Advice For Soon To Be Au Pairs

You've got the job and you've told everyone you're leaving the country... now what? When I decided to be an au pair, the first thing I did after sorting my job out was scour the internet for tips on what to pack and I didn't find much. So, here's my advice for Soon To Be Au Pairs.


It's a little daunting knowing that the clothes you decide on now will be the basis of your wardrobe for an entire year. To be honest I sometimes think I took all the wrong things; I was cold all winter and now that it's summer I'm too bloody hot. Luckily for me, it doesn't matter so much if you bring the wrong stuff and you are English, as home is only two hours away on the Eurostar. English girls (or boys) can go home at Christmas and half term and even for the odd weekend, and swap things or stock up on cheap clothes and toiletries.

But if you are coming from further away you obviously can't do this, so I hope this is helpful...

There's no uniform for being an au pair. (If you've been asked to wear one, a little French maid's outift for example, or a chain-mail bikini, then perhaps you should re-read the job description.) This means you can wear what you want and while I wouldn't suggest picking the kids up from school in your leather stirrups, I would advise that you take clothes you love and feel nice in. Don't feel like you have to wear trainers and t-shirts every day just because you'll be running around after kids, unless of course you like wearing trainers and t-shirts... My point is that you should wear what you always wear, don't change your entire wardrobe because you are going to be an au pair.

Also don't try and take clothes that will make you blend in, because if you're British, you won't blend in; they'll know where you're from anyway by the stench of vodka in your vomit-covered hair and by your accent. Saying that, people do stare a lot in Paris and you will feel uncomfortable if you wear certain things, such as:

-bare legs
-massive heels
-short dresses/skirts

So basically, English girls need to tone it the fuck down. And don't read this and think 'I'll just stand out and look fabulous' because you will look fabulous but you will also get groped and assaulted on the metro. People in Paris dress CONSERVATIVELY, ignore this at your peril.

Still, the mistake I made when I arrived was not bringing enough going-out clothes. I don't know why but I assumed I wouldn't be going out a lot, maybe because I would be getting paid forty euros a week (idiot), but a lack of money has never stopped me from spending heaps of other people's (namely the Royal Bank of Scotland) so I did go out a lot and I did struggle finding clothes to wear, so make sure you bring high heels, speaking of which:

You should plan going-out outfits that you can wear with flat shoes. I know this sounds terrible but it really is easier if you can go out in flats, especially when you first arrive and you'll be walking around, lost, a lot of the time and going up and down the metro stairs. In fact the best shoes to bring are really nice flats that you can wear in the day and on nights out.

If you've never worn heels before, don't bother with them. You don't need high heels for Paris.

If you are coming on the Eurostar then I would suggest throwing caution to the wind and bringing all your favourite heels, however a sensible person would just bring one or two pairs.

Everyone in Paris lives in boots, from the end of September until April, so make sure you have a good pair of winter boots. Nice ones, obviously. Bring a pair that you can wear over trousers or with tights and dresses or with leggings (although let me tell you that people don't really 'do' leggings here, but I do, because I'm English and I don't know what else to wear).

Ankle boots with a wedge are a good option because they look dressed up but are still easy to run around Paris. But you need long boots as well, for the warmth factor- it gets bloody cold here.

Even when it isn't particularly cold, something important to remember about Paris is that everyone dresses warmly. For British girls who are used to going out in the snow in bare legs and strappy dresses, it will come as a shock, but everyone here really wraps up. If you don't wrap up expect to get tutted at and the family you work for will be horrified... But more on that later, I'll finish talking about footwear first.

If you plan on jogging or doing any sort of exercise, you'll obviously need trainers or 'sneakers' or whatever it is you've decided to call them in America. (You don't sneak around them in, you 'train' in them!)

So this is what I suggest you bring shoe-wise:
-one pair of long boots that you can wear over jeans or with tights, with room for socks inside for the winter
-one pair of heels that you can wear with everything (unless baggage isn't an issue)
-ankle boots with a wedge (obviously this might not be your thing, but they will come in useful)
-two pairs of nice flats (ballet pumps, brogues etc) that you can wear in the day, at night time, during the winter and in the summer too
-trainers/sports shoes
-summery sandals (not flip flops, these aren't great for walking around Paris in)

This is all personal to me really, you might be a big goth and just want to wear massive black steel-heeled boots everyday, in which case I would suggest something lighter for summer...

Like I said before, it gets really cold in Paris during the winter, from about November until March. But even if you're not going to au pair in Paris, layering is a good idea wherever you go to au pair, because it means you can pack less.

(For example, during the winter I lived in two sleeveless dresses that I wore with tops underneath, jumpers over the top, then tights and leggings, with thick socks and my long boots. And a coat obviously. When it got a little bit warmer I wore them with tights and a cardigan and now that it's a lot hotter I can wear the dresses on their own with bare legs and ballet pumps.)

So think carefully. What can you layer in winter and still wear in the spring/summer? I would suggest dresses, skirts, shirts and shorts but once again, this is my personal taste. Everyone in Paris would ask me in the winter 'Where is you poloneck?' and I had to explain that polonecks are a lifestyle choice, not a necessity.

