How to Avoid Misunderstandings


As long as an Au-pair remembers that they came to the foreign country to study the language in return for helping the family with childcare and light housework, and the family respects the limited amount of help they can expect from the Au-pair, then few misunderstandings will occur. Communication between the family and the Au pair is the key to successful placement!

Problems can arise in the following circumstances:

  • If the Au-pair is looked upon as cheap labour or a servant and is made to work hard for limitless hours.
  • If the Au-pair is not allowed to visit language classes or leave the house by not having a key, or is forced out of the house for some period, is not given food, is not given their own room, is not allowed to wash clothes in the house, is left alone with the children for over long periods of time or suffers any kind of abuse.
  • If the Au-pair refuses to help the family with housework.
  • If the Au-pair is not able to look after children.
  • If the Au-pair steals or otherwise damages the family and its property.
  • If the Au-pair proves irresponsible (e.g.returning home late).
  • If the Au-pair cannot stop feeling homesick.
  • There must be compromises made on both sides to make this arrangement work and the success depends mainly on people’s willingness to understand each other’s needs

List of housework tasks accepted as light housework:

  • Washing dishes, including loading and unloading dishwasher
  • Preparing simple meals for children
  • Keeping kitchen tidy and clean, including sweeping and mopping floors
  • Loading and unloading laundry into washing machine
  • Ironing for children
  • Putting washed clothes away
  • Vacuuming
  • Dusting
  • Making and changing children’s beds
  • Cleaning children’s bathroom
  • Everything to do with keeping their own room/bathroom clean and tidy
  • Light shopping (not the entire household shopping)
  • Walking and feeding pets
  • Emptying bins

List of tasks considered unsuitable for an Au Pair:

  • Gardening
  • Window cleaning
  • Spring cleaning
  • Cleaning the oven, other than simple wiping out
  • Washing carpets
  • Washing the car
  • Weekly shopping
  • Pet training
  • Clearing up after untrained pets
  • Making parents bed*
  • Ironing for parents *
  • Cleaning parents’ en-suite bathroom*
  • Polishing silver and brassware*
  • Cooking the family meal, unless the Au Pair enjoys cooking and has chosen to do this for the family

*These duties can be included where there is less childcare and the children are out of the house for most of the day, if this is agreed in advance.

Au Pairs should not be required to do housework such as ironing, when looking after children of primary school age or toddlers, due to safety reasons.