Bad Thing

A lot of people have been asking how my landlord situation has been going, so I knew I had to post this blog as soon as I could. I should have known that something would go wrong once I started to relax! I made cupcakes on Wednesday and then everything seemed to go downhill from there. On Thursday at lunch, I received a message from my landladies (which I don’t even want to call landLADIES anymore, since neither of them have acted very ladylike whatsoever. I think I will refer to them as landpeople from this point onwards…), which said, 
“Hi girls unfortunately I am having to give u 2 weeks notice. We have decided to go a different way with the property so will need u both to vacate by the 12th of May, we will inspect the room then & return your bond if all is in order. Leanne & Jo.” 
By that point, we hadn’t even been in the house for three weeks. I was actually quite emotionless when I received the message because I didn’t know any other way to take it. Since the next day was my birthday, Gabi and I both made an agreement that we’d only let ourselves be upset that day, and then we wouldn’t talk about it for the next couple of days. 
After work, I had asked my other flatmates if they had received a message from the landpeople and they all said no. However, I soon discovered that everyone else had already been planning to leave within the next two weeks on their own accord – some to move to a different city, and some just to move into a new house. Therefore, how convenient was it for the landpeople to only evict me and Gabi? I was pretty sure that they weren’t allowed to kick us out only because they “wanted to go a different way with the property,” and I wasn’t planning to go down without a fight. I was determined to make their lives at least a tiny bit difficult because they were doing the same to us. Had we known we would have to leave after one month of living in the place, we never would have moved there – especially since we had to buy new bedding for our rooms, as well as rent a car in order to move everything. I decided to phone Consumer Affairs Victoria to get advice about the situation, and the lady seemed just as surprised as I was. She said that I should write the landpeople and request an official “Notice to Vacate to Resident of Rooming House.” She said that on the form, the landpeople have to give a specific reason about why they want us to leave the property and she also said that “wanting to go a different way” didn’t seem like a valid reason. Therefore, if there was no specified reason, it would give us a 120-day period to move out, which would be perfect since we’d be leaving in July anyway. I sent the landpeople a message, which said, 
“Dear Jo and Leanne, 
I have just gotten off of the phone with Consumer Affairs Victoria and I have given them the information about the house and the contract in order to get advice about what we could do. They have informed me that you need to provide us with the form “Notice to Vacate to Resident of a Rooming House,” which is found online. Until then, we can continue paying rent and living here as per usual. Thank you,
Janelle”
I sent this message shortly after 5pm, which is when the Consumer Affairs Victoria office closed. Less than 20 minutes later, I received a call from Leanne and she was livid. I don’t think I’ve ever actually had a fight with someone on the phone before, but this person was not being reasonable and she was acting like WE were the bad guys. She said she wasn’t able to get through to Consumer Affairs, but the contract said that either party could give two weeks’ notice (which was actually true, but it wasn’t a proper contract – it was a ‘Flatmate Agreement’ that was found online). She said that I had signed it so I agreed to the two weeks’ notice. I tried to explain that yes, I signed it but we never expected that we’d be given two weeks’ notice after living in the place for only two weeks. She kept repeating that circumstances have changed and implied that they were doing us a favour by giving us two weeks to move out. She said that there wasn’t any point in fighting against it because I had agreed to the two weeks’ notice. I explained that Consumer Affairs said that she has to have a valid reason to evict us, and she said she wants to repossess the house and it’s listed under Consumer Affairs. Then she went on to say (and by say, I mean yell) that I’d be leaving in June anyway (and I tried to say July, but she was just going on and on) and I’d be giving two weeks notice when I leave, so why do I get to give two weeks notice and they can’t? I yelled back, “You’re running a business!! That’s what happens when you rent out rooms – people come and go; it’s a normal thing!!” She continues, “Well I don’t understand why you’re making this so difficult on us. I didn’t think we had to be so formal to ask you to leave. If you want it in writing, I can write it on a piece of paper for you and bring it over.” “No, I don’t want it written on a piece of paper. I want the OFFICIAL FORM.” “What official form?” “The one that I wrote in the message. You can find it online. It HAS to be provided.” She kept going on and on about how hard I was making it, and why couldn’t I see things from their point of view… Seriously?! I went, “Why can’t you see things from OUR point of view?! We bought new bedding for the house, we rented a car to move here, you know how difficult housing is to find in Warragul and we thought we finally found a place, and it hasn’t even been THREE WEEKS and now we have to start looking for a new place again! What was even the point of letting us all move in if you were just going to kick us out after two weeks?” She kept saying circumstances have changed, and she thought that in Consumer Affairs, it said that we could get 28 days to vacate and if I wanted 28 days, she could give it to me, but I’d be moving out regardless. I said that 28 days would be better, and we ended the phonecall with a 28-day agreement, and that she’d send me the official notice to vacate.

 

By that point, I was all heated up and pissed off because the conversation was like talking to one of my high school students. I couldn’t believe how irrational this person was being, and how she was putting all of the blame on me (similar to Ali’s way of dealing with things, so I don’t know if this is how all Warragul landlords are, or if I’ve just been really unlucky). About a half hour later, one of my flatmates came into the kitchen and said that Leanne was at the door. Surprisingly, she was actually more pleasant to deal with in person and she apologized that she had made a mistake with the two weeks, and that we’d have 28 days to find a new place. She repeated that circumstances had changed, and that she wasn’t going to get into it, and that we probably really hated her (which was pretty spot on). She also said we could take the bed if we wanted, but since we don’t have anyway of moving a massive bunkbed (which she knows), it was a pointless offer. Anyway, we now have the official notice to vacate and we have until May 25th to find a new place. It takes a bit of the stress off, knowing that we have an extra two weeks to look, plus I think quite a few people will be leaving the tomato farm in May. The searching will start soon, and hopefully we’ll find something decent! That’s all for now, but I’ll keep everyone updated with whatever happens next! 🙂 Love always
 
Bad Thing – The Mowgli’s

To Build A Home

This past week has been pretty eventful, and a lot of it was thanks to our new landlords. Last Saturday, I went into Melbourne with Allen and Viola (my old housemates). They were getting their car fixed so they had to leave early in order to get to the mechanic on time. We must have gotten to Melbourne around 10:30 or 11, so we decided to get some lunch after dropping off the car. We

Bubble Tea with Allen and Viola

stopped at a restaurant for roast duck, which was so good! Afterwards, we went to have bubble tea for dessert. While we were sitting there, it started POURING rain – even an umbrella wouldn’t help keep us dry! We decided to stay safe in the bubble tea restaurant for an hour or two, while we waited for the car to be ready for pickup. By the time the car was ready to get picked up (around 2:30pm), the rain had stopped so we were able to walk back to the garage and pick up the car. We then went to an outlet mall to check out some of the shops and then we headed to an all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant, where we were meeting with some other people from work (there were ten of us in total). We paid 32.80 each (a bit more expensive than Saskatoon) and got to eat as much as we wanted. All-you-can-eat sushi was a bit different as well. Instead of having a menu of different types of sushi to order, the menu just had different types of food, which had a sushi platter included in the menu. However, I ended up getting full SO fast because it was the first time I was putting so much meat, gluten, and dairy in my body at once – I don’t think my body was used to it. It was all really good though, and I ended up trying a lot of foods that I probably wouldn’t have ordered myself. On Sunday, Gabi and I spent the entire day inside because it was pouring rain again. I decided to just have a lazy day since there wasn’t much else that I could do.

