Tag Archives: communication

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.


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.


Top 10 Ways to Communicate With Your Host Family

Thelpful-tipshe relationship between a host family and an Au Pair is a unique one because a balance needs to be found between being a part of the family and being an employee. The best way to find this balance and to make a successful placement is by having open communication. Frequent open communication between you and your host family allows for any issues to be resolved early and to help build a stronger relationship.

1)      Take the Time to Get to Know Each Other: Ask lots of questions, engage in conversation, and be curious! The best way you can build a relationship with someone is by getting to know them better. Both you and the host family need to be able to respond to one another in a way that fits both your cultural habits and your individual personalities.

2)      Don’t Wait: In order not to appear pushy, demanding or needy, some people try to be patient about their wants. As a result, they wait to ask for what they want until there is a lot of pressure built up behind the want. It’s always better to ask whenever you feel a want rather than saving up and asking only for the really important things.

3)      Choose the Right Time: Although we want to talk about our problems right away, we need to respect the other persons time as well. Ask the host parents when an appropriate time to talk would be. You want to choose the right time to have an important conversation so that there won’t be any distractions and it will be quiet.Au pair and child

4)      Practice Active Listening: This goes beyond just listening. Active listening means being attentive to what someone else is saying. The goal of active listening is to understand the feelings and views of the other party and to give them our full attention. So, make eye contact, use non-verbal hand gestures, restate to show that you are listening and give feedback.

5)      Do Not Assume: At the root of every misunderstanding is an assumption. We assume that people interpret things the same way we do. We assume when people communicate with us, relying on our past experiences and on our own limited frame of reference. We have equal responsibility to understand and to be understood.

6)      Don’t Generalize: Avoid using words such as “always” or “never”. These overstatements, or exaggerations, are usually inaccurate and they tend to provoke other people to “destroy” your argument. There is usually no factual evidence when someone overstates or generalizes.

7)      Be Specific: If you want to clearly get your message across to someone, you must be specific when talking to them. A big mistake that many people make when asking for what they want is asking in a way that is so vague and general that the other person has no idea how to fulfill your request.

Of-non-professional-nannies8)      Use “I” Language: Using “I” at the beginning of your sentence allows you to stick to what you know and take responsibility for what you say. “I think..”, “I believe…”, “I feel…”. These statements allow you to focus on what you are thinking and feeling rather than trying to get someone to guess how you are thinking or feeling. Remember: you cannot get in trouble for feeling something.

9)      Watch Your Body Language: When communicating with someone, be aware of your body language. You want to be standing/sitting with your arms and hands uncrossed, keeping your body facing them and maintaining eye contact. Standing/sitting straight up shows you’re alert and try to resist the urge to yawn, finger/foot tap or fidget around.

10)   Use Key Phrases: Try to use phrases such as “When you do this…I feel this…”or “I have some feelings to clear…” or “I appreciate you for…” These phrases can help you show gratitude or concern in a specific way. Again, using “I” at the beginning of your sentence shows that you’re taking on responsibility for the situation.