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HOUSE AND HOME What is an Au Pair? An au pair (plural: au pairs) is a domestic assistant from a foreign country working for, and living as part of, a host family. Typically, au pairs take on a share of the family's responsibility for childcare as well as some housework, and receive a small monetary allowance for personal use. Au pair schemes are subject to government restrictions which specify an age range usually from late teens to mid to late twenties. In Europe, where the concept originated, au pairs are only supposed to work part-time, and they often also study part-time, generally focusing on the language of the host country, but in the United States, they are permitted to provide full-time childcare. An au pair receives an allowance, and a private room. The usual practice is that au pairs eat with the family most of the time, and join in some of the usual family activities such as outings and trips. However, host families normally expect to have some private time to themselves, particularly in the evenings. During this time, an au pair might retire to his or her room to watch television, study, or go out with friends. Provision is often made for the au pair to have time for studying, especially of the language of the host country. The Council of Europe recommends that au pairs be issued standard contracts with their family. Some au pairs are now male, but females remain the overwhelming majority. Many governments impose limits as to how many hours an au pair is allowed to work. Duties Au pairs can be expected to do a combination of child care and light housework duties. They are not responsible for housework that does not relate to the children’s or communal living areas that are kept tidy by all family members. An au pair's duties may include:  waking the children  taking/collecting children to/from school  helping with school homework  playing with the children  taking the children on outings to parks, playgroups and other activities  preparing light meals for children  doing the children’s laundry and ironing their clothes  making the children’s beds  cleaning the children’s bathroom


HOUSE AND HOME How to Do a House Swap

Perhaps you’ve dreamed of living along the banks of the Seine in Paris, in a Mediterranean villa or among the San Francisco hills but brushed away the idea as impossible. Now might be the time to re-visit those daydreams. These days, more and more people are swapping homes for fixed periods of time, allowing them to cut costs while traveling the world. Whether you want to exchange your home for three days or three months, the steps below can help you get started.

Items you will need 

Photos of your home

Written contract

Step 1 Put your house up for exchange on websites designed specifically for housing swaps, and be sure to include plenty of photos (see Resources). Be aware that some sites charge an annual membership fee. You might also try, which has a category for permanent and temporary home exchanges.

Step 2 Browse home exchange listings online, and make sure to ask the posters for pictures before deciding on a residence to swap with. Some websites include a feature where people review home-swappers with whom they’ve exchanged houses in the past. This can give you some reassurance about the reliability of the homeowners in question.


HOUSE AND HOME Step 3 Once you’ve found one, communicate frequently with your home exchange partner to get a feel for the home in question as well as the type of person she is. This means exchanging e-mails and phone calls until you think you have enough information to move forward with the swap.

Step 4 Prepare your home for its new, temporary residents before they arrive, cleaning thoroughly and making sure to stow away any valuables, including photos of you and your loved ones.

Step 5 Make a contract to be signed by yourself and your fellow house swappers so both parties are clear on the conditions of the swap. This written agreement should include the condition in which you both expect your homes to be left, as well as how to reimburse one another in case of accidents. Ensure that both parties sign this contract before the swap takes place.

Step 6 Consider your pets in the housing swap. Whether you choose to take your furry friends along to your new temporary pad or leave them at home to be cared for by house-swappers, these details are important.

Step 7 Meet in person with your fellow house-swappers, if possible, to exchange house keys and confirm any final details.


Never go in person to check out a potential exchange home without bringing someone else along and carrying a cell phone with you. Though there usually isn’t cause for concern, it’s best to err on the side of caution as you’re dealing with virtual strangers.


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