On Monday, it was back to the regular workweek! That evening, I got a message from Allen asking if there was any space left in my new house. Apparently Ali was accusing them of stealing money, as well as Chloe’s cell phone (that she loses everyday). One of the new girls that had moved in had set aside $200 for rent and deposit but then when she went to get it, it had disappeared. Ali then went to the girl and said that she thought Allen and Viola had stolen it from her! I couldn’t believe this woman – it’s like she wants everyone else to be just as miserable as she is. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that everyone in that house is now looking for somewhere new to live, so hopefully they all find somewhere soon! On Tuesday during my break, I had received a message from the landladies (at 8:30am) stating that they had done a surprise inspection and that they weren’t happy with the state of the house. They said that the heater had been left on (which I was confused about since all of us were wearing jackets while eating breakfast cause it was so cold – but I later found out that some of the guys had turned it on after we all left, and they forgot to turn it off before going to work), they also said that there were dishes left on the side of the sink (which were clean and drying), there were flies in the kitchen (we’ve been complaining about bugs all week because everyone has been getting bites since we’ve moved in, and the response was “if you’re not happy, you can leave), and the floors were filthy. The worst part about the message was the passive-aggressive comment, “I can come and show you how to use the vacuum and mop if you want.” They said we had a week to fix this up before we would be inspected again, which I wasn’t impressed about. Combining that message with the news about Ali, I was extremely upset that day. I don’t know if I was just tired or if I was actually bothered by it, but I was fighting back tears during my lunch. I think that everything came crashing down because I had been living at Ali’s for the past two months and I finally escaped to what I thought would be a nice, relaxing place to live, only to end up getting harassed from our landlords after being in the house for just one week. I decided that I’d talk to all of the other housemates and then I’d write a group message

Roast Duck

back to the landladies on behalf of everyone. Little did they know, this isn’t my first rodeo – I’ve dealt with a few nightmare landlords in the past (for those of you who need a refresher, feel free to go back to the London posts of my blog!). Everyone else was just as shocked as I was about the message, and we all didn’t think it was messy. I rage-wrote a full page of a text message (which is what I do best), and then got the rest of the house to read it before I sent it in the group message. I decided to keep it polite (as I didn’t want to make things hostile and uncomfortable while living here), but I also decided to call a spade a spade when necessary. For those of you who want to read the message, I’ve copied it below. For those of you who don’t want to read it, feel free to scroll past 🙂

“I hate confrontation, but I feel like if this is a message that we’ve received after living here for only a week, something has to be said. All of the tenants have just talked to each other and we were all quite surprised to receive that message this morning. In regards to the dishes, all of the dishes that were there were clean but there wasn’t enough room on the drying rack. Unfortunately, the towels that have been provided don’t dry the dishes – they merely spread the water around on the dish. However, we have now bought our own dish towels so hopefully this will help solve the problem. I was quite surprised to read the comment about the two flies in the kitchen because when the problem of ants in the kitchen was brought up, the response was that “it’s nature.” We agree that the flies are annoying – perhaps the duct tape has not fixed the screen properly. I do have to say that we were all surprised about the rule stating monthly inspections with no notice. In all of our countries, the landlord has to provide 24 hours notice before entering the property. I thought that maybe it was different in Australia but upon looking at the Tenants Union Victoria website, it states that the landlord must 
“give you at least 24 hours’ written notice of their intention to visit, stating the reason they want to visit.”
I also read that if you give proper notice, a landlord can enter the premises if “they want to inspect the premises (provided there has been no inspection within the last 6 months and it is not within the first 3 months of the first tenancy).” 
I think that we have all come to a mutual agreement that we feel uncomfortable knowing that someone is going through our home without anyone being there, as it feels like an invasion of privacy. We are all hard-working individuals who want somewhere to relax when we get home from work and we want to express that we would never trash the place that we live in, as none of us want to live in a pigsty. We all believe that we are living in a respectful manner and we are doing our best to keep it clean, but I think that it is unfair to come in when most of us have left the house by 6am and therefore do not have the time in the morning to make sure the house is completely clean. We are all good people; we are grown adults and we don’t need to feel like we are being babysat in our own home. It has only been a week and many of us have felt uncomfortable asking for anything because the last time some of the problems were brought up, the response was, “If you’re unhappy, then you can leave.” I don’t think any of us deserve to be spoken to this way, and I think that there should be respectful landlady/tenant relationship, which is what we all want! I just want to add that Leanne, you have been nothing but kind and friendly to everyone and we appreciate that. Maybe if there are any more problems and you would like to reiterate certain rules, we would be open to having a house meeting one evening to discuss everything. Thank you!”
Everyone out for sushi
I sent the message in a group message, but for some reason, it sent to everyone individually so then it just ended up looking like I wrote the landladies on my own (just so everyone knows, my landlords are two ladies (Jo and Leanne) who work together at the bank). One of the girls (Mei) also wrote one of the landladies, and Gabi wrote saying that she agreed with my message. The landladies wrote back quite quickly – the first reply (from Jo) was quite nice and just said that the house was completely redone so they just want to make sure it’s taken care of (which is understandable). The second reply (from Leanne) was a bit more aggressive, saying that when she was in the house to set up the internet, she thought that the kitchen was filthy and she wouldn’t be able to handle living like that. Then she just said if we’re okay with how it is, then it’s not a problem. We all felt a lot better after receiving the messages from them, and I think it helped clear the air.
On Wednesday at break, I received another message from the landladies, saying that, “Since I seemed to be the spokesperson for the rest of the house, could I pass the message on.” They said that they only had to give notice if they were inspecting our rooms, but the common areas were their property so they would continue to inspect it to make sure that it’s at a standard that they would expect (which still seems weird to me, as in Australia, you can apply for a restraining order from your landlord if they harass you too much and don’t allow you to live peacefully, and this seems to be overstepping that limit). They also said that if Jo hadn’t come in, the heater would have been left on all day (which actually isn’t true, because one person is still looking for work so he was still home all day) and it isn’t responsible adult behaviour. They said that if the cleaner had come in, she wouldn’t have been able to do anything except wash the floors, and stated that they could cancel the cleaner if we were happier setting up our own cleaning roster. I just wrote back and said that we could arrange to make sure the dishes are put away on the day that the cleaner comes. Later that night, I wrote Leanne asking what day garbage pickup was (because on our house rules, it just said that it was weekly, but it didn’t specify a day). She wrote back saying, “It’s on the house rules. It was this morning.” I politely responded that it actually wasn’t on the house rules but thanks. I think the problem with Warragul is that EVERYONE is looking for a place to live all the time (the tomato farm has 320 employees and most of them are here temporarily), so landlords don’t care how they treat their tenants since they know that they’ll be able to find a replacement quite easily. I’m hoping that after this week, the landladies will slow down with the messages because otherwise, I might have to join Allen and Viola with

My coworkers, Judy and Akane

looking for a new place!

