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Questions Prospective Au pairs could ask Interested Host Families.
If you already begun your host family search, you no doubt are aware that a large majority of host families, if not all, will want to schedule a phone or audio interview session with you, prior to making a final decision about 'taking you on board'.
Most prospective au pairs especially first time prospective au pairs, are usually too happy and relieved to have found a host family, to care about asking them questions about themselves, However experience has taught many au pairs the importance of asking the interested host families the right questions. As a prospective au pair,this interview session with the interested host family serves to give you ideas, among others, of the kind of family you would be living with (their interests, occupations...), their expectations of the au pair, the host family's neighbourhood, and much more.
Below I have compiled a range of questions that prospective au pairs could ask interested families. However, instead of just providing you with a list of questions, (as is most commonly done), I have also provided some commentaries that are meant to help you the prospective au pair understand (roughly) why you would need to ask interested au pair host families certain questions.
1.) Au pair Job-Related Questions
What are the children's names, their interests and hobbies?
The reasons for asking this question are pretty obvious.
What are the children like?
You want to have a rough idea about the character and personalities of the children. One could of course question the the parents' objectivity, but nobody knows their young children better than would their parents. But hey, just don't expect the parents to tell you that their children are monsters ;-)
Where do you live (countryside, village, small town, large city)?
If they live on a farm in the countryside in the middle of nowhere and you are a city girl...need I say more?
Will I be only responsible for looking after the children or will I be expected to take on other household tasks?
You want to be fully aware of what is expected of you.
Have you ever had an au pair before?
If the family had a previous au pair and had a good relationship with their previous au pair (s), they may encourage you to get in touch with them. Remember that the family will ask you for references, so if it is possible for you to also get a better picture of them through talking to their previous au pair, why shouldn't you? Also, always keep in mind that ideally, an au pair arrangement is an agreement between equals.
Finally, if the previous au pair is still around, s-he may also help you settle in and may be a source of useful tips that would ease your transition into the family and into your new environment.
How do the children feel about having an au pair? / How do/did they feel about the previous au pair leaving?
You want to have time to mentally prepare yourself to be able to handle comparisons and parallels that the children might initially draw between you and the previous au pair. If their experiences with the previous au pair were negative, then you will need to work towards overcoming the negative image left behind. If on the other hand the children had a super relationship with the previous au pair, then you can expect to have them occasionally make you to feel like you could never be as good as the previous au pair... But hey, don't sweat it: all that fades away with time.
What amount of pocket money would you give?
You want to be sure that they will not be underpaying you.
How many hours a week will I work (maximum number)?
Will I be expected to work overtime?
How often will I be expected to work overtime?
What would be the childcare arrangements during school holidays?
What are your (host parents') occupations?
What are your (host parents')working hours?
With these six questions, you want to be sure that the host parents are not looking for a full time nanny disguised as an au pair (you). Unfortunately, that happens a lot ! I debated on the issue of regular overtime work for au pairs here: "Au pairs Working Overtime"
These questions would also enable you to have a rough idea of your free time hours.
With the latter two questions, you would want to know their work schedules: Are they employed in regular 8 am to 5 pm- kind of jobs or are they 'shift employees' with irregular work schedules,(as is the case of doctors and nurses)
Will I live in or out of your house? What is my room like?
Some might consider the second question trivial, but ask any au pair and they will tell you how important it is to have a room where you feel OK. It should have adequate source of light, windows that can be opened for fresh air, a comfortable bed and mattress, a desk where you can study, a wardrobe and just as importantly, a door! Here's a certain au pair's story that shows the importance of this question: "Living in a Hallway"
2.) Getting-to-Know-the-Family questions:
Could you tell me what a typical weekday is like for your family?
How do you spend your weekends as a family?
How and where do you spend your holidays?
(If the family travels elsewhere for holidays, ) Will I be expected to accompany you to your holiday destination?
As the title suggests, these kind of questions will give you a rough idea about the family (their interests, their hobbies, their habits...).
3.) Au pair's-Life-beyond-the-Family Questions
What is your neighbourhood like?
If the family lives in an apartment, You and the children will go crazy if you cannot go out to a park or playground close by!
Are there parks and playgrounds around?
How far is the closest language school that I could attend?
This is where you are most likely to and will most easily make friends and meet other au pairs like you.
I need not over-emphasize the advantages of having fellow au pairs in the neighbourhood.
Do you know if there are au pairs living in or close to your neighbourhood?
Would you be fine with me spending my free time away from your home?
You want to be sure that the host family you are going to live with understands that it/they will be hosting an adult who is also interested in having a social life beyond them and their home.
Is public transportation available?
You want to be sure that you will not find yourself isolated from the rest of humanity...
How far is the closest public transportation stop (bus stop, train, tram...)?
If not available, will I have access to a car?
Would you be fine with me inviting friends over for visits?
This might come as a shock you but it is not unusual to come across au pair host families that do not permit their au pairs to have friends over for visits. Scandalous, eh? Others on the other hand are fine with the au pair inviting a friend or inviting a fellow au pair over for a sleep-over.
Will I have access to the family's computer and internet access ?
If your host family lives in an area where public transportation is non existent; they live 100 kilometres away from the closest urban centre and they do not have an internet connection at home, you are bound to get depressed!
4.) Getting-to-know-the-parents questions
How do you (the parents) react when one of your children is being overly rude and disobedient ?
You want to know their parenting style.
How would you expect me to act if this happened while you were away ?
How do you spend your weekend evenings? Do you go out often?
You want to know whether you will be expected to babysit all weekends (which should not be the case).