Sunday, December 19, 2010

Walking home, alone, at night in Frankfurt

I would put my gloves and hat on, and button my coat. I'd descend toward the underground light led by a pathway of electrical stairs. Minutes felt like hours, even if I had to wait only about seven minutes. I would dread sitting because the seats were always cold. I would dread it because it would make me feel so impatient. So I'd occupy my mind with songs, give six or seven steps to then turn around, repeating the same imaginary line until my train would come. My humming would echo throughout the tunnel, like that abrasing touch of loneliness and peace.
I did all these things by myself, I went all these places, and my companion was the subway. I would wait patiently for the sound of the train coming. I would hope I'd eventually have someone to wait with. But for now there was no way I could cling to this childish dream. I couldn't get stuck in an uncertain hope or wait for it to be happy or satisfied.
Finally, I'd hear the rails rumbling in the distance, crossing my fingers it would be my train to take and not the one going the opposite direction. On a week night it would usually be empty. I could sit to my choosing. I loved sitting by the window. Once the train was out of the underground I adored looking at the city lights, shining of endless possibilities. It made the night feel enchanted. I wished the train would leave me by the house, because I hated walking back in the cold of night. Oh, if it weren't cold I wouldn't have minded. I would dream and imagine, dreading the moment I would have to get back out into the cold.

When the stop would come, fifteen minutes of walking would be ahead of me. I would stroll by the houses, decorated with cute lights, showing off with a personal touch and unique expression. Friends would ask me if I was afraid to walk back home by myself. I would laugh and say that if I was slightly scared to walk by myself at night back home in Mexico, I was certainly not a tiny bit scared in Germany. And after all, I had never been unprotected, God walked beside me all the way.
First Picture (Entrance of Messe/Fair Station in Frankfurt)
Second Picture
Third Picture

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What do I need to do to become an Au pair?

There is not one cookie-cutter combination that fits all people who want to become an Au pair, but I would suggest these general steps:

1. Read about it

Yes, there is no better way to start your journey than by gathering information. The first thing you need to do is know what being an Au pair is all about. Start with general information, google it, and go beyond googling it! Read about what Au pairs do, look for testimonials, try to answer all the questions you have by searching for them. How much are they paid? What is their job? What do I have to do to become one? Also, if you already think this is something you might be interested in, find out what is required to go to your target country. Each country's regulations are different, so investigate particularly how the visa works between your home country and the place where you want to go (and check if they have a special visa for Au pairs).

2. Talk to people

This is often underestimated. Talking to people who have gone through that experience is incredibly helpful. If you don't know any one who has been an Au pair, you can always contact me and ask me anything you want. Or you can also leave a comment, and I will try to answer as much as I can.

3. Decide if it's the right thing for you to a foreign country, learning a language, and getting paid for it may sound pretty cool at first, but when you realize being an Au pair is not a game, you might change your mind.  Doing an Au pair year (or more) is an amazing experience, but it isn't for everyone. It requires a lot of determination, perseverance, patience, and most importantly, responsibility. If all you want to do is party everyday and not worry about your duties, you might consider being an exchange student instead... especially since they don't have to nanny!

4. Start looking for a family, and find one!
You can go different ways here. First, you could go through an agency. Some charge both the Au pairs and the families, and others only charge the families. It depends on which country you're coming from, and which country you're going to, so you have to investigate what is available to you in your country. There are also online agencies available. The second option is looking for a family directly. There are websites, like where you can make a profile and pay to see for the contact info of the families. I'm sure there are other free sites that allow you to find families directly. Sometimes finding the right family takes time, so make sure you started your search with plenty of time. I would suggest to start some 6 months ahead.

5. Choose you family carefully - or be chosen!

Once you start contacting different families, or they have contacted you, ask important questions. What do I mean by this? Well, ask what specific benefits you will be receiving, and what specific responsibilities will be expected of you. For example: Will they pay your language course, or part of it? Will they give you a cellphone? How many hours a week will you work? What is the schedule you'll have? Will you need to clean after the kids? Will you need to do laundry, or other house chores? This is important because all of these thing depend on the family. Some require you to do a lot of house chores, where as others want you to focus only on the children. Some will pay for you classes, and others will pay for part of it, or not at all, and so on.  Some families will pay you a little more than the average, or give you a raise in the middle of the year if they really like you. But like I said, each family is different and those deals are separate than what the actual general responsibilities of the Au pair are. Make sure to reflect upon what is asked on you, and try to imagine yourself doing this for the time of your stay. Think about if it's something you'll enjoy - and hopefully learn from!
I strongly recommend skyping with the family, if you don't have skype, you should get one! Try to get the family to let you talk to the children, and if possible, chat with a webcam. Try to develop your relationship with the family way before the time of your trip.
Essential: ask the family to send you a copy of the contract! It is very important to go over it and make sure you understand it well.

