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Old 01-24-2012, 04:36 PM   #21
 
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Default my au pair experience, worst nightmare ever

Somehow I've ended up reading a lot about au pairs lately, from the points of view of both the host families and the au pairs. Well, this is my story:
I come to England from west europe when I was 21 years old, that is 4 years ago, around christmas.
I paid 450 Euros to an angency just to send my details to an english agency and match me with a family.
ok... I'll try my best to keep it short.
First family were from pakistan. They lived in the suburbs of London, we agreed to come to pick me up to the train station as the air port was fat from their house. I arrived in the night very late after getting lost, they explained me what they wanted and send me to my room. I stayed there for six days, in resume this are some of the things that happened- the door of my room had to be always opened and if I closed it they'd come and open it and tell me off. They would come into my room any time they wanted because it was the HD studio, as the house had only 2 bedrooms, in one of them thy slept all together, their 2 daughters in the bed and the parents on the floor, so the other one was my room and his studio. He'd come anytime to take books or do anything. THe HM used to come and re-order my belongings that I put on the shelves. On xmas day their HF invited their relatives to spend the day and have dinner with them, they told me to stay in my room and not to come out, only until they all left and they aloud me to eat the leftovers. HM told me off other day for leaving shampoo bubles on the shower and for using 2 towels.They didn't give me the house keys ir aloud me to use their pc or telephone.
My duties, light cleaning and watch TV with their 2 dauthers as I was not aloud to take them to playgroups or to the park. During the evenings, when I was off duty, I used to walk up and down the main street as didn't know any one and wanted to get out the house.HD called me inthe night for a chat with him in the kitchen and asked me what I do when I am off work, I told him I don't have any friends and don't know the area, so I walk up and down the street. He told me that was people will think I am a prostitute, then asked me if anyone in car had stopped me to ask me for how much. The very next day I was in the living room sitting aroud a coffee table with HD and youngest girl, he was feeding her pieces of tangerine to her mouth, then rested his hand on my thight and tried to put a piece of tangerine in my mouth!!! I stood up very angry and went to my room, called the agency in england and told them I wanted a rematch, she told me to go to see her, when I told her all this things she didn't believe and called the HD who denied it all. In my agreement with the agency they assured me of something went wrong they'd provide me with a place to stay, instead, I had to go to a B&B for a tenner a day for almost 3 weeks until she rematched me with another family. I asked her for the mobile number of other au pairs in town, which she promisse she'd give me, but she refused until I got another family.forgot to mention, the arrangment said they'd pay me 70£ a week for 30 hours work, I did over 10 hours a day and never got paid for that, the agency, wchich I wish I could mention,didn't do anything to get my money back.
SO... 3 weeks later, she found me another family, english one, in one of the most expensive and poshest towns in London, had an interview with the HM, everythin went well, she asked me to move to her house that same day. Duties, light housework and looking after the kids so I was made up, and she seemed lovely.first day working for them, so not was it was meant to be. Wake up, make breakfast for HM and 2 kids, aged 2 and 7, accompany HM to take oldest kid to school, the go back home, she'd spend a couple of hours in the game-room playing with the little girl, then I had to hoover all house ( 2 floors, 2 living rooms, 1 kitchen, 1 dinning room, 6 rooms, 3 bathrooms and 1 toilet ), dust, tidy up, wash clothes, iron them, put them in the respective wardrobes, make beds, clean the kitchen after she cooked dinner the night before, sort out rooms, walk the dog and then make them a snack. then I had to go play with the little girl whilst she relaxed of her stressful life. She wasn't working so spent all the day at home. She told me I couldn't eat with them because they wanted to eat as a family and she expected me to respect that. She wouldn't buy me food. They had one fridge with the kids food and this other food in packages for 2 people, that was ' for their dinner so because it was ' for 2, and you are only 1, you can't eat it, because you'll only eat one portion and what about the other one? they also had a chest freexer with all sorts of food, but she told me very straight foward that 'it is for us'. At the begining I bought my own food because I was scared to upset her and see myself with no job, as I didn't have any money to go back to the B&B. The day I confronted her and asked her why didn't she buy me any food, she reacted in absolute shock, as if she was actually expected to buy me anything. I swear this is the truth. She went for her purse, opend it and said she was going to buy me a whole chicken every week, or I could buy it myself. 4 years later and I'm still speachless.
