Au pair pro­grammes

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - R.AGE -

If YOU are up to tak­ing care of chil­dren for about five to six hours a day, five days a week, then be­ing an au pair could be a cheap, easy way for you to travel and ex­pe­ri­ence liv­ing in an­other coun­try.

Au pairs are ba­si­cally nan­nies hired from for­eign coun­tries. It’s an ar­range­ment that works both ways: the host fam­ily gets to hire a rel­a­tively cheap nanny, and the nanny in turn gets to ex­pe­ri­ence liv­ing in a dif­fer­ent cul­ture while hav­ing their food and ac­com­mo­da­tion taken care of.

Ju­lia em­manuel, 26, was an au pair for a year-and-a-half af­ter she grad­u­ated in 2007, tak­ing care of two chil­dren in Vi­enna, Aus­tria.

“I read some­thing about au pair pro­grammes be­fore, so when I was study­ing in eng­land and about to grad­u­ate, I just thought I’d re­search it on the In­ter­net,” said Ju­lia, now a PR ex­ec­u­tive back in Kuala Lumpur.

she stum­bled upon a web­site, easy Au Pair (www.easyau­pair. com). It didn’t re­quire a mem­ber­ship fee, so she reg­is­tered for a pro­file, and sent it to as many fam­i­lies as she could. Within a cou­ple of weeks, two fam­i­lies had replied want­ing to hire her.

“It was a re­ally easy process. Once you have your pro­file, you can just click and send to as many fam­i­lies as you like,” she said.

What she got in re­turn for her tak­ing care of the hosts’ chil­dren were a plane ticket to Vi­enna, food and lodg­ing for the en­tire du­ra­tion, a Ger­man lan­guage course in the Uni­ver­sity of Vi­enna, and the op­por­tu­nity to travel all over europe in her free time.

“I’ve been to Ger­many, switzer­land, Prague, all over Aus­tria ... so many places. I even went with the fam­ily on a trip to Budapest,” she said.

The best part for Ju­lia was be­ing able to ex­pe­ri­ence first hand the cul­tures and tra­di­tions in Aus­tria.

“I had a friend there who was from the coun­try­side, near salzburg, and I stayed with her a lot dur­ing my hol­i­days. I learned so much about their cul­ture there. There’s just no bet­ter way to ex­pe­ri­ence a coun­try than to ac­tu­ally stay with the peo­ple,” she said.

But ac­cord­ing to Vil­lashani Jeyaku­mar, 25, who was an au pair for two years in Vir­ginia, the United states, there are some au pairs who’ve had bad ex­pe­ri­ences.

“I met a Ger­man au pair who was paired with a Viet­namese Amer­i­can fam­ily. They were rude to her, and made her work past her work­ing hours with­out pay­ing her over-time. But au pairs in the Us have ‘coun­sel­lors’ that help with their prob­lems, and they were able to help her find an­other host,” said Vil­lashani.

Vil­lashani found the job through Ace­global (www.ace­global.org), a com­pany that helps cus­tomers find au pair pro­grammes in the Us, New Zealand and Aus­tralia.

Back when she ap­plied in 2007, Vil­lashani paid around Rm5,500 to the com­pany, and ev­ery­thing was taken care of - air­fare, visa ap­pli­ca­tion fees, find­ing a host fam­ily (ap­pli­cants can choose which state in the Us they want to go to), ori­en­ta­tion pro­grammes and so on.

Au pairs in the Us, how­ever, can be paid by the host fam­ily any­thing from Us$500 to Us$1,000 depend­ing on how many hours they work, and they can only stay for two years, ac­cord­ing to Vil­lashani.

“If given a chance, I would have stayed on in­def­i­nitely. It was such a won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ence, and I learned so much,” she added.

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