My experience as an Au Pair in Russia
Being an au pair in Russia is one of the most amazing and interesting things which I have ever done.
Due to my interest in Russian culture, when I was 21 years old I decided to spend two months as au pair in Syktyvkar, the Capital city of the Komi Republic. Why Syktyvkar? Five years have passed and I still can’t answer this question. I just found Tatyana’s beautiful family by chance while looking for a Russian family on a website, I liked them, they liked me and that’s it. I decided that Syktyvkar was the right place for me. Yes, I could have chosen Moscow or St. Petersburg, but I don’t regret my choice whatsoever. I think I had the chance to see the real face of Russia. Something which is quite different from Europe. Probably, my experience would have been different, i.e., less “real”, if I had lived in Moscow or Saint Petersburg.
How I found a family and became an au pair
I mostly checked these websites whilst looking for a family: www.aupair.com and www.aupairworld.com. They are very well structured and intuitive and it’s easy to find a family according to your needs (for example, how many months you’are planning to stay).
I didn’t want to spend more than two months working as an au pair, because it was my first experience in Russia. I was very lucky. Usually families want au pairs to work at least 6 months but Tatyana said two months was ok, so we decided that I would spend November and December in Syktyvkar. I planned my trip in advance, Tatyana and I kept in touch for a couple of months with emails and video calls on Skype. In order to get my visa, I sent her a copy of my passport (by email) and she sent me a private invitation letter (in original!). Then, when I received the original invitation letter, I was able to apply for my visa. When I got my visa I couldn’t believe my eyes – my dream was going to be realised and I was more than ready to start this amazing adventure.
My main duties at home
My main duty at home was taking care of the children, of course. The children were 1, 3 and 11 years old. I had to bring Diana, an 11-year-old girl, to school in the morning and to English classes in the afternoon twice a week; I took care of 3-year-old Leva and 1-year-old Stefania when Tatyana was not home. Sometimes I cooked for them. I attended Russian classes in the afternoon as well, but I think Leva taught me more than the teacher at school: he talked a lot, was very curious and asked me a lot of questions so I was forced to speak. It was hard, I didn’t understand him most of the time and of course I had to speak Russian all the time with him and my Russian was very bad. I learnt that if you want to be an au pair, in Russia or in any other country, you have to be patient. You must be ready to adapt to children’s habits and do your best to become part of the family.
How I survived Russian winter
So, I spent November and December in Syktyvkar. It was so cold I thought I wouldn’t survive. The temperature was -41, everything was covered in snow. Fortunately, I had thermal clothes (thank you Decathlon!); unfortunately, I looked like the Michelin man. I learnt that during winter in Russia you should wear several layers of clothing, because it’s very cold but in restaurants and pubs it can be very hot! When I tell people that I spent two months in Russia during winter, they are shocked by my experience (I come from sunny Sicily, we just don’t know what the real cold actually is) and ask me why I did that. I now know the answer, I can remember exactly how I felt when I first arrived in Syktyvkar: alive. The Russian cold made me feel alive. This is a very good reason!
Why being an au pair was important to me
Being an au pair gave me the chance to get to know a different culture and helped me to improve my language skills. When I arrived in Syktyvkar my Russian was really bad, after two months I could hold an every-day conversation and I was able to answer the phone, order at restaurants, buy train tickets and so on. I was even able to make new friends – understanding each other was not easy but it was really funny!
So there you have it – my adventure as an au pair in Russia! I think that every student should be au pair at least once. Being an au pair in Russia allowed me develop my skills and gave me the opportunity to live an unforgettable experience. What are you waiting for?!