Anyway, the rest of the workweek was fine. Unfortunately, we worked too fast again so we were done our work by the end of Thursday. Luckily, our supervisor found some other work for us to do until lunchtime on Friday, which was when we were sent home. Our hours keep getting shorter and shorter each week so hopefully they’ll start picking up again soon. Next week, our start time changes to 7am so we’ll get an extra half hour of sleep! Now it’s time for the weekend and I’m superexcited because tomorrow, I’ll be going to Melbourne to meet up with Katie. Hope everyone’s doing well! Love always
 
To Build A Home – The Cinematic Orchestra

Take It or Leave It

I have now reached my two-month point at the tomato farm, and I’m a week away from being in Australia for three months. Actually, today marked my 44th day of work out of my 88 days, so I’m officially halfway done! The time has been flying by – so much has happened and I’ve really been enjoying my time here! As I predicted, after a week of working in the new shed, the supervisors really started pushing us to work faster. They said that we should be aiming to finish one row in 30 minutes, and when I started, it took me 1 hour and 15 minutes. Our shed is a huge 5.5-hectare area, with about 300 rows front to back, and they

For those of you who are still unsure about what I do

expect us to go through the entire shed in one week. The second week of us being there, the supervisors hinted that arch support should be working faster during our staff meeting. The third week, the supervisor pulled all of the arch support people aside and told us we should be working faster. The fourth week, the supervisor came up to each of us individually and told us we had to work faster. By that time, my average was about 650 plants per hour (I got my row time down to 45 minutes!) and they expected us to be at 900. The supervisor told me that if I thought I couldn’t get to 900, I needed to tell him and he would move me somewhere else. He also told me to look at the sheet of KPI’s to see how I was doing. I went and looked, and only two of us (out of seven) were actually reaching the 900-plant target – one of whom had already done the job for six months. The other five of us had our names highlighted in bright yellow for everyone else to see. I then understood why students never like having their marks posted on the wall. By that point, I was more angry than anything. I was doing my best, and instead of acknowledging that I sped up my weekly average by five minutes compared to the previous week, they were continuously saying that I needed to be better. I felt like a kid who was constantly trying to please their parents, and feeling like their parents were never proud of them. I honestly didn’t care if they wanted to fire me because I felt like I should find work somewhere else. It wasn’t worth stressing myself over a job that I didn’t necessarily need. I figured that maybe I should just stay in Australia for one year and move on. During the two weeks before that, Sonia had kept going back and forth between wanting to stay only to finish her 88 days, and wanting to stay for the full 6-month contract in order to save money. However, one day out of the blue, she announced that she was going to buy a plane ticket back to Perth and she would be leaving in two weeks. She missed her boyfriend and she didn’t think she wanted to stay in Australia for another year so it wasn’t worth finishing her farmwork. I didn’t know what to think! The person who I’ve been spending 24/7 with for the past two months was leaving! I think that her leaving combined with the stresses of work as well as the stresses of Ali at home was just too much for me. I thought that maybe I should just go to Melbourne and start teaching. I now know that the reason why Paul (our supervisor) had been pushing us to go faster was because Mark (the main supervisor) was going on holiday for the following four weeks, meaning Paul would be taking over. We knew that the big bosses would be coming in to see how things were going, and I think Paul was stressing out that we were going to mess everything up.

Luckily, things started turning around that weekend when Gabi came to work at Ali’s house. This was when we came up with the idea that Gabi could replace Sonia at work (and basically in my life!). Housing is extremely hard to find in Warragul but somehow, we ended up looking at the right time because one empty house showed up on Gumtree, and it had four bedrooms to fill. The rooms were $200 per week for one person, but I was able to come to an agreement of $125 each if we were sharing a room (we were paying $100 per week at Ali’s, but it was worth paying a little bit extra in order to feel comfortable at home). When I went and looked at the house, it didn’t look that great because they were in the middle of renovations, and I was a little bit skeptical based on my rental history in London. However, I really was desperate to get out of Ali’s house so I decided to just go for it. The house would be available to move into the following weekend, which gave me one last week to spend with Sonia. However, Sonia had also been really sick that entire weekend (as well as the Thursday and Friday before) and on Monday morning, she had to call in sick to work. She must have not actually called though, because Paul asked me three separate times to message Sonia and ask her to call him since it was company policy. I even had to run to the break room to get her number so that he could try calling her himself. That day when I came home from work, Sonia announced that she wasn’t going to go back to work at all, even though she was originally going to stay for the last eight days before she flew back to Perth. The next day, everyone was asking about Sonia. Paul said he still needed to hear from her and asked me to message her a couple more times. I think eventually, he just gave up because he knew he wasn’t going to get that message. We were given two helpers at work that week since we were short Sonia, as well as another girl on Monday. By the time Friday came, we had finished the entire shed by lunchtime and we were sent home after lunch. 
Ali and Chloe went to Melbourne for the week so it was a nice, quiet week in the house, which was perfect for my last week there. On Friday evening, all of the housemates in Ali’s place went out for dinner since it would be my last night in the house. We went to

The housemates

an Italian restaurant in Warragul and I was finally able to have my first pizza in Australia! It was so nice to have an evening out with everyone, and I was truly sad to be leaving them, as they are all such genuine people. Luckily, I’d still be able to see them at work! After dinner, we all went back to the house, took pictures, and visited before bed. The next day was extremely busy! Lucky for me, Allen and Viola (two of my housemates) offered to drive me to the car rental in Warragul at 8am, which saved me an hour and a half walk (and having to get up at 5:30 in the morning!). I picked up the car and then I had to learn how to DRIVE the car. Not only was the steering wheel on the right side of the car, but the gear shift was on the opposite side, as well as the signals. I kept hitting my hand on the door because I’d reach for the handle to change from Reverse to Drive, and then remember that it was on the opposite side. And I must have turned on the windshield wipers at least twenty times instead of turning the signal light on. I was SO nervous when I drove for the first time because it’s hard to get your bearings! For someone who’s used to driving on the left side of the car, it’s hard to drive on the right side of the car and not feel like you’re going to hit something on your left side, or go out of the lines. I was too scared to make my first left turn, as well as my second left turn, so I ended up driving out of Warragul about five kilometres until I could finally make another turn. I drove to the new house to pick up the keys at 9am, and went back to the farm to finish packing up my stuff. Gabi was arriving at 11 so I had about two hours to get everything organized. As soon as I finished packing my stuff, I noticed that Ali had come home from Melbourne so I quickly packed up the car. As I was about to leave, Chloe saw me and showed me her brand new iPhone (she lost her previous one the week before) and shoes. She asked

Our barbecue

what I was doing that day and I said that I would be moving houses, so she gave me a hug goodbye. I then put everything in the car and went to pick up Gabi. We had just enough time to drop off all of our stuff at the new house, and then we had to go to the park because some of my coworkers were having a barbecue. They had stoves in the park and the girls had bought a bunch of meat to grill; it was so nice! Unfortunately, we had to leave at 1:30pm because we had to pick up Sonia from the farm and then we all drove to Ikea (and arrived at 3:30). I told the girls that we HAD to leave by 5pm so that we could make it back to Warragul, fill the car with gas and drop it off, and then catch the last bus back to Melbourne. We actually DID finish Ikea at 5pm but then we couldn’t find the car anywhere! Once we realized we were actually on the wrong parking level, we were able to finally find the car. We told Gabi that she could just stay in Melbourne since we were coming back anyway, and then Sonia and I drove back to

Warragul. By the time we got back to my house, it was 6:45 so we quickly put all of the Ikea stuff in the house and then I took Sonia back to the farm. By the time I got to the train station, it was 7:15 and the last train left at 7:30! Needless to say, it was a VERY stressful evening. I parked the car at the station parking lot since there was no way I’d have time to fill it up with gas and bring it back to the dealership in time. I then took the bus to Melbourne and took the tram up to Thornbury,

Off to Ikea!

where Robyn was staying. For those of you who don’t know, Robyn is the longest friend that I have had – we knew each other before we were even born, when our moms would put their stomachs together so we could kick each other. We hardly see each other anymore because she lives in Calgary (and I live in different countries), but it was so nice to catch up since it’s nearly been two years since we last saw each other! I finally arrived at the bar ‘Welcome to Thornbury’ at 10pm and was able to have a well-deserved drink with Robyn and her friends. We left just after midnight and walked back to where Robyn was staying, and then Robyn and I ended up talking until 3 in the morning (just like old times)!

