My Au Pair Story

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I realized today that I haven’t ever formally shared my story about how I became/am becoming an au pair in France. It’s pretty brilliant, so hold on to your seat. As all good stories do mine starts with:

“Once upon a time …”

I got laid off from my job. Ha. They gave me one week notice, which is insane and possibly illegal (at least morally). Needless to say,  I hit panic mode. I applied for any and every job I could even remotely be qualified for. Then, when nothing happened, I started applying for jobs I was only meagerly qualified for.

This is when I stumbled on adds for taking care of kids. “I can do that,” I thought, “how hard can it be?” I was raised in a family of 5, with a hard working teacher for a mother, and the responsibility of partially raising my younger siblings, so becoming a second “mother” to random kids seemed like a natural enough transition. While applying, I decided I only wanted to work with larger families (3+ kids) so I didn’t get bored. And when I found one that said 5 kids, I knew it was perfect. I don’t know why, but in my mind I convinced myself that the more kids, the busier I would be, which would make working so much easier.

So I emailed off my resume. And got a response! I went in for an interview that week and it went great. They said they would email me back that week. So I waited. And waited. And waited. I think it was somewhere around a month later that I heard back that I got the job. It was nerve wrecking to say the least – mainly because, after months of no work, I had eaten through my savings and didn’t have the next months rent.

When I first started working as a nanny I thought I would work there for 1 year tops, since that was what my contract was for. As the months went by, though, I realized I may need to stick around for a bit longer. See, the family only consisted of 3 kids when I started, all biological children to the parents. Within 6 months there were two more who had been adopted from Africa.

For those who know about adoption, you know it’s a huge transition. There are a lot of aspects that have to come together to make it work, and one of them is the stability of the people around the kids. So I gave myself the time limit of 2 years. After that I would have to move on. It wasn’t that I hated my job, but I’ve seen people get comfortable in “good” jobs that are going nowhere and only realize 5 years later that they’ve wasted their time.

This year, at about 1.5 years I started wondering what I was going to do next. I love my job, and I was determined not to leave it unless something amazing came up. There was no way I was ever going back into the world of zombies, windowless cubicles or retail.

One day, while I was making dinner, my roommate asked me about whether or not I was still thinking about becoming an au pair. I had completely forgotten that I ever wanted to do that (although I have since I was a kid), or that I had told her about it being on my bucket list. But I thought, “What the hell? I have nothing else going on in my life right now. Why not see what happens?”

I hopped on Google and typed in “Becoming an au pair” and clicked on the first link that came up – a site called AuPairWorld. When I first started filling out the profile, I did it as kind of joke. I didn’t think I would get any responses, and I had no hopes about finding a family. But, within 24 hours, I had three families asking for more information and whether I would Skype with them. I couldn’t believe it!

I set up some interviews with families and found some amazing people, but it wasn’t until a few days later that a family in a little town south of Paris sent me a message. They seemed like the sweetest family on earth, and as soon as I had Skyped with them I was sure that they were the family for me. Although the glamour of living directly in Paris seemed like it would be a great experience, I remembered how overwhelming London was for me, and I knew that the countryside was a better fit.

Becoming an au pair in France is a lot harder than it sounds. There are mountains of paperwork, hurdles to jump over and red tape to tangle yourself in. But, through it all, I’ve been so lucky to have an amazing French family to work with. I feel so empowered knowing that I’m taking a directional step in my life; one that is going to produce boat loads of stories to tell my kids someday.

If you’ve ever considered becoming an au pair, I would highly suggest the website I went through. It’s completely free to make a profile, and provides a platform for you to meet families, and for you to talk to them beforehand in a safe space. If nothing else, it’s an awesome opportunity to see what your options are!

It’s crazy to think that six months ago I had no idea where my life was headed, and now I’m on my way to Europe. Sometimes crazy things, like getting laid off, land you in places you never thought you’d be. But the beauty of life, is that those places sometimes lead to better opportunities than you could have imagined.

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Seattle, WA

Ten things I thought I knew about Bangalore, India

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It’s easy not to know what to expect when you travel internationally. When I went to India I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. And, despite my feeble attempts to prepare myself (I listened to a lot of MIA before flying out), culture shock would be a minimal way of saying I was a “deer in headlights” when I got there. There were some things I learned while I was there, though. And, in the end, I left with so much more knowledge and experience than I ever thought I could gather in one place. So here they are, 10 things I thought I knew about India (specifically Bangalore, where I stayed).  7727_1211892690863_2734341_n

1. Language: A majority of people in major cities speak English. I tried to learn Hindi for months before going to India, which was completely unnecessary (although, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy learning it).

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2. Dancing: Bollywood dancing is damn. hard. It looks easy in the  movies, but it will kick the butt of even the most in shape person. I would highly suggest trying to find a class if you travel to India. It was so much fun and a memory I’ll never forget.

3. Sickness: You actually CAN get sick from street food. It’s no joke. Several of my travel buddies got “Bangalore Belly” from eating the street food that looked/smelled so good. I’m not going to go into detail, but we’ll just say… you get sick in EVERY way. Indian street vendors do not hold to the same requirements when preparing their food as most do in the US, and tourist’s immune systems aren’t built to be able to withstand the same things as natives. Be really careful if you decide to try some.

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4.  Music/Hollywood: Kelly Clarkson and Lindsey Lohan were names I heard EVERY TIME someone found out I was American. I really think it’s funny that those are the two people who get associated with the United States. While I’m ok with the Kelly obsession, it mildly broke my heart that our international rep lies on the shoulders of Lindsey Lohan.

5. Social System: The caste system is real, and people abide by it. This really shocked me, because I thought that stories about castes had always been exaggerated. It was such an eye opening experience to actually sit down with people and hear their perspectives about what it means to be Indian and live in whichever caste they were born into.

6. Food: Indians take EXTREME pride in their traditional food. Once I sent back a barely eaten plate of food and the chef himself came out and asked me what was wrong with it. Nothing had been wrong with it, except that my mouth was on fire from how many spices were added. He was so upset. I finished my plate of food from that day out – spicy or not.

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7. Hang out spots: Hookah bars are like Starbuck coffees in Bangalore. When someone first casually asked me to hang out at one I thought, ” Wait. Can’t we just get coffee or something?” Little did I know they hold a completely different meaning and atmosphere than they do in the US. There were so many on every street that I got used to the idea. But, I’m still a fan of coffee shops.

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8. Animals: One of my first thoughts when I got to India was, “Why the hell is there a cow in the street?!” The traffic in Bangalore was pretty on par with a big city in Seattle during rush hour (except more rickshaws) and, yet, there she was. Not caring who was around, there was a cow crossing the street. Dogs were another animal that roamed freely in the streets, belonging to no one in particular. It was kind of fun to make friends with some of the dogs, but there was also always this thought in the back of my mind to call and report a missing animal.

9. Affection: Ok, so this one I HAD been “warned” about. It was fairly common to see men walking holding hands or with their arms around each other. In the US this would probably suggest some kind of romantic relationship, but in India? Just good (good good good) friends.

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10. Our Impact: I couldn’t help feeling like the whole time I was traveling I needed to apologize for the US. We have so much more of an impact than we can imagine in countries like India. People dream about running away to where we live. People know our music, our movies, our tabloids. The US has so much more of a global voice than I ever had realized. What are we doing with it?  I think traveling to India really made me become more aware of how I live and what I support. Just think of it this way – over a billion people are watching.

Do you guys have any good culture shock stories out there!?  Leave a comment and let me know!

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Rickshaw rides AKA rides of constant near death experiences.