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Learning through Living Together -- LoPair Au Pair China
LoPair Au Pair China Program participants LoPair Au Pair China Program participants

Learning through Living Together -- LoPair Au Pair China

Overall Rating

7/ 10

  • Satisfaction

    4

  • Health & Safety

    8

  • Program Administration

    2

  • Cultural Immersion

    7

  • Living Situation

    6

  • Itinerary

    6

China is Amazing, Lopair is not

When I first heard of Lopair their au pair programme looked like a good option for my gap year; so I applied and went through with the matching process etc. I found a family who lived in Shanghai and seemed nice. They told me in the interview that they lived 40 mins by metro outside of central Shanghai. They also told me that they wanted to take me abroad with them on their family holidays. This was in early December so when they asked when I would be coming I told them either January or February on one of the company's arrival dates. They took that to mean that I would arrive on 11th January and when I confirmed to Lopair that I would actually be coming in early February they seemed a little annoyed. But it was clearly just a communication issue so I took no more notice of it.

I first started to have doubts when Lopair asked me to get a multiple entry 90day tourist visa (instead of their usual single entry 180day study visa) in order to be able to go abroad with the family. They insisted that if I wanted to go abroad I needed to make up a fake tourist itinerary to apply for the visa and not to make any mention of Lopair at the visa office at all. The company representative I was e-mailing gave me a fake flight sheet and an example itinerary which was based on me receiving a family invitation letter. However I did not get a family invitation letter and was supposed to make (cancellable) hotel bookings for the duration of my fake 20 day trip. This all seemed very shady to me so I contacted my UK representative. She was lovely and really helpful in reassuring me that this process had worked for many au pairs before. Lopair also assured me that if something went wrong and I did not go abroad with my family they would pay for my trip to Hong Kong in order to renew my visa. So I went to the Chinese visa office in London and was initially turned away because my flight tickets were fake. I immediately contacted Lopair and they booked real flight tickets for me that same morning so I was able to hand in my application the same day. Their response was quick and helpful but it worried me that their original advice had been wrong. What if the visa office had let me hand in my application and it had been denied? It was less that two weeks before my flight. My visa was also about twice the price of the student one and I had to pay for it myself.

I arrived in China and was put on a long distance bus to Hangzhou with a few other au pairs. The orientation camp was nice because we got to make a few friends who would be going to other cities and got to see a little of Hangzhou which is a lovely place. However we were all very jet lagged and the “training” was essentially a series of power point presentations and didn’t tell us anything they hadn’t already covered in one of the webinars. This was a little disappointing as I had been under the impression that we would have some kind of team building activities or maybe a workshop with kids. But never mind, I made some nice friends.

Next we were transferred to our host cities. In my case there were two other au pairs going to Shanghai and we got the bullet train together. I felt sorry for some of the others who had to get domestic flights on their own so soon after arriving. We were told to meet our families at Starbucks when we arrived at the train station and managed to find each other after only an hour without wifi or working phones. Success! Now to settle in and get to know the new family.

Everything seemed fine at first. My host mum took me to the supermarket to buy any food that I wanted ( as I’d told her that I am vegetarian and she wanted to make sure there was something I could eat ). I had my own room, she gave me a house key, a metro card and a SIM for my phone. My 7 year old host kid already spoke fluent english as he went to international school and we got on very well from the beginning. They had an ayi (nanny) who did all the cooking and cleaning so my duties were purely with the kid. However I quickly discovered that their house was much farther away from the centre than the 40 mins I had been told. It took me nearly 2 hours to get to Chinese class (including a bus ride to get to the metro station) and I had a 10pm curfew on my day off. The 1500 RMB monthly pocket money is also too little to live well in an expensive city like Shanghai; I pretty quickly found myself eating into my savings.

When Chinese new year came, just two weeks after my arrival, I was told to pack my suitcase because we would be going to stay in a hotel in Shanghai. I thought this was weird - since they lived in Shanghai - and they told me that because I had “delayed” my arrival they had to change their plans to go abroad. That didn’t make sense to me - I was still there wasn’t I? Anyway, we stayed in a 5 star hotel which was incredible as it was my first experience going to a place like that. Apart from a visit to the temple next door we almost never left the hotel. We had meals there, swam in the pool and sat in the lounge on the very top floor playing chess and doing homework. It was totally different from my idea of holiday but a great experience nonetheless.

When my coordinator first came to visit my host mum told me that they had plans to go to England in July - one month before the end of my contract - to look at schools. I couldn’t go with them but they wanted me to travel and then come back to work for them in August. I have plans in August so that wasn’t possible. My other option was to find a new family for the last month. Again they blamed this on my “delayed” arrival.