Our amazing brunch!
On Sunday, we got up and ready for 11am and then drove to South Yarra to have brunch at Abacus. Robyn had chilli folded eggs, and I went for a cauliflower heart. Both meals were actually so amazing! I was pleasantly surprised! We then drove to the casino for parking and then walked along the river to the ferris wheel – the Melbourne Star. I was shocked to find out that the price was 36 dollars per person! Robyn really wanted to go and was so generous by paying for the two of us, so we got to see Melbourne from above. The ride was a half hour, and one full rotation. We got a full carriage to ourselves, which was awesome cause we were able to take all of the pictures (and selfies) that we wanted! After finishing on the ferris wheel, we took the tram back into central Melbourne and went to a rooftop patio called Cookie, where we had cider and fries. By that time (about 5:30), we really needed to get back to the casino so that I could get my bag from her car and go back to Warragul (as I wanted to leave Melbourne by 5:30) and Robyn had to get back to her place to pack her bags cause she needed to leave by 6:30 to get to the central station. We made our way back to the casino and then had another difficult time trying to find the parking lot and her car (I seem to have bad luck with this…). Somehow, there was nowhere for Robyn to drop me off when we got out of the casino parking lot and we ended up on the freeway, going AWAY from where I needed to go. She had to get back off the freeway to drop me off, and she was already concerned about getting home in time. It was a very stressful last half hour together! When she dropped me off, it was 6:20pm so I looked up directions to Warragul and it said that the next bus didn’t leave until 7:45. I decided I might as well go to McDonald’s and get something to eat, as well as go to the grocery store so that I could pick up something for lunch the following day. I got back to Warragul at 9pm and then I had to take the rental car, fill it up with gas (which was just another confusing thing to do in itself), and take it back to the dealership. Lucky for me, Allen and Viola (my angels) came to pick me up at 9:30 so that I wouldn’t have to walk

High in the sky!

home. However, I had to figure out where to leave the key or I wouldn’t get my $400 bond back. The guy had said there would be a box across the street at the Holden dealership, so Allen and I walked around, searching. Finally, Allen found a box but above the box, there was a sign saying that they no longer take returns for AVIS customers, so we didn’t know what to do. After minutes of trying to decide, I wanted to just go to bed so we took a video of me dropping the key into the box and then we finally went back home at about 10pm. I don’t think I ended up going to bed until after 11:30pm and I had to wake up at 4:45 the next morning so that I could walk to work.

The walk to work on Monday morning was absolutely horrible, and I never wanted to do it again. It’s weird cause it’s the exact same length (45 minutes) as it would be from the farm, but there were WAY more hills involved this time. Luckily, the couple who I live with offered to give Gabi and I a ride to work everyday from Tuesday onwards. I was completely out of it at work all day and could hardly keep my eyes open, so I was extremely happy when they finally let us go home! I walked to the grocery store after work (since it’s only 30 minutes away now!) and went to get all of the groceries that we would need for the week, since we didn’t really have much. Lucky for me, two of my housemates from the old house happened to be in the grocery store and offered me a ride home! Otherwise, I would have had to pay for a taxi, and those are superexpensive here. I went back home, we made dinner, and I fell asleep by 8:30. That week at work, we were doing our jobs too fast again. They sent us home at lunch on Wednesday so on Thursday, we worked really slow because we had almost finished the entire shed. We were scared that if we finished the shed by the end of Thursday, our supervisor would just tell us not to come in on Friday. We ended up finishing the shed on Friday at 2pm, which is right when they sent us home. Our hours seem to keep getting lower and lower each week, which is not very good for us, so I’m hoping they’ll pick up again soon! Now I’m so happy it’s the weekend, and hopefully I’ll have some more adventures to share for my next blog post. Hope everyone is doing well! Love always
PS Make sure you watch the video of me driving on the wrong side of the road! 😀
Take It or Leave It – Great Good Fine Ok

The Harsh Reality of Being an Au Pair: Part IV (Exposed)

