Wednesday, June 10, 2015

21 Questions to Ask Before You Move to Paris

When you are getting ready to pick up your life and move across seas for a year, it's kind of a good idea to know what you are getting into. A lot of girls are too timid to ask the questions to their host families that in the end could make or break their experience. I was the queen of question-asking (blame it on my journalism background) and my host mom graciously suffered through (thank you!), Keep in mind, some of these questions might be more appropriate to ask the au pair you are replacing if you have her contacts available. And it's best not to go overboard all in one email; space the questions out on a need-to-know basis. You don't want to come off as more of a hassle than a help. That said, here are 21 questions you should ask your host family before moving to Paris:

1. What will (child's name)'s typical schedule be?
2. (If driving to and from school,) what is the drive time? (This will affect your hours.)
3. Does (child's name) have any particular interests in art or reading or music or sports that I can learn about before I come? (Remember you are there for the kids, not just sipping espressos by the Seine.)
4. How often will you (the parents) be out of town for work?
5. Will I go on holidays/vacations with the family?
6. How often will I be taking (child's name) to do things like a museum or a show, etc.? And how do the expenses of those trips get handled?
7. Will I be free to travel on weekends should I choose to do so?

8. Am I free to have guests stay at my apartment (family, fellow APs, etc.)?
9. Does the apartment I will be living in have wifi?
10. Do I need to bring or buy bedding/utensils/toiletries for the apartment?
11. Will I have separate/private access to my apartment?
12. Do you have any photos of the apartment? (A totally reasonable question. This is your home for the next 12 months.)

13. Am I going to be paid in cash or through a bank? (Important to know if you need to open a foreign bank account and how to do that.)
14. How do you handle pay over holidays?
15. If I go over 30 hours in a week, what are the wages for extra hours/babysitting?
16. Will I need to pay for my transportation card/Navigo? (They should pay for a way for you to get around, if they don't, take that extra cost–70€/month–into consideration.)
17. Will your family cover me in health insurance? (They have to as part of French law, but some families will try to skirt by this one.)
18. How much are French classes and how do I register? (If you are paying for them, better to know before so you can budget accordingly because they can be expensive! Mine are 335€ a trimester, and that's the cheapest option.)
19. What will I usually do for breakfast and lunch? (Often you eat dinner with the kids, but you need to know if you are free to eat at the families for the other two meals or if they will give you grocery money.)
20. How will my phone service be handled? (SIM card, internet, carrier costs, etc.)
21. Will you finance my flight to or from my home country? (Some families will, some will say it's out of the question. Don't take offense if it's the latter, this is a new perk that most families haven't heard about yet.)

These may seem like intrusive or blunt questions, but they are things you need to know and part of job anyway... remember, you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. Just try to phrase them considerately. Your tone shouldn't be "What are you gonna give me" but instead, "How can we make this work for the both of us?"

I'm so glad I asked all these questions (over a series of several emails) rather than showing up and getting an unhappy surprise or worse, getting in a situation where I was being taken advantage of and could have avoided had I asked in advance. Trust me you will be, too.

Are there any other questions you could add to the list? Any questions you wish you would have asked before you came? Leave them in the comments below!


  1. Great list so far! Only thing I could think of to add would be to inquire about the public transport options if the family is living in the suburbs. I know a few au pairs who live 30 minutes away from the train station. That could put a damper on the experience if you're not prepared!

    1. Filip Thor, great suggestion. That was definitely something big I kept in mind when looking for a host family. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment!