Monthly Archives: January 2017

Differences Between a Nanny and an Au Pair

Drawing together

This is probably the most common question we get from families who are interested hiring a caregiver for their children through our agency.

While there may be a general consensus (at least in Canada, where we are based) of what a nanny is and what her job entails, the notion of what an au pair is and should be is significantly less understood, which is why we tried to address that in one of our recent posts.

Unfortunately for some au pairs or other types of caregivers, a misunderstanding or miscommunication of exactly what their job entails can lead to a feeling of sourness or negativity for a large part of their placement. In fact, just as the question of the difference between nannies and au pairs is the most frequently asked question here at International Nannies, so too is the confusion between these two positions the most common cause of discord in these types of caregiver placements.

Woman having a conversation with her therapist on couch in office

That’s why it is our goal in this post to clear up this confusion in the hopes that it doesn’t occur in your placement.

Whether you are an interested host family or a prospective caregiver candidate, all we want here at International Nannies is for you to have a successful placement. There are such valuable experiences to be gained from cultural exchanges like these, which is why we will do our utmost to ensure that this can happen for you in the most positive and stress-free way possible.

Young asian woman with cute caucasian toddler boy1. How many hours are nannies and au pairs expected to work?

This is one of the first questions we ask interested host families when it comes to determining whether a nanny or an au pair is right for them.

In Canada, in general, while both nannies and au pairs can work full-time (which is 40-44 hours depending on the province), nannies tend to work almost exclusively full-time while au pairs are flexible to work either part-time (approximately 20-25 hours) or full-time.

2. How much does it cost to hire a nanny versus an au pair?

To hire a nanny in Canada, the host family must effectively sponsor their nanny’s trip to and life in Canada, from their visa paperwork and travel expenses to their healthcare and room and board.

The process of hiring an au pair is much cheaper; the host family only pays for the matching process that our agency undertakes. The au pair pays for their own flight and the Working Holiday Visa they must obtain to be an au pair requires them to undergo a medical exam, obtain a police clearance, and demonstrate proof of healthcare coverage.

In addition, host families who are looking to hire an au pair have the option of deducting a small sum for room and board from their au pair’s minimum wage pay; to find out more about room and board deductions and au pair pay stubs, you can refer to our Au Pair Brochure which is available for download on our website.


3. How long does the hiring and matching process take?

For nannies, the process is a lot longer, due mostly to the extensive paperwork involved. Daunting as it might seem at first, another service we provide is the completion of the Labour Market Impact Assessment required to hire a nanny in Canada, which can save you loads of time!

The process of hiring an au pair, on the other hand, usually takes only between 5-16 weeks.

During our high season, we can receive up to several au pair applications per day, which is part of the reason why it is much easier and much faster to hire an au pair. That being said, we always recommend that our host families start the application process as soon as possible in order to ensure that they are able to hire an au pair to start on their desired start date.

Charming woman doing the housework

4. Do nannies and au pairs provide housekeeping?

This is the factor that people tend to be most confused about. As mentioned above, nannies almost exclusively work full-time, and a large part of that full-time work involves general housekeeping.

An au pair, on the other hand, as is common practice in the international au pair industry, is only expected to perform housekeeping duties that are directly related to the care of the children. This includes cleaning up after the children, preparing their meals, and helping with their laundry and general upkeep of their rooms and play areas.

If your family requires any more housekeeping than that, an au pair is probably not the best option for you, and a nanny might be a better option (or, as an alternative, an au pair or part-time babysitter in conjunction with another person in a general housekeeping role).

At International Nannies, we do our best to make this particular distinction as clear as we can for both our au pair applicants and our interested host families.

However, at the end of the day, if there is any confusion between a host family and their au pair, we always encourage that both parties establish clear and open lines of communication from the beginning of the placement in order to avoid further conflict in the future.


Where to Au Pair: Vancouver


In 2016, Vancouver was ranked first as the city in North America with the highest quality of life. 

And it wasn’t the first time.

For decades now, Vancouver has been accruing international renown for being one of the greatest cities in the world, not only for its high quality of life, but also its ‘liveability,’ not to mention its idyllic setting right on the Burrard Inlet framed by picturesque mountains.

Vancouver Skyline ReflectionOne of the city’s drawbacks, however, is its high cost of living, which has increased steadily over the years as it has become more and more popular as both a tourist destination and a place to live and put down roots.

This is part of the reason why Vancouver is attracting more and more attention from prospective au pairs looking to do a gap year in Canada: working in Vancouver first can make for more affordable and sustainable travel afterwards.

