Want to read all about the adventures of au pair Laura in the Netherlands? “I was in my last year of university in my home country, Spain. I was ready for a new challenge, I wanted to travel, explore a different culture and widen my horizons. I was determined to improve my English too, but I only had a couple of hundreds in my bank account.”
How it all started
I was a volunteer at my local Scouts group, I always loved nature and loved working with children. One of my colleagues told me about the au pair program. As soon as I got home, I started my research and looked for my ideal host family. I had a couple of demands: I wanted to speak English with them, follow an English course, find an easy-going family that would treat me as part of the family and if possible take care of young kids, preferably girls.
Picking the right family
I had a couple of conversations with a few families around the world. After a few video calls with a lovely Dutch family – two girls, aged 4 and 6 – and with their current Italian au pair, I was sure they would be the perfect family for me. They were young, social, they worked in the creative industry, and we hit it off immediately.
I was pretty insecure about my English at that time, but our conversation went really smoothly, and we had many things in common. They explained to me about their weekly routine, pocket money and agreed on paying for my flights and an English course. It all went really fast since I didn’t need a Visa, and I was flying only a month after our conversations.
Have you ever been to the Netherlands? Everything is so green and flat! That was one of my first thoughts when we were driving to my host families house. They had picked me up at the airport and about 30 minutes later we would arrive at my new big and modern house in Bloemendaal. My bedroom was on the top floor, so I had a pretty nice view, a couch to chill and a welcoming cat sniffing me and my stuff. My host family gave me some time to unpack and rest after my flight, which was welcome, because I couldn’t sleep the night before.
We would meet afterwards for dinner around 7 (dinner at 7?!), since my host family invited the neighbors and their Spanish au pair for dinner. We became good friends automatically, and she showed me around the neighborhood.
We had an introduction week for me to get used to the routine and the kids. My host mum introduced me to the school teacher, other mums in the school and also helped me with the paperwork (bank account, BSN and insurance) and provided a train card and Dutch phone sim card. I made some other au pair friends at the kid’s school and at English lessons, we would hang out at the end of the day for a walk or coffee.
I still had to buy a new winter coat, since mine was definitely not enough for a snowy winter, and getting used to my new eating habits. I found myself being hungry at all times and eating too much bread and hagelslag! Doing grocery shopping would take me ages since everything was in Dutch and organised in such a different way. What’s the logic behind placing the breadcrumbs next to the eggs instead of next to the bread?
My English was getting better, and I was already picking some Dutch words, but running after the kids and speaking a different language for 24 hours would drain my energy and I found myself going to bed quite early during the first weeks.
Highs and lows
We bonded quite fast, my host kids were very creative and would love doing arts and crafts. I would also bring them to the local playground, and they would play with other kids around their age. I had to deal with a few “terrible 2” tantrums and dinner time wasn’t always easy with them, but soon I learned that nap time was something I couldn’t skip, even though it was sometimes hard to put them to sleep.
We would watch their favorite cartoons at the end of the day or even when off duty. I quickly realized that for the kids, I was more like an older sister, and they didn’t understand if I was on/off duty. My relationship with my host family was awesome, I felt we could trust each other, and they were happy to see how happy the kids were with me. I tried to make every day special, coming up with new activities, places or crafts, so we would have a new story to share with them when they would arrive from work.
Occasionally I drank a glass of tea or wine with my host family and discuss life, how my English lessons were going, cultural differences or just having a laugh. They soon met my friends and made me feel like part of the family.
End of the program
Unfortunately, all good things come to an end! I managed to visit almost every city and art museum in the Netherlands, went to a few festivals, celebrating Sinterklaas, learning how to cook my favorite Dutch dish erwtensoep, making life-lasting friendships and memories and the most importantly: finding a stepfamily in the Netherlands!
Since I knew the kids were very young I didn’t want to risk them forgetting all these beautiful memories, so I created a photo album with all the pictures I took during the year and gave it to them at my departure dinner. They absolutely loved it and remember every moment captured in those pictures.
I also improved my English skills and my personal development skills, became more confident and fell in love with the country. It was definitely one of the best decisions I ever made, and it changed me for the better. I know we were very lucky, and I wish all the host families and au pairs have such an amazing experience!