Norway, with its majestic fjords, the magic of the Northern Lights, and a society deeply rooted in respect for nature and egalitarian values, is a sought-after destination for au pairs.
The concept of an au pair originates from the French term “au pair,” meaning “on equal terms.” It refers to a domestic assistant from a foreign country, living as part of, and being treated like a member of the host family. While helping with childcare and sometimes light household chores, an au pair is primarily there for cultural exchange, soaking in the nuances of the host country while sharing their own traditions and perspectives.
More than the natural beauty and cultural richness, Norway’s warm and welcoming populace makes the journey of an au pair truly special. So, if you’re looking for an English guide to understand the intricacies of being an au pair in Norway, you’re in the right place!
- Norway offers a holistic au pair experience, blending cultural immersion with professional growth.
- Eligibility criteria ensure a safe and structured au pair program in Norway.
- Au pairs in Norway have specific rights and obligations, ensuring mutual respect and understanding.
- Embracing Norway’s culture and integrating can enhance the overall au pair experience.
- Norway’s safety standards and focus on well-being promise a secure environment for au pairs.
- Staying adaptable, respecting boundaries, and maintaining open communication are keys to a harmonious stay.
Requirements and Eligibility for Becoming an Au Pair in Norway
Embarking on the au pair journey in Norway is indeed an exciting endeavor, but like every professional venture abroad, it comes with its own set of requirements and eligibility criteria.
Age Restrictions and Nationality
Generally, au pairs in Norway must be between 18 to 30 years old. This age range ensures that you’re independent enough to live away from home but still young enough to immerse yourself in a cultural exchange program.
While many au pairs come from European countries, especially from the European Economic Area (EEA), Norway is welcoming to potential au pairs from all over the world.
It’s a common misconception that one must speak fluent Norwegian to be an au pair here. While knowledge of the language is a fantastic advantage, it’s not a strict requirement. However, a basic understanding of English or another major European language is often essential to communicate effectively with the host family and integrate into Norwegian society.
Educational Background Requirements
Norway does not mandate specific educational qualifications for au pairs. Still, having a high school diploma or its equivalent is generally beneficial, especially if you wish to take additional courses during your stay.
Previous Childcare or Relevant Experience
Host families naturally prioritize the safety and well-being of their children. As such, having some previous childcare experience, be it babysitting, tutoring, or any other form of caregiving, is highly advantageous. A willingness to learn and a genuine fondness for children are also essential qualities that families look for.
Remember, while these are the standard requirements, every host family might have their unique preferences or expectations. It’s always beneficial to have an open dialogue with potential families to ensure a good fit for both sides.
Rights and Obligations of an Au Pair in Norway
Diving into a new country and culture is as exhilarating as it sounds, but it’s crucial to be well-informed about your rights and obligations as an au pair in Norway.
Working Hours and Responsibilities
In Norway, au pairs typically work between 25 to 30 hours a week. This includes babysitting in the evenings if required.
The primary duty is childcare, but you may also be asked to perform light household chores. It’s essential to discuss and define these tasks clearly with the host family before beginning.
Free Time, Holidays, and Breaks
As an au pair, you are entitled to at least one full day off per week, and this should, as far as possible, be on a Sunday once a month.
Norway values its holidays, and as an au pair, you, too, will have the right to public holidays off. If you work on a public holiday, you should receive another day off in compensation.
Every 12 months, you’re entitled to 25 working days of holiday.
Living Conditions: Accommodation and Meals
Your host family will provide you with free accommodation. This includes your own room that ensures privacy and comfort.
Along with accommodation, you’ll be provided with all meals, even during your time off or holidays.
Cultural Exchange and Language Courses Opportunities
Being an au pair is not just about work. It’s a cultural exchange! As such, you’re encouraged to participate in language courses, cultural events, or other educational activities. Your host family is obliged to give you the time and opportunity to attend these.
Pocket Money and Other Benefits
Au pairs in Norway receive a monthly pocket money, typically ranging from NOK 5,500 to 7,500. Remember, this isn’t a salary, but an allowance, as you’re also provided with free accommodation and meals.
You’re entitled to benefits like medical, dental, and other necessary healthcare services during your stay.
Your journey as an au pair is built on mutual respect and understanding. While you are expected to fulfill your obligations, your rights ensure you’re well-treated, safe, and given the chance to truly immerse yourself in Norwegian culture.
