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What is an Au Pair and How Does Au Pairing Work?


An au pair is a young adult, often female, who travels to another country to provide live-in childcare for a family. The au pair has many responsibilities similar to a live-in nanny, such as entertainment, homework help, meal preparation, household chores, and more. Put simply, the au pair provides an extra set of hands and eyes for the family they are living with.

How is having an au pair different than having a nanny?

Au pairs are generally much younger than nannies. The average au pair is typically between the ages of 18-26. Au pairs also tend to only work for about a year, while nannies often make a career out of childcare.


Whether interested in becoming an au pair or hiring one, there are many business designed to facilitate an exchange. A quick Internet search pops up with a plethora of websites offering au pair matching services, such as “smartaupairs” and “AuPairCare.” Many of these websites also provide resources for both au pairs and their host families, from advice to choosing an au pair to suggestions for activities to do with children. In this day and age it is so much easier to connect with and communicate with people all around the world, so it’s no surprise how easy it’s become to be an au pair.

The stipend for au pair work depends on the host family, the au pair, how the au pair was hired, and what country the au pair will be working in. Certain websites that assist in coupling au pairs to host families have certain requirements for pay. For example, “AuPairCare” states their au pairs will earn around $10,000 for one year of work. Through that service they also receive travel insurance and the opportunity to earn a tuition scholarship. The U.S. State Department defines the starting salary for an au pair to be $195.75 a week.

The Benefits of Becoming an Au Pair

A big draw to being an au pair is the opportunity for cultural exchange. Many young people want to travel the world but don’t have the means to do so. By being an au pair, they are being paid to travel to another country. Similar to a study abroad experience, the au pair gets to be completely immersed in the culture by living with a host family and participating in everyday activities. The au pair truly becomes a part of the family, bonding with both the parents and the children.

What are the costs of being an au pair?

There is no cost for room and board, and the host family often covers food as well, leaving all earnings as a bonus. Au pair contracts often include days off and sometimes have holidays, so the au pair has the opportunity to sight-see. Some au pair programs provide up to 30 days of paid travel at the beginning or end of an au pair’s year of service, giving them even more of an opportunity to explore the country and all it has to offer. An au pair can be from and go to just about any country.

Being an au pair is also an educational experience. If there is a particular culture or country you would like to know more about, being an au pair is a great way to do that. You even have the opportunity to teach your host family and the people you meet about your own country. There also can be opportunities to take classes while abroad, which can be beneficial if the au pair is still in school. The experience is a great resume booster, as well.

At a young age we are still learning about ourselves and defining who we are. By travelling to another country an au pair is given the opportunity to be independent. Being in another culture allows them to be exposed to new ideas and opinions, which helps them to shape their own outlook on life. They will come away from the experience with a better understanding of others and themselves.

The Benefits of Becoming a Host Family


The relationship between an au pair and their host family is a symbiotic one; both receive great benefits from the arrangement. No matter the size or shape of a family, all parents can agree there are times when they could use a little bit of extra help: a single mother needing someone to watch her kids while she’s at work, two parents with four kids who can’t seem to wrangle them all, a family who would like to expand their family for their only child – the possibilities are endless.

The basic responsibility of an au pair is to help their host family with their daily routine as well as childcare. While the au pair tidies up, makes dinner, and picks the kids up from school, the host family has that much extra time to work on things they need to get done.

Far cheaper than hiring a live-in nanny

In addition, hosting an au pair can be much cheaper than hiring a live-in nanny or taking children to daycare. While au pairs make $250 or less a week, a nanny can run from $300 to $800 a week, depending on experience. Occasionally nannies can set rigid schedules as well, while an au pair tends to be fairly adaptable.

In most exchanges the au pair and the host family work together to come up with a list of responsibilities at the beginning of the program. However, because the au pair lives in-home with the host family, schedules are flexible and easily changeable. If an unexpected meeting comes up at work, the au pair is already there to watch the kids.


An au pair isn’t just an extra set of hands around the house. They become a part of the family, bonding with the parents and children they are living with. The au pair becomes like an older brother or sister to play with, trust, and love. Such as when hosting an exchange student, hiring an au pair gives a host family the opportunity to learn about another culture and another language. This is especially beneficial to children who don’t have much experience with cultures beyond their own.


Au pair work brings together families and young adults who are interested in broadening their horizons. There are clear benefits for both parties. It is important to do your research whether you are interested in becoming an au pair, or hiring one, in order to make the most out of your relationship. Invest the time necessary to find the perfect fit for you. There’s a whole world out there to explore!

Which countries are best for Au Pairs

While an au pair can find work in just about any country, it is important to consider logistics such as visas, insurance, and travel arrangements. It is important to do research when looking to become an au pair as some countries have official au pair programs, while others do not. However, even if a country doesn’t have an official program, they may still have guidelines for au pair work. For example, there is not a program in the U.K., but the Home Office still sets a salary of 70-85 GPB per week. If money is a concern, make sure to check conversion rates. At the time of writing this article, for example, it is financially more beneficial to be an au pair in the U.S. than in the U.K.


Here are some countries recommended by previous au pairs:

Germany: While Germany does not have a structured au pair program, it does offer a visa to au pairs between the ages of 18-24 who have basic knowledge of the German language. A test is required when applying for the visa. Host families are required to pay the au pair a minimum of 260 euros a month.

Australia: There is no au pair program or visa, but Australia does offer a working holiday to non-citizens who are 18-30 years old. There is no guideline for salary, but au pairs tend to make somewhere between $150-$250 AUD a week.

United States: The U.S. does have an au pair program, and anyone interested in working as an au pair must find work through an official agency. There are 14 agencies that can be found listed on IAPA (International Au Pair Association). The au pair must be between 18-26 and know English well, as well as pass a background check. They earn a minimum of $195.75 a week.

Switzerland: For au pair work in Switzerland, non-EU residents who are age 18-25 can get a visa and work for up to one year in the country. They earn between 700-800 Swiss francs a month. In addition, the host family must pay for at least half of a language class for the au pair.

Canada: Canada does not have a program for au pairs, but it does have a working holiday visa, which is called “International Experience Canada.” The au pair must be between 18-35 years old and be from one of 27 different countries, a list of which can be found online. The salary generally ranges from $235 to $290 a week.

Denmark: As opposed to a visa, Denmark offers a permit to au pairs who are between 17 and 29 years old. The au pair is paid approximately 3,050 DKK (the currency of Denmark) a month and host families generally pay for insurance and the au pair’s flight home at the end of the stay.