My name is Rianne, and I am currently 24 years old (21 when I became an au pair in Australia) and originally from the Netherlands. Before becoming an au pair in Australia, I had experience as an au pair in Spain and worked as a PT teacher. I started my au pair journey in January 2020 until November 2020.
Why au pair in Australia?
The inspiration to become an au pair in Australia came from my desire to experience life in a "big" country that was far away from Europe. I was particularly drawn to the cultural and climatic differences compared to the Netherlands.
My matching process
Finding a suitable host family took me approximately two months from the initial contact with the Dutch au pair agency in October 2019. I enquired them if they had any flights planned so I could travel with other au pairs, and they told me they had one in January. I immediately told them I wanted to join that flight and did my best to finish the paperwork as soon as possible. I got all my paperwork done in two weeks and got accepted by my Dutch agency at the beginning of December. A day later I got accepted by Smart Au Pairs in Australia and already had four matches on my profile. Another two weeks later, I signed with a host family, just a month before flying out to Australia. Looking back, I decided too quick and changed my host family after a month, with my second family I felt way better and stayed there for 10 months.
First impressions of my host family
My first host family was professional, independent, and hard-working, which was exactly what I had in mind. However, I later realized that I missed the warmth and family relationships I had experienced with my host family in Spain. I talked to Smart Au Pairs, and they found another family for me. My second Australian host family felt like a perfect fit! They made me feel at home and went above and beyond to support me, especially during the challenges posed by COVID-19 when I was so far away from my family and friends.
My host family
In my first Australian host family, I lived near Bondi Beach, and they had two boys, aged 2 and 4. The house was spacious, with a large backyard, and I had the entire downstairs floor to myself. In my second family, we lived a bit further from the city center, approximately an hour by train. They had a 5-year-old boy and a 7-year-old girl. My bedroom was located across from the children's rooms, and we shared a bathroom.
My day as an au pair
In my first family, I would wake up at 7 AM and work until around 10 AM, when I would drop the children off at daycare. I would pick them up at 3 PM and work until 7 PM, taking care of playtime, dinner, baths, and bedtime stories. On the two days when the children didn't attend daycare, I would handle their entire day routine.
In my second family, I woke up a bit earlier and took the children to school before picking them up in the afternoon. We would have afternoon tea together, do homework, play, and have dinner together when their parents returned from work. During COVID-19, the parents worked from home, and I assisted with home-schooling throughout the year. As no one left the house, we were all together basically all day, every day.
My duties as an au pair
My primary au pair responsibilities in both families included handling morning and after-school routines. This involved waking up the children, preparing breakfast, getting them ready, and driving them to school or daycare in the morning. In the afternoon, I would pick them up, engage in playtime, and oversee dinner preparations.
Best moments with the family
One of my favourite moments with my host family during COVID-19 was spending quality time together, playing for hours or doing arts and crafts. Although it might sound mundane, my favourite memory is playing hide-and-seek together and doing arts and crafts. The pandemic really brought us closer together as a family.
My spare time
In my spare time, I connected with other au pairs through the Smart Au Pair Facebook group, making friends with fellow au pairs in my area. Many suburbs had their own WhatsApp groups, making it easy to stay connected. My friends and I enjoyed activities like running, lunch meet-ups, and weekend explorations of Sydney and other parts of Australia. During COVID-19, we stayed connected through video calls and saved up for future travels once restrictions eased.
Smart Au Pairs events
I participated in the Smart Au Pair welcome week in Sydney, which was a great way to ease into a new culture before meeting my host family. It felt like a mini holiday. I also joined a surf camp in February, where I had the opportunity to meet many other au pairs and learn to surf together.
Challenges during my au pair placement
One of the significant challenges I faced was switching host families, which brought uncertainty and the feeling of starting over. It was a tough decision, but it turned out to be the right one. Additionally, being an au pair during COVID-19 was challenging due to closed borders, making me feel distant from my family and friends. I am thankful for my host mum, who was also far from her family and understood my feelings.
Being an au pair changed my life!
Because the Australian border was still closed when I finished my (already extended) au pair period and my visa was running out, I had to think long and deep about my future plans. I really dived into that Australian ‘no worries, go with the flow,’ mentally and picked all opportunities I could get. First, I ended up working for 3 months on a cattle station in the NT. After these three months I got offered the roll as a governess, based on my au pair experiences. I worked here for a full school year, working with the Schools of the Air, tutoring and attending camp drafts with the family I was working for; at which time I met my partner. My partner and I moved in together at the end of 2021 in far north Queensland and again based on my au pair and now also governess experiences I got a fulltime job in a childcare Centre. In June 2023 my partner and I moved to the central coast, and I now work at a solicitor’s office with my Dutch law degree. If you would have told me in January 2020 when I just moved here that 3,5 years later, I would have had all these memories, I wouldn’t have believed you, being an au pair literally changed the course of my life.
My advice to you
Please just do it! If you are considering it, just go! No matter what type of host family you get, or what your experiences will be like, you will never be able to foresee the impact it can have on the rest of your life and how much you will grow as a person.
Other advice while in Australia: TRAVEL AND EXPLORE! - See below all the places I have visited over the last years.