Working as an Au Pair Abroad

For the Cultural Experience, Not the Money

Yesterday an American nanny asked for information for becoming an au pair in Europe. Au pairs are young adults who want to travel, learn a new language, experience a different culture, and share their own language and culture with a host family from another country. In exchange for room and board and a small stipend the au pair cares for the children and helps with light housekeeping in the host family’s home. A nanny is different than an au pair. A nanny has a work agreement, is a legal citizen of the country the caregiver works in, and is paid a salary for their work according to their written contract. An au pair is supposed to be treated as a part of the family to learn about the different culture.

To work as an au pair in Europe caregivers between 18- and 27-years-old must contact an au pair agency in the host country. Every country has specific visa requirements which are constantly changing. To find an au pair agency in the country you would be interested in living as an au pair visit the International Au Pair Association web site at:

According to The Au Pair & Nanny’s Guide to Working Abroad by Susan Griftith au pairs in Europe are only allowed to work 25-hours per week over a five-day period, plus up to two evenings of babysitting. In exchange, they are given a separate room, all meals, and pocket money of not less than €60 ($70-$75) a week. Unlike nannies and mother’s helps, au pairs do not sign a contract since the arrangement is an informal one. Au pairs should be treated more like family members than employees. An au pair has much less responsibility for the welfare of the children than does a nanny, and is not normally expected to take sole charge of a young children.

To become an au pair in Europe you must:

1. Be between 18- and 27-years-old. (Holland 18- to 25-years-old and Germany 18- to 25.5-years-old).
2. Have some childcare experience.
3. Speak basic conversational language ability of the target country.
4. Be able to make nine to 12-month commitment. Summer placements of three months, June 15 through September 15, can also be arranged but only for native English speakers and citizens of the European Union.

Tomorrow we will discuss being a governess abroad.

Have you worked as an au pair in Europe? If so, do you have any tips or advice for caregivers considering the exchange program?


  1. Thanks for saying being an au pair is for the experience not the money. Nannies seem to get all bent out of shape about au pairs working in U.S. but the experience is the most important aspect of working as an au pair. Can't be mad if an adult chooses to live as an au pair for a year and a family is willing to welcome them into their home.

  2. Good point Debbie,The real shame is when nannies (U.S. citizens) make as little as au pairs. Nannies can negotiate their own terms. Au pairs make very little but that is their agreement and their choice to be an au pair to experience cultural exchange. For au pairs, it is a learning experience. Nannies are making a lucrative career.

  3. There are 169 au pairs that have taken the poll on this blog below and we all know many more people are reading this newsletter and blog than taking the poll. That means there are at least 169 au pairs that are just as interested as nannies are in learning about being an in home child care provider. I love this publication and love that my au pair Rachael showed me it. I am glad you are not bashing au pairs. It is true there are unqualified au pairs but there are unqualified nannies as well. My experience with the au pair program I use has been great. Parents have to be diligent is all. Many au pairs are smart and caring and wonderful additions to the host family. I think it is for young adults simply because they can take direction well from adults. I can't see myself asking someone older than myself to help make my child's lunch. I think young adults are more willing to learn about new cultures as well.Parent Meghan WallingtonMorristown NJ

  4. Au pairs can negotiate a higher salary/stipend too. No reason they cannot negotiate any terms they please as long as they follow the rules of the exchange program.The program is a safe way for young people to experience another culture. It is only a bad experience when parents or au pair take advantage of the other and do not abide by the visa regulations.meredith sawyersnanny 15 yrs experiencemadison, wisconsin

  5. When I was in a nanny position many years ago where the mb died unexpectedly there were two Au Pairs in the neighborhood who kept me sane as I tried to take on additional responsibilities and a WHOLE LOT of stress.Are there some in the program for other motives, yes. Unfortunately there are nannies that are substandard too. It's like this in all occupations.

  6. Why is there an age maximum for au pairs?

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