Well, So whilst I worked for them, I managed to join to free english lessons and meet some other au pairs. the HM said she will help me with my homework, and the only day I asked for help she said, oh I'd love to help you but I am watching coronation street and this is today the very last episode, can you wait? Well, I guess that is something you only get if you live here and know that coronation street is never ending.
Another day HM said to me; I have something planned for you and I together, then took me to one of the living rooms and told me to peel off the wall-paper and polish it with a machine. Other time she complained that I walked the dog for too long, please just half an hour walks.
Once she asked me to put her toiletries in order, her beauty cases, her wardrobe. And I remember being in their bathroom when she told me to do that, she had lots of beauty cases, and I had to empty them, clean the products, throw away the empty ones.... so I came across a beauty case full of sex toys, she saw me and came to me half running, took it away from me and said that was her husband's travels case.???????????
The looking after the kids side of being an au pair was non existent. this woman wanted a cheap cleaner, a servant to live in. One day I told HM that the rest of the au pairs were taking the kids to a playgroup in a museum, and I asked if I could take the little girl as the oldest was in school. she flipped and kicked off saying that I want to take her baby girl away and I don't give her any notice, that is not responsible behaviour, she doesn't even know the other au pairs or where I'm taking her baby. I told her, is ok, I am just asking, so she doesn't spend all the day at home, and then she turn around and said ' ok, you can do it but only because you already arragned it' to what I said, no I didn't arrange anything, so it's ok. but she insited, no no, now you take her. oh yes, I had to pay for the bus to go to they playgroup with my own money, still better than being at home cleaning. oh yes, I had to clean twice a day, morning and evening, hoover, dust, blah blah blah twice a day.
One day the HD brother come and took the piss out me thinking that I didn't speak english. Yes, I am that 1 in a million au pair who has a talent for languages so I didn't have any communication problems.
The only night I went out with au pair friends, which was the first time I went out since I arrived to london, I told HM I was going out, I didn't say until what time, she didn't ask. Now, I didn't return home until 9 am he next morning. When I opened the door, HF was waiting in one of the living rooms with HM's parents and the kids, she proper shouted at me that I put her kids life at risk, that she couldn't turn on the house alarm in case I got home late so to not to wake them up,I told her, if you don't ask for a time to come home, I do not feel I have to tell you as I am 21 years old, I behave, I work very hard for you, and if you don't establish grounds, I am not supposed to know. Well, she didn't even mention them having an alarm. well, she kicked off a lot, and as a punishment she ask me to give her back the mobile phone she lent me and the house keys.
So look, at some point you are fed up and can't take it any more. So I packed my staff and left.
You get what you pay for. If you want a cleaner, get one, you want a nanny, get one, but if you get an au pair, and put her to peel off the wallpaper off the walls, clean the house, cook for 4 people and play with your kids, and you pay 60 pounds for 25 hours that in the end are over 40 hours a week and you don't get paid for that because you just don't, because they told you you have to be flexible! so what do you expect?some people have this middle upper class mentality that you come to 'their country', so they are superior, they don't respect you, the totally exploit you. I think that most au pairs don't know what are they singing for. on the other hand I don;t buy it that people want to work as au pairs just to improve their english, that is false. period.
But the families know very well that or you do what they want or you see yourself in the street.
In the end I packe dmy staff and left, rented a room and starte looking for another HF tis time via internet, as I was done with the agency, whose only interest was to take my money. oh, last family didn't pay me for the last 2 weeks of work.
Third and last family, another english family in a beautifull town in london.they were perfect, we clicked inmediately, they had 2 kids, a baby and a 3 year old girl. It was perfect, light house work and a lot of child care.I spent 6 months with them. I took the kids out almost everyday, to the swimming pool, to playgrounds, playgroups, to the park, to the movies, we also did activities indoors, coloring, pottery, well, you name it, I have 2 little brothers back home , and I've always been very involved with them, so this felt like being at home away from home. At the begining I did around 8 hours at day, everything was good. we got along very well. then after a while, they went back to work, she was a teacher and he had his own business.
