What’s the difference between an au pair and a nanny? You’ve heard of them both, but do you really know the difference between the two? Au pairs and nannies might seem similar, which they are. However, before you determine which one is the right fit for your family’s needs, you must consider some key differences between the two.

There are eight crucial ways in which au pairs and nannies differ:

Au Pair vs. Nanny, Difference between au pair and nanny
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Au Pair vs. Nanny – Let’s dive a little deeper into the details…

1. Age:

In France, au pairs can range in age anywhere from 17-30 years old. By law, they cannot be any younger than that, neither can they be any older. However, there is no age maximum for nannies in France, although they do have to be older than 16.

2. Working hours:

Au pairs in France are only allowed to work up to 25-30 hours per week for their family. Nannies negotiate their weekly hours with the family, which, although regulated by labor laws, are not nearly as strictly enforced as those for au pairs. Average contracts for nannies are 40-45 hours per week.

3. Cultural exchange aspect 🇫🇷:

An important part of any au pair program is the cultural exchange aspect. Au pairs must come from a different country and generally have a different nationality than at least one of the host parents. Although it isn’t uncommon to hire nannies from other cultures, it is by no means required.

4. Salary:

Families compensate au pairs for their time with “pocket money” (usually 60-80 € per week), in addition to providing board and lodging. So they do not need to be paid the minimum wage. On the other hand, families must pay nannies a salary that is at least equivalent to the minimum wage.

5. Language course:

Since the cultural exchange aspect is an important component of the au pair program, families must provide au pairs with the opportunity to attend a French language course. Nannies do not have to attend such courses, nor do they have to learn French.

6. Relationship with family:

Although both au pairs and nannies often become extended family members. Au pairs are quite literally viewed as temporary family members, meanwhile, nannies are viewed as employees.

7. Visa and work permit:

Unless an au pair is an EU national, an “au pair visa” is required (depending on the country of origin, it is often easier and cheaper to get it than a working visa) in order to live and work in France. Non-EU nannies must obtain a working visa, which is usually more complicated, as the employer has to prove that no suitable applicant can be found in France.

8. Duties and responsibilities:

Legally, the responsibilities of an au pair are only related to childcare and light housework. The nanny and their employer/family agree upon the nanny’s duties, which encompass a larger scope of work. Also, it is important to note that an au pair cannot legally tend to children younger than 3 years old, while nannies can. 

Au Pair vs. Nanny
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What qualifications are required for becoming a nanny or au pair?

There are no consistent requirements or qualifications to become a nanny, but if you hire through an agency they should have their requirements on their website. Common requirements include being over 18 and having previous experience with children. Au pairs have more rigid and consistent requirements, the full list can be found here. Highlights from the list include requirements such as being between 18-30, having no spouse or children, and being enrolled in school in your home country

Do au pairs have to live with the family?

Traditionally au pairs do live with the family they are working for. The family typically compensates them with housing and meals in exchange for a very low wage. However, recently live-out au pairs have become more popular. If the au pair does not live with the family, the family will generally be responsible for paying for the au pairs rent while they work with them. Many au pairs will prefer to live with the family they work for as one of the main draws of the job is cultural integration.

How can I find an au pair or nanny?

There are many great websites and databases to find nannies and au pairs in France. For nannies we recommend Momji and the Bilingual Nannies Association. For au pairs we recommend Au Pair Butrfly and Aupair.com.

We hope this helps to clear up any confusion one might inevitably have about the differences between nannies and au pairs.

We know how important it is to choose the right childcare provider – after all, these wonderful people become extended family! 

If you have any further questions or if you would like to discuss your family’s specific needs one-on-one to determine which childcare option is the best one for you, we would love to chat! Book your free consultation, and let us do the rest.

You may also read our A step-by-step explanation how to hire a nanny in France