8 years ago, I remembered when myself and a friend were both busy hunting jobs in the touristy street of Orchard Road in Singapore, trying our luck to get a nursing job in this multi-cultural minute country. I am a graduate of Bachelor of Science in Nursing, eldest and only girl among the siblings. I grew up and trained myself on how to live well independently. I am always full of confidence that I can do things, because I know God is always there giving me strength to keep me going. The only thing that scares me is when my friends ask me to climb a lighthouse to see how spectacular the view is from above, and to witness the bluest sea on its 360 degrees angle. That’s the moment when I told myself, “No, I can’t.”
Orchard Road is known as the fashion capital in Singapore. This is where small and big modernized buildings were designed, to show people the various faces of fashion. This is where job hunters usually spend there time knocking on shops and handling their resumes, hoping for any vacancies. This is where I got the leaflet about “Au Pair” in Denmark. At first, I questioned my self, “Where is Denmark”? Out of boredom and curiosity, I went to the address written and booked an appointment with the manager and I spent 30 mins, exchanging questions about Denmark and Au Pair..and guess what?!? That 30 mins actually was the bridge to a new life for me, new adventures and new opportunities. After 3 months of processing my papers, I packed my things and flew to Denmark from Singapore on March 2012. And that’s how it all started. That’s where my challenging yet fun life as an Au Pair started.
1. HOW TO START
First, before applying as an Au pair, you need to be emotionally, physically and most especially, mentally prepared. I encourage you to either start your Au pair journey in Denmark or Norway, as these two countries can give you 2 years visa (but not more than 3 years) unlike Sweden, with only 1 year contract. Then after that, you can move to countries you prefer to work to, either Denmark to Norway or vice versa. Good thing is that after staying for 4 years in total on these two countries, you can move your way to Finland or Spain (age limit is not an issue). When I used to apply and worked in Singapore, before I moved to Denmark, I paid $3000 for the agency fee, for them to help me find my host family. But when I got there, I found out that I can actually find one for myself. You can easily make an account, sign up and make an introduction letter for the families who’s looking for an Au pair on these websites:
These two websites are commonly used by families in Denmark and great thing about these sites is that signing up is free! This will enable also enable you to communicate directly to the families, or choose the family’s profile that will suit your preference. Before saying yes to a host family, you need to review your capabilities and be sure that the features of the family will match with yours. For beginners, I suggest that with this kind of job, it’s better to choose a small family (1 -2 children) as much as possible, to make your first Au pair experience less demanding and tiring. Once you have a host family, there’s no need to worry about processing the papers because the family will guide and assist you throughout the process. Another important reminder, read and understand your rights and the family’s obligation to you as their employee via these websites before flying to Denmark and Norway:
2. BEFORE DEPARTURE
You can actually bring food from the Philippines like your favorite noodles, canned food, chips and etc. Bring just the right amount of clothes, suited for all four seasons. Good thing is that during Sundays, in some cities, specially during Summer (June – Sept), they have this flea markets where you can buy second hand and branded clothes at very affordable prices. You can save a lot of money if you are not too fussy with things. For Au Pairs in Denmark, learn to ride the bike, since it’s the biking capital of Europe! However, for Au pairs in Norway, it’s preferable to just learn driving a car instead of a bike since they have these hills and fjords.
3. DURING FIRST MONTHS
The adjusting stage. It is typical for Au pairs to join the family during meal times but it’s only dinner time that is the most common meal where they usually sit on the table. Forget breakfast and lunch since most of the time, Au pairs won’t see families having one but still, there are some families requiring Au Pairs to prepare breakfast for their kids only. Cereals, rye bread with liver spread or cold toppings with hot cacao are the usual easily prepared food. During my first month, I just lost 9 kg since I had no rice, but bread and potato instead, during meals. But of course, you can politely ask your host family the kind of food that you are comfortable with, since it’s within your rights. You are also free to eat alone and prepare for your own food, whatever which makes you comfy. Exploring the community is a must. Don’t be scared to stroll around and approach local Scandinavian, who are very friendly and very accommodating people. You may also visit Catholic Churches or Christian churches nearby, whereas you could meet fellow Filipinos. You may also join Facebook groups for Filipinos in Denmark or Norway like Babaylan Denmark, Au Pair Denmark, FilCom Norway or Au Pair Norway. You’ll definitely meet new friends and connections with these groups! Also, go for the free language schools that you are entitled of, providing you great opportunity to take free classes during your entire stay in the country. Most of the host families pays for the Au Pair’s fare, and if not, you can always take the bicycle with you. The families provides for the Au Pair’s private room, equipped with TV, radio and computer, and even a bicycle.
