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What is the Difference Between a Nanny and an Au Pair?

When it comes to childcare for your family, there are two options that most parents tend to consider: a nanny and an au pair. While both options can provide excellent childcare, they are not the same. Our clients often ask us what the difference is between the two, and which would be best for their family.

A Nanny

A nanny is a professional childcare provider who is employed either full-time or part-time. Nannies will usually have prior experience with childcare, such as working as a mother's helper, in a daycare, or even professional training at a specialised college. Nannies can be live-in or live-out, depending on your family's needs. Live-in nannies become part of the family and can provide care on a relatively flexible schedule (as long as this has been pre-agreed and the hours are reasonable). Live-out nannies would work a set schedule, such as full-time days or evenings. Nannies can take responsibility for all aspects of childcare, including meal preparation, laundry, and light housekeeping.

An Au Pair

An au pair is a foreign national who is sponsored by the family and lives with you for a predetermined amount of time. Au pairs tend to be young adults who are looking to travel and gain experience in a new culture, learn a new language, and enjoy a "year off". Au pairs typically provide childcare for a set number of hours per week - between 20 and 40 hours - and may also be asked to do light housekeeping and meal preparation. In addition to providing childcare, au pairs can provide cultural enrichment activities, such as teaching the children a new language or introducing them to different customs. Au pairs are a great option for families looking for a cultural exchange experience.

Which is best for your family?

When considering which of these two options is best for your family’s situation, several questions will help you to reach the answer. For example, are you looking for childcare for a limited period of time or would you prefer to take a more longterm view and integrate somebody into your family who will provide more consistent childcare? Do you want to hire a professional with plenty of childcare experience (often the best option for a family with a newborn baby or very young children), or would you be happy with somebody who has less experience but who could perhaps bring something different to your family? Do you want somebody to live in and if so, would you be prepared to sponsor them (this usually needs to be the case for an au pair), or would you prefer somebody who can work set hours and live out?

Au pairs can be the more the affordable option, because rather than being paid a professional salary like a nanny would be, the family provides them with board and lodging and some pocket money. Moreover, your relationship with your au pair will be very different from that with a nanny - it is very much a host family relationship instead of employer/employee. An au pair will become part of the family for the limited time they are with you - they eat with you, spend weekends with you, and travel with you - it becomes almost like having another (grown-up) child.

It is important to know that in certain Swiss cantons (for example, Geneva), minimum wage laws prevent the hiring of an au pair - she needs to be paid at least minimum wage, in which case it makes more financial sense to get an experienced nanny.

How we can help you find the perfect person

At Good People we specialise in placement of long-term, permanent positions. It’s our mission to help you find the best person for your family’s needs, vet them, manage the recruitment process, and help you to integrate them into your home. Contact our team today to set up a consultation.

Good People is a domestic staffing agency specialising in introducing high quality household assistance. We provide a simple, fast and professional service to recruit trained and vetted staff who match your family values. To discuss what we can do for you, or to join the Good People Club, get in touch.

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