Travel Muse

Au Pair - A Money Saving Option to Travel

Lena Winkler talks about her experiences and the advantages of working as an au pair in Egypt and Ireland

In the past few years, travelling and working as an au pair has become fairly trendy. Doing so not only allows you to explore new countries but also to get to know their culture by living with locals. As with a lot of other young people, I also decided to start such an adventure by living with host families in two completely culturally different countries: Ireland and Egypt. From this experience, I can assure you that working as an au pair is a great and cheap way of travelling, meeting people and maybe even learning a new language.

Even though the term ‘au pair’ has become a popular one within travel communities, there are still a considerable number of people who are not familiar with what is involved when working as an au pair. Especially for young people, who have just finished their A-levels and who aren’t entirely sure what to do next: consider the idea of going abroad while working as an au pair. What does it involve? An au pair is someone who moves abroad to live with a host family to either take care of their children or maybe to teach their native language. Host families usually give their au pairs weekly pocket money. The amount, however, may differ from country to country and from family to family. The amount of pocket money during my stay in Ireland was much higher compared to Egypt; the living costs differ considerably with Egypt being a very cheap country to stay in. Of course, you do not pay for living expenses or food, which is great as you can save the weekly money you earn for trips. In some countries, it is very common for au pairs to do some light housework. However, in Egypt I was only responsible for spending time with the three year old daughter of the family and teaching her German. Depending on where you go, the definition of being an au pair and what it includes may differ.

Going abroad as an au pair is fantastic if you do not have much experience in travelling on your own. Arriving in a new country and already knowing someone will make you feel more safe and getting around will be less confusing as your host family will be able to show you around. Furthermore, immersing yourself into the family life will give you the chance to develop an even better understanding of the culture. This was a great advantage during my time in Egypt as the culture was like nothing I had experienced before. My host family were very understanding and explained topics like religion and the political situation within the country to me. Due to their help, I learned a lot about the country, the people and the different ways of life in comparison to Europe. Another great benefit when working as an au pair is that your host family might be able to help you meet other au pairs around your area. Due to that, I was lucky to meet many au pairs while living in Ireland and to not only make good friends but also find amazing travel companions.

The chance to learn a new language is another advantage - and we all know that the best way of learning a second language is simply by speaking it. During my time in Egypt, I had the chance to learn some Arabic by speaking and interacting with locals. Even though I did not take any language classes, I was able to pick up many useful phrases which also helped me to understand the culture better.

A question I get asked a lot is how I found my host families. There are different ways. A lot of young people find their host families with the help of agencies. These will provide you with all the information needed, organise a visa if necessary and prepare you for the experience with inductions. This is a very convenient and easy-going way, but is very pricey as the service could cost you up to £1000. However, there is also a cheaper option which is a website called AuPairWorld which allows future au pairs and host families to create accounts. You can choose preferences such as countries you are considering, number and age of children you are willing to take care of, time of stay etc. The website then suggests different families you can get in touch with. Even though this means more independent research and organisation, for me this was the best option and I was lucky to find a lovely host family in Ireland and in Egypt.

Working as an au pair is a great experience. Whenever you don’t have much money and feel like travelling for some time, or when you want a great holiday experience, this could be an option for you. This travel opportunity will allow you to get around on a budget, meet amazing people and create new life experiences.

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