Let’s get down to specifics. You are between the ages of 18 and 28. You have studied German for at least 6 months. You want to be an au pair in Austria. How do you go about it?
Surprisingly, it’s not all that complicated.
There are multiple ways to go about this, but I am going the “traditional” route, through an agency. There is an international organization called the International Au Pair Association. Their member agencies agree to a certain amount of accountability for how and with whom their au pairs are placed. If an agency is not a member of this organization, I would be wary about working with them. I am going through an agency based in Vienna/Wien, called AuPair Austria. They have been excellent to work with, very kind and efficient (or as efficient as they can be with a six hour time difference and slow postal service between us!).
I mailed them my application, which included a letter explaining why I want to au pair, photos of me with my family and friends, a transcript showing the German classes I’ve taken, a medical form, and a detailed questionnaire about my requirements. For example, I wanted to be close to a city, and did not want a newborn infant. You can specify the number of children you wish to care for, whether they have pets, etc. I also paid the agency a fee of €50 to find me a family. I personally think that paying the agency was worth it. They screen their families, and offer you recourse if the family does not fulfill their side of the contract. They also will answer questions and help with the visa procedures. Moving across the world to live with strangers could be a scary proposition. For me, this route offered the most security, and they did all the work for me! Worth it.
So, within two weeks of receiving my application, the agency sent me the profile of the H. family. They had already shown my application to Doris, and she was interested, so now the ball was in my court to send her an email. We hit it off right away, exchanging long emails for a period of about three weeks to get to know each other. Then we had a conversation over Skype, in which we discussed particulars, and three days after that, I received a job offer from the family. It really was that simple.
We agreed upon the terms of our contract, and let the au pair agency know. Today, I am mailing the signed contract to Wien!
In case you are curious, the amount of money an au pair receives is set by the Austrian government at €483,50 per month, plus a private lockable room, and all meals included. The family must also pay for half of your German courses. You are guaranteed at least one full day a week off (although as the expectation is only that you will work 20-25 hours a week, in most cases you will have more), and (per federal law) all employees receive 5 paid weeks of vacation per year. Yes, please let that sink in.
So, my contract will be from January 1st to August 31st 2014. However, the H.s have asked me to come in November and use their house as a base to travel around Europe. (I think this bodes well for how great they will be as employers!) My plan is to spend a week in London and a week in Rome, then to do some shorter trips around Austria during this time. Their current au pair will leave right before Christmas, so we will have a couple of weeks to transition, in which she can show me all the ins and outs of living in Krenglbach. Then I will stay with the family over the holidays, and start work with the new year!
It’s an amazing opportunity to learn about a new culture, a fantastic way to travel and have adventures, and it wasn’t even difficult! Of course, I haven’t applied for my visa yet, and judging by the long, complicated, and dehumanizing experience I had applying for a UK Student Visa, it might actually kill me.
But I’ll keep you posted!