The word au pair originates from France, and means ‘at par’ or ‘equal to’, therewith immediately indicating that an au pair – host family relationship is based on equality and the au pair is to be considered part of the host family.
The au pair programme is a cultural exchange programme, where the au pair as well as the host family are exposed to a culture different than their own:
The au pair will be given the opportunity to explore another culture and the possibility to study while being placed in the protective environment of a host family abroad. Host families inviting an au pair to their home are expected to share their culture with the au pair and show interest in the culture and cultural background of the au pair.
In exchange for the benefits and opportunities provided by the host family, the au pair is expected to carry out a specified amount of light household duties and childcare.
The only European Agreement on Au Pair Placement was signed in 1969, and came into effect in 1971.
The regulations around the au pair programme differ from country to country, but in general an au pair should meet the following criteria: