First Hand Information about Being an Au Pair in Italy
At this time last year I knew very little about Italy and not much more about being an au pair or nanny for that matter. I didn't speak or understand a word of Italian, I couldn't cook pasta, and my fashion sense was minimal. Despite my lack of knowledge in certain areas I was willing to learn. Now, one year on, I love Milan, and my initial one-year nannying contract has turned into an open-ended "will I ever leave" scenario. The following information provides the nuts and bolts for others wishing to pursue an amazing experience similar to mine.
Opportunities available...If you have English as a mother tongue, the au pair/nanny work opportunities are numerous in Italy. There are loads of families looking for someone to interact with their children through English without giving them structured lessons. All Italian children are obligated to learn English at school, but nine times out of ten it is taught by an Italian who has never spent more than a fleeting month on holiday in an English-speaking country. Generally, the families want someone to play with the children, help around the house, and help with picking them up from and dropping them to various activities. It's not a complex job description.
How to find a position: before you arrive
Ideally everyone likes to have a job lined up before they set off for foreign land - especially if it is a country where you don't speak the language. This is the route I took (through an advertisement in a regional newspaper in New Zealand) and I highly recommend it. The advantage of obtaining a job prior to departure from your own country is that the family that will be employing you are usually obligated to pay for your return airfare and travel insurance. This, obviously, saves enormously on costs and hassle. The downside is that, in most cases, you will not have met the family beforehand and therefore know very little about them, so it is a gamble. It pays to try and have as much prior contact as possible with the family's previous nannies because they will be the source of the most honest answers to any questions you may have, and it is a good way of gaining an insight into exactly what the job will entail.
From your home country, the most widely used sources for job hunting are Internet agencies. These can be risky, especially financially, so it pays to be wary. A few I have heard of (through girls currently in Milan) that have come up trumps are: www.goabroad.com, www.greataupairs.com and www.happynanny.com.
How to find a position: once you're here
Scenario One is that you arrive in Milan, totally jobless, and with no knowledge of the Italian language.
Scenario Two is that your previously arranged family doesn't work out. Either way, you're in the same boat. The best option once you're in Italy, is a Milan-based nanny agency.
Europlacements is well known and has a good reputation. It is an agency run by ex-Australians who act as the go-between for prospective employers seeking nannies and nannies in search of employment. The bonus of going through Europlacements is that the onus is on the future employer to fork out the money for the agency's services, meaning that as a nanny it costs you nothing, and you have the reassurance that the prospective employers are committed to finding a good nanny - hence their willingness to shell out 3000 Euros for simply placing the advertisement (the agency's contact details are in the sidebar on their website).
Another option is to scan the small newspapers targeted at the English-speaking community. Hello Milano is published monthly and can be picked up from the tourist information office near the Duomo. As well as being a guide to 'What's On' in Milan it has city maps, a metro map, and job advertisements. Similarly, jobs can be hunted down through EasyMilano, an advertiser's dream publication. It comes out fortnightly and is packed full with advertisements. There is always a specialized section for childcare positions offered (and wanted), and although the given information is generally minimal, it does provide contact phone numbers. The rest is at your own risk and you are without any support or backup if you opt to take a job privately.
Duties / Hours
As a nanny or au pair your primary role is to take care of the children and interact with them through English. Food and accommodation (usually a bedroom in the family home) are provided for free. Housekeeping duties are minimal, although a nanny or au pair is usually required to perform the duties associated with the requirements of the children - for example, this could involve making the children's beds, washing and ironing, and cooking dinner on the odd occasion. You should not be roped into heavy housework. Babysitting is obviously one of the roles of the nanny, but this should not exceed two nights a week (some nannies are given a clause in their contract about babysitting regularity).
It is important to clarify exactly what hours you are expected to work so that your free time is clearly defined. This can be difficult to establish because, as you will quickly learn, when you live under one roof with the family you take on a sort of "on-call" role as sister, babysitter, nanny and general house-helper, whether intentional or not. However, with most families, the hours during the day are your free time (maybe 10.00 - 2.00) as the children are at school, and in addition you are also are entitled to one to two days off a week. Again, the most advisable option is to negotiate this with the family before starting.
Pay varies hugely in Milan, but it is usually reflective of the number of hours the nanny is required to work and the number of children in the family. For minimal duties, commencing at about 4pm, when the children finish school and ending at 8:30pm, when they go to bed, you should receive about 100 Euros a week (with food and accommodation provided). For more demanding schedules involving duties in the early morning, or washing and ironing, etc. your pay should be increased accordingly.
