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Smart Aupairs or Au pair world

(18 Posts)
mumrocks2 Mon 23-Mar-15 20:06:42

I have just entered the world of au pairs having returned to work after a 5 year break. We have a very lovely French girl here until July and now I'm starting my search for another one in Aug. Whilst I do like our current au pair (she's not a witch, clean, tidy etc) I am struggling with communication (I do appreciate it's only week 3) and her lack of ability to be that smiley. I currently feel like I'm holding everyone up emotionally whether that be my 5 year old losing it over the way his cucumber was cut or my daughter (7) who is using every trick in the book to pull on the heart strings to the au pair who sometimes just sits, looks at phone and doesn't speak. So all in all thinking about going for either an English speaker or someone with very good English next time. I find au pair world over whelming and like some sort of weird dating game but have heard mixed reviews about Smart Au pairs. Any views on what the hell to do next????

holeinmyheart Mon 23-Mar-15 23:42:02

Germans are my choice. They usually have excellent English. I had one Italian, never again.
I have a wish list for Au Pairs.
They should have a Mother and Father in the home
They should have an excellent Abatur, ones or twos. ( A Levels)
No only children as they need to have had other siblings to share with.
No smokers of course.
Must be between Grammar School and University. So no older people ie past 21. They know too much and will know their rights and will cause trouble by being too independant.
I advertised in a school in the Black Forest that twinned with a local school and then each Au Pair found the other. I didn't use an agency so unfortunately I can't recommend one.

holeinmyheart Mon 23-Mar-15 23:50:11

Sorry, meant to say that most Secondary Schools have reciprocal arrangements with German Schools as they operate exchanges. Have you got a private school nearby or a Grammar as they will have sought out similar schools in Germany. They will be glad to give you contact details.

It is quite an experience, your first Au-Pair. It is weird having someone live with you. An 18year old is another child really.

You have to have rules from day one , as with my first, she had three weeks in bed with a cold. I had half an hour with the same cold, worked full time and looked after her, and had to go to work.
You need a healthy Au-Pair, that's for sure.

HRHQueenMe Tue 24-Mar-15 08:05:06

Au pair world is great, just narrow your choices down. If you want perfect English then Scandinavians or Dutch is your choice. They leave school at 18/19.
My list of perfect applicants:
Must have lived away from home (we cant have homesickness) ideally looking for second au pair experience.
Must have younger siblings ideally oldest in sibling group.
Has a clear idea of why they want to be an au pair and have plans for their stay ie anything from wants to see certain landmarks, visit the Cotswolds, go to concerts etc.
finally I choose someone who sounds like someone you would get on with in their application, i look for someone who writes what I would have written at that age.
20 is an ideal age, you need them to be independent and have their own ideas and be aware of their rights, how else will they instill good values and look after your children well? In my opinion the older the better. I dont understand your comment holeinmyheart, it sounds like you want someone to exploit who wont say no?
I would recommend a young adult, treated fairly and like a third adult in the family who has a say in the way she works. This has worked well for us we have had some amazing girls who run the household like superheroes.
Lay down strict rules from day one and ask for imput at weekly meetings and you will find that a few months in everyone knows exactly how we roll and things run smoothly.
Its all about recruiting the right person. Choose well, interview well, treat your au pair well and fair and you will have a great experience.

Karoleann Tue 24-Mar-15 09:14:36

We use au pair world, we tried using an agency but they were useless.

We only have older au pairs for driving insurance purposes 22-26, but I wouldn't want a mopey teenager in the house anyway. Older than about 26 they struggle to fit in with the other local au pairs.

Other must haves:

Lived independently and preferably had a job before.

Like children (I'm not convinced our first au pair did!)

No boyfriend!

Degree

I prefer someone who speaks upper intermediate English as the English classes give them a good reason to be here. Generally if they are paying for English classes they won't leave with no notice.

Non-smoker.

Not a fussy eater and not hugely overweight.

I put a ad on au pair world with our requirements and then send the suitables responses a fact sheet, if they're happy with all the info, then I arrange to SKYPE them all over a weekend.

I found the second time around easier to recruit as the potential au pairs could speak to our current au pair and find out about us too!

holeinmyheart Tue 24-Mar-15 09:56:08

Mmmm well I didn't mean HRH Queenme that they wouldn't be allowed to have rights and I certainly didn't exploit them. I am still in touch with most of them and have been on holiday to see one recently in Berlin. I meant that if they were too old, well travelled etc, that they might dictate to you rather than meeting your needs.

A friend had one who was in their thirties and I thought it was a mistake. She was too old and she had no intention of staying as an Au Pair. She dictated to my friend and was sacked in the end.

I thought your advice was fairly spot on HRHQueenme but I am not too sure about the age advice.

