My Dream Experience as an Au Pair in Canada
By: Aline Mory
The words “I will always remember you” and a cute hug of your host kid are probably the dream for every Au Pair at the end of their time abroad –at least it was a dream for me which I’ll always remember.
My name is Aline, I’m a 20 year old German girl who just recently spent 10 months of the school year 2019/20 as an Au Pair in a Canadian family. This is how I got to this special goodbye, how I decided to become an Au Pair in Canada, what the process looked like for me to get there, how I built my relationship to my host family, what my day-to-day looked like, how it was to work through a pandemic and almost most importantly what life lessons and experiences I took away from my time as an Au Pair I’ll be discussing in the next few paragraphs. You’re very welcome to get inspired by my story:)
My decision to become an Au Pair in Canada
To be honest it was almost always clear for me to become an Au Pair one day – just because my mom who has been the biggest role model of mine for my whole life had been an Au Pair herself in Chicago in her early 20s and she told me so many fascinating stories about it that I just had to experience it by myself. Of course I questioned my decision as I grew older, especially in my last two years of high school when I heard about other options how to spend you’re gap year (which is between high school and college and pretty popular in Germany) like work & travelling , taking a volunteer job etc. I mean I definitely still wanted to take a gap year because I didn’t want to miss out on a great opportunity to grow my personality in a different culture.
Having enough time to think about the different options during 2018’s summer break I finally knew that being an Au Pair just made sense for me: I love being with children, I definitely wanted to improve my English since I didn’t have English classes in my last two years of school, I wanted to fully experience the Canadian culture and day-to-day life of Canadians, I loved the idea of having a safe place in Canada from where I can discover other parts of the country and at last I truly wanted to experience the daily life with children with a different style of education to learn for my own potential future children. So I figured being an Au Pair and having a host family would be the best way to achieve all of my goals.
But why Canada? Well, this is actually ridiculous but also quite cute: there was a boy in my kindergarten who once brought a Canadian flag from his vacation and I was just so fascinated by the beauty of the flag that I just had to visit the country to which it belongs. Then, when I was a teenager I read all of the Anne of Green Gables books of the Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery which made me even more curious and finally I just wanted to experience the life in the country which is known for its British, American and French influences, the kindness of its citizens and of course the breathtaking nature.
What the Application Process Looked Like
Having made the decision to become an Au Pair and looking into different programs, I’ve decided to go with the German agency AIFS (American Institute For Foreign Studies – a partner agency of Adanac Au Pair) at the beginning of September 2018 (11 months before my planned departure!). The reason why I chose not to do it privately was because my mom had experience in it with being an Au Pair in a family of friends and long story short she didn‘t recommend it because it’s just easier to show your limits with a program helping you and also with a contract with clear work schedules and payments etc.
“…even though I didn’t want to be sidetracked through school during those interviews I made an exception for two families – just because of their great location in Kelowna and Vancouver …But as the universe wanted it to be, I finally found my dream host family in London [Ontario] after having skype interviews on two days in a row at the beginning of May 2019.”
After a short online application and a phone call with AIFS at the beginning of November 2018, I got my passport at the end of the month and then it was time to apply for the Working Holiday Visa pretty quickly before starting with the official Au Pair application. Luckily, I finally got the visa (confirmation) at the end of February 2019 after writing a CV, getting my police certificate and the official translation of it, going through a medical exam in Frankfurt and visiting the Canada Visa Application Centre in Dusseldorf for my biometrics (fingerprints and photo). Also in February I finished my official Au Pair application which would be seen by potential host families very soon.
For my application, I had to fill out the application form, two different medical forms, collect childcare and character references and some more babysitting hours in two kindergartens and in the neighbourhood from October to December of 2018 and until the end of my time in Germany. In March 2019, I had an interview with my personal “assistant” of AIFS in her home town where we discussed my application form and checked my English skills. After that, I added some photo collages to my application and uploaded my personal application video filmed by my best friend and then my application was finally online on April 1st of 2019.
“And even though they don’t live in the biggest city I knew we were perfectly right for each other.”
The first employment offer came after 12 days and I think at the end I had offers of six different families. Even though I wanted to pass the first exams of my A-levels without the additional stress of the coming interviews and even though I didn’t want to be sidetracked through school during those interviews I made an exception for two families – just because of their great location in Kelowna and Vancouver because I thought their offers would be gone pretty soon if they had to wait any longer for the interview with me. But as the universe wanted it to be, I finally found my dream host family in London after having skype interviews on two days in a row at the beginning of May 2019.
