What is it like being an au pair in Italy? My experience living and working with kids in Milan
Wondering what it’s really like being an au pair in italy? Here’s my personal experience joining the ranks of temp nannies on the Med. This isn’t the typical au pair in Italy blog about lavish beach holidays with a jetsetting family, but could help you find solid work abroad! Of course, I can’t speak for other au pair experiences, but I’ll sprinkle in some handy tips on finding a good host family.
Finding the right au pair job in Italy
So here’s the story. First, I booked a flight to Rome at the end of a toasty summer, a lovely change from my last job in Iceland and I figured that since I already had experience working with children, it would be easy to pick up an au pair job.
The main appeal of being an au pair was the simplicity of a homestay and flexibility. I figured it was time to give it a shot.
I guess it’s important to be honest, though, that travel doesn’t always work out the way we plan. Rome was exquisite, but every day I went to interviews and received no offers. I guess I just wasn’t the au pair Rome wanted. I was lodging in an Airbnb, so money was flowing and I panicked a bit. You should know that even after a good few travels, I always, always panic about money.
How to find a good host family
I jumped online and looked further afield, but still hunting for a job working with kids in Italy. I found a site that would match me with families without the formal agency process (and agency fees). I’d have to vet the family myself and get my own insurance.
The site was GreatAuPair.com, but there are heaps of others, just as good. I had a good experience with this site, but I’m not affiliated with them in any way.
It only took a week of searching. I uploaded a profile with photos, completed some site ID checks and sent out a stock message to suitable families, hoping someone would bite.
The result was a sweet family in Milan, a mum and dad and just one 3 year old blonde boy. They said they were keen mainly to have me help their son become bilingual and to play and tutor him at home, a kind of holiday nanny until he was ready to start at nursery.
I had one Skype interview, then booked a train to Milan to start the job, feeling somewhat nervous.
Tip, if your prospective host family has ever had an au pair, ask for that girl’s email. You will get a clear picture of the family from what she says!
What is it like being an au pair in Italy?
I think my host family were pretty atypical! They were very softspoken and sweet natured. In fact, they told me their last au pair had upset them by having too boisterous a voice, so I was quite conscious of that. I’m not particularly loud, but I got used to keeping my voice down all the time.
Get ready for a shocker. The mum told me that she preferred to do all the cooking and cleaning herself, and that I should focus only on her son. I don’t think that’s common for au pair jobs in Italy, but it was my honest experience!
We agreed that I would receive all my meals with the family and a small 50 euro allowance per week, plus I had my own small room in their town flat. They lived in a suburb of Milan, so I often had to pay the train fare into the city and that’s where a lot of my money went. I also sometimes bought my own food because I have a big appetite and didn’t want to eat them out of house and home.
They didn’t pay for language lessons, but I arranged my own at the Milan town hall. The whole semester cost only 200 euros, so definitely check your town hall for cheap classes.
Italy was just as fabulous I had hoped, with stunning food, gorgeous villages and great culture. I joined some social groups in the city, made a few precious friends and spent weekends travelling to Liechtenstein and the tiny nation of San Marino.
What is au pair work like?
Speaking from my experience, it was 5 hours work per day playing and caring for a child.
Unfortunately, things didn’t go smoothly. Remember that ex-au pair I mentioned the family having had? When I arrived they nervously told me that she had somehow upset their son and he was very suspicious of anyone new.
This proved to be a big problem!
Try whatever I would, playing and coaxing him in Italian, he never trusted me and would fly into tantrums everyday the moment that I entered his room. We tried everything, but he never warmed to me and it was a battle from the get go. It seemed impossible to have him accept the situation. I was so surprised, because I’d just left a five year old in Iceland who took to me like a duck to water! I also have years of experience as a language tutor for kids, but had never been in a situation like this.
Im not blaming the family however, they were so nice about it and continued to say that it was to do with the past and not my fault- I’m not sure if that was really the case!
I offered to stay without my weekly allowance as I felt I wasn’t having a big enough impact to deserve it. The family very generously refused that, and instead had me teach another family member several hours a week, so I was more valuable.
After a few months, I decided to cut my losses and go home for Christmas, then on to a new adventure in Australia. All au pair host family experiences are different, so next time it might be totally different!
So do you need experience to work as an au pair?
If you go via an agency, then, yes definitely.
But, if you arrange the placement without really using an agency; you’ll need to show the family you have sufficient skills with children to know what you’re doing. That might include babysitting, voluntary work, or looking after a younger sibling.
Should you use an agency to find au pair jobs?
I think the only way to decide is by weighing up the pros and cons.
If you use an agency you will receive:
- better security and protection
- help getting a work visa (but I didn’t need this, as I am from the EU)
- paid language lessons and a maximum of 30 hours work per week over 6 days
- BUT you will have to pay a cut to the agency and you will be bound by a tight contract
So is being an au pair in italy worth it?
It certainly won’t make you rich! But it’s a great way to grab worth abroad easily and keep travelling. The food was great, laced with olive oil and the freshest bread. I never felt overworked or mistreated, but often like I needed to watch so much more Supernanny to understand children. There definitely wasn’t any glam globetrotting or being whisked on pricey holidays, like some au pairs report. A good host family will look after you as well as employ you.