We got to know the au pair that lived in the house with us quite quickly. She’s 19, comes from Finland, and this was her third family in Australia that she was working for. She was getting paid $300 per week but had to work over 70 hours each week. She barely had time to get everything done during the day because while the kids were at school, she had to look after the horses and do all of the cleaning. She was supposed to have weekends off but usually when she came back from Melbourne on Sunday evenings, we saw her out feeding the horses because Ali “didn’t feel like doing it,” or giving Chloe a bath and getting her ready for bed. Chloe always has to sleep with someone, and she sleeps with her mom every night. When her mom wakes up in the morning to go to work at 6, she brings Chloe to her brother’s room until it’s time to wake up. Occasionally, the mom will spend the night in her apartment in Melbourne, meaning Chloe will have to sleep with the au pair, who says that she never gets enough sleep those nights (plus it’s like working a 24-hour day). Katariina said that the only reason she was staying was because she’s now able to get along with the mom, and she had less than two months left when we first moved in. I remember sitting with Ali one morning in the kitchen while she told me about all of the previous au pairs that she had beforehand, what they did wrong, and how she got rid of one because she drove too slow. She said that she likes Finnish girls because they are strong (aka are better at handling how she treats people) and hardworking. 
Katariina went to New Zealand last week with her friend for a holiday so she found another Finnish girl to replace her for the week. She wrote a multiple-page list about what the new au pair (Julia) would have to do in order to survive the week. Julia was very good at keeping the house clean (it was the cleanest we’ve seen it in weeks!) and telling Chloe no (Chloe would constantly come up to us to complain because she wasn’t getting her way). However, within the first hour of Julia arriving, Ali told us her concerns about it not working out. Sonia and I told her it would only be for a week, and it would be fine. Halfway through the week, Julia confided in us that she felt like she kept doing everything wrong because Ali never seemed happy with her. Sonia finally got to see first-hand what she meant when she happened to be in the kitchen at the same time that Ali got home. Julia had done all of her chores in time and prepared dinner for the family, and then went outside to keep Chloe entertained. Ali came home and asked if the plate of steak on the counter was her dinner and Julia replied yes. Instead of saying thank you and acting pleased, Ali said, “You mean the plate with all of the flies all over it? Would YOU eat that? That is disgusting!” Everyone in the kitchen (five of the tenants) stayed completely silent because it was so awkward to be around. Ali then said she would just throw it in the bin and make something herself. Sonia came upstairs to tell me what had happened and I instantly had flashbacks to my time in France. She was so shocked and said that no one should ever talk to another person the way that Ali had talked to Julia. The next day, when Ali was still at work, Sonia told Julia that it wasn’t okay how she was spoken to and that we’re here if she needs anything. Julia struggled to hold back tears and she told us how she was having such a difficult time. I’m sure it felt like the longest 5 days of her life. She said that it made her extremely thankful for the previous family that she had worked for because she had never been treated so horribly. 
Katariina came back from New Zealand, but she only had two weeks left until she’d be going back home to Finland. She was therefore in charge of posting ads all over the internet in order to find a replacement au pair. She said that they finally found a girl from Chile but when they video-chatted with her, her English wasn’t very good. I’m pretty sure she was quite concerned that the new au pair wouldn’t survive, but I think she was desperate to find anyone because she was having difficulties finding someone new. The new au pair moved in on Wednesday (Sonia got a message the hour before she arrived, asking her to move back into my room so that the new au pair could have her room) and she was supposed to train with Katariina for the next week and a half before Katariina went back home. The new au pair (Gabi) was extremely nice; she’s 26, married, and she’s planning to stay in Australia for about four months before meeting with her husband in Southeast Asia to explore the countries there. However, Sonia and I were concerned that she wouldn’t survive with the way that Ali talks to people. Since Katariina and Gabi get weekends off and it was Easter weekend, Katariina went into Melbourne and then Sonia and I made plans with Gabi to walk into town on Saturday. 
On Friday, Sonia and I worked half of the day and then came home at lunch. We were surprised to see that Gabi and Katariina were still doing farmwork when we got home, even though it was their day off. Katariina went to Melbourne and then we watched a movie with Gabi. The next morning, I got up early to do my laundry, which was when Ali came and vented to me about the microwave. After I finished hanging up my laundry, I walked into the kitchen to see poor Gabi cleaning the microwave. At about 10am, we were all ready to go but then Ali said that she wasn’t feeling well and needed to go to the clinic, and left Chloe at home for Gabi to look after. I assumed she wouldn’t be back for at least a couple of hours, and I was right. During that time, Gabi was talking to us in the kitchen and burst into tears because she was having a difficult time being away from home, and she was finding it hard being at the house. We felt so bad, and we told her that we’ve both been au pairs and we know exactly how she feels. Gabi had to give Chloe a bath and then when Ali came home, she told Gabi to shovel up all of the horse crap. I was shocked! After she finished, we were finally able to walk to town. Sonia wasn’t feeling well and stayed at home, so it was just me and Gabi. On the walk, Gabi said she was very appreciative with how patient we were with her English and she shared that she felt like Ali wasn’t as patient with her. She expressed how she wasn’t feeling totally comfortable at the house, and I shared that Sonia and I have felt like that for weeks, so she wasn’t alone. I told her that she wasn’t stuck and if she was unhappy, she should leave. The lucky thing for au pairs in Australia is that they have a Working Holiday Visa so with that, they can get a job anywhere else. Unfortunately for me, in France, I ONLY had an Au Pair Visa, so I didn’t have the option to go anywhere else other than to a different family to au pair for. I said that maybe she should apply to the tomato farm, or to some of the shops in Warragul, and then maybe we could find somewhere new to live together. I think Gabi really appreciated the talk that we had, and I think it made her feel a lot better about being there. Gabi was also concerned because Ali, Chloe, and Gabi were supposed to go to Melbourne for the following week, and Ali wanted Gabi to take Chloe around Melbourne on Monday (her day off). Gabi had never been to Melbourne before (she had only been in Australia for less than one week!) and she didn’t feel comfortable taking a 7-year-old through a city that she didn’t know, especially when she wasn’t confident about her English. She also said that Ali never asked her any questions about her life or who she was, and that if she had a daughter, she would never leave her with a random person without getting to know her first. We walked back home and a half hour after we returned, Ali came home again and called Gabi down. I went downstairs to start making dinner and walked into the conversation, so I was finally able to hear how Ali spoke to her au pairs. Gabi was saying that she didn’t understand, and then Ali spoke as slow and as loud as possible: “CAN. YOU. FEED. THE. HORSES.” Gabi replied yes. Then Ali said “AND. TURN. ON. THE. LIGHTS.” So Gabi said yes. And then Ali goes, “And there’s a bunch of shopping in the car, so can you take it out and put everything away,” she says WHILE SITTING ON THE COUCH WATCHING TV. Again, I was shocked and almost intervened to say no, it’s her day off! By that point, it was already pitch black and Gabi had never fed the horses on her own. I couldn’t believe it! Anyway, after that, Gabi (obviously) came to the conclusion that the next day, she was going to tell Ali that she no longer wanted to work for her. Sonia, Gabi, and I spent the evening writing an application for the tomato farm and translating Gabi’s resume into English. My only concern was that if she told Ali, Ali would end up kicking her out that day.
However, we didn’t even have to worry about that because at 8:56am on Easter Sunday morning, Gabi received a text message from Ali saying, “Hi gabi are you going to feed the animals it’s nine o clock.” Once again, I couldn’t believe it. I told her to just reply, “I thought that on Saturday and Sunday, it was my day off.” Five minutes later, we heard Ali outside Gabi’s room and Ali went on and on, “You don’t work for Katariina, you work for me.” “You agreed to feed the horses this weekend on Friday and I expected you to do it” (she didn’t, or if she did, she didn’t understand what she was agreeing to). “I’m paying two girls and Katariina’s on holiday in Melbourne and now suddenly, you want a holiday too and no one’s getting any work done” (Ummm… it’s Easter Sunday??). “You were lying when you said your English was good. You do NOT have intermediate English. You obviously got your boyfriend to do the talking for you when we interviewed you” (How do you get someone to talk for you during a Skype interview? Also, goes to show how much time Ali actually took to get to know Gabi, as she is MARRIED). “I think it’s better if you pack up your stuff and I’ll drive you to the train station.” Sonia and I were listening the entire time since our room is right next to Gabi’s, and we were absolutely dumbfounded about what Ali was saying. Katariina also told us how Ali wrote her at least five times telling her how much of a nightmare the new au pair was. I couldn’t believe someone could be so horrible. I was so angry and so ready to leave because I couldn’t deal with this woman’s attitude any longer. Sonia went to check on Gabi, and she was in tears and didn’t even understand most of what Ali said to her. Sonia told Gabi to call her husband and mom, and then she could come talk to us when she was ready. We helped show her how to find hostels in Melbourne and how to use the transportation cards. She then packed her stuff and was out of the house by noon.
The previous evening, by chance alone, we finally found a new house that was looking for new tenants in Warragul! It would be available the following weekend (April 7th), so I wrote and asked if we could view the house. They said we could come the next day after 2pm, so Gabi and I were going to go together. However, because Gabi had to go to Melbourne instead, I went to look at it for both of us. They were in the middle of renovating everything so they were painting the walls and going to put new floors in, but I was desperate to get out of Ali’s house. I signed a contract that day and transferred my bond money in order to secure a spot for me and Gabi. Therefore, Gabi only needed to stay in Melbourne from Sunday to Saturday, and then we’d be able to pick up our key at 9am on Saturday (tomorrow). Walking out of that house after signing the contract, I felt such a huge sense of relief. I was elated because I knew I wouldn’t have to deal with Ali any longer, or watch her bully everyone around her. 

