Au Pair! What’s it all about?

Although my time in Galicia was cut short, I had a great time exploring the place, improving my Spanish and even learning a bit of Gallego but most importantly I’ve made some incredible connections along the way.

But a lot of you may not know that I ended up in Galicia by total chance, and I kind of fell into au pairing too. All I knew was that I wanted to be abroad, and get better at Spanish. That was as far as I had planned when I decided to take a year out.

How did I end up as an Au Pair… in Galicia?!

The kids and I before I left

A friend from university recommended au pair work as it was something she had done the previous summer. It was a great way to learn the language because I would be living with a family, and it was also a cheap way to live abroad because accommodation and food would be covered, in addition to being paid a weekly stipend. Depending on the family, your work as an au pair could include child care, teaching English in form of lessons and play, in addition to mild housework.

Originally I wanted to be in Madrid or Barcelona, I had been to both before and they were fairly big cities which would have the same atmosphere as London. I was playing it safe and sticking to my comfort zone, but after a week of not getting much responses (both of those locations are very popular) I broadened my search to the whole of Spain.

I was a little apprehensive about being outside of a city, because I know that racism/ignorance could be an issue. Especially somewhere in Europe that does not have as much racial diversity as London. Despite these worries, I wanted my year abroad to be all about experiencing new things, and challenging myself, so why not go to a part of Spain I had never been to?! And being in a smaller place would force me to speak Spanish and not rely on my English. It was a win-win scenario.

Ponteareas, Galicia

After sifting through the various emails with families from around Spain. I settled on a family who were based in Galicia. I chose them because they had had au pairs before, 13 to be exact. It was my first time doing this job, so it felt reassuring to know that they knew what they were doing and all their previous au pairs had glowing comments about them. One thing that really led me to choose the family was that they had had a black au pair before, which helped with my earlier worries. The mother was really nice in her emails and after a skype conversation with the whole family, I felt really confident with my decision and I was ready to go. 

Au Pairing Highlights

  • There are many websites available to find a family, you can go through an agency but beware there may be additional costs for this route. I used AuPairWorld, it’s free for au pairs and the families pay a small amount to be able to use the platform
  • Lodging and board is included, as well as a weekly stipend. The stipend is 70e minimum, but could be more depending on where you are and the family you end up with
  • You live with a Spanish family so you are truly immersed in the culture and can experience Spain like a local
  • Some families provide you with an apartment or a room in an apartment instead of being a live-in au pair. Which is great if you want more independence

Things to consider about au pairing

  • Different families have different expectations for their au pairs. You may have to do housework and cooking in addition to helping the kids with English. Make sure you are aware of all the expectations so you are not surprised when you arrive in Spain – I have heard many horror stories about bad experiences because expectations were not explicitly understood (from both families and au pairs)
  • Living with a family means that you will have to follow their rules, eat the meals they provide and so on. This is something to consider and discuss with potential families if you have certain needs
  • Most families want someone who can stay for at least 3 months (you can stay for longer)
  • You will be spending a lot of time with the kids, as your primary job could be childcare as well helping them learn English both with lessons and by speaking/playing with them. This can be draining at times, so you must be certain this is something you want to do

What’s Galicia like?

It’s called the green region for a reason. There is lush vegetation everywhere, it’s the ideal spot for nature enthusiasts and people who love the outdoors. But it rains almost as much as it does in the UK, maybe even more. You need to bring two umbrellas; the second one is for when the wind breaks the first one. And you should always carry it with you because you never know when the weather might suddenly change.

Galicia as a region is so underrated. When people think of Spain they think of Madrid, Barcelona or other tourist hotspots, and I was guilty of thinking that too but Galicia has everything. There are hiking trails, cities, amazing beaches and so much culture. It’s different to other parts of Spain because as well as speaking Spanish, they speak Gallego which is a mixture of Portuguese and Spanish and there are definitely influences of both cultures throughout the region.

Life in a pueblo vs. city

Three Kings Day

I’ve been au pairing in Ponteareas, which is a small pueblo in Galicia. The nearest city is Vigo (about 40-45 minutes away by bus) and I’m super close to Portugal, we sometimes went for lunch there.

Moving to Ponteareas was a big change from London. It is a lot quieter, and a lot greener. Kids ride their bikes along the road and play games in the street. It’s a totally different world and it was a great change of pace, and I really enjoyed being able to slow down and take it all in. 

But

As a Londoner, I got bored many times. Especially when it rained and I was stuck inside, and it rained a lot, especially in the winter. The only way I was able to get through those months was by having things to do (like writing, exercise, Spanish classes) and having things to look forward to (meeting with friends on the weekend). I would have gone crazy otherwise. Which is something to consider if you are thinking about au pairing in a rural area.

Highlights

  • Learn a new language
  • People in Galicia are very friendly and welcoming
  • The food is healthy and fresh, especially seafood
  • Spaniards love a fiesta. There are so many public holidays e.g. Carnival, Three Kings Day, Arribada and more

Useful Information

  • It can be difficult to eat vegan or vegetarian if you are in a small pueblo. It would be easier if you found a family in a city, but even then it’s still not widely popular
  • If you’re abroad for a lengthy period of time check your phone contract t&c’s! I had an O2 contract and wasn’t able to use it for the entirety of my time in Spain because of their fair usage policies
  • Spain has a different relationship to race than the UK and USA. There isn’t a lot of diversity in the country, and a lot of the comments you might hear come from a place of ignorance rather than malicious intent. Though, I have heard cases where there was malicious intent behind certain actions and comments, so it is something to bare in mind
  • I love that everything is so relaxed and chill in Spain, but one thing I really didn’t like was the lateness. Punctuality seemed unheard of, it was nothing to cry home about but it could get tiresome. A way around it, was to add 30 minutes to whatever time was suggested to meet to avoid hanging around on my own for too long
  • If there are any specific products you need or rely on, you should bring them with you and have enough for your stay. It can be very difficult to find certain products in Spain (e.g. hair products, skincare etc.) and ordering from Amazon can get expensive

Overall, I had a great time au pairing, and an equally amazing time in Galicia. I would recommend au pairing if you are looking for an interesting way to spend your summer in another country, or as a way to learn another language. You should also definitely add Galicia to your travel list because it is truly an underrated region of Spain, especially in Spring and Summer.

These opinions are all based on my own personal experiences, if you would like to hear more or have any further questions please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

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