Weekends are a tricky one when you're a nanny as it is quite often the time you would like to be free, but it is also the time when the family most requires a helping hand. Speaking from experience, it pays to be flexible and obliging if asked to work the occasional weekend, as in the long-run, when it is you wanting the time off, they are more likely to return the favor. In my job I have an arrangement with the family that all weekends are my free time, unless I am specifically asked to work. On these occasions I am paid extra. This works really well and I would recommend setting up a similar deal.
Contracts usually span a period of one year, but can be extended. Within the year you are entitled to three weeks paid holiday, generally to be taken at a time negotiated with the family. Generally pay is on a monthly basis, in cash, as most nannies and au pairs don't have a bank account here (and the income is not taxable).
It is important to remember that each family is different and there are no definite work hours that apply to all au pair jobs. In some families the nanny is required to dress the children and get them off to school in the mornings, but in other families the parents prefer to take on this role, and instead, the nanny is given an alternative duty at this time.
The legal stuff...
The law in Italy requires that all foreigners obtain a permesso di soggiorno - permission to remain for a nominated period - within eight days of arriving. The quickest and most efficient way of doing this is to go directly to the Questura (The Italian Police Department). For non-EU citizens the whole process is more time-consuming as one needs to obtain a visa from their home country before being entitled for the permesso. To be eligible for the permesso di soggiorno, you will need a copy of your visa, your passport, two photos, and a work or study permit. You also need a blue application form that you pick up at the Questura.
For EU citizens it is as easy as going to the Ufficio Stranieri (Office for Foreigners) and request one. The office has information concerning the rights, regulations and duties for foreigners, and is very helpful. Generally the easiest and quickest way to obtain a permesso di soggiorno when working as a nanny, is to enrol in a form of Italian study. This then becomes (in the eyes of the law) your primary reason for staying in Italy, and the money you earn from the family is then viewed as "pocket money" rather than "income." It looks overly technical and ridiculous, but seems to work. All Italian schools are equipped to supply you with the relevant documents and necessary information for proof of course enrolment.
As you'll soon discover the role of a nanny or au pair is not too demanding, and you are usually left with a lot of free time during the day while the children are at school. The best option to fill this time is to enrol in an Italian language school. The options in Milan range from 4-hour-a-week introduction courses to intensive 18-hour-a-week courses in preparation for exams on the European Framework scheme. The school that would best suit you would largely be dependent on the amount of money you are prepared to invest and the amount of free time you have available. Below are a few ideas (of which I have firsthand experience)...
If you are unsure of how committed you would be to studying it is a good idea to just dabble in it initially. L'Orlando Curioso, a school located in central Milan, offers 4-hour-a-week classes (2hrs, x2/wk) for a period of approximately 5 months. Economically this is by-and-large the most viable option (totaling about 580 Euros), but due to the minimal lesson time it is not the speediest way to grasp the language. The classes are small and interactive, but the pace of learning is piano piano (slowly slowly).
The other option is to really commit yourself to becoming fluent in Italian - meaning you are prepared to invest both time and money to the cause. Dante Alighieri, a well-known language school with a good reputation, offers a range of classes for all levels, all based on the European Framework. The advantage of attending a school like this one is that it is associated with an internationally recognized qualification. There is flexibility in the type of course (whether you prefer to focus on grammar or conversation) and the length of course. The class sizes are small and productive, but the cost is steep - a five week block of 3 hours, five times a week will set you back 660 Euros.
With all Italian schools the enrolment fee includes text book resources and sitting the pre-entry test to ascertain your level of competency.
I unreservedly recommend au pairing and nannying in Milan. It provides the opportunity to be immersed in a new culture, and grasp all there is on offer, without the stress and added costs of living alone in Italy. If you are as fortunate as I have been, and find a loving, welcoming family, you will be surrounded by all the support, encouragement and fun that you could ever hope for. But of course, as with all experiences, you only get out what you put in, so--as the Italian's say--Forza!
- AUPAIR ONLINE
Aupair Online is a website that facilitates cultural exchanges between families and youth from all parts of the world.
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- EURO-PLACEMENTS ITALY SRL.
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- HAPPYNANNY RECRUITING AGENCY
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Via Fara 7
20124 Milano, Italy
- HELLO MILANO
Tel. 02 29 52 05 70
Fax. 02 45 47 34 95
Via Lecco 3
20124 Milano, Italy
Viale bruno Buozzi, 19, A1, int3
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- L'ORLANDO CURIOSO
Via A.Saffi 16
- QUESTURA (ITALIAN POLICE DEPARTMENT)
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- L'UFFICIO STRANIERI
Tel. 02 8826 4701
Fax. 02 8846 4700
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Via Boscovich 42
Nanny / Au Pairing in Italy
By Kylie Groombridge