Waiting to Graduate: A day in the life of an Au Pair

The Real Alcazar, Sevilla Spain 

After months of waiting for my Spanish visa to be accepted, I finally received my Spanish youth visa on December 27th last year. A few days later I booked a ticket to London from Vancouver, with no idea where I would be going to in Spain. I wanted to get a job and earn some money while I wait to graduate in June 2020, but it was hard to apply to jobs so far away without any Spanish references. 

With 10 days left before my flight was leaving, I considered a job I had previously tried when I was 18 in Italy; au pair. If you haven’t heard of this term, it comes from French and means “at par” or “equal to”. Essentially, you work as a nanny taking care of children but are included in the family as an equal, more like an older sibling. English speaking au pairs are always in high demand, so I thought I may as well see what opportunities there were.

 

The pier in Huelva, along the river

I updated my existing account and went to sleep. Over the next two days I received 17 offers for au pair jobs in Spain, ranging from cities such as Barcelona, the Canary Islands and Madrid. One of the first ones I replied to was a family living in a city that is about the same size as Victoria in the South of Spain. Very quickly we arranged a video call and decided the same day that we were a perfect match! I booked my connecting flights and tried to research this city I knew nothing about. 

I’ve been here for over a month and life is like a dream. If you’ve ever wondered if this could be a job for you or you’re curious what the job entails, I’m here to walk you through my day as an au pair, in the sunny city called Huelva on the Costa del Sol, Spain. 

08:00 Wake up.

             I usually like to wake up early so I have a full day with lots of time to do what I like, but realistically, I can sleep in as long as I would like. I work Monday to Friday, and unless I’ve gone out the night before during the week, I’m up at 8 am.

08:15 Make the beds.

             I wake up, get dressed and make my own bed, then make the children’s beds. There’s only two of them, so it only takes about 10 minutes for all 3 beds.

08:30 Breakfast.

             I usually make some toast, café solo or tea and have some yogurt and granola. Afterwards I tidy up the leftovers from the kids’ breakfast and put away dishes just like I would at home with my family.

09:00 Gym.

             The gym that I go to is a 15-minute walk away from the flat, or about 6 minutes on my scooter. The scooter that I have is electric and is growing in popularity in Spain, in fact if you’ve been to any large city in Europe within recent years you will probably have spotted the rentable Lime, Bird or other scooters that you unlock with an app to use. I pass by the pier that is along the river, the port of Huelva, Parque Palomas, a Municipal Hall and finally arrive at my gym.

Mostly every day is sunny, since Huelva is situated on the Costa del Sol, or Coast of the Sun. Huelva is very sunny and warm, the annual average temperature is 24 degrees Celsius. The last month there has been 2 or 3 days with a bit of rain, and it averages high-teens to low twenties every day, so usually by the time I’m going to the gym it’s quite warm (for a Canadian).

11:00 Home.

             Usually after the gym I’ll head home to drop off my gym stuff and either work on things that I need to do or make plans with friends. Since it’s always nice outside I often walk to a park or along the river to find a warm spot to read. Often I use this time to plan what I’m doing for the weekend, since I have them free. I can always go with my family to their beach house, but I often want to go travel to a nearby city such as Faro, Portugal since it is so near. Depending on where I want to go, I could leave Friday night or just leave in the morning on Saturday. If I stay at home, the beach is nearby and surfing is sometimes an option if the waves are good.

 

A trip to Portugal 

14:00 Lunch.

             Lunch is usually a big meal for Spaniards, and around this time everyone goes home or to the bars/cafes to eat or drink. Most stores close around this time or a bit later and reopen around 17:00 when most people like to go out after a siesta (a small nap or rest in the afternoon) to meet with friends and bask in the afternoon sun with some beer, wine or espresso in the plazas.

15:45 Snack time.

             I’m usually hungry again at this time, so I prepare a snack for myself and the children who return home from school at 16:00.

16:00 Children come home.

             The children come home after a full day of school and we usually spend about half an hour to 45 minutes unwinding and eating the snacks while watching dibujitos (cartoons).

16:45 Play time.

             Every day is different, and I am always trying to think of fun activities to do with the kids. My main objective with them is to teach them English through play and by only speaking English with them. Some days I will bake with the little girl while the younger boy naps, other days we walk to the park and play until the sun starts to set. Other days family or friends will meet us, and we will go to a plaza and the kids will drink Cola Cao which is an extremely popular drink for children in Spain which is essentially a chocolate sugar powder like Nesquik that they mix with milk and drink hot. Churros are also a popular snack that we often have at this time. We (me and the Mom, friends, grandparents etc.) will have a coffee or tea and chat. Some days if the children have a class to go to, I will take them there and make sure everything goes smoothly.

19:00 Bath time.

             Part of my job also includes bath time, which is usually around 19:00 after playing and before dinner. I put them in their PJs and we play a bit more until dinner is ready, or help with it a bit too. I help set the table and then we get ready to eat.

20:00-20:30 Finish work.

             Usually around this time we eat together as a family. Typical foods of this region almost always include seafood due to the proximity to the ocean, but since I’m vegetarian I can’t personally vouch for how good it is, but everyone tells me it’s the best. A lot of stew-like dishes are made for lunch or dinner which contain a lot of legumes, lentils, vegetables like pumpkin, potato, onion, squashes and carrots are common as well.  Spanish omelette or tortilla de patatas is also a favourite, which is mostly just eggs and potatoes- so good for dinner and breakfast! A special food of the region which I have tried and was not a fan of (but all Spaniards adore it) is Gazpacho. It is a cold tomato-based drink that usually is just tomatoes, water, garlic and other spices. It is mixed so that it looks like a light-coloured tomato soup but is served cold. Of course paella is common too, and one of my favourites. 

21:30 Decision time.

This is the point at the night when I’m done work and can either go to bed or get ready to go out. Most young people eat around 22:00 so I have tons of time to chill, get dressed and make plans. Depending on the day determines what I might do. Wednesdays in this city are the new Fridays, and lots of the students that study here go out on Wednesday.

22:30 Dinner or drinks.

A typical going out night might start around 22:30 when you meet up with friends for a bite to eat or dinner and grab some drinks.

I met most of the people I know now by going to an Erasmus student party during their welcome week and met so many amazing people! After that I just kept going to student events. This, as well as talking to people in the au pair community has given me some great friends. 

02:00 Bar time.

It’s typical to gather at a friends’ flat and hang out until around 02:00 and then head to the bars or clubs. Before midnight, the bars are practically empty, but it is best to go around 01:30 to 02:00.

04:00-07:00 Party.

It is not uncommon to stay out until 06:00 and come back in the morning eating fresh churros when the first tiendas open. My host parents are always encouraging me to stay out late and embrace the Spanish nightlife and were very proud when I told them I came back at 07:00! Spaniards have a hard time believing me when I tell them that most things close at 02:00 in Victoria! 

 

Then I wake up and do it all again! Hopefully you have learned something new and enjoyed my photos and perhaps one day you will give an au pair job a shot, or at very least visit Spain to enjoy their beautiful culture and experience all of the things I love so much about Spain.