6. Start the paperwork

This sometimes takes several months, so that's why I recommend starting to look for a family ahead of time so that you still have enough to get all your paperwork done. In step number one I mentioned it's important to find out about how to get a visa. Very soon, I will be posting specifically on the steps for getting an Au pair visa for Germany (which is how I personally did it). So stay in tune! Once you have confirmed with the family that you'll be going with them, and when your date of arrival will be, buy your ticket. Try to but you plane ticket (if you're flying) a good two months ahead if possible. Tickets are a lot cheaper if you buy them ahead of time, and in case you didn't know, Summer tickets are especially outrageously expensive - so search for flights with time so that you don't have to rush and buy something really expensive. If you search well, you can find pretty good deals!

Rome trip 0447. Pack your things and start the adventure!

There is nothing more exciting than the beginning of a journey (except for maybe the end of it - but that is arguable!) Try not to take so much stuff with you, because you will accumulate along the year. Do take the most essential things: a variety of clothes; from a good thick coat if you're traveling somewhere cold, to a few pairs of shorts if you're going somewhere warm. Try to take a little bit of everything.

And good luck!

Upcoming posts:

Beware of scams my dear Au pairs, sitters, and nannies! More about these kinds of scams...
How to go to Germany as an Au pair: visa, legal paperwork and more...!

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Au pair Dilemma: should I trust an online-Family or go through an agency?

A lot of people have asked me this before. Should I go through an agency, or is an Au pair website safe enough for meeting a family?

I'll start with my experience. When I began the adventure of doing research on Au pair stuff, I made a profile only in two websites:

1. Find Au pair
2. Au pair Agency

Now, of course I read information from dozens of pages, but I couldn't make profiles on all of them, since that would have taken a lot of time. The first site requires you to pay a certain amount of money, -back then I think I paid like 15 Euros for a 3-month deal; and they also have a full-year membership. They let you see the profiles of the families, but in order to see their contact info, you have to pay for it. is not an agency, it is only a tool for meeting families and contacting them directly.

On the other hand, I didn't want to pay for an agency like Mex-Aupair (for Au pairs who are going from Mexico) because that was too expensive for me (the cost of the agency  was 500 dollars then). I looked for an agency that wouldn't charge au pairs when they were looking for a family. That is how I found the second website. is an online agency based in Great Britain. The family looking for an Au pair pays for the service while the Au pair doesn't have to. Anyway, after talking to my former host-family from Germany, they said they were not happy with the online-agency's service. But it if wasn't for that website, I would've never gotten the fabulous family that I did.

How did I do it?

So here it goes:

I am kind of adventurous, so I tried meeting a family online. I found a family (or actually the family found me) through The good thing is I got to talk to them on the phone, and we exchanged pictures, and shared stuff about ourselves before I went over to Germany. Many people asked me if I was scared something would go wrong, or that the family wouldn't be nice, that I'd be stuck somewhere in a foreign country, or someone would kidnap me. And no, I wasn't scared... but maybe I should've been.

There are so many things that could go wrong with being an Au pair. But in the cases I've seen, sometimes even going through an agency doesn't guarantee that you'll get a nice family to work with. When I was living in Frankfurt, I met some Latin American girls who had come through an agency called Montoya. I heard so many stories about nightmare families as well as about irresponsible Au pairs... Many of the girls changed families very often because they weren't happy with the family they got - or the family didn't like them. Even speaking with other Au pairs, from the Ukraine and Russia, for example, I discovered that having an intermediary helps, but it doesn't guarantee that the relationship with your host-family will be great.

Stay tuned for more info about Au pairs, how to find a family, and what the best choices for you are!  Feel free to subscribe!

Take care!

+Notes: Picture