I didn't have an AU Pair until my children could speak and were at school. I think they had it relatively easy with some DCs being at Boarding school. I paid for flights, they came on holidays abroad. I paid for language school and facilitated them meeting my friends Au-Pairs. I gave them a bonus at Christmas and at the end of the year.

FlappertyFlippers Tue 24-Mar-15 13:57:44

I'm on au pair world. I've learnt to be VERY specific I my requirements. My au pair must

Speak very good english

Have younger siblings

Have lived out of their family home for at least a year

Be someone who actively interacts and plays enthusiastically with the dc.

I have discovered that age isn't a great indicator of maturity, I have had a fantastic 19 year old and a fantastic 30 year old, but also a nightmare 26 year old.

During interviews (via skype and email messages) really find out why they want to come to the UK and why they want to be an au pair. (the 26 year old teenager had just split up with her boyfriend and was basically running away from her life back home, which led to her bringing a cloud of misery to our house for 3 months)

Also, if your current au pair is attached to her phone whilst your daughter is trying to play with her then then why not have a chat and explain that you'd like for her to not use her mobile during working hours as this is time she needs to be focusing on the children and not her facebook.

OVienna Tue 24-Mar-15 15:36:27

I am really struggling for next year. We started early becuase I was thinking about possibly changing after Easter, but that didn't happen. I feel so jaded now - hundreds of applications on AP World again, people who don't read the ad but it actually takes time to reply no. You know there are some gems out there - probably - but it's very hard to sort through all the people. I have had an unusual number of people applying with their profiles in their native language. Is this on the rise? I've never had this before.

We used to stick to German school leavers too but now that one of my DCs will be 11 rising 12 with the next one, they are feeling really young to me. I totally get what PP have said though about being a bit old for the role too - I can't see what a 25 year old would get out of being a 'big sister' on �90 p/w if they've lived and worked away from home and if they HAVEN'T by that point we aren't likely to have much in common with them. I don't need a driver though.

One of the candidates this year has perfect English - I am also wondering if she'll get bored. I am also thinking intermediate English and going to English classes is better because it gives the AP more a focus for the year.

We currently have someone who has lived on her own before - has needed the most handholding of all of them, by far. She is also an only child but for me it's not so much that she's an only child; the main marker for us is have they ever CHOSEN to be involved in activities with children? If not, that's a red flag in our experience. Having brothers and sisters isn't that much of an indicator of affinity for the role if they're roughly the same ag3e. Our best au pair was the oldest of four children and had to help her mum round the house - but also wanted the freedom of being on her own, was really ready for it.

There is no magic formula though. I'm thinking of just using a dart board approach next year.

mumrocks2 Tue 24-Mar-15 21:08:35

Thank you so much for all your advice. I agree, I need to filter the candidates more and really only speak to those that are really interested in being in a village etc. Wish me luck - a night on au pair world awaits....

MezleyM Wed 25-Mar-15 15:08:02

Just recruited my 3rd from APW...in fact I left most of it to my current AP who is having to go home due to family illness. Interesting how everyone has their own preferences - I like them to be degree educated and over 23 (massively reduces the car insurance), sporty and like dogs! My last two have been male - they are much more independent, and as I have DS's they seem to fit better. They have also all been Spanish - the economy there is truly dire and learning English is a genuine motivator. Because I am happy to have males I am inundated with applications (over 100 in 5 days), so can be very picky...must have sent a personal message for example. But I also go on gut feeling, those that respond quickly and are keen are usually good indicators. And if possible, have a cross over period with new and old together - very helpful as the AP's know far more about the AP scene than I do so they settle in quicker.

Radiatorvalves Wed 25-Mar-15 15:16:47

I use an agency. My last 3 have been male and have all been excellent...still in touch with all of them. With 2 DSs it is fantastic to have someone who is happy to kick a football about.

My other requirement is they must not be an only child. Maybe I am being unfair, but the only time we had an only AP, she was a pain in the arse. A total princess and always right. Grrr.

PrintScreen Wed 25-Mar-15 18:52:37

Like others we use au pair world but set very strict criteria. We require:
German (all our local friends get Germans too and then they have a ready made start pack of au pair friends)
19 or 20 on gap year before uni
No boyfriend
Have siblings
Good English
They must send a personal message or they are deleted
Admit to wanting to be an AP partly for the London social life: show intention to go out regularly

Re phones we have a rule of no social media when on duty.

