Au pair expectations...?

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Au pair expectations...?

Post by kivimäki » Sun Aug 04, 2019 7:43 pm

Hello all!

I considered posting this in the Jobs and Entrepreneurship section, but as I am already employed here, and my target audience is families, I figured this would be the best place. Feel free to ask me to move if it's not!

I think the readers who could help me the most are Finns who have experience employing au pairs. Of course every single opinion is welcomed, and if anyone reads this monster of a post, I would really appreciate some insight.

I have been working for, hmm, two and a half months now with a family in the Savo region. I am lucky to live in their beautiful home and connect well with the children and the family. This is my first time ever being an au pair, and I really am lucky to have gotten such a wonderful placement, as I think everyone has heard horror stories.

I do have a few questions, however. For reference, I do understand what the laws are, I have read Mirgi's site so many times I think I know it by heart. I am interested in expectations here. I come from America, where working culture is that what you are told in the interview and what the laws are often do not actually reflect the expectations once you are employed. A few Nordic friends have kind of said that this is not what the culture is in the Far North, but none of them are specifically Finnish, so I wanted to be sure.

So, first question: are the laws outlined by Migri what I should exactly expect from my employer? If I am told I can only work 30 hours a week, is this generally hard and fast? Like, if I suggested to my host family that I thought I was being expected to work too much based on the law (and my own feelings of exhaustion), would I be seen as a complainer?

Second question: I am having trouble with days off. I read about au pairing experiences in other countries (even America, with its insane work-life balance expectations!) and the au pairs were allowed to leave for weekends and basically every weeknight. Here, I have left the house alone a total of 6 times. I have been here almost three months. Now, on weekends at home I am not "expected" to work like I normally am, but I surely am never "off duty" when I live at work! Both times (the only two times!) I have stayed out overnight on the weekend, when I came back my host Mum was quite upset with me. Is this normal here? Should I really expect to never be able to leave and have time to myself in a country where no one gets less than three weeks' vacation? I understand I am seen as part of the family, but I'm truly an employee; and anyway, I'm 25 years old. This is normal behaviour for my age.

In a similar vein is the final question. We have travelled extensively this summer, first to Greece, then around Finland to see family. These trips were wonderful, and I was lucky to go on them. However, the host family has kind of presented these to me as vacations for me, too. When returning from our two weeks visiting family, the host Dad asked me, "how did you enjoy your summer vacation?" I didn't really know what to say, because without complaining too much, these trips really are WAY, WAY more work and stress than the normal routines of home. I understand I am entitled to paid vacation time by law, but can this really count as paid vacation when I am working the whole time?

I am interested in maintaining the status quo to an extent, and I want to understand if asking for time to explore and go out on week nights and weekends will rock the boat too much. I am really in a nice family, the children are monsters, but they're good monsters. I am not expected to clean, the mum even does my laundry, and I very rarely cook. But I am still a child-minder at all times, and when I do leave for a weekend, I am accused of "disappearing". I have been on my own and answered only to myself since 16, so maybe I'm just not used to answering to an authority. If this is the case, I definitely don't want to ask for too much and ruin our relationship.

Hopefully my post makes sense. Thank you to anyone who reads it and shares their thoughts and feelings. I am absolutely in love with Finland, and I have been for years. I am lucky to be welcomed into your beautiful country, and I hope to one day make my home here... But that is an adventure in itself, and a little bit away.

Au pair expectations...?


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Valinnan vapaus
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Re: Au pair expectations...?

Post by Valinnan vapaus » Mon Aug 05, 2019 8:10 pm

I'm sure someone better-versed in this stuff can fill you in on the details but yes, in Finland it's quite important what it says in your contract, contracts have to conform to työehtosopimus'es, and no, if you've been on holiday with a family as their au pair that doesn't, in any way shape or form, constitute an actual vacation, it was your working time the same as before. You may not have chosen to go at all if it was up to you. In any case for it to really count (in some moral sense), they would have had to have given you some alternative, the choice not to go. Whether they did something extra for you in those locations is another matter but again, it's best not to make such assumptions on either side of the agreement, and be open and clear about how you see those things.

I don't know how you came into contact with the family, but I'm seeing some sites like this:

Do you have one of these?

It seems that the status and rights of au pairs are vague in most cases... with lots being left for the families to work out. You're asking about expectations? That would vary greatly based on the family's needs and wishes. But yeah, if you show them your calculations about your working hours, any reasonable individuals will appreciate that they're breaking the law by extending them, and they shouldn't try to do that without a serious reason. Things come up, but if it keeps happening, it's bad foresight. 30 hours is already lots if you're struggling with the language at all.

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