But after a while things starting happening again, this time my fault. I felt I was part of the family so I offer them extra help, because is the way I was brought up by my parents, to help at home. It wasnt a job any more, it was like living with my second family. So after lunch or dinner I'd tidy up the kitchen, wash the dishes, clear the table... It wasn't my job, but I guess as a member of a family, you just do it, because is the right thing, because they were the first ones who didn't take the micky, so I volunteered a lot of help. SOmehow they got used to it and stopped doing it htmeselves, so my duties grew enormusly, the light housework became heavy, hoovering, dusting, cleaning windowns, tidying wardrobes-taking the clothes out and putting them in order, washing, ironing, doing food shopping, cooking, taking little girl to school, go pick her up, take them to do activities, bathing them, cooking them dinner, reading them and playing, putting them to bed, and the list goes on and on. after another while things got much worst. HM would say ' tomorrow you start at 7 am', but then come knocking on my door at 6 am saying I am just so busy I need you, which happend to be always when the baby had dirty nappies, I guess someone didn't like changing them. the same before finishing for the day, she'd say, before you finish change the nappies.
SO it started being like today you start working 1 or 2 hours early, today 1 or 2 later. during the last 4 months I worked average from 7 in the morning to 8 or 9 in the night. Somehow things kept happening to them, like finishing work late every night or bumping into old friends too often, I know, london is such a small town. They were a proper disaster. Once a month they'd go travelling so I'd have to stay with the kids from friday to sunday for extra 20 pounds each day, and pay the food out my money because they kept forgetting to buy food for those who didn't bump into friends very often.
When I told her I wanted to take english lessons she said ' that is a waste of time, your english is great, why would you want to spend money in english lessons, and spend time, when you could be working for us? that was the deal, we need you here.
She promissed me help to open a bank account and registrering with the local GP but never did it, for the same reason why slaves weren't aloud to learn how to read.
My days off were meant to be 2 a week, but they stopped existing, at most, I would have 1 day off if so.
One day HM asked to go to the beach with her, her sister and the kids. I didn't want because it was my day off, she insisted so much that in the end I couldn't refuse, I went there to have a day off with my HM and family, but to my surprise, as soon as we arrived, HM and her sister said to me, ok dear, we are going to have a bath and the for a walk, stay with kids. of course, she had forgotten to mention thah I was there to work, if she had said so she had a warranted NO, so she didn't metion it.
At home, they drank my drinks and eat some of the things I bought for myself and never replace them. It was always a fight to get paid, because they always forgot it, soemtimes even telling me to get their bank card and take the money out myself.
The story goes that I met some people, and I saw how they all got proper jobs, lived in shared houses, got good money a month... And I thought, hold on a second, why can't I do that? You always have to aim for better, being an au pair is crap, so why not get a proper job? I told the HF and they went nuts, that you can't live us, you made a commitment, so told them that I didn't like the way the relationship with them was going, that I was doing a lot and for practically no money, and that I wanted to move out and get a job on the weekends, whilst working for them.
they tried to persuade me and they were very very upset. So I dropped the subject, but inside my head I planned to get enough money and one day just leave.
And you know what... SO WHAT??? what would you do if you were me? or... would you like to see your daughter in that situation? well, NO. so I didn't really care whatever people wanted to think. What is wrong with that? I was 21 years old, wanted to get a life, had my experience as an au pair and didn't like it, what is wrong with moving on? If you find something better, you get it, is my life and don't own anything to people who treat me as a cheap slave. Working in a restaurant I'd get at least 250 a week, spend 300 in shared acomodation and I would still have money to live all right. well, is better that working for someone who pay you less than the MW for doing a lot more.

In the end I was so fed up and I told one of my au pair friends, who happened to work for a family friends of my host family.
