Tuesday, June 7, 2011

So you wanna be an au pair in Paris?? part 3

OK OK OK.  I'm finally doing it.  Sorry I've been a Lame Blogger lately, I guess  I just had my doubts that anyone would actually still want to be an au pair after coming across my blog.  I mean, y'all realize it involves CHILDREN, right?

But I digress.

SO. HOW MUCH IS THIS REALLY GONNA COST YOU? It seems like any other job, right?  You go through the interview, do the paperwork, and start getting paid?  Wrong.  The dark side of being an au pair - the part they don't tell you - is that you're going to rack up some expenses of your own.  And you thought the "dark side" was the kids..... Let's take a look at these, shall we?

1. Au pair paperwork.  The French government will want a copy of your most recent diploma (probably high school, even if you have your college diploma already) and a "letter of motivation," i.e., why you want to be an au pair.  But despite the fact that almost everyone in France speaks English, an English copy of these documents won't suffice.  Oh no.  You much have a translation of these documents.  And not just any Google Translate hack job will work either.  It must be done by a "certified translator."  Cost for my HS diploma: $75.  And I thought this was expensive until I called around and other translators wanted to charge as much as $200 for this. I went with $75 and called it a day.  As for my letter of motivation, I don't believe this needs to be "certified."  I plugged it into Google Translate (hint: this will become your best friend) and figured the bad translation would prove to them how much I really really needed to study and improve my French.  Try to scan and email these documents to your host family to avoid international postage fees.

Cost: AT LEAST $75.

2. Visa.  A long stay visa costs $141 according to the Miami consulate website.  I have been told that since what you end up getting is a student visa, some consulates will charge you $71 instead.  Mine didn't.  Have $141 set aside just in case.

Cost: $141

3.  Place tickets, both ways.  If you are arriving in August, expect to spend at least $800 on a plane ticket.  Yes, that's one-way.  In September they will get lower, I was able to find a ticket for $500 at studentuniverse.com.  The same rule applies for coming home; July and August will be the most expensive times to return because these are France's vacation months.  I would budget between $1600-$2000 to pay for both flights, but this will vary depending on where you are coming from and if you find better deals than me.  Book your return flight early, they only go up.  If you have leftover money, then you'll have extra money to spend in Paris, or on a flight home for Christmas (I was able to find a ROUND TRIP for around $700 since winter flights are cheaper).  Worst case scenario, fly to Paris then tell your parents if they ever want to see you again they'll have to pay for your ticket home because you are now a broke au pair with no money.  It worked for me.
TIPS: It will probably be cheaper to fly into/out of NYC, or a major city, than other places, but consider the extra cost of baggage on domestic flights that you don't have on international flights before booking 2 separate trips.  Also, many people find cheaper tickets to London then take the Eurostar to Paris.  If you do this book early, the Eurostar is notorious for raising ticket prices at the last minute.

Cost: Let's say $1600.  May be more, may be less.

4. French classes.  Some families pay for these, but most don't because they are told by au pair websites that they don't have to.  They are expensive, especially in the city of Paris.  They can be cheaper elsewhere.  You theoretically have to sign up for a whole year, but most language schools don't even let you sign up for a year at a time.  Mine, Campus Langues in the 19th arrondissement, has an au pair program which cos€455 for 10 hours a week, for 12 weeks.  If you want to reenroll at the end of these 12 weeks (which you are supposed to do), double this.  If you only enroll for 8 hours a week for one 12 week session and stop taking classes after that, it's only 395.  No one from immigration will hunt you down if you do this, but it will probably be difficult to renew your visa if you want to stay a second year.

Cost:  if you do what you're supposed to: €455 x 2 =  910 =  $1,333.42 at the current exchange rate.
          if you're cheap like me: 395 = $578.79
         cost of textbooks: €25 = $36.63.  You may need to buy another one of these later in your course as your French gets better.

NOTE: you will have to pay a pre-enrollment fee which will be taken out of the total cost.  Your family will probably pay this for you since you won't be there to do it, but they might ask you to pay them back afterwards by taking it out of your pay (like mine).  Just saying, be aware.

Grand total: $2431,42 (if you evade immigration law and skimp on the classes), or $3059.05 (if you take a whole year of 10 hours a week like you're supposed to).

