Unlike most expats in China, my adventure didn’t start with being sent here by a company nor finding a teaching job online back in my country. Instead, I chose to become an au pair or nanny in China for six months.
Why do Chinese people fork out quite a bit of cash to have a foreign au pair in their house when they can have a cheap Chinese ayi or a Filipino nanny to help them with housework and look after their kids? Well, as we all know, China has realized that despite its long history, its people still need to let Western culture and habits rub off on them. What better way for Chinese parents to have their children naturally absorb Western-ess than by having an older foreign brother or sister at home for a year? Au pairs are not hired to teach English but to interact with the kids in daily situations. The kids learn how to get along with people from different cultures in the most natural way possible.
Au pairs in China can choose to stay three, six or 12 months with a family. They do not need to speak Chinese. They do not have to do much household work because all of the host families have their own ayis. Au pairs usually work 20 to 30 hours a week and each family has different tasks for their au pair which are agreed on ahead on time in the au pair's contract. Tasks can include picking up or taking the kids to school, hanging out after school for two to three hours, and attending family events. Au pair agencies provide free Chinese classes and organize social activities.
There are many benefits to working as an au pair in China. Besides total cultural immersion and the opportunity to learn Chinese by living with a family, au pairs generally receive round trip flights, a monthly stipend (usually 1,000 Yuan per month), free meals, free accommodation (a private bedroom), a bonus for contract completion, medical insurance, Chinese classes, a SIM card, and sometimes a transportation card. Of course, benefits vary among different agencies, that’s why you need to read really carefully and pick the one most suitable for you. Some families might even take their au pairs on holiday with them to really exotic destinations!
And don’t forget about the best thing – you will make friends with people from all over the world: au-pair programs attract tons of young people from almost every single European country, North America and South America (both girls and boys)!
How does one become an au pair in China? Here is a quick guideline on how to snag an au pair gig:
1) Find an Agency
Au pair candidates must first find an agency that will place them in China and make sure they fulfill the requirements posted by the agency. The one mistake I made was that I found Polish intermediary which connected me with the agency in Beijing, instead of contacting Beijing headquarters directly myself. If you search online you will find at least 13 different options to choose from. Take your time to go over their offers and select the one that appeals to you the most (yes, you do need an agency mainly because they are the ones who will get you your Chinese visa!)
2) Interview with an Agency
Next, you must convince the agency in an interview that you have what it takes to be an exemplary au pair. Generally, candidates must be aged 18 -29, fluent in English without strong accent, graduated high school, have some form of childcare or babysitting experience, be in good health and physically fit, have no criminal record, have strong communication skills, have strong interest in China, and be open-minded, and easy going.
3) Prepare Your Documents
The agency will ask successful applicants for a number of documents. I had to get a record of all the illnesses and vaccines I had had, and send in proof that I had no criminal record. I also had to write my own biography and family background and choose pictures of myself that would appeal to Chinese families, who would pick me from a catalog of au par profiles.
5) Wait for a Family to Choose You
Once all the documents were submitted and approved, candidates have to wait until they are chosen by a family. I was chosen by a family in Chengdu, with two kids and the best thing was that they wanted me to travel with them to Maldives just after my arrival! My potential host family and I exchanged a few emails about ourselves and had a Skype conversation arranged by the agency. We talked about our expectations and my potential host mom had her English teacher with her to make sure that my accent would meet her requirements.
6) Sign a Contract
The host family and au pair have tell the agency that they are a match and sign a contract. The au pair actually signs two–one contract with the agency, the other one with the family. The agency then helps the au pair apply for a Chinese visa and books their tickets to China.
7) The Aftermath
If your placement doesn't work out, your agency will have your back. I didn’t stay in Chengdu for six months, because I simply didn’t click with the family. Fortunately, my agency gave me the chance to relocate and this is how after two and a half months in Chengdu I ended up in Shanghai with the family that I call “my Chinese family,” who treated me and cared about me like their own daughter. We even have some family stories that are mentioned almost every time I visit them for dinner!
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Keywords: How to become an au pair in China
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Even more interesting is the question of how much the family pays. A family can pay upwards of 12,000USD to have an Au Pair in their home. Because they pay so much money they expect a lot from the Au Pair. Sadly, the Aupair sees none of this money because the company does not pay them any money. They get a "stipend" from the family because this position is not a job. There is no work visa provided because China does not offer work visa for such position. There are myriads of legal implications to this post and I question how such an article can appear on a professional page such as this.
Jul 19, 2015 11:18 Report Abuse
You can always dramatize any experience and mention the worst cases, and it's important to be aware of the down sides of such experiences. However being an au pair can be such an amazing and rewarding experience.I was an au pair for two years in the USA. The first months were challenging as I ended up living with rich families raising brats. But the second year I shared my life with an awesome open-minded family who taught me so much and with whom I truly discovered American culture. Being an au pair remains one of the best ways to fully discover one culture, as it's a total immersion for several months or years for the most adventurous. Any challenging experience teaches you so much and helps you face new obstacles with more confidence and ease. As it is the case for me now in China....
Jul 17, 2015 16:01 Report Abuse
This article wants to give hope to those who can't find professional jobs in China and to those who would like to compete in the domestic service industry. Asians must now level up their skills or else the whites will take over this much sought department of livelihood.
Jul 16, 2015 09:49 Report Abuse
1000 RMB a month. That's less than the Guangdong minimum wage. I don't get it. If they want to work for nothing go help a charity. They think by working for a pittance for a rich family they are helping. No they are not. They are doing an Ayi out of a job.
Jul 15, 2015 22:56 Report Abuse
Think its a great opportunity for a young student with no money to travel for the summer and experience a new culture instead of sitting on their ass feeling sorry for themselves because their broke and fed up of doing the same old thing. Good or bad it will be an experience.
Jul 15, 2015 01:56 Report Abuse
I was an au pair in the USA and it was the worst experience of my life. Almost all my au pair colleagues from different countries and different agencies also seemed to suffer a lot. If you are reading this and thinking about becoming an au pair, think twice! The agency will make it look like the easiest way to travel while taking care of adorable kids. However, most families are quite evil and will see you as an educated nanny, that's it. I'm sure it's not very different in China.
Jul 14, 2015 06:01 Report Abuse
@guest14335250 Great sharing. The appalling human rights here, lack of respect for anything except money, low level of education, new found wealth invariably involving questionable means (along with the arrogance), vast number of spoiled single child (single child policy)..only make things worse, probably worse than being an english speaking domestic helper in the Middle East which also is flooded with numerous horror stories.
Jul 14, 2015 12:50 Report Abuse
OMG! Yes! So true. You hit the nail on the head. Did it, HATE it! Arrogance, lack of any sense of moral plus money equals a horrible environment. Throw in there a passive-aggressive sense of superiority and you have got your worst nightmare in the making. Plus Chinese culture will tell you....a woman can't go out alone at night after 10pm....and other such nonsense which they hold to be the only way of life for everyone around the world. You would think they would use all that money to at least become educated.
Jul 16, 2015 11:01 Report Abuse