So one weekend they left the country for 2 days leaving me with the kids, and when they came back, HD said to me 'if it was for me I will kick you out tomorrow, but my wife wants to give you 2 weeks'. The next day I left, I didn't understand what the hell happened. After a few hours, HM sent me a text saying that I disgusted her, among other beautifull things that she called me. TO this day I still don't know what happened.
I will never be an au paur again, and I was one of the best ones you can get, great with the kids, treated them as if they were ming, never had a problem, and they saw me like a sister. I am proud of the work I did with them, but I am ashamed that HF are not checked properly before assigning them an au pair. HF only want cheap labour. they want a nanny and a cleaner all in one, who is also lovely and perfect and great with the kids. they want too much for so little money.if they want their kids to be safe, sound and amused, they should be willing to pay a lot more of money. but they go for the cheap option, and this is what they get
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Old 01-05-2013, 06:46 PM   #22
 
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Unhappy

My name is Vladislava and I am from Russia I would like to share my not so lucky Au-Pair experience.

I was looking for a family in Germany who lived in a big city for a very long time and when I found one I was very happy. I’d been to Germany many times before and I even had lots of friends there so I was sure I would not feel terribly home-sick like most au-pairs usually do. I love Germany, and I was very excited to go back. I really wanted to be good friends with my host family and read a lot about this programme in order to be prepared for all kinds of situations.
I was a tiny bit disappointed when they were 40 min late to pick me up from the airport and did not even make an excuse…We came to their fairly large house with a beautiful garden and had a dinner outside. It was very late when we arrived and we talked until midnight. We talked in English since my German was very poor but they told me that it was an exception and I should not speak English with them or their children – only German.
I was exhausted after the flight but still very happy to get to know my host family which seemed to be a very elegant successful couple with two nice kids. The next day they took me to their daughter’s friend’s birthday where for the most part I felt really awkward as I knew no one there except for my host parents but they were quite busy talking to their numerous friends.
On the night before Monday I could not sleep. I was not explained clearly what I should cook them for breakfast but I was sure the fridge would be stuffed with food. However, to my great surprise next morning I only found some bread, jam, butter and cheese (which had gone bad) for breakfast. I smeared bread with butter but when my host mother saw that she looked shocked as if I had done something terribly wrong. It turned out, they do it themselves and I only should toast bread for them. Okay…It was nothing serious, I thought but I was already slightly nervous. The other thing that went wrong on my first day was that I could not find a school where I should pick up the kids. I was 10 minutes late (it happened only once in a whole year). As soon as we reached home, the girl called her mother and told her I was late. It also became the main supper topic later on.
During next weeks my days became rather monotonous. They were all the same. I was looking forward to the weekend when I could get away and meet my friends.
On the last day of the week my host parents told me that they would like to have a serious talk with me. Now let me explain you something. Just like I said, I’d read a lot about this programme before my arrival. I’d heard that many Au-pairs are supposed to have a driving license or at least know how to ride a bike. Since I had neither of those skills at that time I mentioned it in my letter to my family and when we were talking on the phone, I also mentioned it several times saying that riding a bike was not my thing. They said, that it was no problem at all. However, it turned out, it was and I had to learn how to ride a bike. They gave me a very old bike with no brakes and I started practicing although I did not want to. But they made it clear that I had no choice. I did not have much time to learn but I had to ride a bike to school (a 10 minute work but several crossroads). It might sound funny to those who have bikes since a very early age but for me it was scary. I was almost hit by a car several times as my brakes did not work and I did not know the rules…
2 months passed but there was no crucial change in my relationship with my host family. They were still strangers to me. I noticed, that I always felt somehow uncomfortable with them. And, unfortunately, my desire to learn them better almost disappeared. My host mother was rather arrogant and hypocritical. Although she used to say “I would love to learn about your culture a lot”, she never actually took real interest in it. Besides that, she did not like the fact that I already had friends in Germany as she wanted me to spend all their weekends with them since “they were the main reason I was there”.
