Need some advice as you’re looking for a host family as an Au pair? Check out this post for 10 host family red flags you need to watch out for!
From reading horror stories to meeting with several families, I’ve noticed that there are a lot of red flags prospective Au pairs should look out for when they’re trying to find a host family. Some of these red flags may not be as apparent if this is your first time being an Au pair, so I congregated some important ones into this post for your awareness and safety.
So, if you’re trying to find out what red flags to look out for when you’re meeting with host families as an Au pair, you’ve come to the right place. This post highlights the experience I had meeting with different host families and the red flags I noticed as I was making my decision.
Au Pair in Germany Series
P.S. This is a post in my Au Pair in Germany series. Here is the complete series:
Au Pair Origin and History: What is an Au Pair: The Origin and History
Au Pair Tasks: What Does an Au Pair Do: Au Pair Tasks
Au Pair Agencies: The 7 Best Au Pair Agencies for Americans
German Language Learning Apps: The 10 Best Apps for German Learning as an Au Pair
Au Pair Guide: How to Become an Au Pair in Germany
Au Pair Visa: Au Pair Visa Germany: Requirements for Americans
Au Pair vs. Nanny: Au Pair vs. Nanny: What is the Difference?
Au Pair Salary: German Au Pair Salary: What to Expect
Au Pair Rematch: The Top 10 Reasons Why Au Pairs Rematch
Au Pair Driving: The Au Pair Guide to Driving in Germany
German A1 Exam: How To Pass Your German A1 Test To Become An Au Pair
Host Family Interview: Here Are 100 Host Family Interview Questions You Need To Ask
Host Family Red Flags: 10 Host Family Red Flags You Should Watch Out For
Packing List: Au Pair Packing List: Germany Edition
They Want You To Be Flexible (host family red flags)
One red flag I noticed as I was meeting with a host family in Potsdam was that they wanted me to be flexible. And when I mean flexible… I’m not talking about working a few hours on the weekend. This family actually wanted me to have no schedule!!!!
Why would any Au pair be okay with working without a schedule? I mean, for goodness sake, our working hours are capped legally for a reason.
But, this family, did not care…
They told me they wanted me to work on weekends and holidays just to support their son. In fact, in the midst of speaking to them I wondered: when would I do my language course, how will I find time to travel, will this even feel like an exchange, and etc.
All of these questions together concluded that this host family was unequipped to host an Au pair. Instead of taking the time to consider that the Au pair has other things to do with their free time, they rather hire one who’s willing to give all their free time to the family.
No Time Off On Kids’ School Breaks (host family red flags)
Another red flag I noticed as I was talking to a host family in Frankfurt was that they weren’t certain I would have time off during the kids’ school breaks. Now I get that there are times where an Au pair might have to work part time if the kids are free from school, but to expect the Au pair to work full-time the entire school break is ridiculous.
In Germany, an Au pair is not allowed to work more than 6 hours a day so that shouldn’t change just because the kids are free from school. A healthy host family will give you the opportunity to spend some time off during the kids’ school breaks even if it’s just for a week.
Because if you think about it… they might as well as pay you more money since taking care of them when they’re not in school takes away more of your time. A healthy host family will respect your working hours as an Au pair since you’re here on a cultural exchange.
They Don’t Need An Au Pair (host family red flags)
Another red flag you should look out for as you’re meeting with host families is to see if they actually need an Au pair. Because instead of being honest and upfront, a lot of host families will hide under the guise that they need an Au pair when in actuality what they’re really looking for is a nanny.
If you check out my post on the difference between an Au pair vs. a nanny, you’ll understand why. Many host families hire an Au pair as a form of cheap childcare neglecting the fact that this experience is supposed to be an exchange for you.
So, if this red flag pops up, I highly suggest running the other way. These families are the type who have no problem overworking you so they’re definitely not worth it.
They Don’t Want You To Talk To Their Previous Au Pair (host family red flags)
Another red flag you should look out for as a prospective Au pair is when a family doesn’t want you to talk to their previous Au pair. I remember this happening to me when I met with a host family in Frankfurt and it felt kind of strange. I was on my second video call with the family and I asked if they could give me the contact information of their last Au pair. They said “yes” over the video call but when I tried to follow up with them a few days later, they ghosted me.
So, I guess it’s safe to say that if the family you’re talking to doesn’t want you to talk to their previous Au pair, then they’re obviously hiding something. A healthy host family will be honest and upfront about the relationship they’ve had with their previous Au pairs even if they’re not in touch anymore.
They Don’t Spend Any Time With Their Children (host family red flags)
Another red flag Au pairs should look out for as they’re meeting with host families are host parents that don’t spend any time with their children. Now don’t get me wrong, I understand that most host parents work or have other duties to attend to as a parent. But, what crosses the line in my opinion is when they use the Au pair as a substitute parent that’s responsible for taking care of the children 24/7.
In fact, this red flag can be easy to spot if you read the host family’s profile carefully. Most of the time if the host parents are expecting you to do their children’s morning and nighttime routine consistently everyday, it shows that they don’t have the time to connect with their children on a daily basis.
Or in all honesty they do have the time but instead of doing the morning and nighttime routine themselves, they’d rather have the Au pair do it. This red flag is not only a sign of neglectful parenting but it also shows that they’re hiring an Au pair for all the wrong reasons.