An important part of the au pair experience is, understandably, the location where you will live and work. An au pair placement will not only afford you valuable childcare experience, but also the opportunity for cultural immersion and exchange, which is why the city or town in which you choose to do your placement can have a significant impact on your experience as a whole.

portrait of young beautiful asian woman standing in yellow flowers blooming park summer season and reading a book with happy face emotion

So why else might Vancouver be an ideal place to do your au pair placement?

1. Vancouver boasts impressive natural beauty.


Vancouver, like the rest of the province of British Columbia, is renowned for its stunning natural beauty.

Stanley Park in downtown Vancouver is one of the biggest and most impressive city parks in the world. Cypress, Seymour, and Grouse mountains, accessible from the municipality of North Vancouver, are an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise, offering numerous hiking trails in the summer and snowshoeing and skiing in the winter.

Vancouver is also only a mere hour and a half from Whistler, BC, where the 2010 Winter Olympics were held and where thousands of Canadians and tourists alike flock during ski season.

So if you’re looking to be an au pair in Canada and you’re a fan of the outdoors, but also interested in the big city life, Vancouver might be the place for you.

2. Vancouver is culturally diverse.


Founded in 1886, Vancouver has a rich history and culture known in particular for its diversity. The Museum of Anthropology, located at the University of British Columbia campus, is a shining example of some of the cultural diversity Vancouver has to offer, in this case, of its original First Nations inhabitants whose legacy is just as vibrant today.

Vancouver also boasts North America’s second largest Chinatown (after San Francisco), and almost a third of Vancouver residents are Chinese, making them the largest non-English speaking ethnic group. These and other cultural sites are part of what makes Vancouver such a fascinating city, not to mention the mind-boggling extent of its international cuisine that attracts tens of thousands of tourists per year!

3. Vancouver has a wealth of things to do.

Stanley ParkFrom walking or biking the Sea Wall which is the world’s largest uninterrupted waterfront path, to checking out a number night markets which are fun for the whole family to explore (such as the Shipyards Night Market in North Vancouver and the Richmond Night Market in Vancouver’s neighboring city), to relaxing on swaths of beaches downtown and in the Lower Mainland, the list of activities and other things to do in Vancouver is seemingly endless.

4. Vancouver is already an au pair hotspot.


One of the most difficult things about being an au pair can be meeting new people or other forms of networking. Luckily, for those prospective au pair candidates looking to au pair in Vancouver, there are already a host of families here who have au pairs working for them or who are looking to hire a new au pair.

Don’t be intimidated by the fact that Vancouver is a big city; odds are, should you come here, you’d be able to get in contact with lots of other young people who are undergoing the same experience you are. Having a support system while you’re on your au pair placement can be the difference between a positive and a negative experience, but in cities like Vancouver, meeting people is the least of your worries.

Coal Harbor

Is there another reason why you want to be an au pair in Vancouver? Comment below, we’d love to hear your input!

Characteristics of a Good Au Pair

Of-non-professional-nanniesJust like each and every one of us is different, so too is every au pair different, and each and every one of their experiences as an au pair will be wonderfully unique.

However, there are certain characteristics an au pair should have, or in the very least strive to have or emulate, in order to make their placement a successful and fulfilling one.

1. Ability to communicate openly and effectively

This is easily the characteristic we emphasize the most here at International Nannies & Homecare Ltd as one of the most important an au pair should have.

It is important to communicate with both the children in your care and their parents to ensure the children are safe, healthy, and happy. A great way to set the precedent for open and effective communication is to sit down with your host family during the first week of your contract and discuss things like: household rules, bedtimes, mealtimes, and techniques the parents use to teach and discipline their children. If there’s ever anything you’re unsure about as far as taking care of the children, just ask the parents!

A mantra you’ll hear over and over throughout our au pair orientation and follow-up consultations is when in doubt, just askIf you make a conscious effort to communicate, the odds are that you will avoid further conflict and confusion in the future.

hugging mother and daughter

2. Proactivity

Your host family chose you for a reason, which means they are counting on you and trusting you to make decisions in the best interest of their children.

The last thing they’ll want to do is tell you to do every little thing! This is why it’s important that you think ahead, take initiative, and be proactive with your decisions! And if you make a decision that doesn’t work out, try a different technique next time or ask your host parents for suggestions. There is nothing wrong with asking for help; that in itself is part of being proactive!

The more confident and proactive you are, the more confidence your host parents will have in you, and the more likely you are to have a successful au pair placement!

3. Common sense

Another part of being proactive is using your common sense.

For instance, when the children have finished their lunches, clean up after them, or, if they’re old enough, have them help you by bringing their dishes to you so you can wash them or put them in the dishwasher. If it’s raining outside (as it so often does here in Vancouver and other parts of Canada), make sure the children put on their rain jackets that day. Or, if it’s a sweltering summer day, make sure the children don’t leave the house without sunscreen!

