First of all, I want to say thank you to my friend L. W. for informing me of this opportunity! I was an Au Pair in Madrid for a month, looking after 2 boys aged 11 and 8, and they were a joy to look after. This was a very enriching experience that allowed me to learn many things about the Spanish culture, ranging from their food to their way of thinking. Also, living with a family gave me an insight into how the Spanish people form their family environment and what they like to prioritise as the important things in life, and it was very interesting to learn and experience this, and to compare it to my own upbringing. In addition, I was able to meet Au Pairs from all over the world – some who have been brought up with a similar environment to me, and some who haven’t. Living with a Spanish family and meeting Au Pairs who come from a variety of different life experiences has definitely given me a wider perspective on life! Also, not to mention, this experience has inevitably given me a clearer understanding on the Spanish way of living and mannerisms, and the complete exposure to the Spanish language has helped to improve my level of the language.
The family consisted of four people, with two boys (as already mentioned), and they lived on the outskirts of Madrid. I loved the location of their house as it was far enough away from the city to not have the disadvantages of living in a city – pollution, traffic, increased danger hazards – but it wasn’t too far to the point where the city was unreachable; about a 40 minute bus ride to Moncloa. As the area was “free” from the city aspects of living, I was able to enjoy the nice mountainous views in the horizon, lots of parks surrounding the village – enabling us to enjoy the nature – and, during the night, I was able to see the stars, which was amazing! Because of the open spaces, I was able to take the children outdoors to do things like bike riding and playing badminton. The family was really friendly and open, and they were reciprocally curious about my culture and background as I was with theirs, and I feel like this mutual curiosity was what made us get along so well. We would talk about many things between our cultures: literature, films, food, politics and many more. The family even gave me a “Don Quijote” book in old Spanish as a gift (despite knowing that I am never going to be able to understand it!). I spent some of my free time with the family. These included going to the grandparent’s house to eat and spend the day there, and going to the nearby cities around Madrid (Toledo, Segovia & El Escorial). I loved doing the day trips with the family as they were always a learning experience – the host parents would tell me about the history of each city, and it was really fascinating. I loved spending time with the grandparents as well because they would cook really traditional Spanish dishes for me to try (my favourite being ‘albondigas’, ‘patatas a lo pobre’ and ‘lentejas’).
Meeting Au Pairs from all over the world was another factor that made my experience really fun and enjoyable! Much like being able to learn about the Spanish culture from the host family, I was able to learn about the cultures of the respective countries of the Au Pairs, and I feel like this completed the cultural exchange that I was seeking upon embarking on my journey to Madrid. With the Au Pairs, we would walk around Madrid, going to the famous sites (El Templo de Debod, Retiro, Gran Via etc) and also doing a tour of the two football teams in Madrid. During the night, we would spend our time in the many bars that Madrid has to offer, with its terraces complemented with the good weather and the energy and sociability of the Spanish people.
Before deciding to become an Au Pair, it is really important to not forget that you are going to be an Au Pair, and therefore most of your time will be spent with the children and so I’d recommend that you come ready and loaded with many ideas of things to do with them. Adding on to that, I’d also recommend that you come to Spain with an open-minded approach as this is an experience full of opportunities to learn and enrich your life, and so to best complement that would be to have this approach and to absorb it all!