Healthy host parents enjoy spending time with their children and they respect the fact that the Au pair is simply just an older sibling to them.
They Don’t Believe In Privacy (host family red flags)
Another red flag to look out for as you’re meeting with host families are those that don’t believe in privacy. These type of host families will invade your privacy at any chance they get and they most likely won’t care because they see you as an object, not a human being.
In fact, I remember asking a host family in Bonn a question about privacy and their answer was shocking. I asked them “if anyone was going to come into my room without my permission” and I was told that “they don’t believe in locking doors….”
The mother even went on to further say that she may come into my room from time to time to get some stuff for the kids or open my windows.
My room should be private. It’s not an open space for anyone to just walk through and enjoy. It’s my sanctuary, the one place I should feel safe coming back to after having a long day. Because if I’m being honest, working where you live is already hard enough. So imagine living somewhere where your privacy isn’t being respected.
Healthy host families will respect your privacy because there are strong boundaries in the home. So, if a host family can’t even offer you the simple respect of privacy, it’s probably because the home is dysfunctional.
Their Profile Looks Like A Job Description (host family red flags)
Another red flag you should look out for as you’re searching for a host family are profiles that look like a job description. Now don’t get me wrong, I understand being an Au pair is essentially like a part-time job in some sense but there are families out there that will treat this cultural exchange like a full-time job.
For example, when I was on Au Pair World, I remember coming across this family profile that seemed to good to be true. This family was based in Munich and on their profile they wrote out the responsibilities of what they wanted their Au pair to do. Kinda like what you would see on any job description.
- job duties and responsibilities
- required qualifications
- preferred qualifications
- working conditions
In fact, it even listed all of the benefits too.
But here’s the thing… a cultural exchange does not equal a corporate job. Corporate jobs pay you corporate salaries whereas as an Au pair you just get pocket money. With that being said, if you end up choosing the family that sees it as a corporate job you’re not going to get a lot out of this experience as an Au pair.
Healthy families understand that your job as an Au pair is different from a corporate one. They will respect the duties and responsibilities that are appropriate for your role and they will treat you like a part of the family.
They Interview You Like It’s A Corporate Job (host family red flags)
Another red flag you should look out for as a prospective Au pair are families that interview you like it’s a corporate job. Now don’t get me wrong, every host family you meet is entitled to ask you questions about yourself but it should feel more like a conversation more than anything.
For example, when I met with one host family on Au Pair World that treated the interview like a corporate job, the mother asked me about my work experience in corporate America. I worked in corporate America for 2 years before deciding to become an Au pair but I didn’t understand why that information was important. For the first year, I worked as a Service Specialist for an insurance company and for the second year, I worked as a Platform Success Manager for a startup. None of those jobs have anything to do with working with children…. so I was confused as to why she would even ask me about it.
She even had the audacity to ask me if I was still working at the startup I worked for as a Platform Success Manager…
I told her no but still why…
It wasn’t until I put 2 and 2 together that I realized she equated being an Au pair to having a corporate job. So, it would only make sense that she would interview me like it was one. But again, as I mentioned before, it’s best to stay away from families that equate being an Au pair to having a corporate job because they won’t see as another member of the family.
Both Host Parents Are Not Present On The First Call (host family red flags)
Another red flag you should look out for as a prospective Au pair is when both host parents are not present on the first video call. Now don’t get them wrong, there could obviously be a reasonable explanation for this. Sometimes the other host parent is at work or it’s a single parent household. However, besides those two reasons, there should be no reason why both host parents can’t be present to interview an Au pair. I mean, for goodness sake, this is the person who’s going to be taking care of your children part-time.
Why wouldn’t you want to meet her?
But unfortunately, if the other host parent isn’t present on the call for a good reason, it just goes to show that they may not be that present in their children’s life in general. And if they’re uninvolved in their children’s life, they most likely won’t be as involved when you’re living with the parent as an Au pair.
Working with an uninvolved host parent as an Au pair can taint your experience at times so I highly recommend avoiding host families like that if you want a great experience.
They Don’t Want You To See The Children On Camera (host family red flags)
Lastly, another red flag you should look out for as a prospective Au pair are families that don’t want you to see the children on camera. Now don’t get me wrong, if the children are sleeping by the time you do the video call, then there’s no point in having the parents wake them up for it. However, if you’ve done more than one call with the parents and you still haven’t seen them, then that should definitely raise some concerns.
For one thing you’re going to be spending a lot of time with these children as their Au pair. Why can’t you see them??
It’s great to establish some rapport with them before you meet them in person and meeting on camera helps you get a sense of their personality. With that being said, any family that doesn’t want you to see their children on camera are probably doing it for selfish reasons. It could be that the children are actually not well-behaved on camera which can be unappealing for any Au pair. This could also be a sign that there’s no order or sense of authority in the home which is something you should definitely avoid. Living in a home like that would make it hard for the kids to respect you as their Au pair which could also taint your experience.
Healthy families instead are very transparent about their children’s behavior with you. They’re not afraid to show them on camera and they’ll be there to help you if you have any issues.
Overall, I really hope you enjoyed reading this post about the 10 host family red flags you need to watch out for as a prospective Au pair. Please let me know in the comments down below which red flag resonated with you the most. I would love to hear from you! 🙂
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