Again, if you have any doubts about what the proper action is to take in a situation, just ask! Your host parents will be grateful you did.

Little girl draws pencils. Interior of the room.

4. Common courtesy

In the same vein as common sense, practicing common courtesy is a great way to build trust and rapport with your host family.

As an au pair, you will have the opportunity to not only work for a family and take care of their children, but also be included as an extended member of the family, and being a part of a family comes with its own set of responsibilities.

One example of common courtesy might be helping your host family clean up after a family dinner, or offering to help fold laundry or do other chores after the children have gone to sleep, even (and sometimes especially) when you’re not working. Offering to lend a helping hand and remembering that you are a guest in their household can go a long way towards creating a positive relationship with your host family.

5. Collaboration

As an au pair, you are there to be on a team with the parents, as far as taking care of the children and ensuring their safety and entertainment goes.

There’s a reason you have to be at least 18 years old to become an au pair; families don’t want another child in their home to look after, but rather a responsible, mature adult who will work with them, not against them, in the care of their children.


Being a team player, just like being communicative , proactive, and practicing common sense and common courtesy, are all incredibly important characteristics a good au pair should have.

We believe that the more aware we are of each of these characteristics, and the more we strive to emulate them, the more likely we are to have a positive and fulfilling time as an au pair. This does not mean that we expect our au pairs to be perfect! Part of being human is just the opposite: being imperfect.

We all make mistakes, and each au pair inevitably will make a few mistakes and have to deal with the consequences and try and improve for next time. But that’s okay. 

All we can ask is that you try your best. It’s all any of us can do.


What Is An Au Pair?



Almost all of us can recall a time during our childhood where our parents hired a babysitter or nanny to come watch us and our siblings for the evening while they enjoyed an evening out.

Many of us even worked as babysitters or nannies back in high school, eager to make some quick cash and find some sort of independence while we still lived under our parents’ roof and abided by their rules.

But how many of us here in North America had the opportunity to be an au pair while growing up?



Some of us, including myself, hadn’t even heard the term au pair, until we had the chance to travel or study abroad and familiarize ourselves with other cultures. Having worked as a babysitter and nanny for a number of families for almost ten years, I know for myself that I would’ve been exceedingly interested in being an au pair if I had had the chance either between high school and university, or after my postsecondary studies altogether.

Being an au pair is a unique opportunity to gain not only experience in childcare, but also to immerse oneself in another culture and, in many cases, become a part of a family. So how do you become an au pair?

To become an au pair, there are a series of qualifications you need to have. An au pair typically:

  1. Is between 18-30 years of age (though the majority are between 18 and 21).
  2. Has a high school education (or higher).
  3. Has some experience in childcare (typically as a babysitter or as a volunteer in an early childhood setting such as daycare or preschool).
  4. Has a valid driver’s license (though this is not always necessary).
  5. Is interested in both childcare and cultural exchange.

Our research shows that the majority of those who choose to work as an au pair do so as a gap year, either between high school and university, or during their university studies, not unlike those university students who choose to do a semester abroad during their university studies.

Both studying abroad and being an au pair are incredibly valuable experiences to have as a young adult, yet it is only in the past couple of decades that young people are choosing to be an au pair for a year either instead of or in addition to studying abroad.

Young mother on a swing with baby

So why should I consider hiring an au pair?

It has become increasingly difficult to find suitable caregivers for children these days, due in part to the financial burden it can pose upon a family, but also to the somewhat daunting challenge of finding a kindred individual whose personality meshes with your family’s.

This is where we come in.


One of the services we provide here at International Nannies & Homecare Ltd. is a comprehensive au pair placement program.

Our placement coordinators work with families all across Canada and match them with a carefully-screened au pair candidate from different countries around the globe. We get to know your family and assess your childcare needs, and then proceed to match you with one of the dozens of au pairs whose applications we continue to receive every day, especially during our peak time, June to September.

We take on the often burdensome task of finding a suitable caregiver (in this case, that of an au pair) so that you can spend more time with your family.

Parents giving piggyback ride to children

So why might an au pair rather than a nanny be more preferable for a given family?

  1. Because an au pair can work anywhere from 20 to 44 hours and is paid at minimum wage (province-dependent), having an au pair can be cheaper than having a nanny.
  2. There is significantly less paperwork involved in contracting an overseas au pair than there is for a nanny, which allows for au pairs to be processed by us and other agencies within 3 to 16 weeks as opposed to 7 to 9 months.
  3. An au pair is more likely to be interested in more than just childcare: they are interested in a cultural exchange, that of their native culture and that of their host family’s.

Is an au pair the right option for my family?

For more information, please check out our website or give us a call at  1.800.820.8308.