4. THE REAL DEAL
Working as an Au Pair can be easy, depends on how you’ll adapt with a new country, the people and their culture. Tasks include light cleaning, taking the kids to school, play time with the kids and doing the laundry. Every family has different needs, so be sure to read and understand the family’s profile before accepting the offer. Maximum working hour is 5 hours per day. 3 hours in the morning, which include breakfast preparation, lunch box preparation and tidying them up before go to school. 2 hours in the afternoon, preparing for their dinner and cleaning up afterwards. That’s the typical routine of an Au Pair in a day. During spare time, after all tasks have been accomplished, or after dinner, you have the free time to spend it maybe outside exploring the city, visit the local cafe and have a cup of coffee, or just take a walk to the nearest park or beach; so when asked by your host family on how you spent your free time, you can say that you had a relaxing and fun time during your spare hours.
Most of the host families expect that an Au Pair can cook well. So before moving to the new country, try to learn new salad recipes, pastas, or even Asian food. Some of them love our spring rolls and Chicken curry! Danes are not so hard to please when it comes to food. Just show how passionate you are when you prepare the food for them and that you really love and take good care of their kids, and they will surely love you for these things. But of course, do not overwork yourself. Just do what you are asked to do. Always remember that you are not hired as domestic helpers, hence, you are not expected to do all the household chores. Don’t hesitate to ask your host families if things are unclear, instead of pretending that you know what you are doing. Equipment and appliances in Europe are more advanced than ours in the Philippines. So again, if you are not sure on how to use these things, just ask. Worse case, if host family is not around, you can always ask Google or maybe watch YouTube on how these tools work.
Spending time with the family is very important. Feel free to join their parties like birthdays, Christmas or New Year celebration. This enables you to build a better relationship with them. Experience and witness their own unique ways on how to celebrate important events. Mostly, Danes prefers Filipinos as Au Pairs since we are known to be very enthusiastic, loving and caring with children, and these factors are very important for them. Communication will always be the key for a good relationship with your host family. For Danes, questions can only be answered by straight “Yes” or “No”. There’s no room for “Maybe”. They are very straightforward and honest people, so expect to be one as well. Communicate with honesty and always be sincere.
5. MAKING FRIENDS/DATING
Making friends as an Au Pair is never difficult. “There’d always be a petite, brown or black haired Pinay walking down the street that you’d come across”, as what my Danish friend would describe. Host families get in touch with other families with Au Pairs too, and most of the time, introduce their Au Pair’s with each other, to make friends. This is exactly what happened to me during my first day. I was also able to visit the church nearby and from there, I met a bunch of Filipino whom became my good friends here. But of course, choose your close friends wisely since they will give a big impact in your entire journey in Europe. Choose only those who will help you grow and add positive vibes in life, not the ones who will take you to the wrong directions. You’ve got to learn some dating tips as well. Online dating in Denmark or Norway are very popular when it comes to searching for future partners. Way back, where dating sites seem to be safe and genuine, most Filipinas who worked as Au Pair met their partners thru online dating. But today, it not advisable to depend your love life on these sites, of course to avoid fraud and for you to find a more sincere partner. Don’t be naive and get to excited in finding love, real love, in Europe. Be very careful and cautious when dating someone. Best advice is to pray for that man of your dreams and don’t get easily caught by the norms of the society. Date a European guy who nods a Filipina discipline.
For me, being an Au Pair is a very challenging job, yet very exciting. The most important key in order for an Au Pair in Denmark/Norway to survive, based on my own experience, is to be honest, love your work, and be confident that you can conquer your fears, even if you are alone. There’d be good and bad people everywhere, but for you to continue life as an Au Pair, always keep in mind that you have to know your rights, love your host family, choose your friends wisely, focus on your goal, learn how to be a wise and budget traveler (Au Pairs have 5 weeks holiday / more), and don’t miss that chance to experience the EuroTrail!
Dream big and be an Au Pair! For sure, there’d always be a lot of opportunities for you! I hope my tips would help those who are interested in becoming one!
About the Writer
Karen Cadelina: I’m a dream chaser, a great lover of traveling, a trying hard cook, and a loyal friend, I would say. I can’t be stagnant in a place for a long time. I always have an itchy feet to go out and explore. That’s what certainly led me to places where I found opportunities that are worth keeping for a lifetime.