I’ve decided to write a bit more of a personal post today as I feel as though I haven’t really chatted much about myself on this blog. So hi – I’m Becky and I created this site a few months ago after spending 3 months working as an au pair in the South of France to share my experiences and what I got up to. I always get so many questions from friends and family asking me what made me want to work as an au pair so hopefully this post gives you an insight into how I spent my final few months of 2018.
WHAT IS AN AU PAIR?
If you haven’t heard of an au pair before, it’s basically a young person aged between 18-30 who lives in a host family and is required to look after their children for a few hours a day when they have finished school but the parents are still at work. It is pretty much a nanny job but seen as more of a cultural exchange as the au pair has to stay with a foreign host family. In return for looking after the children, the au pair is provided a room, food and ‘pocket money’ per week (I was getting €80 a week which is pretty standard so don’t see this as a way to make money!) But why did I think that au pair work would be for me?
WHY DID I WANT TO BECOME AN AU PAIR AND HOW DID I GET THE JOB?
After finishing college last summer, I had nooo idea what I was going to do from then. I spent summer chilling with my friends, going on a gals hol to Ibiza and 3 festivals but September soon came and, before I knew it, my friends were starting Uni or full time jobs. I’ve always known that (for now at least) this is not the life for me and was desperate to go out and travel the world. I had a job working in the bakery at Tesco but become increasingly keen leave and see what else the world had to offer. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy my time working there, but the 5am starts, complaints from customers when their fave cookie wasn’t in stock and countless hours sorting delivery in the freezer just fuelled my desire to get out and experience something new. I’d looked at so many different options but au pair work seemed like the best option for me; I enjoy working with kids, liked the idea of being welcomed into another family and have been desperate to push my french ability beyond the “I have 3 younger sisters and a hamster” speech you learn in school (if you know, you know)
A quick google search came up with the website ‘www.aupairworld.com‘ which was super easy to use and within hours of uploading a profile, I’d already received a number of requests from aupair seeking families (I’m planning on writing a separate post on the best ways to get an au pair job, how to go about choosing the right family and all that fun stuff)
From then on, everything happened sooo fast. Within the space of a week, I had received a message from a family I really liked the look of, exchanged many WhatsApp messages and Skype calls with them, handed in my notice to Tesco and booked my flight out to Nice. I’m the kind of person who likes to have everything organised in advance so this spontaneity was very unlike me but I’m so glad it worked out that way – I was desperate to have a bit more excitement in my life and everything being so rushed meant there was no way I could get cold feet and go back on my plans. One week later and I was waving goodbye to my family in the airport – slightly emotional, very overloaded with bags but excited about my new adventure across the channel.
I remember looking out of the plane window as I was landing in Nice and thinking ‘wow, this is my home now’. I’ve only ever moved once in my life and that was just 5 minutes down the road in sleepy Devon so this was a big step for me. Walking through customs, I was a bag of nerves and anxious to meet my new family waiting for me the other side of the arrival gates but a running hug from the little girl who would soon become my second sister made me feel instantly welcome.
It was on the car journey home that my lack of french knowledge really dawned on me. I may have been studying the language for 7 years, but no amount of school lessons can prepare you for succeeding in a French speaking environment. I remember just sitting there with a wave of french words just washing over my head with little understanding of what was going on. In the most British fashion ever, I commented something about the weather and that was about the only full sentence which came out of my mouth that journey. The language barrier did get easier as time went on and I think the key is to make an effort, do some extra practice on apps like duolingo and memrise and just to smile (at least that way, people know that you are nice and friendly and not that you’re being rude by not speaking!)
SUMMARY OF MY HOST FAMILY AND AU PAIR DUTIES
Okay, so quick summary of my family and my au pair duties. The family lived in Valbonne on the Cote d’Azur, just 30 minutes away from the likes of Nice and Cannes. Both parents worked – the mum was a manager of a company located nearby and the dad worked away during the week for a transport company and returned home for the weekends. I was responsible for looking after their three children during the week whilst the mum was at work (I’ll write a more indepth rundown of my daily routine soon) Basically, the kids were at school from 8.30-4.30 which meant I had all day and all weekend to do my own thing – perfect!
Louise was 8 years old and the eldest of the three – I have a sister who is a similar age to her so it was so nice to have this kind of link to home. Whenever she would brush my hair or let me play ponies with her, I would always think of my sister Jasmine which was so lovely.
The other two children, Simon who was 5 and Vincent who was 3, were a gender I have had much less experience with before (I have three younger sisters so boys are a completely new ballgame for me) They were full of energy and so much fun and they helped me discover a new found passion for cars and pjmasks!
Unlike most aupair jobs where au pairs must speak in their native language, I had to speak in French the entire time which suited me perfectly – it was by far the best way to improve. The parents were so kind and welcomed me into their family as on of their own so I really couldn’t have asked for anything better!
SUMMARY OF WHAT I DID
I stayed in France for just over 3 months but the French school holidays in October meant I flew home for 2 weeks as the kids I was looking after stayed with their grandparents during this time so I wasn’t really needed. This worked out nicely because I am such a family person so it was lovely to catch up with my loved ones back at home. During my first 6 week stint, I spent my time settling in and taking advantage of the last of the summer sun. The house where I lived was located in a gated community with a shared pool where I spent most of my time topping up my fading summer tan. I spent the first few weeks chilling close to the house, not venturing far and just gaining my feet really. It wasn’t until some friends of the family came to visit for a few days that I started to get really inspired by the things to do nearby. They offered to take me out with them on their day trips and I loved being able to explore the local area. It was nice to start my travelling adventures with others but, when they left, I ventured out alone and the day trips never stopped!
After my two weeks break back home, I came back feeling super motivated to make the most of what was on offer. I bought a new camera and spent hours planning out bus times and places to see (lignes d’azur and tripadvisor were by far my most visited sites on my laptop during that time!) It was at this time that I got inspired to create a blog as a way to share where I had been and hopefully make it easier for others to find out what the Cote d’Azur has to offer.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BEST AND WORST BITS?
I’d be lying if I said it was all fun and games. It was a daily occurrence to clean ‘caca’ from pants, split up fighting siblings armed with the closest toy they could find and there were times when I would be so tested by the kids that I would be reduced to tears. But ‘c’est la vie’ – that’s life! And it was moments like that where you really feel like you are a member of the family. You’re living with them 24/7 so it’s inevitable that there will be ups and downs (anyone who says differently is lying!) I also missed my friends and family back home a lot but FaceTime is an incredible creation and makes living away sooo much better!
Despite these slight negatives of the job, the good moments deffo outweighed the bad. Reading stories on the sofa just before bedtime, cycle rides down to the park after school and playing dobble and uno for hours on end are some of my favourite au pair memories. My french improved loads and living in the area gave me a much wider understanding of what was on offer there. I must have been to more than 50 museums during my 3 month stay which is more than I’ve ever been to in my 19 years in England and I’ve made a second family who I hope I will stay in contact with for the rest of my life. If you’re thinking about becoming an au pair, then I would 100% say go for it. Do your research and make sure you know your future family and what is expected of you before you go, take your work seriously (you are in charge of young children at the end of the day!) and take advantage of what is on offer in the area and I can guarantee you’ll have an experience which will stay with you for a life time!