The real problems started occurring after I asked to stay out of the house in a hostel one night on my ‘weekend off’ (it was actually a Thursday). My host mum didn’t want to let me but said it was okay if it was just this once. She asked me to be back in the early afternoon the next day and I didn’t complain even though I was supposed to have a full 48 hours off. I went to Disneyland with some friends and in the evening we went out to a club. It was great until some of us lost our coats (some of which had their phones in) from the cloakroom, and one of my friends was drugged. Bearing in mind this was early March and it was freezing, we went back to the hostel and reported our stuff stolen to the police the next day. Luckily I still had my phone but I was with two friends who had lost theirs, one of which was from another city and had no way of contacting her host family. We contacted my local coordinator to help her get back home and I went with them both, as the only one with a phone, to make sure they met up okay. The coordinator was actually late and I went home almost as soon as she arrived. I informed my host mum that I would be around 15 mins late because of the unfortunate situation. She didn’t take it well and threw a fit, telling me that I was irresponsible and they she would never let me stay out of the house again, refusing to believe that I could actually be helping a friend because I can’t speak Chinese. I again contacted my coordinator who told me that she’d already received a call from my host mum and advised me to ‘tell her the truth of the situation” as if i had been lying. I asked if i could have my coordinator’s support to discuss this with my host mum because communication between us was difficult (her english wasn’t very good and my Chinese was non-existent at that point). She just told me again to “apologise and tell the truth’’. I realised then that I was actually very unhappy in my family - I felt trapped miles from anywhere with a curfew and no friends living nearby. I was also doing very few duty hours and felt that I was having little impact on my kid as he spoke perfect English already and they just wanted me to read books with him. They never stuck to the schedule they had given me and sometimes the family would just leave without telling me when they would be back, meaning I couldn’t know if I had time to go out so had to just wait for them in the house. They never once took me out with them on the weekend or arranged any activity that i could go to with them.

I asked to change families, but somehow my coordinator persuaded me to stay until the end of my third month. I knew at this point that my family would be going on holiday to Hong Kong at the end of April and told my coordinator about this. She didn’t think there would be a problem - I would stay with the family and leave after the trip with them. I needed to go in order to renew my visa anyway and if I didn’t go with my host family then Lopair would have to pay for my trip. I was advised to wait until 2 weeks before the end of my third month to give notice, and wouldn’t be able to look for a new family before then.

So I sucked it up for another five weeks and finally told my host mum I wanted to leave. Very politely might I add (I’m sorry, its not you its me etc.). She was furious. The next day my coordinator came over to discuss everything and I was informed that I had to either pay for my flights and 5 star hotel in Hong Kong with them or stay with the family until the end of June. They were asking for the equivalent of about £700 for me to leave. They were essentially trying to bully me into staying. Apparently the hotel was non-refundable (which I didn’t really believe, hotels tend not to be completely non-refundable 2 weeks before your stay) and although the trip was supposed to be a family holiday to which I was invited since I’m “part of the family” they made it sound as though it was all my fault because of my visa. Lopair suggested that my host mum pay half and Lopair would pay for my flights so I would be left with only a smaller fee of about £300. I would still get to go to Hong Kong and renew my visa and then hopefully leave the family without too much drama. I agreed to this but my host mum refused. She kicked me out, telling me I had one hour to pack my bags. Even though the contract states that both the family and I should respect a 2 week grace period during which I continue to work for them and receive room, board, and pocket money, I was never even paid the pocket money for those first two weeks of April that I did actually work. When I approached Lopair about it they refused to reimburse me and implied that it was my fault my host mum wouldn’t pay me.

After a tearful goodbye to my host kid I got into the car with my coordinator. I was shocked that even as we were driving away from the house (and I was visibly crying) she still tried to explain my host mum’s point of view. I honestly felt that I had been very understanding of her feelings and apologised throughout but no one had really tried to see the situation from my perspective. My host mum couldn’t understand that I was unhappy and still refused to lift my curfew. I was dropped off at a hostel (which I had to pay for myself) and left to come to terms with my new situation.

I was very lucky to match with a new German-Chinese host family in just two days and was delighted to discover that they lived centrally and I had total freedom. Having an interview in person was a thousand times better that on the phone and i got to see where they lived and actually meet the kid and the parents properly. It was quite the contrast from my first host family where I couldn’t even be in the kid’s bedroom with him unless the door was open. Now I was trusted to drop off and pick up my little girl from kindergarten on an electric scooter and look after her all afternoon with no supervision! I suddenly made lots of new friends because of my newfound freedom and I could go out with them in the evenings and on weekends because my family was normal and wanted to spend time with their children on weekends rather than have me teaching the whole time. I told them my story and my host dad very kindly asked Lopair to reimburse me for the pocket money that I wasn’t paid by my previous host family. I had tried asking them already and expected them to refuse but the response from our coordinator was simply “okay”. I felt this really showed how much better the families are treated by the agency compared to au pairs.

I still had to go to Hong Kong in order to renew my visa so I had to badger Lopair to book my flights. When they wouldn’t book the ones I wanted (since they were 200RMB more than their budget) they agreed to send me the money so I could book them myself. However all this hassle and delay meant that everything was very last minute and therefore rather expensive. Hong Kong was great and I’m glad I went alone because I doubt I would have seen anything but the inside of a fancy hotel if I had gone with my old host family.

