So if you read Let Me Explain, then you know that I opted to Au Pair for the month of July. Mostly to save money, partly because of laziness, and a bit because I was curious as to how it would be living with a Catalan family.
Being an Au Pair by definition means : a young foreign person, typically a woman, who helps with housework or childcare in exchange for food, a room, and some pocket money. – in my case specifically, they wanted me for my english to help teach or help their daughters pick up english better.
I understood/had an idea of how this experience was going to be but I’ve gotten so much more from it than I thought I would.
Here are some things I learned, liked and didn’t like about being an Au Pair…
- I learned more about Catalan culture. I live in Barcelona, many people outside of Spain think of Barcelona simply as a part of Spain. Little do people think of, or even know that Barcelona is actually a part of Catalonia, an area in Spain that consider themselves very separate from the Spanish. They have their own language, their own flag, their own food, holidays, etc. to the point they’ve been trying to get independence from Spain for years. ALL THAT TO SAY, I’ve been living here for a year and still don’t think I’ve had the opportunity to fully embrace/appreciate the culture, but living with a REAL Catalan family has improved my understanding of Catalan language, eating traditional foods, and having a better understanding of their want for independence. This not only brings more cultural education to me but also adds to my appreciation to living in Barcelona. I think if you get the chance to Au Pair in a place where you can be immersed in a different culture do it!
- Families tend to think of how having an Au Pair will benefit them in their lives, without taking much consideration of the au pair and what their life/culture/expectations may be. For example, my family after working with them for about 2 weeks expressed some things.
1. They wanted me to watch less t.v, (during my off time, on my computer, in my room lol) .. they don’t let their children watch much t.v and they didn’t want this to affect them thinking that they should watch more… I understand preference in how you want to raise your child. But I should be able to do what I want in my spare time, especially something so innocent. I believe the T.V thing is also very different in Spanish culture compared to the U.S, and thats normal, but should have been acknowledged.
2. They wanted me to spend more time with them as a “family” during my off time. In my time with them I’ve gone to plays, daycations to other towns, all full meals, full extended family dinners on weekends, etc… but they still felt I should spend more time with them.
3. They did not like me going out at nights, or rather me not spending the night at the home. They expressed that they felt if I were going out to party during the week it would affect my ability to watch their children.. which sure I understand that concern 100% – But I’ve also lived in Barcelona for a year, I have friends, and classmates, and coworkers, I had a thriving social life in this city outside of being their Au Pair. If I didn’t spend the night there that didn’t mean I’m going to the club, I could have dinner at a friends house and decided to crash there, or simply I wanted to spend the night somewhere else. Nothing against them, but where I choose to sleep is kind of my choice as long as I’m doing my job diligently and am in the home with the kids during the hours I’m meant to be.
- The Pay differs, you don’t make much but the compensation kind of balances things out.As you can see above the pay literally can change between $200 a week to as little as $200 a month. (I’m sure these are adjusted to where you’re actually Au Pairing and cost of living..) you must take into consideration that you’re saving on rent and food. So for me, I got paid shit, literally the Spain minimum.. but I didn’t have to worry about paying the minimum of €350 in rent, or spending at least €20 a week on food. With those expenses out of the way the money I did get just goes towards leisurely things… like… beer.
- It changes some of your lifestyle habits. Needless to say whenever you move somewhere new or with new people you compromise to that place/that person way of living. In living with this family something I love that I was able to take away from them was that they follow a Mediterranean Diet. Although I dont think I can ever get hip to the times in which they eat (having dinner as late as 10:30pm) the recipes and things they ate were so simple and so nutritious I find myself eating similarly even though I’ve moved out.
- There’s something to be said about people who can live with a family of strangers as a worker. Moreso you’re an employee and everything down to your living space (room) is theirs. My family had a maid, and I had to get use to the maid coming into my personal space to clean or them coming into the room to change things and it makes you feel like you have no privacy.. but you cant really say anything it is their place. Also working as an Au Pair and being in the home the communication between au pair and parent is so essential, many times I came across the children I cared for looked at me as the person watching them but not as the authority. So it’s best to keep all lines of communication open.
All in all it was a learning experience that I’m glad I did. I probably wouldn’t do it again, or only for the purpose of moving somewhere new. I think this is something for younger people like 18-22 who are simply trying to go abroad for a few months and explore/fun somewhere new. Otherwise ehhh lol.
Dont mark my words though, I want to live in Paris for a few months this may just be my ticket. 😉