The Application Process: Steps to Follow
Let’s make your dream of becoming an au pair in Norway a reality! We’re here to guide you through each step of the application process.
Finding a Host Family
Your journey begins with connecting with a potential host family. Many online platforms and agencies specialize in matching au pairs with families in Norway.
It’s essential to engage in open dialogue with potential families. Discuss your expectations, and the needs of the family, and ensure there’s a mutual fit. Think of this as a two-way interview!
Necessary Documents and Visa Application
Once you’ve secured a host family, you’ll need to gather the necessary documents. This often includes:
- A valid passport
- A signed au pair contract with the host family
- Proof of previous childcare experience
- Health and criminal record checks (sometimes)
If you’re from outside the EEA, you’ll need to apply for an au pair residence permit.
- The Utlendingsdirektoratet (Norwegian Directorate of Immigration) provides guidelines and forms for this.
- Ensure your documents are up-to-date and follow the submission guidelines closely.
Health Insurance and Other Essential Formalities
Health is wealth! Ensure you have adequate health insurance coverage for your time in Norway.
If you’re an EEA citizen, your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) may cover you.
For others, it might be necessary to purchase private insurance or check any reciprocal healthcare agreements between Norway and your home country.
Registration with the Police upon Arrival
Once you’ve landed in Norway and settled in a bit, you’ll need to register with the local police, especially if your stay exceeds three months. This registration is a standard procedure and is essential for legal residency.
Cultural Aspects and Integration
Embracing and integrating into the cultural tapestry of Norway is a rewarding journey. Here’s a quick guide to the Norwegian culture:
General Norwegian Customs and Traditions
Norwegians have a profound love and respect for nature. Activities like hiking, skiing, or simply enjoying a picnic by the lake are integral to their way of life. Embracing this outdoor spirit is a fantastic way to bond with families and friends.
It’s a cultural code emphasizing humility, respect, and equality. In essence, it promotes the idea that no one is better than anyone else. Understanding this can help you navigate social interactions better.
Whether it’s the joyous May 17th (National Day) parades, the cozy atmosphere during Christmas, or the magical Midsummer celebrations, participating in local festivities is a heartwarming gateway to understanding Norwegian traditions.
Tips for Blending In and Building Connections
While Norwegians are proficient in English, picking up some Norwegian phrases or engaging in a basic language course can make daily interactions smoother and more personal.
Joining local clubs, attending community events, or participating in group activities can pave the way for lasting friendships and a deeper connection with the community.
Ask questions, share your own traditions, and show genuine interest in learning. Norwegians appreciate curiosity and the willingness to understand their culture.
Potential Cultural Challenges and How to Overcome Them
Norwegians are often seen as reserved, especially to newcomers. However, this is more about respecting personal space than aloofness. Give it time, and you’ll find warm friendships blossoming.
You might find the Norwegian way of communication very direct. It’s not rudeness but rather a cultural preference for straightforwardness. Embracing this clear way of communicating can help avoid misunderstandings.
The long, dark winters can be challenging. Engage in winter sports, indulge in ‘koselig’ (the Norwegian concept of coziness), and ensure you have a support system to chat and spend time with.
Safety and Well-being
As an au pair in Norway, your journey is indeed thrilling, but it’s also natural to have concerns about safety and welfare.
General Safety in Norway
- Low Crime Rate: Norway boasts one of the lowest crime rates globally, with its cities often ranking among the safest. Petty crimes, like pickpocketing, are relatively rare, and violent crimes even rarer.
- Safety Infrastructure: Whether you’re in a bustling city center or a serene countryside, you’ll find well-lit streets, clear signages, and easily accessible public services that contribute to a secure environment.
Personal Well-being and Mental Health
Norway prides itself on its robust healthcare system. As an au pair, you’re entitled to essential medical, dental, and other healthcare services, ensuring your physical well-being is taken care of.
Mental Health Resources
It’s vital to maintain mental well-being too. Norway has numerous resources, including helplines, counseling services, and community groups, designed to support and help you navigate any challenges.
Stay connected, not just with your host family but also with friends, other au pairs, and community groups. Sharing experiences, attending social events, and just having a chat can significantly contribute to emotional well-being.
Tips for Ensuring Personal Safety
- Stay Informed: Whether it’s about local weather conditions during a hike or knowing emergency contact numbers, staying informed is key.
- Trust Your Instincts: If something feels off or uncomfortable, trust your gut feelings. Whether it’s a place, situation, or interaction, prioritize your comfort and safety.
