10 Tips for Working as an Au Pair in Italy
Ready to take that plunge into the Italian unknown? Be prepared to have your expectations of Italian culture shifted after spending time being fully immersed in the culture. Nonetheless, get excited for good wine and crispy thin crust pizzas, lots of sunshine and a plethora of historical sites throughout the country.
1. Pack your most fashionable clothes
It is pretty likely you will stand out anyways, but you will always feel more comfortable when you can blend in. You needed an excuse to go shopping anyways, right? Black is never wrong in Italy, as well as skinny jeans, converse, and leather jackets.
2. Sign up for an Italian lesson (or have your kids try to teach you!)
What better way to dive into the culture than to learn the language? It is much easier to pick up on the Italian when you are studying it on top of hearing it everyday. The kids you are looking after will probably love to teach you a few words as well!
3. Ask for time off to travel.
When in Rome, as they say. Pick your top places in Italy to visit and ask if you can have a long weekend off to hit up all the spots on your bucket list. Germany, Austria and France are right next door and can also make for a nice weekend trip.
4. Spend time exchanging recipes and cultural differences with your host family
When you come back, people will most likely ask you about the food. “Did you learn how to make yummy Italian food?” You better have a few things tucked up your sleeve! It is also a fun way to connect with your host family and get the kids involved. Teach them some of your favorite recipes from home.
5. Get in touch with other au pairs in your city
Make friends with people at the local gym or ask someone in your language lesson to go for a coffee. You can’t do this alone and having people your age that can relate with you is key. There are sometimes online forums for au pairs or expats, and there are usually people in their 20 something’s near the university in the city. It is also a lot more fun to have friends to try all the wine with!
6. Take at least one trip alone, explore!
Solo travel is not for the faint of heart, but neither is being an au pair in another country. The world is your oyster and traveling alone will give you a new perspective on the world, new skills and time to reflect and think about your time thus far. Do it!
7. Don’t try to order a latte. They will give you hot milk!
Learn the Italian names of all the coffee drinks. Unless maybe you want a hot milk? Learning how to order from a menu in Italian is also a helpful skill to have. Italian people will be gracious with your choppy language skills just for trying.
8. Don’t be afraid to strike up conversations with locals, even if your Italian is rocky
The only way to get better is to practice. At first the language barrier can be difficult and isolating, but learning even a few phrases will help you gain your confidence and move further outside your comfort zone. The best way to practice your Italian is to actually speak it! Try talking with your host family or even the old man sitting next to you sipping a cappuccino. He won’t mind.
9. Know your rights as an au pair. Communication is key
How much are they going to pay you? How much time off will you have? Do you have wifi in the house? Your own room? These are important details to figure out before you arrive. That way there are no surprises and things can begin on a clean slate. They are giving you a place to live and food to eat, but you are also working for them. Developing an open relationship with your host parents is very important to have a good experience when working as an au pair.
10. Be open to changing your expectations, try new things and take pictures!
You never know what a place or experience is going to be like until you actually go there and experience it. The different regions of Italy from the south to the north are vastly different from each other, so don’t assume the whole country is the same. Try that weird looking rice ball in Sicily, the funky flavors of gelato in Florence or the unique varieties of pizza in Naples. Working as an au pair in Italy is a once in a lifetime experience! Live it up, eat good food, and don’t forget to take pictures
By Stephanie Mork