10 Things I Do As An Au Pair That Would Be Weird in ‘Real Life’

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.

  1. 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.

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Yes I’m laughing, but really I’m terrified by my clumsiness.

  1. 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.

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You will always be my first.

 

  1. 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.

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  1. 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.

  1. I cook dinner for lunch.

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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.

  1. 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.

  1. I live my weeks in one country and my weekends in another.
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Good thing I don’t have to choose between the two!(Top: Lille France, Bottom: Ghent Belgium)

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

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Good thing snack time is also coffee time!

  1. 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 !

 

 

Comments

  1. Great read! I can totally agree on sooo many things lol. I currently live in South Korea and my mode of transportation is an old rinky dink bicycle…with a basket…and a bell lol. In the states? Never! I also find myself doing things like wearing socks with sandals lol.

    1. Haha are you an au pair in South Korea? I love embracing the opportunities in a different culture. Socks with sandals though thats a first, its not a fashion crime there?

  2. Yes, children can be very brutally honest with you. English is by far the hardest language because of all of the homonyms, synonyms, and idioms. Don’t worry if it isn’t perfect. If you are anywhere close, most people can guess what you meant.

    Now, I wonder if at 43 I can pull off the lie about my age to get a discount….perhaps I should dye my hair…

    1. They are but I love it! Sometimes they do try to use their powers with an attitude though and thats where I draw the line most of the time they love to help! Lille is ok but when I was living in a village it was quite the challange haha. You may be able to plus if you speak french they tend to be very sympathetic!

  3. I love the lunch time reference. It is the same throughout France, even where I live in the South. Friends are shocked if I suggest a late lunch as if the world will end! Bon chance, Cristen

    1. I love it. Everyone has a chance to relax and really enjoy a bit of time during the day! The only problem is, after two years of french lunches I have NO clue on how I will readjust to an American work schedule.

  4. Love your articles Cristen! I took aFrench conversation with you at SSU. Aaww I read this and I get withdrawals of wanting to go back. I studied abroad last semester. I visited both Lille and Ghent which I absolutely loved!

  5. Love you story!
    We lived with a French girl in London and she told stories of her au pair as she was growing up. I loved hearing your perspective of it. And, I loved hearing about you reading French children’s books and learning the language from kids – we were in France for only three months and I went through the exact same thing!
    Good luck with everything.

    1. That is so good to hear! I searched for a family with kids old enough to remember me but not too old to be sick of au pairs so that the kids and I could both get something out of my time here. It is great to hear we do make an impact (I hope all her experiences were positive)! I am so lucky with the kids and the family I found. Thank you and A bientôt!

  6. I’ve never been an au pair (briefly considered it, but quite rightly decided it wasn’t for me), but as an American in the Netherlands, I can still relate to this post on a few fronts. I started working on my Dutch skills by borrowing books of fairytales from my boyfriend’s nieces (as a bonus, it’s always funny to see the variations of familiar stories in different countries!).

    1. I wasn’t sure if it would be for me and some things are strange (Im living with another family and I am 28) but in the end I am so glad I opted in. On the other hand it is not for everyone so good for you knowing your limits! And the kids LOVE that an adult is reading books that they have graduated from haha. Dutch is difficult so good for you!

  7. Awesome! This was a really fun, interesting post to read! Being an au pair seems like a really great experience – I’ve thought about trying to get into it in the next couple of years!

    1. Thank you, it was pretty fun to make! You really should give it a go at least once. Even if your an ‘older’ au pair like me you get a tun from the experience!

        1. Oh that is fantastic. I have studied abroad, worked as a TA, and now au paired. I have to say it may be my favorite of the three! Were you always au pairing in France?

  8. What a great experience, right? I am currently au pairing in USA and this post is so accurate! And fun, too! I really feel you when you talk about how we are corrected by 9 years old. Sometimes is so embarrassing haha. But we still love them, even when they drives us crazy! Keep enjoying your experience!

    1. Hey! I’m so happy that I’m not the only one haha. I think humbling would have to be one huge word for the experience! Where are you au pairing in the USA?

        1. Oh wow it must have been quite the diverse experience then, those are two vastly different places! Im heading into my last four months as an au pair and i’m ready/not at all ready to call it ‘the end’. I have to say being an au pair is one of the hardest yet most rewarding things I have done.

          1. Thank you and thanks for sharing your journey! Idk how to work this WordPress thing 😂😂

  9. Love the way you wrote your article and not to mention so helpful! I’m going to be an au pair myself in 2 days in Rhone-Alpes, France.
    After reading your article my au pair adventure will be probably one of my highlights of my life!

    1. Ah my gosh I miss the Rhone-Alps. Where exactly will you be au pairing? The first time I was abroad was to study in Grenoble and it is still one of, if not my favorite city in France. Im so happy that you are even more excited to start your au pair adventure after reading this, that really brightens my day 🙂 It is certainly one of the highlights of my life so far I hope it is for you as well!

      1. I will be staying in a town called Pays de Gax, it’s 15 mins from Geneva airport. I am genuinely at the airport now to fly off to Geneva! I just simply cannot wait to start my adventure!

        1. Oh wow that looks like such a cool place (may have just done a google maps search) the small town experience is so unique, and your so close to Switzerland how sweet! Have a great flight 🙂

  10. This post was a great read.
    I’m starting my first Au Pair job on Monday – I’m staying in my own country but I’m still incredibly nervous. It’s great to see so many Au Pairs having such good experiences!

    1. Thank you! I have to say that my experience has been much better than I could have thought it would be. I mean I am ok with kids but as a 28 year old I thought moving in with ‘strange parents’ would be hard, and it is, but it is also amazing! It’s so normal to be nervous, the first few weeks I even thought I was doing everything wrong haha. I hope to read about your adventures soon!

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