A Day in the Life of an American Au Pair in France

Note: After writing this post I realized that my entire day revolves around food. And to that statement I have no defense; it’s completely true.

Today I want to give my readers a glimpse into my very glamorous life here in France. So, ready to find out what the life of an au pair is really like?

7:45 I wake up to the sounds of the family having breakfast and getting ready for school. I groggily roll back over because I stayed up too late reading.

French Breakfast

8:20 I drag myself out of bed to prendre le petit déj (have breakfast). I pop two slices of pain de campagne in the toaster while I swirl raspberry jam into creamy Fjord yogurt. When the toast is ready I slather it with tangy goat cheese.

9:00 Catherine, the lady I work for, comes back from dropping the girls off at school. Before she leaves again for work she asks me if I can make boeuf bourguignon for dinner and shows me the recipe. I nod and fake a smile. I can make boeuf bourguignon, right? Gulp.

On her way to work Catherine drops me off in town which is awesome because I don’t have to walk 30 minutes to get to the center. I head to bookstore and buy two French grammar books for my language school, for which I begrudgingly cough up 40 euros.

French market

9:50 Today, Tuesday, is one of the three days a week when the market is in the town plaza. I photograph the market and chat with the vendors – all of whom are more than happy to have their pictures taken, to my surprise.

Downside – most of the vendors call me madame and I begin considering preventative botox.

Farmers Market

11:30 I realize that I’m famished so I stop at a small café for an early lunch.

I order an espresso with cream (café creme) and it tastes watered down and bitter, as it usually does in France. I sigh and fantasize about journeying to the nearby coffee kingdom of Italy for some real espresso.

While their coffee is downright terrible, the French have mastered the art of salad creation. The shallot vinaigrette on the salade parisienne I order is perfection.

Upside – the waiter repeatedly calls me mademoiselle and I feel my youth flowering again. No botox today.

Bistro Lunch

12:00 I walk home listening to Mika on my ipod, excited to edit the photos I have just taken.

12:35 After a long walk home I run to my computer to begin some photo editing. And to check my Google Reader, of course.

1:00 Reading time. Orwell today.

3:00 I decide it’s time to get domestic, so I clean the kitchen and start preparing the boeuf bourguignon. Note – this is not Julia Child’s boeuf bourgignon. The ingredients are as follows – beef, tons of carrots, two onions, bay leaves and thyme. I don’t even have any wine to use!

Carrots

You dirty, dirty carrots.

5:00 Zoe, the 12-year old girl I take care of, comes home from school and we rush to take the bus to her dance class.

6:00 I wander aimlessly around town for an hour and mosey over to the bakery to buy a treat for Catherine. Because I’m nice like that.

7:30 After we get home, I set the table in preparation for my favorite part of the day, dinner with the family.

8:00 I finish cooking the boeuf bourguignon, and cross my fingers that it works out. I manage to find a water bottle full of white wine so I throw some in and hope for the best.

8:30 Dinner is served. The boeuf bourguignon miraculously turns out, even though it’s the first time I’ve made it.

Boeuf Bourguignon

Boeuf Bourguignon
The boeuf is Zoe-approved. I can sleep soundly.

Saint-Felicien

9:00 After the main course Olivier, the dad, brings out the cheese platter. There are the usual suspects like chèvre and camembert, but one cheese that truly stands out; a Saint-Felicien with black truffles on the inside. It turns out that truffles taste like a combination of mushrooms, the forest floor, crack and every savory flavor you’ve ever tasted times ten.

Religieuse

9:20 For dessert we have the little coffee-flavored religieuse pastry that I picked up for Catherine at the bakery today. Religieuese in France means nun, which is apparently because the pastry looks like a nun wearing a habit. I can’t really see that, but I try the nun and she tastes just like an eclair.

10:30 Bed-time. Before I go to sleep, I pray my culinary good luck will see me through another day.

Have you ever worked as an au pair? Would you want to?

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Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is an American travel blogger and freelance writer who moved to Paris at 21 and has been traveling the world ever since. She's usually in pursuit of yoga, languages and perfectly ripe cheese and her writing has been featured in National Geographic, Viator and Jetstar Australia.
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31 Comments

  1. Wow my day as an au pair was quite different. There were 4 kids, and they all were home from school by 2. One was only 2, so I was at home with him all morning. Mom didn’t work, but after the other kids got off to school she would go shopping, running, golfing, or horseback riding while I took Liam from 8-2ish. Then I’d read with one of the kids and was off for the day! It’s always interesting hearing how different everyone’s schedules and experiences are.

    Reply
    • Wow, that sounds so much more intense than my job! I couldn’t handle a two-year old I don’t think, I never know what to do with really small children… one time I even tried to set up the game of Life for a three-year old and he stole all of the money and ran around with it, haha. I guess every au pair job varies a lot… even my day to day life varies drastically!

    • Well if they want me to buy they should call me mademoiselle! Haha. Where do you live outside of Paris?