We have had great experiences with au pairs and are ex au pairs feel like extended family.

chloeb2002 Wed 25-Mar-15 19:54:58

Some of this has made me chuckle....
So we use ap world too.
Girls, German, non smokers, siblings yes ( we have 4 kids so they need to be used to chaos), 18 up. ( car insurance not a problem in Aus) I would avoid over 20. They should be working by then or finishing uni with huge debt and need money ��. Even tho uni is cheaper in Germany.
I prefer 12 months. Every time we have someone for 6 they stay 12 anyway!
I'm a little shocked that the suggestion their parents had to be together. Urrr no. Kids are not responsible for the parents marriage.
We used a uk agency for our first au pair. Nightmare. Total nightmare! Huge expense. They don't do any checks.
Oh and I don't care what grades they are going to get. My ideal au pair may go into work in childcare or be a teacher, not a rocket scientist. wink
They have to eat virtually everything. No veggies, vegans etc.
No animal allergies. We have lots!
Not neat freaks... wink

Metrobaby Wed 25-Mar-15 21:32:32

We're an experienced host family and have had a number of very successful au-pairs. We've also had a couple of disasters too. As OVienna correctly states - there is no magic formula at all. It is due to luck. Even with many interviews, references, emails etc; until they actually arrive, and spend a few days with your family, will you actually know if they are any good or not.

We always invite them over for a trial weekend (which we pay for), and if there are any doubts, we cut our losses. if a trial weekend is not possible, I make a decision within three weeks of their arrival whether to keep them. Unsuitable au-pairs rarely improve over the long term, and usual revert to their bad habits quickly.

I never use agencies any more. They are a waste of money, and are purely concerned in placing au-pairs anywhere as they will be paid both by the host family and the au-pair. I don't believe agencies are acting for the welfare of either the family or the au-pair. There are plenty of enthusiastic, experienced girls on Au-Pair world - just be sure to ask for copies of ID, police check, health certificate, job references.

My loose criteria I use when sifting through the many applicants on APW is:-
Experienced with children - ideally babysitting as the skills involved here are very similar to what I need
Actually enjoy being with children (only can be evidenced on the trial weekend or when they arrive)
Have patience with children (again only can be evidenced in person)
German/Austrian (Due to excellent standard of English)
Gap year students (Tend to be still in school mode of being quite conformist and actually more sensible than new grads).
Must have worked in some capacity (and therefore have a good work ethic)
Have a sunny personality (makes a real difference as they will be living with you)

Finally, i try to remember when recruiting and wading through the applicants, you have to kiss many frogs before you find the one!

Metrobaby Wed 25-Mar-15 21:47:13

Mumrocks - have you decided to actually give notice to your current AP, and look for another one?

I do recommend that you put together a sheet of basic houserules, and also, if you haven't already, have a contract in place. This sets out your expectations very clearly. This can prevent problems such as using social media when they are meant to be looking after your dc.

BitterChocolate Sat 28-Mar-15 20:47:07

I use APW. I usually get male au pairs, because they are more likely to tolerate the hours and hours of football that my DC play, but I leave it open for both to apply. They have to be at least 25 yrs old because otherwise the car insurance would be shocking. They have all either coached sports or worked at children's summer camps or similar, so I know that they are energetic and used to rowdy kids. All my au pairs so far (we are on our fifth) have been Spanish, but other nationalities have been short listed.

I always ask a few questions by email and then have a Skype interview. I allow the DC to ask a few questions as I think that if the interviewee can engage with them over Skype then it's a good sign for getting along with them in person.

Gamechanger Sat 14-Nov-15 11:27:11

All, I have made a special effort to log in to warn people not to use Smart Au Pairs. I used them several years ago when my ex-partnern walked out leaving me as the breadwinner with a 2 and 3 year old to look after. They clearly did not vet people and I suspect they probably marketed au pairing as a cheap way to live in London. They sent four yound women over a two year period. One had been in therapy since the age of 16 and told me she had been thrown out of her parents house several time. She also seemed to have diabetes, not sure, and also claimed one evening to have been involved in the death of her sister as a child. She was argumentative and obnoxious. The second young lady was brilliant - but Smart au pairs had not been the vetting agency, they had taken her on from another agency. The third, I'll cme back to. The fourth I asked for somone who could drive. She wsa italian and not only was she a danger to passengers and other road users, she cause £100s worth of damage to the car so I had to ask her to leave. The fourth kept staying out until 4-5pm, waking the house up. I asked her to stay out or come back earlier (11pm cut off) so she then stayed out until 2pm! I asked her to leave. The third was a psychopath who seemed nice on the surface. I discovered she had been taking the boys to places across London without my consent. She was also was bulimic, scheming and ultimately a thief. I was devastated when she came back to my house without my permission and stole my favourite, expensive leather jacket. I still feel violated by her actions. The peace in my household was destroyed by these people. Smart au pairs is a disgrace.

skitskatdoodle Sat 29-Oct-16 00:43:42

Would just like to add, my advice to anyone is to steer clear of Smart Aupair. I have had 2 disastrous au pairs from them and they have no interest in working with the aupair or family to help when things get difficult. They will move the au pair on as quickly as possible to get cash out of the next unsuspecting parents.

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