So I got my Au Pair placement on May 10th and my contract soon after that – with the family who placed my third offer and who patiently waited until my exams were over. And even though they don’t live in the biggest city I knew we were perfectly right for each other. From now on I was also in close contact with Adanac Au Pair since it was the agency of my host family in Canada and it also felt perfectly right to communicate with Sarah Kelly (the owner of Adanac Au Pair).
Now I just had to get my travel insurances and my international driver’s licence, go through a preparing seminar and some safety courses about Canada and then I was finally ready to take off for my new adventure.
Having passed my A-levels with success, the time was flying by and on Wednesday, the 14th of August 2019 it was time for me to say goodbye to my very own family at the airport of Frankfurt.
Departing at 1:50 pm (German time) and arriving 8 and a half hours later at 4:20 pm in Toronto (6 hours of time difference), me and the two other Au Pairs who were flying with me in a row had a great time talking and dreaming about our life in Canada, school and everything else. After nervously getting our work permits at various counters in the security zone of the airport and getting our SIN (social insurance number) at another counter we finally took a taxi for the 1 hour ride to the Planet Traveller Hostel and checked in meeting three other Au Pairs who were already there. Shortly after seeing our room, we had some dinner at the vibrant Kensington Market and we all felt like being in a series of Netflix. Back in our room, we fell asleep at 10:30 pm which is crazy because that was basically 4:30 am for us just a couple hours ago!
On Thursday, we all were up at 5 am (11 am in Germany) even though our alarm was set for 6:30 am but we just couldn’t sleep anymore because of our inner German clock. So we had our breakfast at 6:30 am and then Sarah came just before 8 am to walk with us to the office of Adanac Au Pair and I admired her, her kindness and her love for her work from the very first moment I saw her.
At the office we had our orientation hours with a lovely presentation, a handbook and my first timbits (!!!) in the morning and then we went on a little sightseeing tour seeing Chinatown, Nathan Phillips Square, King Street, having lunch at Marché Mövenpick, admiring the CN Tower and Rogers Center and saying goodbye to Sarah before going on a beautiful boat tour to the Toronto Islands where we had a breathtaking view of Toronto’s skyline. After visiting the famous Eaton Center we all went back to the hostel with some dinner from the Kensington Market in our bellies. Two Au Pairs already left us today to go to their host families and we, the ones that were still there were very excited because of tomorrow – the day we’ll meet our own host families. Three of us decided to go to the rooftop bar of the hostel to play bingo at 9 pm and even though we didn’t win anything it was a lovely last evening together with a great view of the skyline at night and many interesting conversations with other travellers.
Being Picked Up By My Host Family
Slowly feeling the jet lag, I was pretty tired waking up on Friday and also a bit nervous because of today’s big event but taking a shower, eating breakfast and packing made it much better and besides being fully awake now I fully turned my nervousness into curious and happy excitement – maybe also because I had an hour to myself because the other Au Pairs went out to see the city one more time.
At around 10 am, my host parents arrived at the hostel and I immediately felt comfortable with them. I still was a bit shy during our car ride but that changed quickly when we arrived at the CN Tower where they invited me for lunch at the very noble 360° Restaurant which was very kind of them. After lunch we went down to the tourist floors and even took some pictures in front of the CN Tower and Canada signs which was both a lot of fun. Then we drove to my host mum’s parents to introduce me to the kids and the bigger family and I got the sweetest welcome ever: There was a beautiful “Welcome Aline” sign (with lots of maple leafs) on the front door and Audrey (5) gave me five blue roses and William (2) even gave me two more of them which was so thoughtful because my favourite colour was blue! They were all so adorable and it immediately felt like home. Before having a little picnic in the back yard and also afterwards Audrey gifted me some crafts, gave me a great house tour, introduced me to Chewie, the cute pug of the family and to her stuffies and of course I also got introduced to the caterpillars by William and Audrey! The time went by quickly and so we had our first family dinner together which was extremely delicious. For dessert we had some ice cream and the German “Ritter Sport” chocolate I got them and it was actually quite funny because the taste here was very different from the taste it would have had in Germany. Like, it was still a chocolaty taste but it didn’t remind me of the nice taste I knew from “Ritter Sport”.
On our ride back to my host family’s home in London we actually went with two cars – the boys and the girls car which was quite funny too. Being in the girls car (with Chewie), we talked a lot, played games, saw a truck on fire and talked even more and it literally just felt like family. At home they showed me the first few things in the house and after organizing my huge and beautiful room a little bit I finally fell asleep – after a very happy day.
Aline’s story continues in Part 2 where she talks about the ups and downs of being an Au Pair.