain

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Let them do it!

Another big advantage of male au pairs that many of them have an interest in being active and playing sports. We have recently placed a boy who spent his last 2 summer holidays as a tennis coach for the juniors in his town and who would love to be able to teach the children in the host family some tennis!

This is a great way to keep children, especially slightly older children, active after school and during school holidays. There is nothing worse than long faces and hearing ‘we are bored’ as soon as you come home from work! The male au pairs seem to have lots of energy and even if they may not be a skilled tennis coach, they are usually able to kick a ball in the park!

We also find that most male au pairs have more experience when it comes to driving. If they have a driving license they are most likely to have taken the opportunity to drive and, with a few lessons in the UK, they usually adapt quickly and confidently to the driving in Britain.

And who are these male candidates interested in the au pair experience?

We have some young males who are interested in a career in teaching either academically or coaching in a sport environment but also sometimes those who wish to work directly in a care environment. We have seen a number of German candidates who had chosen to do social work instead of military service, an option available in Germany as an alternative solution to fulfil your service duty and they sometimes chose to continue their career in a caring role, such as au-pairing. Generally, male candidates chose the au pair option as it gives a genuine opportunity to learn the language and culture of a country from the comfort of a pleasant family home. Male au pair candidates are usually truly interested in the learning and development aspects rather than the money.

So are there situations where we would absolutely not recommend a male au pair?

Well, ultimately, it is a very personal choice and finding the right person is more important than male or female, older, younger, or a particular nationality. However, most of our male au pairs are more confident with families who have children who are already slightly older, rather than young babies and toddlers, you may need more physical care, help with potty training, bedtime and bath time routines, which can be very intimate moments and may be harder for a young man to feel comfortable with and for a host family this may equally not feel uneasy.

It is key that it feels right for all parties involved, parents, children and au pair, so that everybody is happy!

Here is what one of my host families wrote to me when I asked them why they now prefer male au pairs;

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further to our conversation earlier here is my experience of male au pairs.

I think male au pairs if well vetted can be a really good option as any man who has decided to be an au pair is more likely to be really committed to and interested in children, whereas many girls just fall into it as a way to go abroad. I have had one female and 2 male au pairs and the guys were both really good, especially at being creative. My children are 4 (girl) and 2 (boy) and not only are the male au pairs good at doing physical things (trampolining, gymnastics, ball games, carrying children and buggy etc) but also they can be very creative (making models and masks out of card and paper etc) which really appeals to my little girl. They don’t get emotional and weepy once a month and are generally a joy to have around! Female au pairs please forgive my generalisation – the one I had was not through smartaupairs anyway!

all the best, Juliet

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