- Open Communication: Ensure you maintain open communication with your host family about any concerns, be it work-related, personal, or regarding your well-being. More often than not, they’ll be your first line of support.
Benefits of Being an Au Pair in Norway
Immersive Cultural Experience
Deep Dive into Traditions
From celebrating Norway’s National Day to indulging in the warmth of ‘koselig’ during cold nights, you’ll get a first-hand experience of Norway’s cherished customs.
Picking up Norwegian not only makes daily interactions smoother but also adds a valuable skill to your repertoire. Many Norwegians also speak English, so you can improve both languages!
Professional and Personal Growth
Develop New Skills
Beyond childcare, living with a host family teaches you essential life skills, such as effective communication, problem-solving, and adaptability.
Build Global Networks
You’ll meet other au pairs, join community groups, and be a part of gatherings, expanding your global network and possibly forging friendships for life.
Quality of Life and Welfare
As emphasized earlier, Norway is one of the safest countries globally, ensuring peace of mind during your stay.
Health and Well-being
With access to top-notch healthcare and well-being resources, you’re always in good hands in Norway.
Exploring Natural Beauty
Gateway to Nature
Norway offers unparalleled natural beauty. From the majestic fjords to the mesmerizing Northern Lights, every weekend can be a new adventure.
Whether you’re a fan of skiing, hiking, or simply picnicking by serene lakes, Norway has something for every nature enthusiast.
Education and Learning Opportunities
Many host families support au pairs in joining Norwegian language courses, enhancing both communication and cultural immersion.
Workshops and Community Classes
Engage in local workshops, from art and crafts to cooking classes, further enriching your stay.
Wrap-up and Additional Tips
Before you pack your bags and embark on this new chapter, here are some golden nuggets of advice to keep in your pocket.
- Be Open and Adaptable: Norway might be different from your homeland in many aspects, but that’s the beauty of it! Embrace the changes, be adaptable, and remember that every experience, whether familiar or new, adds a layer to your personal growth.
- Respect Privacy and Boundaries: While Norwegians are warm and welcoming, they also value their privacy. It’s essential to strike a balance between being social and respecting personal boundaries.
- Embrace the Weather: Yes, it can get cold and dark during winters, but that’s when the magic of ‘koselig’ shines brightest! Invest in good quality winter wear and dive into winter activities to make the most of it.
- Seek Feedback and Communicate: Whether with your host family or the children you care for, open channels of communication can smoothen out any wrinkles. Regular check-ins and seeking feedback can ensure a harmonious living situation.
- Document Your Journey: Start a journal, a blog, or simply click photos. Documenting your journey can be therapeutic and will leave you with a treasure trove of memories to look back upon.
- Stay Connected with Fellow Au Pairs: They can be your support system, your adventure buddies, and a source of advice as they’re sailing in the same boat.
How long can I stay as an au pair in Norway?
Typically, the au pair permit in Norway is valid for up to two years. However, the actual duration might vary depending on your agreement with the host family and any visa restrictions.
Will I need to know Norwegian to become an au pair?
While it’s not mandatory to know Norwegian to become an au pair, having basic knowledge can enhance your experience. Many host families are more than happy to help you enroll in language courses during your stay!
How many hours am I expected to work?
An au pair in Norway is expected to work up to 30 hours a week, including babysitting. Remember, you’re entitled to at least one day off every week.
What if I face issues with my host family?
Open communication is key. Discuss any concerns with your host family. If issues persist, you can seek assistance from the UDI (Norwegian Directorate of Immigration) or relevant au pair organizations that can provide guidance and support.
Am I entitled to any holidays or vacations?
Absolutely! As an au pair, you’re entitled to 25 working days of paid holiday per year, if you work five days a week. If there’s a public holiday on a day you’re supposed to work, you get an extra day off.
Can I study while being an au pair?
Yes, you can! Many au pairs choose to enroll in language courses or other short-term courses during their stay. However, your primary role remains as an au pair, so make sure your study commitments don’t clash with your responsibilities.
Is health insurance provided?
Upon arrival in Norway and once you’ve been registered in the National Population Register, you’ll be automatically affiliated with the National Insurance Scheme, ensuring you access to necessary healthcare services.
Can I extend my stay after my au pair contract ends?
If you wish to stay in Norway after your au pair permit expires, you’ll need to apply for a different type of residence permit, such as for work or study. It’s best to consult with the UDI for specific guidance.