Freebie: 100 Au Pair Interview Questions & Tips

Au pair vs nanny? What’s the difference?

And how do you decide which is best for you?

If you’re trying to figure out the differences between the two and you’re mystified:

We get it.

You’re not alone.

We were there too once upon a time. So in this post, we unpack 18 differences between an Au Pair and a Nanny.

We’ve had both, so we can help!

Now, if you don’t even know what an au pair is, check out our post What Is An Au Pair?

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.

Then:

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

Ugh!

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

Why?

Because they live with you.

Awesome!

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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).

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

While our au pair lived with us for about a year, our nanny does not. 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. Things like 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. There are pros and cons to both situations.

3. Au Pairs Come From Overseas on J1 Visas, but Nannies Are 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 some time in exchange for room and board with the host family. Nannies are, on average, a bit older, and at least where we live they are more commonly hired locally. They might have families of their own.

In our experience, many of the nanny candidates we interviewed were working professionals who prefer to work as a nanny rather than at a daycare center.

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

There’s a lotta bureaucracy in America. They’ll need help navigating it.

4. Au Pairs Likely 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 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 cost 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 laws of the road before they drive.

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

Got a car? Don’t forget to figure out how to add your Au Pair to your insurance.

6. You’ll Have To Add 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, and 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!

Your Au Pair will continue his or her education by taking a course online or at a local college.

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 simultaneously.

This is a part of the program that makes it appealing to 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.

FaceTime with your Au Pair

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 pair.

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

Even if you disagree 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.

Awesome!

12. Au Pairs Are Younger On Average Than Nannies

One of the biggest differences – in our experience- between au pairs and nannies is the average age.

In our experience, nannies are, on average, older.

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

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

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

13. Au Pairs Give You Flexibility You Wouldn’t Have Otherwise

When you’re a parent with children, your schedule can change from one day to the next.

And if you work, juggling the demands of parenting can be a tough challenge.

Plus, the demands are changing as your children get older. So it’s beneficial to have a childcare solution that can be adaptable to the shifting demands placed on you.

This is where the flexibility of an au pair can be a big advantage over other types of childcare, like nannies.

Since n au pair lives with you and becomes part of your family, they’ll understand you so much better than a nanny ever wood.

For example:

If your schedule changes, theirs can too.

An au pair can be very flexible in their schedule and are often able to help out on short notice. On the other hand, nannies typically have a schedule they adhere to.

Bottom line?

There are great things about both!

14. Au Pairs are Household Members But Nannies Are Community Members

Have you ever traveled to a town or city where you felt at home?

It’s amazing, isn’t it?

For a lot of folks that could be Europe or New York City or some other big city on the coasts. For others, it might be the country or some rural area.

Now, think about when you had to spend time somewhere you weren’t excited to be.

That gets on your nerves and annoys you like fingernails scraping a chalkboard.

Ever thought about the difference?

It’s the sense of community. You feel part of something. And so it is with hosting an au pair vs. a nanny.

An au pair is more likely to be looking for a community and experience, but a nanny is looking for employment and probably has a community of his or her own.

Plus, while a nanny will have a life outside of work, an au pair will become part of your family.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both, so consider both sides when thinking about what works best for you.

15. Having The Au Pair Experience vs. Being A Nanny’s Employer

The ancient philosopher Heraclitus is supposed to have said:

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”

And similarly the poet John Keats said:

“Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced”

And whether you choose an au pair vs. a nanny…

So it will be with childcare.

No two experiences are ever going to be the same, and whoever you choose won’t fully realize the experience of being your au pair or nanny until they are doing it.

This brings us to our main point:

And you have to think about this difference at the fundamental level when doing your “hiring” for your au pair or nanny.

When looking for an au pair, your focus should be thinking about finding a match with someone who is looking for the au pair experience.

And if looking for a nanny? Think about what type of experience you and your nanny will have in an employer-employee relationship…

‘cause at the end of the day, that’s what it’ll be. And because of that, you’ll want to make the most of it, so take the time to reflect on which experience will be a better fit.

16. Au Pairs Usually Work A Year, and Nannies Usually Longer

Au pairs and nannies are different because of how long they work for a family. Au pairs usually work for one year.

Nannies might work for a family for a longer time or a shorter time. It depends on the family and the nanny.

Consider, for example, the following hypothetical year-long calendar for an au pair:

Here is a revised sample year calendar for an au pair:

January – Arrives in the United States and begins working

February – Participates in cultural exchange events and continues working

March – Visits local tourist attractions

April – Celebrates holidays with

May – Completes required childcare course and continues work

June – Travels within the United States

July – Participates in community service events

August – Prepares for the end of the au pair program

September – Continues working with the host family and begins planning for future travels

October – Reflects on the au pair experience and shares stories with friends and family

November – Begins wrapping up duties and thinking about the transition home

December – Enjoys the holiday season with host family and prepares to say goodbye

January – Says goodbye to host family and returns to home country

Please note that this is just an example and au pair experiences may vary!

17. Au Pairs Will Have A Different Schedule Than A Nanny

Because they live with you, an au pair can end up having a different schedule.

Here is an example of a daily schedule for an au pair:

6:00 AM – Wake up and get ready for the day

7:00 AM – Prepare breakfast for the children

8:00 AM – Take the children to school or other activities

12:00 PM – Pick up the children from school and help with lunch

1:00 PM – Supervise outdoor play or indoor activities

4:00 PM – Assist with homework and prepare dinner

5:30 PM – Eat dinner as a family

6:30 PM – Put the children to bed

7:00 PM – Free time or complete any remaining tasks for the day

10:00 PM – Lights out and go to sleep

Please note that this is just an example and au pair schedules may vary.

Contrast this with a sample schedule for a nanny, which might look like this:

7:00 AM – Arrive at the family’s home and help the children get dressed and ready for the day

8:00 AM – Prepare breakfast for the children

9:00 AM – Take the children to a nearby park or engage in other age-appropriate activities

12:00 PM – Prepare lunch for the children and eat together

1:00 PM – Assist with naptime for younger children or quiet time for older children

3:00 PM – Resume activities or errands as needed 5:00 PM – Begin preparing dinner for the family

6:00 PM – Eat dinner as a family

7:00 PM – Assist with bedtime routines for the children

8:00 PM – Complete any remaining tasks for the day and prepare for the next day

9:00 PM – Depart the family’s home

Please note that this is just an example and nanny schedules may vary.

18. You’ll See Au Pairs On The Weekend

Au pairs are typically considered part of the host family and may spend their free time together on weekends.

Nannies, on the other hand, are typically not considered part of the host family and will likely have their own separate plans on weekends.

Host families may spend quality time with their au pair on the weekends, such as going on trips or doing activities together, but will probably not do the same with their nanny.

Plus, your au pair may want to travel on their own – and they may want to use your car to do it. Or these days with people getting back to more travel, they may be flying off to some exciting location!

Regardless of how much travel your au pair does, you’ll probably feel a sense of responsibility for his or her well-being and safety.

But if you have a nanny? You won’t think about what they’re doing on the weekend at all.

Conclusion

As for us?

We’ve had both an au pair and a nanny. As with anything, there are pros and cons to 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’ve enjoyed this post and feel like an au pair might be a good fit, check out our post 10 Fantastic Reasons to hire an Au Pair in 2023.

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

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