 

Originally, Gabi was supposed to spend this past week with Ali and Chloe in Melbourne since Chloe had school holidays this week. During that time, Katariina was supposed to spend her last week back at the house to look after the horses and clean the house. However, since Ali kicked Gabi out (after FOUR days, only one of which was supposed to be an actual work day), Katariina had to go to Melbourne to look after Chloe while Ali went to work. We were surprised to see that Katariina had come home on Wednesday at about 3pm because she had a bunch of stuff to get done before driving back to Melbourne the next morning. She sent me a screenshot of the actual list that Ali sent her, which was an absolutely ridiculous amount of things for her to expect Katariina to do in the span of one evening (with only 3 hours of sunlight remaining). Since this was Katariina’s last week of work, she was planning to spend the next week in Melbourne before her flight home, but she said that Ali was trying to convince her to stay for one more week since they didn’t have another au pair to replace her. I think Katariina was struggling to say no, so we’ll see if she comes back next week or not.
 
Anyway, I’m extremely excited to move into my new place tomorrow!! It’s been nice having the family out of the house for the past week and it’s a lot more peaceful and less tense when it’s just the tenants in the house. Gabi has now been offered a job at the tomato farm so everything seems to be working out the way it should! This is the last of my au pair posts – it’s hard to show the way that people are treated in writing (especially since you can’t actually hear the way she talks) but I hope I got the point across!! I’m hoping that by sharing this, more and more girls will realize that although au pairing may seem like a great option to move to a new country, it may be more worthwhile to look at other job options! Thanks for reading 🙂 

The Harsh Reality of Being an Au Pair: Part III (Setting the Scene)

When we first moved into this house, I had a feeling that it was too good to be true. It was absolutely huge, we had a pool and a tennis court, and so much land to explore. Other than Sonia and I, there were 8 other tenants – all from Taiwan. There was also a Finnish au pair, and a mom with her 15-year-old boy and 7-year-old girl. The boy spent most of his time in his room playing video

games so we never saw him, but the girl had stuck to Sonia like glue, and unfortunately the last thing we wanted to do after a 9-hour workday was keep a 7-year-old entertained while the mom sat on her phone all evening. I often saw Chloe trying to get her mom’s attention, while Ali ignored her because she was sitting on her phone. While Chloe can be a good kid, she never gets disciplined and she knows that she’ll always get what she wants so we’ve found ourselves hiding out in our rooms more and more as our time here has passed. Chloe often missed at least 2 or 3 days of school each week because she was “sick,” but we later found out it was because she’d get in trouble at school and then she wouldn’t want to go back. She’d always be eating huge chocolate bars right before bed and was constantly jumping and flipping around, doing handstands in front of the tv while Sonia and I were trying to relax (keep in mind we were told that this was OUR living area, along with Yeh and Karina’s, because the family’s living area was downstairs). The last long weekend we had (Labour Day weekend), Sonia and I came home early on Labour Day, only to find our living area a complete mess (and the worst part about it is we had done the chores the day before). There were flower petals all over the floor and throughout the bathroom, and toys all over the couches and floor. We decided not to use our living area until it was cleaned up and ended up having to spend the next week in our rooms because it never got cleaned. Ali asked if I had cleaned the bathroom that week, and I did but her daughter had completely messed it up right after. I think she may have been expecting us to clean up after her, but that wasn’t going to happen. The next weekend (when Sonia and I finally had separate bedrooms), Ali came home on Friday at 8pm and asked if Sonia could go back in my room for the night because Chloe (the 7-year-old) was having a sleepover that night and she didn’t want the girls sleeping in her bed because she had had a long week. Sonia moved into my room (and was not impressed about it) and we ended up having to listen to the girls talk, giggle, and jump off the beds until 2am. I luckily passed out at about 9:30 (my normal bedtime) but was jolted awake at 1am because they were making so much noise. The au pair came and told them to be quiet twice, and the 15-year-old brother came once and took Chloe’s phone. Never once did the mom come, as she was fast asleep (must have been nice…). We FINALLY fell back asleep only to be woken up again at 6:30 because the girls got up and started singing and dancing right outside our room. Needless to say, we were completely exhausted the next morning and when we told the mom what happened, she only got mad at the friend because Chloe “would never do anything like that.” No more sleepovers and it was all Savannah’s fault.

Ali has never had tenants in her house before we moved in, but she has also never made any house rules, and then she’d get mad when people did the wrong thing. Everything was always someone else’s fault, and she never took the blame for anything. She gave each of us a weekly chore to do, which was fine since that’s normal when you rent a house. However, she’d constantly complain to us about “The Asians,” instead of actually talking to them. She’d get the au pair to check on them to make sure they were mopping the floors properly each week. We quickly took note of what she liked and didn’t like. We also began to question anything that came out of her mouth because she seemed to constantly over-exaggerate and lie to get attention. As time went on, she’d start making more and more passive aggressive comments, which would make everyone feel uncomfortable. When we first moved to the house, Sonia and I bought toilet paper because we had run out of it in our bathroom, but the au pair said that we didn’t have to, and that Ali should be supplying it. Ali also mentioned that we could use the air conditioning if it got too hot in our living area (and it often did since it was on the upper level) but then would get upset when we used it. She also saw Sonia using the dryer to dry her work clothes and said that she’d have to start charging her extra if she was going to use the dryer (when she never had mentioned that we couldn’t use it in the first place). During our time here, we’ve also noticed some of our groceries go missing. The first weekend, Ali’s friend came over and made omelettes and we realized that half of our mushrooms and some of our asparagus was gone. We also came home one evening and Ali said she had used some of our carrots cause she didn’t have any, and she’d buy us some more (which she still hasn’t). We also came upstairs after dinner while the family was watching a movie in our living area (even though we worked early the next morning) and Sonia saw that Ali was drinking a diet coke. She then went downstairs to check the fridge and saw that her only diet coke was gone. The thing that’s most annoying about these missing groceries is that everyone knows that we don’t have a car and we’re only able to go grocery shopping once every week – it’s not like we can just hop in the car and get something when we need it. Sonia brought up the diet coke with her and she said she’d buy her a new one. She then went on to say that she had bought a big box of almond milk (knowing both of us only drink almond milk and we’ve NEVER seen anyone in the family drink it) and it’s went missing, and she was wondering if we had seen it (although it felt to both Sonia and I that she was implying that we took it). We said that we only buy one almond milk each week and we haven’t seen anything, while she “casually” looked in our bedroom closet! She also once said there were too many shoes in the house, and she threw everyone’s shoes outside (including my $400 insoles), and then piled the family’s shoes (at least 20 pairs) in a pile on the front entrance table, which have now been there for about three weeks. 
Every weekend, I’d be the first one up and she’d use it as a venting session, telling me to come look at the downstairs bathroom because it was so disgusting (when we don’t even use that bathroom). I would feel so uncomfortable and try to hint that maybe she should set up a list so that people had a cleaning schedule and knew what the rules were, but she never took the hint. She would constantly say that she might have to kick people out if they didn’t change what they were doing, but she wouldn’t tell them what to change. The feeling of “walking on eggshells” came back, and I was instantly reminded of how I used to live with the family in France. This past weekend, I went downstairs in the morning to hang up my laundry and Ali came and asked if I had seen the microwave. I said that yes, I had used it the day before for one of the first times and it wasn’t very clean. She went on and on about how disgusting the microwave was and she stated that from now on, no one was allowed to use the microwave. She also started to complain about how everyone was using her toilet paper, which I was under the impression that she was supplying it for us but apparently not. That was the beginning of the long weekend and we had no toilet paper left. I knew we wouldn’t be able to last three days without toilet paper so I decided I’d have to walk the 1.5 hours into town and 1.5 hours back in order to get some. She said that she was almost to the point where she was just going to tell everyone to leave because everyone was being disrespectful. I wasn’t sure if she was including us in the “everyone,” but I still felt uncomfortable having to listen to it. It has been a very tense environment and for the past few weeks, I have been looking to see if any new accommodation in Warragul has come up (which is very hard to find). This past Monday, Ali, Chloe, and the au pair were leaving to spend the week in Melbourne but right when they were leaving, Ali noticed that her purse was missing. We heard her talking to the au pair (Kat), saying it was probably one of the other au pairs that had come in, and she told Kat to text them saying they had CCTV cameras everywhere and to lie in order to scare them. Ali then came to Sonia and I to tell us that her Burberry purse had gone missing – “It’s a $4000 dollar purse and now I’m going to have to claim it under insurance.” Maybe she shouldn’t be leaving the house unlocked when there are 13 people living in it and multiple people coming in and out to ride horses every week? (Side note: It was found in a closet from when one of the au pairs cleaned the kitchen). It was like we were living with a 44-year-old who still acted like a teenager. One time, she was telling us about her past, and she brought up going out with friends and them smoking and doing coke, and her 7-year-old chimes in, “My daddy drinks SO MUCH coke!” before Ali continued her story. Sonia and I couldn’t believe she told us everything while her 7-year-old was sitting right beside her, obviously listening to what she was saying.
Luckily, she seems to like us so she never actually got mad at us for anything (she’d really only make snarky or passive-aggressive comments), but it was very awkward around the house because we didn’t know what mood to expect from her. The way she treated her au pairs was a different story…

