Become an Au Pair

How to Match with the Right Host Family

This post was originally published in June 2019 and revised in December 2023 by other contributors.

Every au pair and host family match is unique, and we know that yours is going to be special. Are you unsure of how to choose the right host family for you? This feeling is normal and to be expected; it’s a very big decision!

Image courtesy of the Perry Family

Here are some tips to help you as you decide which host family is right for your au pair experience:

Keep an Open Mind

A family may surprise you, even if their initial profile doesn’t seem like a fit. Take every interview opportunity you can to connect with a new family and come into the conversation with an open mind and prepared questions. A quick tip – be sure to be on time to your calls since punctuality is an essential value in American culture.

Don’t Base Your Decision on Location

You may have an area of the U.S. that you have been dreaming of living in, but this isn’t a good way to choose your host family. It’s much more important for you and your host family to get along, have the same goals, and be a strong team. Remember, you can always use your vacation time and travel month to see your favorite American cities.

Age Range Matters

Take time to think about your personality and the age range of the kids that you want to care for.

Babies and toddlers require a personality that is okay with staying home and sticking to a routine. Older children need a strong driver for their various activities. If you like to be very active, a baby may not be the best option. If you are a more calm, introverted au pair, older children who require high energy may not be a good fit.

Even though it’s to be expected you’ll be at home more with a baby and possibly driving more with older children, it’s always best to ask specific questions with regards to routine and expectations. You may be surprised by what you learn!

Pay Attention to Personalities

You and your host family don’t need to be exactly the same, but your personalities do need to work together to create a successful relationship. You can uncover this by asking as many questions as you can! Here are a few to get you started:

  • What do our weekends look like when I join your family?
  • Do you want me to speak my language with the children? If so, when will I have the chance to use my English?
  • Do you normally eat dinner together as a family? Is your au pair invited to join you?
  • What are the rules you have for your au pair during working hours and non-working hours?
  • What is a typical schedule like for your au pair? 
  • Do you expect your au pair to accompany you on family trips?

If you don’t understand an answer, ask the host family to explain further. Pay attention to the host family’s lifestyle and values and consider if that’s the way of life that you want to take on for one year.

Speak with Former Caregivers

An outside opinion can be helpful when discovering what it’s like to care for a host family’s children. Some families may ask their current au pair to help them in the interview process. If they don’t, consider asking the host family if you can speak with their former/current au pair, nanny, or caregiver. This is also a great way for you to get some advice on how to be the best au pair that you can be.

Be Yourself

It’s important to put your best foot forward, but it’s even more important to be authentically you. Matches that succeed are based on honesty and open communication. If you pretend to be something you’re not just to find a match, your au pair experience may not work out the way you envisioned it. Don’t be afraid to show who you truly are. Finding the right host family will ensure your au pair experience is one that will provide you with the experience of a lifetime. 

Matching with the right host family is important for your au pair year. These are not only the people you will live with and learn from for the next 12 months; they may become lifelong friends, even after you return home. By knowing who you are and what you’re looking for, while also keeping an open mind to family structures and locations you hadn’t considered, you can navigate the matching process with ease. 

If you’re ready to get started on your au pair journey, Au Pair USA is here to support you. For over 30 years, we’ve been successfully placing au pairs with carefully screened host families all over the U.S.A. We look forward to helping you find the right host family for you!

Joy Lo

Joy is a huge advocate for cultural exchange. She's lived across the U.S. and various countries around the world including the UK, Australia and Indonesia. She has a unique perspective on working and thriving in other cultures. She's been a contributing author on Au Pair USA program.