What is an au pair? An au pair definition

The word “au pair” comes from the French and means “equal to”. The au pair definition used to specify young women between 17 and 30 years old, but today an increasing number of young men as well as “gray-haired” au pairs are using the opportunity to work and live in foreign countries. As the literal au pair definition implies, an au pair is treated as an equal within the household, a true member of the host family for generally six to twelve months. Au pair wages are usually limited to pocket money, since the family provides room and board for the au pair. The au pair definition includes equal parts cultural exploration – including language classes and other educational activities – and child-rearing and household duties. An au pair is usually interested both in gaining childcare experience, helping tend and educate the family’s child or children, and expanding his or her cultural horizons.

Au pair guidelines, from general expectations to au pair wages

The Council of Europe established basic outlines for au pairs in 1969, and the overview is still valid today. It provides an au pair definition, generally addresses the au pair contract between the foreign care provider and the host family, and mentions au pair wages. Various associations in receiving and sending countries also offer country-specific guidelines for families and au pairs. Of course, these guidelines provide only a basic framework and can never replace earnest conversations and agreements between the family and the au pair. It is of utmost importance that both parties discuss and establish an au pair contract and such details as the au pair wages before the au pair leaves his or her home country. The au pair definition may also vary from family to family, so it is crucial to talk about expectations and responsibilities from the very beginning.

The components of an au pair contract

An au pair contract is an essential document stating the expectations and responsibilities of both the host family and au pair for the duration of the au pair’s time abroad. The contract should outline au pair wages, which typically comprise a combination of room and board in the family’s house and weekly or monthly pocket money. In addition to au pair wages, the contract should also delineate vacation days and time off for language courses or other educational activities. Last but not least, the au pair contract must specify the au pair’s duties with the children and in the household and hours of the day he or she is expected to be available. Writing an au pair contract may seem a burden in the beginning, but both sides will profit from knowing the exact terms of their agreement!