Yeah, it's kind of a lot.

Some other things you may or may not have to pay for:

6.  Phone and phone credit.  You will want to get a cell phone as soon as you get here.  It was the first place my au pair mom took me.  The cheapest phone at Orange was around €30, and you'll need to pay for mobicarte credit as well.  If you have Verizon in America, your cell phone will be useless over here.  If you have another provider, you may or may not be able to use your own phone with a French SIM card.  Talk to your cell phone people.  DO get a French number/SIM card, no matter what phone you use.  DON'T keep your foreign number and rack up hundreds of dollars in roaming fees.  DON'T get a "France plan" with your American company because although it may be cheap for you none of your new French friends will want to pay international fees to text or call your American number.  Just get a damn French number, alright?

5. OFII taxes.  Once you're here you'll have to go to about 7 different places/appointments with various paperwork and pay a tax and get your medical exam (read: topless x-ray.  Yes, it's awkward).  My tax was €55.  I'm not going to include this in the total because you don't have to do this immediately, by the time you work through the bureaucracy and get to the medical exam (where you pay), you'll probably have gotten paid, so you can use this money if you need to.

6. Spending money for your first month.  Most families don't pay you til the end of the month.  Unless you want to starve (if you live separately) or be anti-social for the first month until you get paid, bring at least a few hundred euros in pocket money to last you til then.  And don't forget your PIN and let your debit card get eaten by the ATM unless you're sure you know how to ask the bank in French to give it back.

So moral of the story is, start saving kids, maybe you can get a family who pays for some of these things to lower the costs, or maybe your parents will pitch in as a graduation present, but if you're footing the bill yourself I'd suggest getting a second job or two.

You'll also want money to spend on clothes, fun, and travel, so save up enough to pay these costs and THEN SOME because your au pair monthly pay does not usually go very far.  My biggest limit to travel has been money.

Oh, and as for the clothes, don't buy clothes in the states thinking they'll be "European" style, because they're probably not. Save that money and buy clothes here.  You'll thank me for that later.


  1. I don't know if I ever want to go to Europe now. I mean I will one day, but in this moment and time, all I can see is screaming kids and money being taken from me haha.

  2. Very useful. Thanks!

  3. no problem! Sorry it took so long, these posts take a while to put together...but if there's any more information you think anyone might need then let me know and I'll try to post something about it!

  4. I'm an au pair here too! I'm from UA (Alabama... not Arizona... or Alaska..). Which arrondisement do you live in?

  5. So I just came across your blog because I'm having this fleeting fantasy of writing a book about my time as an Au Pair in Germany, and I wanted to make sure the title of "So You Think You Want To Be an Au Pair?" wasn't taken. Haha. It sounds like some of our experiences were pretty similar. I'm guessing you didn't have a horribly awkward conversation once your host parents actually READ your blog. I did. :) Anyway, I think it would be fun to swap stories sometime. Who knows, maybe you could even help put my book together? Maybe it could be a compilation of different Au Pair stories? (BTW I took down my blog from Germany because of said awkward conversation, so you won't find it on my profile.) Anyway, shoot me an email if you feel like it! whitney.pepper@gmail.com

  6. Hi! I am in the process of gathering documents for my au pair family to submit to the DIRECCTE. According to aupair-world.net, applicants must submit "a health certificate issued not more than three months prior to the application (translated into French by an agreed translator if it was issued abroad)."

    Did you do this?

    I hadn't read about that anywhere online, and my family's mom is planning to submit the documents this week. Any idea if it's necessary?

    Also, thanks a million for documenting your experiences!

  7. Thank you so much for this post! It's helped a TON as I'm beginning my process as an au pair in October in Paris.

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  26. I'm seriously inquiring into being an Au Pair for a little less than a year in Germany and I know there will be many expenses on my part but I'm wondering how to approach the families on wages and what they would pay for and maybe asking them to pay for some things that hadn't originally agreed to. If I could get you help or opinion I would very much appreciate it!
    Thank you,

  27. I read the original post because I am looking for an Au Pair in the US. I don't see what where the cost is if you use a program like Great AuPair http://www.greataupair.com/. The cost is all on my, the family who is looking. I can't believe how expensive it is to get an Au Pair...and still I have to pay weekly? Easier to find a nanny.

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