Before working for TripZilla as a writer, I was an au pair in Denmark to a lovely host family for two years. The idea of an au pair is for a young person to stay with a local family and do some domestic chores (tidying up the house, doing the laundry, cooking dinner, occasional babysitting) for a maximum of five hours a day in exchange of free food, accommodation, and allowance. An au pair is also entitled to language classes paid for by the host family.
Every au pair has a general outline of what their days are like based on varying factors like size of family, location, age of kids, etc. As for me, this was what my average day as an au pair looked like:
6.30am. My alarm rings. I get up, turn on the lights, brush my teeth and listen to some music to wake myself up.
6.45am. I go upstairs and put breakfast food on the dining table. Nothing complicated – just oatmeal, muesli, yogurt and milk.
7am. Kim, my host dad, and the kids Maya and Mads enter the dining area. They greet me with a good morning and ask me if I had a good night’s sleep. I answer with a short and simple yes. I remember that I fell asleep at 2am because of a bad habit that I have recently developed: drinking instant coffee after dinner. They proceed with breakfast while I empty the dishwasher.
Kim reminds me that we will have dinner at 6.15pm, a little bit later than usual, because the kids are going to swimming school later in the afternoon.
7.20am. My host mom Malene comes down and goes directly to the kitchen to prepare school lunches for the kids. I assist her by peeling off the skin of a cucumber, making thin slices of salami, and wrapping bread in tin foil.
7.30am. Malene leaves for work while Kim drops off the kids at school. “Have a good day, Patricia! See you later.” Now, I’m home alone. I start tidying up the kitchen, living room, and the bedrooms. In the basement where I stay, I vacuum my room and change the sheets of my bed.
10am. I make my breakfast of yogurt and muesli. Create a to-do-list for the day. Check Facebook messenger. Catch up with friends and family back in the Philippines.
10.30am. I turn off the lights, set my alarm, and go to bed.
12.30pm. I wake up from what was supposed to be a 30-minute nap. I feel a bit dizzy but I really need to exercise as I have been eating a lot of junk lately. I put on my workout clothes, prepare my playlist, grab my bike, and head to the lake for a quick seven-kilometre run.
1.30pm: Done with workout. Time: seven minutes/kilometre. Not my best time but I feel strong and happy.
2pm. I take a shower and head to the nearby grocery. Tonight, I’m making chicken cacciatore. I just saw the recipe on Pinterest and thought that it looked delicious and easy to make. I have never tried making it before so I’m a bit nervous about the outcome. I buy chicken, mushrooms, and bell peppers.
2.30pm. I get home and unpack my groceries. Check Facebook and Instagram. Start answering my homework for language school. My next class will be on Monday but I’m doing my assignment early so I won’t have to worry about it over the weekend. I struggle a bit, trying my best not to use Google translate.
3.30pm: Time for merienda. I cycle to the town centre and grab a hotdog and Coke. Hotdogs are typical Danish fast food. My go-to order is a sausage with bun, pickled cucumbers, roasted onions, mustard, ketchup and remoulade.
To burn off the calories, I walk around and people-watch. It’s a beautiful day; the sun is out, everyone looks happy. I’m sweating a lot, the weather app says it’s 27 degrees Celsius and according to the news, today is likely summer’s final hurrah — not that I’m complaining or anything.
5pm: Back at home. I start preparing for dinner. I slice the vegetables, pan-fry the chicken, mix in the other ingredients, dump everything in an iron skillet, put in the oven, and wait for 45-50 minutes. I hope it turns out well.
While my chicken cacciatore is inside the oven, I cook some rice and set the table.
5.45pm: Kim comes home from work. We talk about random topics: how my day was, the warm weather, how far he ran this afternoon, his office setup, and Filipino food bloggers eating at Michelin-starred restaurants in Copenhagen.
6.15pm: The whole family is at home now and dinner is served. My chicken cacciatore is a success. Host parents tell me that it tastes really good. I breathe a sigh of relief, smile and say thank you.
The kids talk non-stop to their parents, Maya to Malene and Mads to Kim. I’m guessing their conversations are full of randomness – what happened in school, shows in their iPads, Lego, animals, toys, classmates. Suddenly they start singing. I smile like an idiot, I feel like I’m watching anime without the English subtitles. I can barely understand anything but it doesn’t really matter.
7pm: Dinner is done. Everyone says “Tak for mad, Patricia!”, meaning thank you for the food. I respond with “Velbekomme!”, which means you’re welcome in English. I then proceed to clean up the dining area and the kitchen.
Malene asks me if I have any interesting plans for the weekend. I say that I’ll probably hangout with Joyce, my fellow au pair and closest friend in Denmark.
7.15pm: I wave goodbye to everyone and tell them to have a restful weekend.
7.30pm: I rest a bit, freshen up, and change my clothes. I’m heading outside, time to make the most out of summer’s remaining days. I pedal seven minutes to the town centre and stop by an ice cream shop. I order a strawberry ice cream with hazelnuts and sit outside. The sun is hitting my skin and I’m feeling good. I practice my Danish and talk to the people sitting across my table. They ask me where I live, what I’m doing here, if I like my host family, and if I have a Danish boyfriend. I answer in straight Danish and they seem to understand me. I have never been proud of myself.
9pm: On my way home, I witness the sunset. I realise that despite the occasional battle with loneliness, there is always, always something to be thankful for. And today, I’m thankful for the warm weather, the sunshine, the amazing sunset that I’m seeing, the feeling of fresh and cold air on my face, and my wonderful host family.
11pm: Before dozing off, I watch an episode of Great British Bake Off and read a few pages of Stephen Clarke’s Merde in Europe before bedtime. The day is done. Tomorrow is Saturday; I plan to sleep for 10 hours, eat a whole box of pizza, and not think about anything.
Also read: 7 Reasons to Visit Denmark Right Now
Becoming an au pair was one of the best decisions I have ever made as it threw me out of my comfort zone and made me learn to embrace another culture and improve my cultural awareness. Although there were times when I struggled with homesickness, at the end of the day, I do not regret anything and I’m glad I took this once in a lifetime opportunity.