I’ve been home for 3 months now after a one month stay in Italy, and I think I’ve had more than enough time to reflect on it. After quitting my course at university in November, I decided to become an au pair for a short while, just to try something new. I was planning to stay for 2/3 months, however the only suitable family that I found only wanted an au pair for one month (and this was after 3 months of searching!).
I think it’s important to be very fussy when choosing a host family. I would never recommend going to the first family who contact you. You need to make sure that you will be compatible, and if that’s the first family then that’s amazing! But more often than not, it won’t be. I used a site called Au Pair World and I found it very simple to use! It’s a legit website, however be aware that not all families on the site will be as honest. So I didn’t go through an agency as I didn’t even know they existed!
I mean, I am very glad that I decided to au pair and got the chance to live in the gorgeous city of Rome for an entire month. I stayed in the EUR area, so EUR Magliana metro station holds a very dear place in my heart! However I don’t think this is something I’ll be rushing to do again soon.
If you followed me on twitter during my stay, you’ll know that the family and I did not get on that well. There were no fights or anything, but they were very distant from me and I felt rather isolated. I was clearly not as good as their previous au pair and it made me a little awkward. The children, Chiara and Martina, were absolutely lovely! The youngest was a bit… energetic and broke my bed and some of my pens but I guess that was part of the experience! The family never wanted to do things together so I had to just explore on my own which was a shame.
My main complaint was they ate really small portions of food (*cries*) and they only had snacks for the children so I was so so hungry the whole time. Of course an 18 year old needs more than an 8 year old, y’know. So I spent most of my pocket money on food that I could snack on, which was a shame because it would have been nice to buy other things! But hey, survival is key!
One other thing that I didn’t enjoy was just the idea that you cannot escape your workplace. Of course living and working in the same apartment is a bit frustrating because it’s not like you leave work and it just ends, you’re just stuck there. Also it means you have to be ready to babysit, teach or take one of the kids to something at anytime which made me a bit anxious. I think this is something you should keep in mind if you want to become an au pair.
Living in Rome
I thought it would be worth including a section about living in Rome since people are usually more interested in that part! As I said, I lived in the EUR area but I had to get another train to get to the metro station so it was a little inconvenient. But there were 4 trains an hour (my town in Scotland has 2), so I was pretty content! However I chose not to take Italian courses as they were expensive and I had little money (60 euros a week, but as I said, I spent it mostly on food!), but I do regret it a bit now. Whenever I was at the train station or back in EUR, people would chat to me or ask for directions and I’d just freeze and forget how to speak. One time, a woman was complaining to me about a train station name (very exciting), and I knew EXACTLY what she had said but couldn’t respond in my broken Italian, ugh.
It was absolutely incredible to be able to just stroll past the Colosseum, Roman Forum, hop on a train to Ostia Antica, frolic around Circo Massimo (I spent so much time here) etc etc! I never thought I’d get to see those things, never mind live so close to them! Although I didn’t do many tourist things as they took a lot of time with queues etc and I had limited free time. But that means I have an excuse to return in the future! By far my favourite place in Italy is Ostia Antica. I went for a visit there near the end of my stay because I refused to leave without visiting it and it was everything I had ever dreamed of. Once you escaped the business of the main path, you could explore by yourself without seeing many people. I can’t quite put into words how utterly beautiful it was, being able to climb through ruins and walk down old Roman streets. It is by far the most incredible place I have ever visited and if I’m ever back in Rome, I’ll be going back for sure.
One thing that I think is worth adding is that it was around 17/18 degrees the entire time I was there which is summer temperatures for my poor Scottish body. Foolishly I had only packed jumpers, a thick coat etc because my host parents assured me that it was very cold in Rome. Nope nope nope. I was melting the entire time and everyone else was wearing woollen scarves and hats, it was really uhm… interesting.
One last thing about Italy, I miss Pan di Stelle biscuits with every inch of my soul.
Advice for Future Au Pairs
- SPEAK THE LANGUAGE OF THE COUNTRY THAT YOU ARE GOING TO. I cannot stress this enough. Moving to a country where you cannot communicate with anyone is incredibly scary and lonely. One of the children I took care of spoke no English, the mother spoke no English, the eldest child spoke some but barely understood me and only the dad spoke it fluently but he was never home. So make sure it’s a country where you speak a little of the language! I can understand lots of written Italian due to knowledge of French and Spanish but it was still very tough on my anxiety.
2. . Choose a family carefully. Skype with them a couple of times before making a decision and make sure you understand the living arrangements and what exactly they expect you to do. You don’t want to turn up and get some unexpected surprises!
3. Have enough money and arrangements to come home immediately if need be. Although being an au pair is generally very safe, you are still living in a stranger’s house. Make sure you have a feasible plan to “escape” if they turn out to not be as nice as you thought they were, or if they ask you to leave due to an argument etc.
If you’re going to be an au pair soon, I wish you all the luck in the world and be safe x