The Harsh Reality of Being an Au Pair: Part II (Their Experiences)

When you have an Au Pair Visa in France, you are required (by law) to take French classes every week. Those classes were really our only “safe times” during the week because the families were never allowed to make us work during the hours that we had classes. The class that I was in was small, and had about 7 other girls, all of whom were au pairs. Little did I know it would become my support system during the months that I spent in France. The way that the classes worked was that we had actual class in the

My support group

mornings and then we’d have to go to a workshop in the afternoons. Often, we’d walk to the cafe for lunch and multiple times, we wouldn’t end up going back to class in the afternoons. It was our only free time and our only time to spend with each other since everyone’s schedules were so different. I quickly learned that no one was truly happy with their situation and I truly think that those cafe visits were the closest thing that we had to therapy.

One girl who I met was American and after a few months, she expressed how miserable she was with her family and said that the mom didn’t treat her very well. I remember her asking if I would come help her pack since I lived in the same city. I met up with her when the kids were at school and while the parents were at work, and helped her pack up all of her stuff and take it to the station. Then, she picked up the girl from school and when the dad came home, she snuck out and went to a hotel. The next time we had school, we were told by our teacher that the family said the au pair had dropped the girl off at school the following day and never returned, which we knew was a lie. The family also said that they were extremely concerned because she left without her stuff, and they had called the police who were out looking for her. Apparently the mom also called the au pair’s sister in America and got mad at her, as well as called another one of our au pair friends (six times) to ask where she was.
Also in France, my friend had another au pair friend who was living in Versailles. She was working for a family that had three kids and an army dad, but the mom had left. The dad was more of a “tough love” type of guy, and the kids were absolutely horrible to this au pair. She thinks it was because they thought if they could get rid of the au pair, they would be able to get their mom back. With the France Visa, you start with a 3-month Visa and then you have to fill out a bunch of paperwork to get it extended for the full year. The dad had forgotten to send the forms in time, meaning the au pair would have to go back to America in order to reapply for a Visa. The dad admitted that it was his fault and said that if she found the ticket, he’d reimburse her for the flight. She went back to America, reapplied, and continued to work, but on top of the money that the dad owed for the plane ticket, he also owed multiple weeks’ worth of pay. She finally decided to ask him about it and he replied that he “doesn’t pay people unless he sees good work being done, and he hasn’t seen her do any work.” He then grabbed the kids, unplugged the phone and internet, took her keys, and left – locking her in the apartment (in France, you need a key to unlock the door from the outside AS WELL AS the inside). She had to wait until he came back again and then the next day, she left while the kids were at school and the dad was at work (knowing that the grandmother lived nearby so she could look after the kids). She then stayed with my friend at her host family’s home until she was able to go back to America. I’m not sure if she ever received the hundreds of dollars that he owed her…
Sonia also had her own au pairing experience. She had spoken to the family once on Skype before making the move to Perth at 20-years-old. She had been very clear that it was her first time au pairing and that she had never had any experience with babies, and the family said it was okay and that they would teach her. It was also the family’s first time having an au pair, but Sonia felt like she would work well with this family, which had a 2.5-year-old and a 6-month-old. The dad said he was vegan, so Sonia was glad that she wouldn’t have to tiptoe around the family when it came to eating meals and having snacks since they would know the types of things she could and couldn’t eat. The first warning sign went off when she kept asking for pictures of the house so that she could show her family before she left, and they kept saying that the house was messy and they’d send some later. Sonia arrived in the Perth airport, only to find no family there waiting for her. As she didn’t have data, she had to connect to the spotty wifi to contact the family, who ended up being an hour late. They brought her back to the house, which wasn’t what Sonia was expecting whatsoever, based on what they had told her before she moved over. It was much smaller and extremely messy. They said they’d give Sonia a week to get over her jetlag and to sort out her bank account, phone, etc., but that week ended up only being a day. Sonia was woken up the next morning by the mom, who was upset because she was supposed to start at 6:30am when Sonia had been told 7am. The dad worked from home, and Sonia felt like he was belittling her when she said she had never changed a diaper before. He replied, “You haven’t learned by now?” as if she’d have a baby to practise on during the few weeks before she left Canada. Sonia’s days ended up being from 6am to 8pm for $250 each week. The meals that she was given had chicken or fish stock added for the mom, and Sonia was eventually forced to start having milk products again because she had no choice with what was given to her. She couldn’t eat most of the snacks either, so her friends started bringing her food that she’d be able to eat. The parents taught her how to use the car, and asked her to start taking the kids to the jungle gym, and said they’d reimburse her for it. It would cost $11 each time they went and they’d often go everyday of the week but she never ended up getting paid back for it. Sonia finally brought up the fact that she was being overworked, so they agreed to change her hours – 6am to 6pm. That gave Sonia some free time to do what she wanted in the evenings, and she’d often make plans, only to have the parents not come home in time, or the dad say he was going to guitar so he could leave her with the kids. Whenever the dad wasn’t home in the evenings, he’d start getting upset with Sonia for not making the mom dinner by the time she got home from work (even though making meals wasn’t in Sonia’s contract). Sonia got a 10-day-holiday and did a road trip with her boyfriend, but when she got home, she realized that her room had been used while she was gone – mostly due to the fact that all of her clothes that were hung up in the closet were put in a pile in the laundry hamper. Towards the end of her second month, Sonia started going to weekly Pilates courses. One night, she got a text from the dad saying, “I realize you’re at Pilates but this isn’t working for us. We have dropped the kids off at the babysitter’s and we have both gone to work so we want you to have all of your stuff moved out by the time we come home.” It was 6pm and she had less than three hours to move out her stuff. They sent her 50 dollars to give her two nights in a hostel, even though she had little to no money for anything else. Lucky for her, her boyfriend picked her up and allowed her to stay with him until she found a place of her own.
These are just three stories of “Au Pairing Gone Wrong” that I know of, and I think more of them have to be shared. It’s important for young girls to know that if they are being taken advantage of, are unhappy or uncomfortable, or feel like they are being emotionally abused, they never have to stay! No one will think you’re a failure for not making it through the entire period. It’s more important for your emotional and mental well being to get out of those types of situations as soon as possible! 

