Who has not heard of Paris, Venice, London, Florence, Prague and Brussels? These are amazing cities, places to name a few that are different from what we have in our country– and to visit them remain to be just a dream for most Filipinos. One cannot deny that these places are delightful with their resplendent beauty, architecture and history. Numerous movies have used them as backdrop for many love stories, notwithstanding thousands of books vividly describing their magnificence.
Their small quaint towns with small alleys, stone houses, cobble ways, small stores, and coffee shops are easily inviting as well, there, you might be tempted to stay, and taste a different life and culture.
People have different reason for going in a foreign country. For the wealthy, it is always for fun and relaxation; they can well afford it so these places become a yearly destination. For many it is to look for a better life, a new country always promises a greener pastures, others go to study and learn a new language, and others to marry and start a family. Whatever the reason is – it takes a lot of money to move from one country to another, be it for a short stay or permanent residency.
The travel expenses are enormous, with the biggest chunk of the budget going to the plane ticket. Notwithstanding the processing fees, you need to pay, in securing for a visa, and necessary insurances that you are required to have before you take the trip. The accommodation is the next big problem as it means finding a safe, but not so expensive, and yet not shabby place to stay while you are in that country. In addition, of course, the money for food, and transportation allowance you need in getting around the city and towns.
However, there is good news. Going to another country even for the young people are not so impossible after all.
Whoever thought of this “au pair” is a genius. Since he knows that, many couples in the western and European countries need nannies to look after their children while they work — but cannot afford to hire one — made it possible for these families to get nannies without breaking their bankbooks. Just provide her room to stay and free food and an allowance and they can already have a nanny.
It becomes affordable for these couples because an au pair do not receive a salary but only an allowance, which is minimal, compared to what a regular nanny receives. A mutual benefit is established in the form of light chores, watching and tutoring the children, in exchange for free board and lodging.
This arrangement makes it possible for the underprivileged young adventurous girls to go to a country, stay there for a while, and be able to have a safe place to live with a family to help them get around. The family covers everything from the transportation, accommodation and food.
Moreover, I must admit this arrangement for me is fraught of worries.
The most popular au pairs are young single girl’s ages 18-30 years old. They will live with a family, and experience life in that country in exchange for babysitting and doing as they say, “light chores”. She will be largely dependent on the family, while she stays in their home. She is not considered an employee, as she will be treated as part of the family. A set up that makes this arrangement very tempting and as sweet as a honey. It will make possible for the young and adventurous girls who want to be able to live in another country – take light courses abroad – as it is allowed, and learn a new language while earning some money.
It can be likened to the extended family tradition in a Filipino household, where relatives come to stay for a long period. The relatives help around the house, as a means of being useful in exchange for free board and lodging. The good thing here is — there is less anxiety for an au pair to be away from home because she is not considered an employee, but a family member by her host family.
To ensure this — the agencies that facilitate this kind of arrangements will do a thorough matching up of au pair and the host family. They make sure that both parties match in not only personalities and characters, but also most importantly in terms of expectations, and limitations.
However, you cannot expect to experience a bed of roses in this kind of arrangement, as the culture itself presents a big challenge for both the host family and the au pair. Each at some point will not be so truthful in presenting himself in the screening process, because of the eagerness to be approved. These may not be big lies, but can be a reason for each to resent the other, and may result to not finishing the contract, and make the pairing unsuccessful.
In addition, not to mention the risk a young girl has to face living with strangers. It is not saying that a domestic helper does not face it, but being an au pair opens up a new dimension, as she is considered a family member. Therefore, her exposure to all the members of the family specifically the male members is more open, and can be an avenue for abuse.
To compare an au pair to a domestic helper has a slight, but clear distinction. Being a domestic helper puts a clear-cut boundary on how the family is going to relate to her, which is being an employee. Her rights are clearer. Moreover, her relationship with the family is solely between an employee and employer. It does not mean though that she will be treated differently, or the family will be colder to her– it only commands both parties that specific laws apply to their contract, and they should strictly follow it.
Au Pairs can be girls as young as 18, which is too young in my opinion to venture in another country, and live with strangers. She has not gained enough experience to deal with people, and extricate herself from unpleasant situation if the need arises. She is vulnerable and can easily be frightened and rattled by adults who are more experienced and knowledgeable.
So just like any other adventure, your au pair experience can be a success, or a failure, depending on how well you have prepared yourself. To be always on a safe side, read everything about the subject, listen to those who have experienced it, and do not be too eager.
Being an au pair can be fun, as what others have experienced. But be wary of bad stories as well, they do exist– so learn from them.