Au Pair – Agency Comparison
If you’ve ever yearned for a change of scenery without having to study for it, au pairing is yet another popular option for young people. Essentially, an au pair is a helper from a foreign country who lives with a selected family and shares their tasks and responsibilities. Most of the time, au pairs are responsible for childcare and some household chores. They receive a personal allowance or stipend from their au pair agencies and usually live with the family.
Ideally, an au pair is more than just a helper – it’s a family member. Usually, au pairs tag along with the family, share meals, go out together, and generally leave positive reviews.
If this sounds like something you’d like to do, you might wonder whether you need an au pair agency to get things off the ground.
9 Legit Au Pair Agencies
First, it is possible to find a suitable au pair match even without an agency IN SOME PLACES. For example, most European countries (except for Switzerland and the Netherlands) do not have any laws stipulating that using an au pair agency is a must. In the US, however, working with an agency is the only legal way to find a host family/au pair. It is possible to pre-match through websites like AuPairWorld, but all involved parties must also undergo agency screening.
With that said, it is to be expected that some people are out to get some cash for poor services. After all, agencies cost money, and not everyone is as well-versed in spotting scammers online. Mind you, lots of times, au pairs are teens or very busy families with tons of obligations who either lack the skills or the time to thoroughly check what they’re applying for.
To save you such troubles, here are a few legit agencies to work with:
- Au Pair International. Let’s start with the basics. Au Pair International is structured in a way that accommodates a variety of au pair combinations. Although it is more focused on the US, it has a great selection of European countries you can go to. It is well-known for its customer service, and it provides support throughout the whole process.
- AuPair.com. Here’s one genuinely well-connected organisation. The people here organise au pair matches worldwide, provide guidance and helpful tips to both parties, and are very thorough in advising their applicants. Applicant safety is their top priority, and they are no strangers to counselling in cases of culture shock or issues upon arrival.
- EurAuPair.com. Props to these guys for their sense of humour, but being punny is not their strongest suit. This company focuses on European au pairs who want to come to the USA. It has a solid matching process, ensuring applicant safety and a smooth-sailing experience. Since the US is its primary target, it has country-specific guidance and fosters education, encouraging students to take classes at local colleges and work towards their degrees. It’s like student exchange played on easy mode.
- AuPair4Me is also one of the US-focused au pair agencies with a great variety of options.
- SunflowerAuPair. This is a UK-based au pair agency that does not focus on childcare but on housekeeping. With this agency, you’re more likely to do household chores when needed than exclusively look after kids. It caters to the individual needs of applicants (both hosts and au pairs) and is praised for its impeccable matching.
- AuPairCare. Super-international and intercultural, AuPairCare really does care. The agency goes to great lengths to ensure everyone’s requests are fulfilled.
A few other popular choices include:
- Cultural Care Au Pair – for good resources
- Au Pair in America – great service for au pairs wishing to come to the US.
Whichever agency you choose, you should make sure that you make your needs known, both as a host and an au pair. Whether it’s organisation, language courses, or some time to yourself on particular days, these agencies will do their best to help you.
Show Me the Money: Au Pair Agency Cost Comparison
If you want to get engaged with au pair work, you should know it is not for free for either party. For host families, this means providing accommodation, food, and allowance for their au pairs. For au pairs, it involves planning and agency processes, visa costs, flights, and any personal expenses.
How much can you expect to pay for au pair services then?
As a host, your monthly costs will probably range between 500 and 1500 USD. On top of basic needs, au pair hosts are encouraged to help their au pairs with travel costs, insurance, and language courses. Depending on how stingy they are, this can add another couple hundred bucks to the total sum. However, given that hiring a maid, nanny, live-in help, and even companionship separately costs at least twice as much on a monthly basis, lots of people find getting an au pair to be a good deal.
For au pairs, the highest costs are probably insurance, visa, and flights, which can range between 1000 and 2500 USD depending on what kind of visa you need, where you’re flying from, and how you will be insured (as well as whether your host family helps you out).
When it comes to au pair agency costs, here’s a comparison:
- AuPair.com – 54 USD for premium membership per month + the relevant costs for au pairs (between 10 and 12k per year).
- Cultural Care – 1750 USD, which covers both the agency fees and the basics for au pairs.
- Au Pair in America – 475 USD for the matching process and around 9000 for the annual program.
While prices may vary, 10,000 USD is the bare minimum you can expect to pay, and depending on where you live (and the inflation rates), the total can be as high as 20,000 USD.
Why Are Au Pair Agency Reviews So Bad!?
Here’s the thing – when you go online and look up au pair agency reviews, you may be shocked to see how bad they are. Check this out:
So, what’s up with that?
Firstly, you must consider the following: people complaining about all these au pair agencies are hosts. Hardly ever do you find complaints from actual au pairs. A good deal of one-star reviews is filed by people who were not happy with the teens they hosted regarding their ability. However, one has to ask: what do people expect from teenagers?
Harsh truth time: even though au pairs are cheap compared to nannies and daycare, they should not be stand-in parents for anyone’s children. They are there to HELP; not expected to take on all parental duties.
Another reason behind those seething reviews often lies in various refund policies. For the most part, programs based in the US do not have a refund system, which is stipulated in the contract. Newsflash, people don’t like to read Terms and Conditions and then pull a surprised Pikachu face.
Lastly, here’s a simple truth: are you more likely to write a review when you’re happy or when you’re unhappy with the service you received? That’s right – if you pay attention to the reviews, you will find they often focus on the negatives. Still, considering these au pair agencies have matched thousands of people over the years, they are clearly in the minority.
Therefore, as always, don’t trust everything you see online. In cases of massive international companies, the established track record and ongoing business with thousands of customers speak more than some angry reviews.
Can You Get Au Pair without an Agency?
If you’re not sure whether you can find a good au pair without an agency, the simple and short answer is yes, you can. The more appropriate answer would be one of those beautiful German words – jain (ja+nein). You can get an au pair without an agency in Europe but not the US. This is set up so that the au pairs will have their rights protected rather than being turned into cheap/free labour.
Still, getting an au pair without an agency could result in poor matches, scams, and hoaxes. There is no relevant screening process when you look for au pairs on your own, and the fact is – people lie. Some of them do it extremely well too, and you have no means of finding out.
So, sure, cutting the middleman could save you a couple of bucks, but it could also cost you dearly in cases of poor judgement. Be careful how you go about it.
The Best Au Pair Agency Is the One That Doesn’t Lie!
To revise, if you’re interested in becoming one of the au pair parties (host or au pair), your safest way to do it and have a rewarding experience is to seek a legit au pair agency. Agencies like AuPairCare, EurAuPair, and AuPairInternational are all good choices for starting yourself on a good au pair journey.
While the best au pair agency for you will depend primarily on your personal needs, where you live, and/or where you want to go, there are some telltale signs that an agency is good.
Look out for the following:
- Transparent application and screening process.
- Availability of customer service.
- Breakdown of costs for both parties.
- Easily discernible goals of the agency (e.g. student education or intercultural exchange).
- The matching process.
If you feel like the agency has your best interest at heart, you can proceed. If they are lacklustre about safety, matching, or personal needs, it’s better to look elsewhere. Good luck with your quest!