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Are you an au pair?

Do you love your kids but hate your host parents?

Did you come to London to learn English but feel like you’re not learning anything at all?

So, like many of my students, you finally decided to come to London to work/volunteer as an au pair and improve English. You’d chosen your host family, you arrived in London and now after a few months of hard work with amazing kids you have realised you are missing something. You are frustrated and irritated by your current situation as you are not doing the things you were planning to. If so, you are guilty of the 3 major mistakes every au pair makes every now and then.

 

1. You have given too much of yourself to the family especially host parents. They ask you to do additional chores, stay longer with kids, cook, clean, do shopping etc, etc. It feels like you are spending every single second of your day and week with them and not enough time with your friends or improving your English. Setting boundaries is extremely important. Communicate to your host parents that your free time belongs to you and you wouldn’t like to devote it to daily errands which you are doing plenty of each day.. Make sure to utilize your spare time, go out, meet new people, join the library or simply go to a park to read a book or jog. 

2. You set low expectations for yourself. Your idea was that once you arrive in London, you will be speaking English fluently, and it turned out you were wrong. You might have mastered all the new vocabulary related to the household chores and kids but apart from that, you haven’t done much else. It is time to get out of the comfort zone, join a course, learn something new, make new acquaintances. Whether it is an English Cambridge certificate that you want to obtain, start a university in the UK, learn photography or simply go sightseeing or meet new people, London is an incredible place with plenty of opportunities. I know that your wages are low, but you could ask your host family to contribute towards that. Talk to your host mom or dad about paying for your course. Finding it difficult to talk to them? Why now write them a message or a letter, find a sample letter to your host parents asking them to pay for your English course here.

3. You are missing out on the best yet free stuff! Last but not least, have you been out yet? I don’t mean out as in taking kids to school or going shopping at a local shopping center. Money might be tight, but there are actually things you can do in London and these will not cost you a fortune, actually, they are free! Yes, you do not have to spend a penny, well maybe just the transportation. If you haven’t been added to our Au-pair facebook group yet, high time you did. Once a member, post a question, anything like ‘Hey, I’m Maria and I live in Bounds Green in North London, are there any au pairs living in the area who want to meet up for coffee this weekend?’ So simple yet so powerful. Another option is to join meetup.com and add yourself to various groups of your interest. I have personally participated in few events, including paid nevertheless cheap or even free, organized via Meetup.com. I have done an amazing day trip to Seven Sisters, joined a Salsa class in Tottenham Court Road and participated in a few language exchange sessions in Central London. Some of the other events that I had signed up to had been cancelled, but I guess it’s normal when an organizer does it free of charge. Nevertheless, my overall experience has been extremely positive, I would not be recommending anything unless I have found it useful, practical or beneficial myself. 

Other things you could try is joining a local library, participating in a ParkRun organized every Saturday by your local community, becoming a volunteer in a charity shop or pairing up with a person who seeks a language exchange partner, there are loads of people in London who want to learn a second language, so if you’re Spanish, Hungarian, Japanese or any other foreign language speaker, I am sure you will be able to find a language exchange partner in one of facebook groups, like this one.

 

Last but not least, does it happen to you that you meet other people but only speak your native language. The last mistake most of au pairs make is to hang out with people who speak their mother tongue. I remember my student Rocio from Spain, who at that time lived in beautiful part of North London, Muswell Hill. So, Rocio was an au pair and spent most of her free time with Mercedes, another Spanish au pair. They would go out together and obviously speak Spanish, it would not cross her mind to talk in English until I mentioned that option to her. Realising this mistake helped Rocio not only to improve her English but allowed her to pass the First English Cambridge Exam (FCE) which she had previously failed twice. 

Stop procrastinating and start taking actionable steps to make your stay in London meaningful and worthwhile. It is your life and you need to take control of it, start now.

Get in touch if you have any questions.

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