The Harsh Reality of Being an Au Pair: Part I (My Experience)

So many young girls have toyed with the possibility of becoming an au pair during their gap year, and why not? It’s a great way to experience another culture, explore a new country, and possibly learn a new language. But the amount of au pair nightmares that I’ve heard have greatly outweighed the amount of successful au pair stories. Being an au pair is one of the most difficult and scary experiences I have ever went through, and the reason I’m writing about it now is because I have witnessed a situation during the past two weeks that has unfortunately brought back memories, along with strong emotions. Multiple memories and emotions that I experienced in France almost ten years ago. It’s one of the most negative bouts of deja vu that I have ever felt.
Most people think that just beginning an au pair experience is the most difficult part, and that it can only get better from that point onwards. It takes an extremely brave person to choose to au pair – the moment when you get off of the plane and realize that there’s a stranger waiting at the Arrivals gate for you is one of the scariest moments you’ll have. You don’t know if that strange man actually has a family waiting at home. You don’t know if he’s taking you to a safe place or not. You don’t know what to expect. Lucky for me, the first family I worked for treated me very well. However, they were looking for someone to teach their children English and since I was only 18, had never had any teaching experience, and was there to learn French, the family said it would be best for us to part ways. I still keep in touch with this family and I’ve gone to visit a couple of times, and know that they are a genuinely nice family because I have never once felt uncomfortable with them.
The next family that I moved in with had amazing kids, and that was really the only reason I stayed. However, that feeling of “walking on eggshells” never disappeared during the entire time I was there. The mom was on maternity leave but I was the one who got the kids up, made them breakfast, brushed their hair and teeth, got them dressed, took them to school, picked them up from school, kept them entertained before dinner, gave them baths, etc. The parents said I wouldn’t have anything to do with the baby, which was fine since I had no experience with babies. However, as the time went on, I found myself having to look after the baby more and more often. Not only that, but when the mom would go grocery shopping and asked me to look after the baby, she’d come home and ask if the baby was awake or asleep. If I said asleep, she wouldn’t count the time towards my hours because I wasn’t “doing any work.” I found myself starting to lie by saying the baby was awake, so I wouldn’t be cheated out of my time. I was only scheduled 25 hours per week but it wasn’t a regular schedule. I was basically on call 24 hours per day, 6 days per week. I’d have to wait in my room until I was called on and then the mom would ask me to do something (play with the kids, cut up vegetables, set the table for dinner, etc.) and then count it towards my hours. And I’d find myself walking away with 60 Euro every week. Essentially, I was making 2.40 every hour. And a Coca-Cola at our local cafe cost 3.30. My friends and I would joke that it took an hour and a half of hard-earned work just to have a cold coke, and we’d learn how to make that coke last for hours while we all vented about our own au pair experiences. 
I had started to spend so much time with the kids that one day, the little boy ended up continuously yelling for “mom” and even though the mom answered, “yes” every time, I looked over and realized that the boy was looking straight at me. That was when my time with the kids greatly diminished and then my housework time greatly increased, even though they already hired a weekly housecleaner. I’ll never forget having to polish their chandelier and the handles of their armoires with a toothbrush, having to scrape and wash all of the bird crap off of the kids’ playhouse outside, having to take out everything in the fridge and freezer and wipe it all out, along with all of the cupboards. The feeling of relief when I finally felt like I knew what I was doing never came. I constantly had to be thinking three steps ahead of the mom, trying to predict what she would want me to do in order to avoid getting in trouble for not doing it. I put up with everything because I felt like I didn’t have any other choice. Many times, I was made to feel like I was stupid or incapable. I got in trouble because the little boy’s pants weren’t done up tight enough so the bottoms got all dirty because they were dragging on the ground at school. I got in HUGE trouble because the baby had a hair wrapped around her finger and I hadn’t noticed. I also got in HUGE trouble because the mom had noticed that I didn’t vacuum behind the toy chest. I STILL remember that lecture ten years ago – with her yelling at me at the dinner table, asking if I thought she was stupid, that they do SO much for me and they’re letting me have my sister come over and this is how I repay them. I didn’t know enough French to stick up for myself, plus I was too scared to say anything because I didn’t want to end up being homeless in a random country with nowhere to go. I’ll never forget when my mom came to visit and we came home one evening only to find the dad on the couch. He said that my mom would have to leave because it was “too stressful” having her there, so my mom had to pack up her stuff and leave the next morning. Or when I went back to visit them last June and I had forgotten most of my French and sat there listening to the parents talking, while the dad said, “She’s so stupid” and the mom said, “She just doesn’t understand.” I had felt like the smallest person in the world during my eight months there. I felt worthless, stupid, and I truly think the family was surprised that I’d be going to university afterwards. Many girls feel trapped because they’ve signed a contract and they feel like they aren’t allowed to leave (which is how I felt). If it weren’t for the kids being so great, I likely wouldn’t have survived. 
It’s a huge thing for an 18-year-old girl to have her first experience in a new country alone! But unfortunately, au pairs don’t have any support or protection to help them during difficult situations. For some reason, many families take advantage of these innocent girls. Believe me, I hate confrontation so I would do anything and everything in order to avoid the mom getting mad at me (which is why that family was never able to find another au pair that they were happy with). But for some reason, many of these families have expectations that they don’t share with the au pair and then when the au pair fails to meet these unsaid expectations, the family continues to be disappointed. I do want to mention that it wasn’t horrible all the time for me. Sometimes, the mom would be like a friend to me – she would ask me about my day, want to look through the new clothes that I bought, or tell me stories about her past. But most of the time, I wouldn’t know if I should expect the happy mom or the mad mom, and it was a very difficult situation to live around. I would never feel comfortable going downstairs to get a glass of water when the mom or dad were watching tv in the living room, and I found myself counting down how many days I had left until I was finished my time. All of these feelings have resurfaced during the past few days so during the next few posts, I will be sharing more about why this has happened. I think that more girls have to be educated about what to expect when taking an au pairing job, because the harsh reality isn’t shared often enough. Not all au pair experiences are the same – some are really positive. But I think it’s important for young girls to realize that there are many more options when moving to a new country.