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Au pair meaning

What is an au pair?

The basic meaning of the term au pair is a young person from a foreign country who comes to live with a host family. It is a French term that literally translates to “on par” or “equal” as an au pair becomes a new member of your family during their stay.

In exchange for food, housing, and a monetary allowance, their host family gives the au pair responsibilities with childcare and light household tasks to help support them. As they are considered a part of their family during their au pair experience, au pairs should partake in cultural exchange through bonding with their host family and through external cultural events.

Sounds simple enough right? However, the au pair concept can become a bit more complex as each country has its own rules and regulations regarding what an au pair is, so it is important to understand how the au pair program works where you live. Not to worry, we have laid it all out so you know what regulations apply in your situation as an au pair or a host family. Read on to learn more about the meaning of an au pair.

Au pair meaning.
How does the au pair program work?

The official au pair program is an international cultural exchange experience. It gives young people, typically between the ages of 18 and 30, the chance to live abroad and experience a new culture. An au pair will spend time abroad in their host country, learn about a culture different from their home country, and have the chance to improve their foreign language skills.

Should I use an agency?

Depending on the country, an au pair agency may be required to help with the visa requirements and process. They support with documents like the au pair contract and provide support throughout the year when questions arise about the language course, health insurance, au pair working hours, or the expectations of the host parents during the au pair program.

We find that au pairs and host families that use an au pair agency during their stay feel more prepared and supported when starting the au pair stay which sets the foundation for a positive experience for all parties. Welcoming a new person into your home is no small feat, but our years of experience at Nina.care placing au pairs make us confident that we can make the perfect match!

Length of stay and working hours for au pairs

In exchange for the au pair’s responsibilities relating to childcare, the au pair receives free board with their host family, eats with their host family, and is given a pre-determined amount of pocket money. The duration of the au pair program depends on the country where the au pair works. Usually, the program duration of an au pair stay is between 3 months and 24 months.

The amount of work hours an au pair can have is limited by the regulations of the host country. For example, in the Netherlands, an au pair can work a maximum of 30 hours per week and 8 hours per day. An au pair is also entitled to a certain number of off days per week to ensure they get proper rest and have time to experience life as a young person in a foreign country.

Benefits of au pair program for the au pair and host family

Au pairing is a win-win experience for both au pair and host family as host families receive personal, flexible child care and light housework through cultural exchange and the au pair gets to experience life and culture in a foreign country without having to worry about housing or food. Often, an au pair vs nanny ends up the winning solution for many families. Au pairs receive a variety of benefits throughout the program with a language course, health insurance, free day, support with travel expenses, and holiday time to travel to other countries.

Benefits for the au pair

Everyday life of an au pair is pretty great too for those that love children. Whether they are young kids, school age, or teens, the bond between an au pair and her host kids is really special. You go beyond being a regular babysitter and feel a real part of your host family with your own room in the house and contribution to the family culture and dynamic.

Benefits for the host family

As a host family, you get to see your kids form lifelong bonds with the au pair and will notice the difference in your free time as you have more availability to be present with your children since the au pair is helping in maintaining the house, too. Many host families say the hardest part of the program is when they have to say goodbye to their beloved au pair.

Should I join the au pair program?

Now that you know more about the meaning of an au pair and what becoming or hosting one entails, you, can feel confident in making the right choice for yourself or your family. At Nina.care, we believe au pairs enrich their own lives and the lives of their host families as they embark on an exciting journey together rooted in cultural immersion and understanding.

We are here to support you throughout every step of your au pair journey. So join us today, and start the adventure of a lifetime!


Host family Dr. Marieke