The word "au pair" comes from the French. The original meaning is: "reciprocity". Currently, an au pair is a person who helps a family to take care of their children and in exchange receives free accommodation and food and also a small remuneration.
The history of the au pair
In the 18th century in Switzerland, families of high social classes used to send their daughters abroad or to another part of Switzerland where another language was spoken so that they would stay for a time with other families. The idea was for the ladies to learn another language and have international experiences. The official denomination for those ladies was "daughters of the house". They lived in the homes of the families and as compensation, they helped to take care of the children.
The word "au pair" appeared for the first time at the end of the 19th century in France. Au pairs were the young English girls who came to France to teach English to children in French families. On the other hand the au pairs wanted to improve their knowledge of French.
Au pairs nowadays
The word "au pair" nowadays is used for young people who work in an au pair family in exchange for accommodation, food, health insurance and a small remuneration in order to learn another language and know the culture of another country.
The word "au pair" then defines that as an au pair you provide a service and that is why the family also gives you something in return. This clarifies that an au pair program is not about a business or an employment contract. On the contrary, the aspect of cultural exchange is the most important. Your integration as an au pair in the family is fundamental: As an au pair you are not an employee but an important part of the family.
A variation of the classic au pair is a demi-pair. The difference between a demi pair and an au pair is that as a demi pair you support the family only for half a day. During the other part of the day, in the mornings or afternoons, you can take language classes in a language school, for example.
At the European level the au pair program is controlled by the "European Agreement on the placement of au pair", adopted in 1969 in Strasbourg.
The au pair program is not only for women, there are also many men who enroll in programs of this type. In this case, the official name is au pair girl or au pair boy. While years ago families trusted more in a woman to take care of their children, now more and more families value the help of an au pair boy. Especially if there are many children in the family, an au pair boy can think easier about activities specifically for boys and so the family and the au pair boy are happier.
Stay abroad without expenses
As a young person you can finance a stay abroad almost without having to participate in an au pair program. The great advantage for you of spending a year abroad as an au pair is that from the beginning you have an already established infrastructure: you have the security of your au pair family, familiar family structures, food and social contacts. This way you can focus more on learning the language and getting to know a new culture. Supporting the family as an au pair - taking care of the children and helping with small domestic jobs - you can see the typical life of the country and learn the language even better.
As an au pair, you will help the au pair family with small domestic jobs and take care of the children. Work at home includes preparing meals, setting the table, putting dishes in and out of the dishwasher, vacuuming, washing clothes or passing the broom.
The works that have to do with taking care of children normally …
Playing with them
Leave and look for children in the kindergarten
Help them with putting on and taking off their clothes and helping them with their homework