The benefits and sacrifices of being an au pair London

So you are contemplating becoming an au pair and your location of choice is London.  Au pair London is a popular choice as London itself is the capital of England and has strengths in the Arts, Commerce, Education, Fashion, Finance, Tourism and Transport all helping to contribute to the fact ‘it is the world’s most visited city as measured by international arrivals’ (Source: Wikipedia).  It is also a world culture capital.  It has a diverse range of people and cultures and the restaurant scene is wonderful.  It is quite easy to be overwhelmed by London as there is so much to see and do.  The London underground and the excellent bus service means you can get around London quite easily.  The nightlife is also fabulous.  It is easy to appreciate why London therefore is the location of choice for so many au pair’s.

Tower Bridge at night au pair london backdrop
London’s Tower Bridge by night

The good news for aspiring au pairs is that supply is probably not matching demand.  A quick browse on au pair sites for London jobs or jobs London will confirm this.  A large city like London may not however, suit some au pairs who prefer smaller provincial locations or indeed the open spaces of Ireland. Naturally there are au pair positions in other European and non-European countries and sites such as or will prove useful in providing information on what is needed to be an au pair in these countries. If tempted to au pair in Ireland read here . The driver behind demand for positions as an au pair England or au pair Ireland is the high level of unemployment from young people in their own countries so rather than face unemployment or a dismal job market an au pair appears to be a far more interesting alternative for many young people.

Before you rush out and accept any au pair or fille au pair position or indeed before you search the web for London jobs or au pair jobs London take time to reflect on and determine exactly what an au pair is?  What are the duties and responsibilities, what do you believe will be the benefits and sacrifices, how do you go about finding and au pair London job and importantly why do you want to be an au pair in the first place.  Do your homework thoroughly as this can avoid disillusionment and perhaps tears later on.

So what is an au pair?


An au pair is a young person generally aged 18-30 unmarried with no children who moves to a foreign country to look after a host families children part-time and performs some light housework.  Babysitting on agreed evenings is also quite common, however, all these duties should take place within a 30 hour week, babysitting included. In exchange for this an au pair receives a private au pair room, meals and an agreed monetary allowance. This allowance varies according to the host country but in the UK it ranges between £75-85.  This however is negotiable.  Most au pairs attend language classes either whilst the children are at school or in the evenings.  It definitely is a wonderful opportunity to learn a new language, experience a new culture and learn some valuable life experiences whilst abroad.  Effectively it is a mutual cultural exchange which benefits both the host family and the au pair.  Most au pairs are female however some countries do allow male au pairs.  When French families either in France or in other countries post au pair positions on a website they are referred to ‘fille au pair’.

Au pair is a French term meaning ‘at par’ or ‘equal to’ meaning that the relationship between the host family and an au pair is intended to be one of equals.  The au pair becomes a member of the family for a defined period of time generally not exceeding one year.  An au pair therefore is not a nanny or a domestic servant rather, it is a young person looking to learn a new language and experience a new culture.

The benefits of being an au pair in London, Paris, New York  are that you get to experience and learn a new language, are exposed to a new culture and interact with other nationalities at language classes and socially.  One of the main reasons au pair London is so popular is the fact English is the language of business and is a must-have in many countries when applying for a job.  The idea of living in London with a host family, with defined hours and duties, a private au pair room, meals and approx £80 per week is in itself a life experience. 


Au pair london calling
Au pair London calling!

There are however sacrifices in being an au pair At times it may be hard to live and work in the same space as your host family.  Dealing with the tantrums of a 12 year old or feeding toddlers or dealing with toilet emergencies in say a 4 year old can be challenging.  You will spend a lot of time in your au pair room or quarters doing homework from your language course, streaming movies on your laptop, facetiming friends and family or on Skype to the boyfriend you have left behind. Your host families diet and food may be quite different to yours.  Even if your host family treats you as an adult and do not enforce curfews you are still living in somebody else’s home so you inevitably sacrifice some comfort and independence.  Despite this it is a wonderful way to explore another country, its customs and culture and at the same time make some lifelong friends.


So how do you source an au pair London position?

The most convenient way to source a position is through established and reputable websites that allow host families and aspiring au pairs to post and browse profiles for free.  I have covered all this in one of my other posts au pair world .Once however the host family or au pair wish to exchange personal messages either the au pair or host family must pay a small fee (generally the host family as contact information is locked without a subscription).  Once suitable matches are made then the au pair and host families can get to know each other better.

Video calls, Skype and Facetime are all useful tools in this process.  Flesh out in great detail exactly what your duties will be, working hours, free time, holidays, meals, private au pair room, babysitting and the ability to attend a language course.  Are you expected to drive their car and are you comfortable driving on the left hand side of the road or not.  If so make sure you are included on their insurance.  Propose and discuss a written contract which is for the protection of all involved.  During these discussion bear in mind the host family is also taking a gamble based on video calls or Skype by inviting you into their house and then trusting their children to your care.  It is worth noting that the monetary allowance and weekly hours are defined by the regulations of the respective host country which in the case of au pair London or au pair England is the UK regulations.

au pair london new breakfast!
Hearty English Breakfast…yummy

Some people use agencies also know as nanny services that match candidates with families and provide security in the form of background checks and contracts.  The downside is you personally cannot choose the family.

When taking up an au pair London or an au pair England position be aware that EU and EFTA citizens can enter the UK on a valid passport or identity card. No entry visa required.  You can also benefit from the national health service throughout your stay but must produce your European health insurance card. More information on this European Health Insurance Card.There are charges associated with hospital treatments or dental and some other treatments so it is prudent to bring your own private travel insurance policy as well as your European health insurance card.

If you do not qualify for an entry visa from being an EU citizen then you can apply to be an au pair in the UK under the Tier 5 mobility scheme.


Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme replaces the UK Working Holiday Visa programme.  The Youth Mobility Scheme is for young people who want to live, work and travel in the United Kingdom for a period of up to two years.

The Youth Mobility Scheme is only open to countries which have a special reciprocal agreement with the United Kingdom.  The list of countries participating in the scheme is much smaller than the list of countries participating in the original UK Working Holiday programme.

Currently, only passport holders from the following countries are eligible to apply under the UK Youth Mobility Scheme:

  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Canada
  • Japan
  • Monaco
  • Taiwan

To apply for the Youth Mobility Scheme you must score 50 on a points based assessment process.

Points are allocated in the following way:

  • Nationality – 30 points
  • Age – 20 points
  • Maintenance – 10 points.

For further information click here for the site info overview or

So having done all your research and chosen a family you believe you will be happy with, remember there are never any guarantees it will work out.  There are many examples of horror stories on both sides.  The key to a successful au pair experience should be to discuss the most important aspects of the au pair role well in advance and come to an agreement that is suitable for everyone. 

au pair London guide
Read up before you travel to London

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