Based on my experience, having an interview with your prospective host family is one of the most essential things in order to have a successful experience. Although we may not be able to collect all the details about the family, we can at least have a big picture of how it is like to live with them. In the end, we indeed need to be sure before we want to live with them for a period of time and having an interview will help us to decide.
I really encourage all au pairs and host families out there not to make a decision after having a single interview. Especially those who plan to fly to another side of the world, try to make some video calls before you decide.
For those who understand Indonesian language, you can read a similar post about an interview with a host family here: Wawancara dengan Host Family – Pertanyaan Penting
So here we go, what to ask in an interview with a prospective host family:
THEIR LIFESTYLE AND SCHEDULE
Ask your future host parents about what time they usually get up, what time are you expected to get up, their dinner time, when the kids need to be picked up, etc. If your tasks include cleaning or tidying up, ask them if they have a cleaning schedule for the house.
You should also try to get a glimpse of their habits and lifestyle. For example, ask them if they are perfectionists and want things to be done in a perfect way. It seems crazy but trust me some people can be very perfectionist. It won’t be a problem if you share the same trait but you may also want to choose a family who is more laid back or spontaneous. In my opinion, it is important that your lifestyle matches theirs especially if you plan to stay with them for a long period of time. Can you imagine to live with someone who is smoking all the time? Can you work with a perfectionist? Is it okay if a family member simply likes to be naked around the house? Yes, people are that unique :)!
THE KIDS’ CHARACTER
Some kids are loud and happy, some are happy too but just a little shy. There are toddlers who get along with strangers quite easily but there are also those who need extra time to enjoy a new company.
Ask your future host what are the kids like. Do they have a certain approach to their kids? How they discipline their children, etc.
You may also want to ask about the children’s hobbies and daily activities such as dancing or sports club.
THE NUMBER OF CHILDREN AND THE LANGUAGE THEY SPEAK
For me, the maximum number of children I can take care of is three. Even if the family offers more facilities, it would be more likely to say no if they have seven children.
It is not that I don’t want to try harder but for me taking care of kids means taking care of someone else’s life. So I’d better be able to handle it. Even if they are still small, nurturing them is not a piece of cake.
Be honest if you aren’t able to take care of a newborn. Because you do need to have an experience or at least a good understanding of how to take care of an infant.
Additionally, you also need to ask if the kids speak only their local language or also English. If they are still under five, in my opinion, it will not be a big problem what language they speak. But kids age six and above usually need more conversation in order not to get bored having you around.
If you have any allergy, tell your future host about that. You should also know if they have a certain allergy. It will be hard if you are a meat lover and you are expected to follow a family’s habit as vegetarians or vegans.
In Europe, people can have a very unique diet, such as gluten-free food. For me, it is quite hard to follow especially if the items from the kitchen, such as plates and knives, need to be free from gluten. How am I suppose to prepare my favorite bread that may be rich with gluten?
I think the fun part of being an au pair is the ability to travel. You need to discuss with your future host if they will allow you to take holidays and get that written on the contract. Make sure that your host knows that having holidays is important for you.
THE CONTACT OF THEIR PREVIOUS AU PAIR
If you want to be sure, I encourage you to contact a family’s previous au pair about how it is like to live with them. Some au pairs may end up not telling everything, so try to ask more in detail. If you have a chance to visit your future host family before making an au pair contract, have sometimes to follow the current au pair activities. Ask him or her to explain to you some practical things such as how the house needs to be cleaned (if it is your task) and how to engage with your future host kids.
MAKE SURE YOU AND YOUR HOST FAMILY SHARE SIMILAR EXPECTATIONS
Some hosts can be very firm that they only want someone to clean the house, no babysitting needed. I even heard that there are families who clearly say in the interview that they don’t want to have dinner together with their au pairs due to cultural differences. In my opinion, avoid these families.
In the end, it is important that both the au pair and host family get equal benefits of the program. Au pair will have the chance to learn about child-care, gain international experience, travel, and accommodated with a room to stay. As a return, the au pair will help to ease the host family’s everyday life by tidying up the house and taking care of the host kids, etc.
If in the interview you somehow find out that your future host doesn’t have the same view about the au pair program, it is better to say no. Based on my experience, waiting longer to find a family who matches my expectation is much better than making a spontaneous decision based on an insecure feeling of not finding a host family.
Where ever you are, I truly hope your pair experience goes well 🙂