12 Differences Between An Au Pair and A Nanny

au pair at the beach

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Last Updated on November 18, 2021 by Creative Parenting

Trying to figure out the differences between an au pair and a nanny?

We get it. If you’re searching for childcare and trying to figure out the difference between the two…

You’re not alone if you’re mystified about the differences.

We were there too once upon a time. In this post, we unpack 12 differences between an Au Pair and a Nanny.

We’ve had both, so we can help!

Let’s get started.

1. Au Pairs Live With You, Nannies (Usually) Don’t

It’s the beginning of the day and you’re running late.


Your nanny calls and she’s going to be late too!


With an au pair, you never have to worry about them getting stuck in traffic on their way to your house for work!


Because they live with you.


2. You Provide Room and Board for Au Pairs, But Not Nannies

Now in this post we’re NOT talking about live in nannies.


Because we’ve never had one! (So we can’t speak from personal experience about that).

But we did have an au pair last year, and this year we’re doing a nanny share.

That means our nanny doesn’t live with us.

And that’s a BIG difference between au pairs in nannies.

When our au pair lived with us, we had a lot more logistical things to think about!

Food, transportation, bathroom sharing, and more…

Contrast this with our nanny…

She just shows up for work every day.

So far, we’re loving it! But we also loved our au pair experience while it lasted.

3. Au Pairs come from overseas on J1 Visas, Nannies Are (Usually) Hired Locally

Au pairs are usually between the ages of 18 and 26, and come to the U.S. on a J-1 visa.

This visa allows them to work for a period of time in exchange for room and board with the host family.

Nannies are, on average, a bit older. They might have families of their own.

They might simply be working professionals who prefer to work as a nanny rather than at a daycare center.

Nannies come to work in the home of the family they’re employed by in exchange for a salary.

While both au pairs and nannies take care of children, au pairs typically come from abroad while nannies are hired locally.

4. Au Pairs Won’t Know How To Navigate Life In America

Since it’s a new experience for au pairs to come to America, they will have a lot of things to learn and figure out!

Americans have a different way of life – so your au pair will have to learn how things work in America.

They’ll need help navigating the day-to-day, figuring out banking and basic things like going grocery shopping.

They’ll be starting from scratch in a new culture, and they might not have ever been immersed in another culture.

So be patient, and know that you’ll have to show them the ropes more than you would with a Nanny!

There is an upside to this for you thought…

5. Au Pairs Will Want To Go Places In Their Free Time

If you have a car…

They’ll want to use it!

Now, if you don’t have a car obviously this won’t be an option, so you can skip ahead…

But if you do have a car, this means you’ll have to add them to your insurance policy! And exactly how much this costs is going to depend on your insurance carrier, your vehicles, and where you live.

You’ll also need to provide driver training in terms of your own rules, and help them learn the rules of the road before they drive.

You’ll also have to help them navigate your local and state laws for international drivers licenses, and that will vary from state to state!

6. You’ll Be Adding Your Au Pair To Your Car Insurance

The responsibility of covering the au pair on your car insurance is yours.

There are some steps that you need to take so that you don’t get into any trouble…

Here are some tips for adding an au pair to your car insurance:

  • Find the au pair option on your insurance provider’s website
  • Make sure your au pair is listed as a driver on your policy
  • Maintain records of any time the au pair drove the vehicle
  • Report any accidents, collisions, or tickets involving their driving
  • Make sure your au pair understands where insurance documentation is
  • Review what to do in an accident with your au pair

7. It’s A Different Kind Of Relationship

You’ll have a different relationship with your au pair than your nanny.

Au pairs are more like friends or roommates who live with you, whereas nannies are more like employees who show up for work every day.

Now, that isn’t to say that over time, you might become friends with your nanny!

But it’s still different…

Nannies have more of an employer-employee type of relationship with the family that they work for, while au pairs feel more like friends, or some type of co-parenting partner, living in their homes.

8. Au Pairs Are Not U.S. Citizens (But Nannies Might Be)

Your au pair is not a U.S. citizen, so you’ll have to help them figure out how to live in America.

While au pairs aren’t going to qualify for any benefits or assistance, the structure of the program means they shouldn’t have to.

You provide them with room, board, a living stipend, and the program provides insurance.

They will, however, need to get a social security number. They’ll need this to be able to get a driver’s license in many (but don’t quote us on all lol) states out there.

That was our experience with our au pair!

She had an international driver’s license and was well trained (and a VERY experienced driver in Brazil), but it did take her a long time to get a social security number and a driver’s license.

So know that this is another aspect of American life you’ll have to help your au pair navigate, and plan ahead!

9. Au Pairs Will Continue Their Education

Au pairs must enroll in a university here and take classes. The au pair program offers them a chance to study and work at the same time.

This is a part of the program that makes it appealing for a lot of young folks.

They get to do some additional studying without having to commit to a full time academic program, or jump through the hurdles to get into one in the U.S.

10. Au Pairs Aren’t Just There For Childcare

The au pair program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, so it’s not just about providing childcare, it’s about cultural exchange too!

Hosting an au pair is an opportunity for host families to learn more about another culture, and for the au pairs to learn more about American culture.

While you might learn about another culture if your Nanny has a different cultural background than your own…

That the au pair program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of state, and specifically has a cross-cultural focus, means that everyone will be thinking about it from the get go.

11. You’ll Stay In Touch With Your Au Pair When He (or She) Goes Home

One of the amazing benefits of hosting an au pair is the opportunity to build a friendship for life between your family and your au pairs.

From whatsapp to social media and international video calls, it’s never been easier to keep in touch from afar!

Even if you don’t agree with your au pair on everything, and you won’t, it’s still incredible for your kids to keep in touch with him or her and keep learning about their home country for years after.

Our au pair extended her second year to go to warmer weather in California, and we still FaceTime with her.

Our 4 year old knows all about Brazil and even picked up how to count to 10 in portuguese from her.


12. Au Pairs Are Younger On Average Than Nannies

Last but not least, one of the biggest differences – in our experience- between au pairs and nannies is the average age.

From interviewing tons of prospective au pairs and tons of prospective nannies, the nannies are, on average, older.

This isn’t a bad thing either! It’s simply something to be aware of and think about as you conduct your childcare search.

With differences in age can come different perspectives, preferences, childcare norms, and levels of maturity.

Nannies tend to be working professionals looking for steady hours, while an au pair has other goals to consider beyond just taking care of the kids.

There are great things about both!

We’ve had both an au pair and done a nanny share. As with anything in life there’s pros and cons of each.

The important thing is to be aware of the differences so you can have realistic expectations…

And that’s what we’ve tried to help accomplish in this post!

If you have found it helpful, drop us a comment and let us know if you have any questions!

Creative Parenting

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