BUTRFLY always wants to share more au pair experience with you. Today, we met Muriel who tells us about her very first experience as an au pair in Paris in 2018.
#1. May you please introduce yourself ?
Hello, I’m Muriel, 18 years old and I come from England. I live in Derbyshire and chose to take a gap year after sixth form in order to be an au pair. This was in fact my first au pairing experience. I started my work with my au pair family at the end of August and finshed in June 2018.
#2. Why did you want to be an au pair ?
Firstly I really wanted to improve my French and my long term goal was to study French and English law. Consequently au pairing was perfect because I was able to take French lessons and practise my French with the host family during the evenings and weekends. I have also always loved looking after children because they are always spontaneous and have lots of energy. Everyday was therefore very different!
#3. For you, what were the most important requirements when choosing a host family ?
Luckily I had found my host family a long time before I arrived in France (I found a host family in April in preparation for August). From all the emails and skype exchanges with the family, I could tell there was a great relationship between the children and parents and they all seemed very welcoming and kind and for me this was very important. It was also important to talk often via Skype before living with the family because I was able to gain a good idea about what they wanted from me (my schedule, expectations with the children and the fact I’d have to cook etc). Basically I didn’t have any surprises when I arrived with the family because everything had been discussed beforehand and this open and honest relationship is essential.
#4. What were your concerns before leaving for France ?
The language barrier was certainly a worry for me but when I arrived the communication was actually very easy. Despite our numerous exchanges via Skype, one always wonders if they would "fit" in and get on well daily with the host family when living with them. Finally whenever we leave our home country for a long period of time I think it’s normal to worry about the prospect of becoming homesick and missing our loved ones. It is always a little difficult at first but if you are well integrated into your host family, times flies !
#5. Besides, how did your family help you integrate here when you arrived ?
First of all my host family really welcomed me as a member of their family (they even met my parents when I first arrived in France). Then, they helped me to complete all the administrative tasks (for example obtaining the metro pass, opening a French bank account, buying me a French SIM card and talking me through the steps to get a social security number). In order to enforce organisation and structure, they bought a Calendar so we knew what was coming up each week. Finally they created a family WhatsApp group to enable us to quickly communicate at any point during the day.
#6. And on your side, how did you integrate into your new French life ?
Well, I have found that signing up for French lessons is a great way to meet new people of different nationalities. In addition I joined an au pair WhatsApp group exclusively for my town which helped me to meet people who lived nearby and we often share our plans on the group chat. I was also in a choir in England and wanted to continue singing in Paris, therefore, I joined a local choir and this has really helped me meet French people of all ages.
#7. Finally, in your opinion, what are the important qualities you need to be an au pair ?
In my opinion, it is necessary to have a lot of patience and be open to trying new things in order to adapt yourself to the new way of life, and develop a good relationship with the family because this takes place over time. To be an au pair you must have good organisational skills as plans can change suddenly and it’s necessary to balance looking after children with your own studies. Moreover it takes a dose of creativity in order to think of new games to play and activities to do with the children!