It’s officially been 2.5 crazy months since I started my journey as an Au Pair. For those of you wondering, an au pair is NOT a nanny. I am a live in addition to the family who happens to speak a foreign language and gets paid once a week. I got lucky with an AMAZING family in the North of France who has welcomed me with open arms. Au pair life is most definitely different from any other style of living I have experienced. Your somewhere between an adopted family member and the help, in a foreign country. I watch after the families three wonderful children, cook lunch/dinner when the mom is working, and have plenty of free time. But, living with another family is not the only thing that is different in my life as an au pair, here are 10 things that I do daily which would be considered a little strange back home.
- I take alternative forms of transportation.
Planes, trains, bikes, and my daily…. scooter. Yes, I am closing in on thirty and give less than two
shits cares about what anyone thinks while I’m happily scooting my way to run errands, or pick the kids up from school. Honestly I think the scooter trend need to make its way back to the states. Every type of person, from small child to businessman can be found scooting to their next destination. Take my word for it, they are trés pratique. Another plus, I NEVER thought I was coordinated enough to ride a scooter. Heck yes for small victories.
- I get excited when I finish reading a children’s book.
Like really excited. When I finished ‘Le Petit Prince’ I worked it into as many conversations as I could. Reading is a great way to expand your vocabulary, and gain a deeper insight into the countries culture, but it is not always easy for us ‘intermediate francophones’ to find books at our reading level. While ‘La Petit Prince’ was my first real french read, I have moved on to more adult books. Also come on how cool is it (for us language nerds) to read a great book in the language it was written in! Trust me it is missing a certain Je ne sais quoi when it’s translated.
- My grammar gets corrected by a 9 year old.
And can I add that kids are the BEST at teaching a foreign language. They take a no holds barred approach to telling you exactly what you said wrong (more often than not accompanied by giggles). My favorite lesson so far has been perfecting my pronunciation between the words dessert (des-sert) a tasty treat, and désert (dezert) a wasteland.
- I’m proud when someone doesn’t believe I’m from the United States.
Don’t take this the wrong way, I love being from the United States. However we have a really bad reputation for being horrible at learning a new language. Even worse than our language learning reputation, is the accent we carry along with us. When someone thinks I’m lying about being from the United States (which usually ends as soon as I pronounce Boston) I feel a small burst of pride for reversing the stereotype and assimilating better than I thought.
- I cook dinner for lunch.
In the North of France forget about sandwiches as a suitable lunchtime meal. From 11:30 to 1:30 there is a two-hour break in the day to ensure that you are adequately fueled for the rest of the day. I cook dinner for lunch, and what can be described as a ‘light’ dinner for dinner. Think of Dinner as a pizza with salad, or soup, light on the protein and heavy on the veggies. Oh and peanut-butter-and-jellies? NO WAY, sandwiches are only really for picnics and if you’re really pressed for time. At first I hated this style of eating and now I love it. And it makes sense, have your heavy meal in the middle of the day when you burn a ton of calories and have a light meal before you sleep, brilliant.
- I share my things with my ‘boss’.
Ok, so technically my ‘bosses’ are the mother and father of my host family; but lets be honest we all know that the kids are in charge (in one way or another) when you’re an au pair. I break out all the tools in my box when it comes to entertaining and trying to be the cool au pair. Lets be honest, everyone wants to be the one the kids have great memories of. From coloring books to christmas presents I have no problem sharing if it means smiles of content ensue.
- I live my weeks in one country and my weekends in another.
One great thing about being an au pair is how easy it is to EXPLORE. And oh all the exploring I will do. I live in a great city in France for anyone who wants to do some budget traveling. Lille is an hour or so away from Paris, a canal ride away from London, less than an hour away from Belgium, and about two hours away from Amsterdam. I was lucky enough to meet my boyfriend who lives in the fairytale city of Ghent Belgium which is where I spend my weekends.
- I lie about my age.
Why would a 27 year old need to lie about her age? The discounts! If you are under 26 you are privy to a variety of discounts, transport, museums, concerts, and expos. If you can lie your way into a cheep (usually 50% off) ticket, why not take advantage of your skills while you still can? If you can’t prove your 26, maybe you can prove you’re a student. I keep my old University ID on hand in case I didn’t have enough coffee to pull off younger than 25 that day.
- I freak out if I forget to stash a snack in my purse.
Part of my job as an au pair is to make sure that the kids have a snack (but not too much of a snack) after school. The best way to do this is by stashing a snack in my purse before I start my day so that they can enjoy their gouté (snack) on our way home. This cuts out any arguments about what and how much they can eat when we get home. Most days I have this down and have the kids choose their snack while home for lunch. The days I don’t remember, I cross my fingers and hope I can find my way out of the downward spiral.
- My nightlife is centered on learning a foreign language.
Wild nights out for me now equate to meeting people who are interested in talking. I scourge up and down Lille for the best and the most francophone language exchange groups in my city for a crazy two hours of talking about life, culture, and language differences all in French. These nights can leave my head spinning more than a Thursday night at college.
I wouldn’t trade my life as an au pair for anything. It has been quite the experience so far, here is to the next seven months! Also, if you are looking to become an au pair check out my post Oh My Im an Au Pair, and How You Can Become an Au Pair Too !