How Much Do You Know About Being An Au Pair?

John Miller

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

In the 1800s, it was very common for European households, particularly wealthy ones, to keep servants for child-rearing, chores, meal preparation, and all sorts of time-consuming and exhausting tasks. But a remarkable thing happened in the 20th century, as post-war society’s expectations for young men and women changed. Furthermore, young women had very little interest in associating themselves with a “servant” status. In the span of a few decades, the “au pair” concept took hold – a way for blossoming (mostly female) students to expand their experiences while offering help to host families. What do you really know about au pairs?

These days, au pairs are often enterprising and adventurous types. They travel abroad for the opportunity to see new lands, meet new people – and if they have to change a few diapers along the way, so be it. Many parents see au pairs as multi-faceted godsends, because not only do they provide a bit of assistance around the house, they expose their children to the mind-expanding cultures of another country.

And that is the au pair experience in a nutshell. It’s an opportunity for very different types of people, who speak different languages, a means to share their worldviews and insights in a family setting. Give us a hand in this au pair quiz now!

What is an "au pair"?

An au pair is a domestic assistant, one that hails from abroad. Many families rely heavily on an au pair to make it through day-to-day life.

An au pair stays where?

An au pair is hired by a host family. The family pays (or should pay) the au pair for their domestic services.

What's an example of task that an au pair might perform?

In many instances, host families depend on au pairs for child care. This assistance almost always takes on many other housework duties, too, from cleaning to some meal preparation.

In some countries, au pairs must be what?

Traditionally, au pairs are female. And in some places, they simply cannot be males.

What's one difference between an au pair and a nanny?

Au pairs are almost always young women. Many of them want to explore the world, and they offer their services in exchange for the opportunity to serve a host family.

What's a primary benefit that au pairs receive from the arrangement?

Many au pairs really want to improve their foreign language skills. They travel abroad to obtain those skills by using a new language on a daily basis.

What's one perk of being an au pair?

In exchange for their time and dedication, au pairs receive free room and board. Hopefully that doesn’t mean you're stuck in a dark closet in the attic.

Ultimately, what is the au pair arrangement intended to be?

The overarching theme of the au pair concept is that it's a cultural exchange. It's a chance for very different people to get deep insights into each other's world views and perspectives.

What does "au pair" mean, anyway?

"Au pair" means "on equal footing." The idea is that the arrangement benefits both parties equally. Sometimes it works out that way… sometimes it does not.

How much money are au pairs paid each week?

Because they receive free room and board, au pairs don't make a lot of money. They basically get just enough cash per week to help them pay for a few personal expenses.

When did au pairs first become common?

Au pairs have only been around since the post-WWII era. A complex combination of changing social attitudes and child care needs caused the concept to quickly spread in popularity.

After WWII, no one wanted be considered what?

Prior to the World War era, servants were common throughout Europe. But major shifts in society meant that no one wanted to be treated as a servant - the au pair arrangement neatly helped families with their many chores while providing better social status for young workers.

How do au pairs take their meals?

Breaking bread together is regarded as a cornerstone of the au pair relationship. These young women typically take their meals as part of the family.

Which of the following is NOT a typical au pair duty?

In many cases, au pairs cook for the children they supervise. But mom and dad? They can make their own meals, thank you very much.

Before au pairs join the host family, what should they do?

Many au pairs skip this part … and many of them come to regret it. Contracts are important, and they are a good building block for an au pair relationship.

In almost every case, au pairs must be what?

It's part of the setup - au pairs are almost always unmarried. And in some places, single status is a requirement to qualify as an au pair. And if, in the 21st century, that seems a bit sketchy to you, well, you're not the only one.

Why is the au pair concept controversial in some places?

So you can't afford daycare? Don't trust the neighbors to babysit? Just get an au pair and you'll have cheap child care forever! This isn't always true, of course, but it does happen, and it's why some people argue against the au pair system.

When did the Au Pair Program officially start in the United States?

It all started with a test run in the 1980s, and those au pairs worked out nicely. So the U.S. Au Pair Program launched in 1989 and has been active ever since.

Typically an au pair is not over what age?

In almost every case, au pairs are either in their teens or early 20s. In some places, rules prohibit au pairs from being over 30.

In most situations, the host family must have at least one child under what age?

It's not really child care if the "kid" is 22. Host families typically have kids age 16 or younger. Au pairs that nab a family with a polite 16-year-old have it made.

What happens if an au pair becomes ill while in a host family's home?

Au pairs get sick just like everyone else, especially because they're picking up after your gross toddlers. When they're ill, they should get time recuperate without fear of repercussions.

What sort of workloads do au pairs generally carry?

Au pairs, in most places, aren't exactly full-time employees. They might work 30 hours per week and then spend the rest of their time studying or exploring.

Au pair duties can mostly be described as what?

Let's be honest, young students abroad are looking to learn and explore; they don't want to be your personal attendants. They do some child care and light housekeeping and that's about it.

An au pair generally does NOT have to do what?

Au pairs are already taking care of your two-legged pets. They don't have to watch over the four-legged ones if they don't want to.

During their stay with the host family, the au pair must always have access to what?

Au pairs explicitly take up their adventure in part to master a new language. As such, no matter how busy they might be, the host family should help the au pair find time to attend a language course of some sort.

How does "babysitting" count towards an au pair's weekly hours?

Au pair work hours are limited in many countries. Some unscrupulous families might try to skirt work limits by not counting "babysitting" towards weekly hours… but it definitely counts as work and should be logged as such.

What happens to an au pair's weekly check if she's sick and can't work?

Au pairs barely get paid more than pocket money during the week. If they're ill and can't work, they're still entitled to that pay.

If another family shows up with their children, an au pair can safely do what?

Au pairs aren't walking daycare centers. If other families show up at the house, they can't just dump their children on the au pair and expect them to cooperate.

Au pairs should never be regarded as what?

So you've always dreamed of having your own maid. Look elsewhere, because au pairs are not your personal servants.

In many ideal cases, what do au pairs become?

The au pair relationship is necessarily rather intimate, as the workers help to run the household and take care of offspring. When the arrangement works, it's almost as if they are part of the family.

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