When I first decided to become an au pair at age 17, I made sure to research the best au pair agencies before breaking the news to my mom.
She was a mixture of excited, upset and worried. (Although I imagine there was also some relief over getting rid of her awful teenage daughter for a year.)
When I first suggested the idea, her initial response was concern about whether or not I would be safe. A teenage girl living with a strange family she’d never met before in Austria? Yikes!
Thankfully, after I showed her some of the best au pair agencies I’d found online, she decided I’d be safe.
Every host family has different expectations for their au pair. But as a general rule, you’re a live-in nanny.
You receive free meals and accommodation in addition to your paycheck. In exchange, you help out with whatever the family needs. Maybe you’ll just look after the children. They might also ask you to help with cooking or cleaning. In my case, taking care of five dogs was added to my list of duties!
When you first start to look into being an au pair, all the options can seem pretty daunting.
There are many au pair agencies out there. You’re placing your trust in them to keep you safe and provide you with a family who is reliable and a good fit.
Should I Pay for an Au Pair Agency or Use a Free One?
Before choosing your perfect agency, you have to make a broader decision: What type of au pair agency will you use?
You have three main options:
Fully paid for au pair agencies
These au pair agencies are expensive, but all the families are thoroughly checked and verified. The agency also conducts a background check on you as an au pair and might want to meet you in person or over Skype.
Going through these agencies makes your life much easier, because they provide insurance, help you book flights and take over many burdensome tasks. Some also offer an employee you can contact 24/7 should there be a problem or any issues with the family. Both you and the family have to sign a rigid contract, so this worker can step in if either side is breaking the contract.
These agencies are often country-specific, depending on your home country or the country you’re going to. For this reason, this post mainly concentrates on the next two options: using online au pair agencies that are either free or require a paid membership.
Completely free au pair agencies
Using a free online au pair agency is the most common route for au pairs all around the world, and likewise for families looking to connect with au pairs. Everyone loves free stuff! So these agencies give you the benefit of accessing the largest network of families out there.
Choosing to use a free au pair agency means that you’ll have a certain amount of freedom and independence. However, this also means you’ll have to be street smart and rely on yourself to sniff out the good from the bad.
Generally, bad families still aren’t an issue. Even free au pair agencies have security features to make their websites as safe and reliable as possible.
You shouldn’t worry too much about using one of these services. Just make sure that it’s a well-known agency. (Like the ones on this list!) And use a bit of common sense. A lot of websites themselves provide information for how to seek out a good family and which warning signs to look out for.
Partially paid for (membership) au pair agencies
This is a route many people go down when using online au pair agencies.
Using a free online au pair agency is a solid option. But just like with any membership program, you’ll receive certain perks when you pay extra for a membership.
Benefits could include the following:
- Appearing first in families’ search results
- If you use a service with both free and paid options, being able to see certain families before people who use the free service
- Unlimited searching
- Contacting families first rather than waiting for them to contact you
Au Pair Agencies: Find Your Perfect Family Abroad
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AuPairWorld: Free (Paid Options)
Based in: Germany
Experience: 20 years
AuPairWorld is one of the first websites that will come up in your “au pair agencies” Google search—and for good reason!
Remember, don’t judge a book by its cover. Don’t leave the website after your first glance! The interface isn’t too good, and the website design is old and not the most user-friendly.
But AuPairWorld is one of the oldest online au pair agencies. As a result, it’s one of the biggest au pair networks out there with the largest database of au pairs and families.
Because the network is so vast, there’s the chance spam family accounts will arise. But the agency does check and verify all the families. It’s one of the most established and reputable agencies online.
AuPair.com: Free (Paid Options)
Based in: Germany
Experience: 20 years
This is another one of the most experienced au pair agencies out there with one of the biggest databases around. AuPair.com offers worldwide placements. Their website is available in multiple languages to aid those whose native language isn’t English.
This website has some extra features some other big-name agencies don’t have, such as an au pair contract template and a ton of guidance. The website is also more modern and user-friendly than AuPairWorld’s.
The family profiles offer plenty of information, including number of children and monthly salary. You can also conduct a detailed search according to your preferences. Narrow down your options by country, nationality, job duration and more.
The website provides detailed information about issues such as working hours, pocket money, visa matters and regulations for certain countries. So if you think of a question while browsing their site, take a look at the help page.
Find Au Pair: Free
Based in: The United Kingdom
Experience: 25 years
This website is based in the United Kingdom, so a lot of the families listed are based in this region. But Find Au Pair also offers placements all over the world. It’s run by people who have experience traveling or working as an au pair all over the globe.
The agency offers simple contact forms for families with clear contact details available. It’s free for au pairs, but families have to buy a membership. That means the agency sifts through spam accounts and conducts thorough background checks.
The interface is easy to use and makes finding your au pair family fun and easy! While the website setup isn’t amazing (did all these companies get stuck in the 90s?), it’s probably one of the best ones out there for au pairs. The look is colorful and clean, and it runs well.
And I love that everyone can add a video clip to their profile. It makes the experience much more personal!
Find Au Pair offers telephone and email support for both au pairs and au pair families, so the agency is easy to contact should you need them.
Based in: Worldwide
Experience: 16 years
Workaway is a website that’s been around for over 16 years, connecting travelers with people around the globe.
This site isn’t just for au pair jobs. Numerous types of jobs are available, from building houses, to tending gardens, to working in bars… The list is endless!
There are a couple big differences between Workaway and the other agencies on this list. Workaway is less formal and usually for families looking for short-term au pairs. Because the website is more casual, there aren’t always contracts involved. Whether or not you decide to draft a contract is between you and the family. Some people really want a contract, while others like that they have the option to pack up and leave at any time if it isn’t a good fit.
With Workaway, employers don’t always offer a salary. It’s common for travelers just to work for food and accommodation. But this can differ from family to family.
You have to pay for a membership to the website, but considering you don’t have to pay for food or housing while abroad, the small price is definitely worth it.
Based in: The United States
Experience: Au Pair groups have been popping up for years
Facebook is a little different from the other agencies on this list, but it’s a fantastic resource, so I think it deserves a shout-out. This isn’t exactly an au pair agency, but there’s such a large number of Facebook groups for au pairs and families that it would be a shame not to mention it.
Using social media is the new “word of mouth” these days. It’s one of the best and most personal ways to find an au pair family.
There’s Au-pair in DENMARK, Au Pair in USA, Au-pair in Germany, Au Pair in Spain and Au Pair in Italy. And that’s just the beginning! All these Facebook groups have thousands of users and receive posts around 10 times per day, so they remain pretty active.
The main way Facebook groups stand out from the others on this list? Current au pairs post here when their contract is up and they want to help their family find a replacement.
Talking with a previous au pair is the best way to learn about a family and their expectations. You can gain real insights into how your life will be with this family, so you know exactly what you’re getting into!
Au pairs gotta stick together, so you’ll most likely get an honest answer from people you talk to on Facebook. No one’s going to promote a bad family!
Whichever au pair agency you choose, it’s important to remember to stay safe. Common sense is key. Don’t give any private details to people over the internet, video call with your family before you agree to work with them and make sure you have a written contract.
The most important thing to remember, however, is to have fun and embrace your time abroad!
So what’re you waiting for? Once you’ve identified your perfect au pair agency, you can start the fun part: deciding where to go!
Zoe Stephens lives in Beijing, where she works in Chinese social media and as a freelance tour guide for North Korea. She began freelance writing when she moved to China over a year ago. Driven by her love for traveling and learning about new cultures, she’s tackling her fourth language: Chinese.
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