Like I said above, wear what you would normally wear. I have friends who wear t-shirts and jeans, as well as friends who wear vintage dresses and jumpsuits to pick the kids up from school every day. As long as you don't dress too revealingly or impractically- wear what you want.

Bearing all that in mind, here is what I would pack clothes-wise:
-three casual dresses
-two pairs of trousers (can be dressed up and down in all seasons, unless you never wear trousers)
-two skirts  (again, only if you like wearing skirts)
-a warm winter coat
-a lighter jacket (for September and for Spring)
-a smart jacket for nights out
-a big, warm jumper or cardigan
-two thinner jumpers or cardigans (for layering)
-about ten tops (for all seasons, that can be dressed up for nights out)
-two 'going-out' dresses
-two pairs of pyjamas
-gym clothes or jogging gear (if you're so inclined)
-a swimming costume (if you have to take the kids swimming, ask the family if a bikini is appropriate)
-underwear, tights, leggings, socks etc. (If you are coming from somewhere far away, remember you can buy this sort of thing here for quite cheaply in shops like Tati.)

Don't go mad, but it's worth bringing a lot because after nine months you'll be pretty sick of your wardrobe and changing the accessories will make you feel like you've made a new outfit. Belts, earrings, necklaces, brooches, hats etc are all up to the individual, but you MUST bring scarves and gloves for the winter.

And don't forget about bags. You'll need:
- a weekend bag if you are planning on having trips around the country
-a little bag for nights out
-a handbag or any medium-sized bag for when you are working or walking around Paris ( must fit purse, map, bottles of water, diary, book etc)
- a little day time bag that goes across the body for when you know Paris a bit better and feel like travelling light

If you are flying, you'll want to save suitcase space, but toiletries are not cheap here. For example, decent shampoo is about five euros and so is deodorant. I'm not going to list all of the things you should pack, because if you are old enough to be an au pair you should know what toiletries you need on a day to day basis...

I will, however, tell you to bring hairspray and hair conditioner because they are hard to come by in France, really. I would also advise that you forget the fake tan and false eyelashes because people don't use them here and you will be sneered at. However, I understand fake tan and false lashes are an addiction so if you really can't live without them, make sure you don't forget to pack some, because they are expensive in France.

Don't forget (whisper it) sanitary products, in case you get caught out when you first arrive, because you don't want any 'why is there a dark stain on the white sofa?' incidents. Likewise, if you have any prescriptions, make sure you sort them all out before you come and bring enough to last until Christmas, unless you aren't going home at Christmas, in which case you will have to ask your family to register you at their doctor's.

Bring condoms. Even if you are a religious nut or a member of the celibacy club, just fucking bring some will you? It's better to be safe than sorry, and there's nothing to be more sorry about than explaining in French that you want a Chlamydia test.

Things for the Children

Bring a little present for the kids to sweeten them up, but you don't need anything for the parents. When I came to Paris I brought flashcard games for the kids and these were good because they gave me something to do with the kids when I first arrived. However, the kids I worked with when I first got here were used to boring, educational game and flashcards are actually a bit rubbish, so you might want to bring something fun like a toy car or a little Lego set, depending on the ages and sex of the kids.

If your main job is to teach the kids English, try and fit some English books into your suitcase- go to a charity shop and get some really cheap ones. You also might want to bring activity books or a scheme of work if you have to give them structured lessons, but most au pairs won't need these.

Miscellaneous Things to Bring

A Book
Don't weigh yourself down, but in your first few days you might find yourself alone on park benches a lot and it's nice to have something to read.

A Laptop
If the family isn't providing you with a computer, I strongly advice that you bring a laptop so you can Skype family members. Also, let's not pretend we're not all addicted to Facebook. If you're a bit ghetto and you can't afford a computer, you can always use internet cafes, so Don't Panic. Not having  a computer will mean you don't spend all your time watching shit on the internet and writing pointless blogs, like me.

Unless you have a baldy head.

For the eight hundred photos of the Eiffel Tower you will take in your first week... and later you will need it to prove to your friends that you have found a hot French boyfriend who rides a scooter...

Travel Plugs
I didn't bring any because I'm an absolute Meth, but you will NEED THEM unless all your electrical shit is already European.

Home Comforts
If you have an addiction to anything particularly British, like Dairy Milk or Marmite for example, don't worry about being a Stupid Brit Abroad- you will be living here for a year, don't punish yourself. Give in to your desires and bring some Home Comforts.

I love tea, so I always bring lots and lots of teabags. You can, of course, buy teabags in France, but for some reason I like knowing that every cup of tea I have is a little taste of home. 
If you are living on your own, you might want to bring sachets of spice mix (fajitas, curry etc) as stuff like this is really expensive in France.

Photos (and Blue Tac)
Stick them around your room so that when the Devil Children are spitting at you and the parents are beating you with a stick because you forgot to unload the dishwasher, you can run into your room and be comforted by the smiling faces of your family and friends.