  2. Il manque de l,ail et de l,oignon.Il faut toujours mettre ,de l,ail et de l,oignon.

    Reply
    • C’est vrai! I didn’t have a lot of ingredients though.

  3. Gahhhh that cheese looks AMAZING. I need to get back to Paris ASAP-I keep trying to convince my mom we should do a “girls trip” and spend the whole week at the art museums.

    Reply
    • I love mommy daughter trips, I took my mom to sweden, Estonia and Finland and we had the best time. Paris would be a great place to bring your mom, and plus I could show you around :)

  4. What a great post! I think I would gain a lot of weight living in France. So many amazing breads, cheeses, and pastries! Had no idea the coffee wasn’t great there. BTW, the boeuf bourguignon looks delicious!
    Alexa recently posted..EPISODE SLICE #26: Reversing Your Reverse Culture ShockMy Profile

    Reply
    • It’s funny because when I read about your Korea adventures I get so jealous!! The grass is always greener, right? :P

    • Haha it’s true! You know the French :P

    • Haha I told you! My family is food and wine obsessed, it’s awesome.

  5. My what a great description and photos of your day! So fabulous to be able to share your life in that way! Your food looks delicious. Say, how about a picture of the mother? Carry on, you are doing fine, better than fine!
    Love,Love, Love,

    Gamma

    Reply
    • Hi Gamma! I’m going to put up a family picture of something like that soon so everyone can see the whole family. Love, Ashley

  6. Yeah, I am also interested in seeing your family. Bet they are nice people. I wanted to do au pairing in America, but my application was declined because I didn’t have a driving licence. Enjoy your life in Paris. With this beautiful scenery you certainly will have a great time.
    Agness recently posted..Vang Vieng in PicturesMy Profile

    Reply
    • Wow that’s a shame, I had no idea you needed a drivers license to be an au pair in the U.S.! The family here is great, I’m lucky to have found a good one :)

  7. Hi Ashley! I just ran across your excellent blog today, and guess what?! I was an au pair in Paris too! It was seriously the best post-graduation choice ever. My au pair day was a lot similar to yours, except my French family always ate a breakfast cereal with chocolate swirls in it. haha. Oh, and I watched the cutest 3-year-old boy and usually cute 5-year-old girl. I didn’t write a blog as extensively as you are, but if you want to check out my amateur au pair blog (which I’ve now stopped and begun a new blog about Korea), feel free :D http://www.joiedevivre-paris.blogspot.com
    p.s. Elle Me Dit rocks!!!
    Vanessa recently posted..A Secret Trip to Anmyeon-doMy Profile

    Reply
    • That’s so cool! And yes, I couldn’t be happier with my decision. I have actually considered going to Korea to teach as well so maybe our paths will cross… and I love the meaning of your blog name, how cute!

  8. It’s so interesting to read about other peoples aupair experiences. I’m going to start my job in a week and a half and I can’t wait! I’m a bit nervous though, just hoping I get on with the family :) x
    MH recently posted..I’m free (part 2)My Profile

    Reply
    • Good luck, I’m sure you’ll do awesome! And don’t forget to bring a little gift from your home country, host families love that :)

  9. I’m going to be an au pair as well this year in France so I’ve been doing a lot of “research”, I guess. Your experience sounds really nice according to this and I don’t expect to really have a terrible time but I can’t help the speed bump of fear and anxiety I’ve recently had because of the visa process (ugh). But I noticed you’re from Michigan, me too! It’s nice to see posts like this to ease my mind lol.

    p.s. I think you solved a problem for me; I’ve been dying to have the same salad dressing I had in Paris last year and I think I finally found what kind it was. thanks!

    Reply
    • I love hearing from fellow Michiganders :)! And you’ll be fine, just make sure to skype with your family and ask for what you want. And once you get there don’t be afraid to switch if necessary! Also if I could go back and do it again I would have taken more French before leaving. Best of luck!

  10. Hey! Do you know if you old family is looking for an au pair now? My contract with my old family just ended and I don’t want to leave to go back to America!

    Any information can help me!

    Edwina

    Reply
  11. Very interesting post about your au pair schedule, it must have been an amazing experience to have au paired in France. I au paired in Boston, America, and absolutely loved it. I looked after Eve, aged 5, and Henry, aged 10. My schedule was pretty relaxed – I worked an hour in the morning, preparing the children for school and then while at school, I was off until the late afternoon when I would help with homework or take them to activities. I also had weekends off which was great! I guess it all depends on the age of the children and how much work the host family wants you to do. I was meant to work up to 45 hours a week, but only worked half that amount. I love to hear about other au pairs’ schedules and experiences. My au pair time in America was the best life choice ever, many special memories were made and I was lucky to have such a loving family. Sometimes it’s hard for au pairs to find a family they get along with. I enjoyed reading your blog – keep it up! Below is a link to my au pair experience blog! http://lexy206.wix.com/aupair-experience

    Reply
    • Thanks for sending along the link, Alexia! That’s great you enjoyed working in the states, and it sounds like you had a wonderful family.

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