My friends was the only thing that made me happy at that time and I just could not spend the whole week with my host family so I was usually absent on weekends. I tried to make up for it by doing extra-work around the house. Even their cleaning lady started to come less often. I was doing it out of my free will (I have nothing against cleaning and I sort of like it) but I hoped that my host family would at least appreciate it. However, it turned the other way round. Some months later, when our misunderstandings started to spill out, she began to mock at me saying that I was not an Au-Pair or a member of their family but only their Putzfrau who comes and goes which was not true at all. I spent lots of times with the kids as well but sometimes they preferred to play together or alone instead of playing with me which was understandable at their age. She did not like it and started to make complaints about it. I tried to do my best and tried to be very helpful no matter what. They could call me on Saturday afternoon and tell me to come home ruining all my plans but I said nothing and did what I was told to do.
Lots of other unpleasant things happened later on. Once I had to take the boy to his football club. The girl was supposed to stay at home. I asked my host mother many times if I could take her with me since that little princess had a very unpredictable character but she made a surprised face and said no and that it was not my responsibility. However, once when I was at a football club with the boy, the girl who was supposed to stay at home, ran away. My host mother called me and told me that it was MY fault. I was scared to death. I almost fainted when I heard this. However, soon her daughter returned (she was at her friends’ place) and it was all forgotten. There were lots of other, maybe less frightening but equally unpleasant memories. The thing is I don’t eat butter and bread. Although the family was wealthy there was not much else in the fridge. When they left for vacation, it was always empty, nothing in it at all. I never asked them to buy anything special. I just wanted to have some choice. I asked her about that and she started to buy some yoghurt. The time when we were supposed to eat breakfast and supper did not suit me. I ate somewhere else and paid my money for it. She said that I should show some respect and eat when they ate but I did not get her point. Till now I think I did nothing wrong.
The girl was fond of horse-riding and I was supposed to wait her at the stables when she was having lessons. It was okay in summer and autumn but in winter staying 2 hours outside was not such a good idea. But again – I had no choice. Feeling cold was actually a big problem not only outside but inside as well. There was some problem with the central heating system in their house. The radiator in my room was cold for the most part of winter. I could only sleep if I had 3 sweaters on. I asked them politely to fix it several times but my host mother just laughed it off saying that it was healthier and more practical. They fixed it only in spring. Because of constant stress, feeling cold, riding a bike for 5-6 times a day and lack of food I lost almost 20 kg and weighed only 40.
Finally we reached th epoint when it was sort of a silent consent between us. We did not even try to pretend that we were interested in each other’s lives. She had a lot of on her mind obviously. He was seldom at home. It turned out all that time they were about to get divorced. What struck me the most – the children did not care much. For Christmas I flew to my home country. My parents were shocked by the way I looked and wanted me to change the family but I did not. I had lots of friends among au-pairs. Though most of them changed their host families, it often was not much better the second time. And it is not that easy as it seems.
The other part of my life, when I was with friends or at a language school (I paid for the courses myself) was wonderful and exciting. There were lots of interesting moments, discoveries, trips and I am grateful for that. In the beginning of May my Mum told me that she booked us a hotel in Tenerife for 10 days in June so that my host family had some time to rearrange their schedule for that period. I had 2 more holiday weeks in my disposal so I was sure they would agree but my host mother said it was impossible – either I stayed or they would look for another au-pair. I was devastated. My Mum had already paid for the trip. Besides, she had her Birthday in June and it was our family tradition to travel and spend some time together in summer. However, I could not lose my place in my host family either. Thank God, I had a friend of mine who wanted some extra-money. So she decided to replace me for that short period of time. Instead of 260, I got only 100 in June.
When my Au-pair programme was over, I was very happy. Like I said before, I met a lot of wonderful people who supported me all the time. It was fun spending time with my au-pair fellows from all over the world. I’ve seen a lot of amazing places with them, tried their cuisine and learnt a lot about their cultures.
My German was very poor when I came to Germany but in July I managed to pass TestDaF and was on cloud nine!
From time to time my thoughts still come back to my life in that family and I keep asking myself “What have I done wrong? And could it be different?”.
However, out of 70 au-pairs I knew in the city where I wokred only 3 were satisfied. So good luck.
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