While living in Amsterdam, I actually met quite a lot of au-pairs when I wasn’t hanging out with the Dutch. It turns out that city has a history of being more open to it, and since the Dutch generally speak English very well, quite a lot of those I met were actually in the Netherlands to dramatically improve their English, or even other languages.
I decided to interview two of these girls (aged 20 and 21) both in their native Spanish, to share their stories with you all!
Elizabeth from Gran Canaria (Canary Islands)
The first of these interviews was with Elizabeth from Gran Canaria.
I had lived in the Canary Islands myself, and these days it’s the accent in Spanish I tend to aim for when I speak it, as it is a nice balance between Peninsular and Latin American. (You’ll hear that it definitely sounds like European Spanish compared to the second interview, but there are no “th” sounds for ‘c’s and they use ustedes instead of vosotros among other things).
Frustrated with the lack of opportunities in Spain, she came to Amsterdam to try to intensively improve her English as an au-pair as a means to transition into other work once she has improved her English enough.
She tells us that the family actually pay for everything for her (flight, food, clothes etc.)! She also gives some useful encouragement for other young girls who may have the opportunity to travel, and confirms that she is applying the communicative approach to learning her language and speaking and using it despite initial lack of vocabulary.
I met her just after she had arrived, and I noticed that her English had improved dramatically in just five weeks!
To make the video even more interesting, I recorded it from a pedal boat while going through Amsterdam’s canals! (I found an elastic tripod that I could wrap through a hole to keep my new interview camera fixed) The first few minutes have some construction work and noisy boats around us and then it gets much nicer!
I was quite distracted in trying to avoid ducks and tourists in other boats, so I hope my questions were OK! Great as the idea was, I think in future I won’t be controlling some sort of vehicle while I do one of these interviews!
Melisa from Colombia
Melisa is from Medellín, where I lived last year. She was actually there at the same time as me, but we only met in Europe for the first time.
She also has some interesting things to say about how easy and safe it was to travel as a young girl. Her au pair family actually paid for half of her flight from Colombia and helped her a lot with visa applications.
She also mentions that while here she has been actually learning Italian by doing a tandem exchange! Here is her video:
You can see that I tried to adjust my Spanish a little to hers, and used “vos” and the corresponding conjugations when I could remember it, since this is how she herself speaks.
More au pair info
These girls show that it’s certainly possible to live abroad, even if you have never travelled before in your life, are young, can’t afford to pay for flights, accommodation, etc. and don’t speak the language of the country (precisely the situation both of them were in on arrival).
You can also see that both of them are strong independent women who are really enjoying their first stay abroad – nothing bad is happening to them.
This article about au pairing on the Matador network has some more practical information for those interested.
If you have had a similar experience in the past, or have any advice for other ladies considering au pair work, or thoughts on these particular interviews, let us know in the comments!