Being with a family that I loved and having real freedom let me enjoy Shanghai for the first time since I arrived. Of course every family has their difficulties but this time they were minor and overall everything was great. The only issue was that they could only have me for 2 and a half months as they had another au pair coming and I would still have to find a new family for the last month. I didn’t mind because they were so great and I thought it would be worth it if I got to be happy for the next 10 weeks.

As it turns out, once I’d spent 2 months living with my amazing family, the thought of staying with a new one that might give me a curfew or didn’t let their kids play games filled me with dread. I had one interview which didn’t go well, and the host mum only wanted someone for a week anyway. So I waited for more interviews. A week passed and still nothing came. With just 10 days left and still no suitable family found, I decided that I would rather spend my last month travelling and getting to see a little of the country I’d lived in for the past 5 months. I contacted Lopair and asked to leave.

I knew that I would forfeit my measly 1000RMB completion bonus (not even one full month’s pocket money) and that they might ask me to pay a fee towards my flights according to their ‘early return policy’. All I asked from them was to keep my return flight on the same date it was booked for. I thought they no longer held anything over me and my leaving was saving them the hassle of finding me a new family for just one short, awkward month.

It took four days for them to respond to my requests which I wasn’t thrilled about. The response I got from my coordinator was “Lopair didn’t agree you to leave the program with Lopair’s visa”. I was outraged. I have a tourist visa which I paid for myself. I lied on every single immigration form at Lopair’s request to include no mention of them whatsoever. I wanted to use MY visa for its intended purpose - actual tourism. I met with my coordinator the next day and told her this. She said if I chose to leave the programme they would move my flight to the next week and I would have to go straight home. When I pushed her to give me a reason or explanation for this seemingly unnecessary action (it costs money to move flights!) the best she could come up with was that Lopair didn’t want me in Shanghai with other au pairs if I was no longer on the programme. I might give them a ‘bad feeling’ about the agency. I asked “so Lopair is trying to protect their reputation from me?”. She changed her story, saying that it is their usual policy to send au pairs home after the end of their programme because “Lopair is the reason you came to china”. I knew this was untrue. When I first applied to the programme I had asked Lopair to book my return flight 2 weeks after my end date because I wanted to travel. This had caused no problems before and my flight was booked on the date that I wanted. Now that I wanted to leave they were threatening to change it against my will. I pushed her again but couldn’t get a straight answer out of her. I could afford to pay them their “early return fee” according to the contract but I couldn’t afford to buy a new international flight. Essentially this was blackmail.

My coordinator then told me that I was “just feeling stressed” and not to worry because they would find me a nice family. I went home that evening and told my host parents what had happened. They were very understanding and agreed that what Lopair were doing was unjustified. They discussed it that evening and when they later told me that they could extend for one month (their other au pair had delayed her arrival) I cried tears of relief.

I think the thing to remember about Lopair is that at the end of the day they are still running a business and they are here to make money. The au pairs are not their clients, the families are. They will support the family over the au pair if given the choice. The au pairs are their ‘product’ and they will do whatever they can to make a profit out of us.

That said, I don’t regret coming to China with Lopair. It has been an invaluable experience. I have learnt not to accept being unhappy just because it suits others and to stand up for myself against a company that have tried repeatedly to bully me. I will never let anyone book flights for me again. I have begun to understand both the Chinese language and the wildly different culture, and discovered that I don’t really like Chinese food. I will still take two weeks to travel after I finish at the end of July and I am very excited to see more of this beautiful country. I have made friends both in China and from around the world. I fell in love with my second family, and with Shanghai, and I know that I will return to China in the future - but not as an au pair.

Overall Rating

8/ 10

  • Satisfaction

    8

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Cultural Immersion

    8

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Itinerary

    9

A whole new experience

I’ve been in China for six months as an Au Pair in Beijing and I really enjoyed my stay! I started with Orientation Days in Hangzhou that gave me a chance to meet other Au Pairs around China and an opportunity to calm down before meeting my hostfamily. I got along very well with my family and never had problems concerning my schedule or my travel plans. I also learned some Chinese in my Mandarin classes (it is a very difficult language to learn but worth the work!). I met a lot of other Au Pairs and made great friends, learned a lot about the Chinese culture and daily life and traveled a bit around China (Shanghai, Xi’an..). Moreover I also improved as a person since it’s not always perfect and you have problems you have to deal with yourself. Everyone who is interested in experiencing something else should definitely take a look at the program!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Host Company

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Compensation

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Professional Development

    10

  • Community

    10

Au Pair life in Chongqing

My time in Chongqing has been filled with excitement and great experiences, but these are only a couple of reasons why i am loving my time here. The foremost reason is the people i get to spend my time with, my host family has made me feel welcome since i have arrived and i really do feel a part of the family, a true big sister to Mary and Angel my host kids. Everyone i have met during my time in China has been super friendly and considerate, despite the difficulties with communication that inevitably arise on occasion. Being an AuPair with this family is fantastic, when the girls aren't at school we spend time playing things such as; hide-and-seek, drawing or caring for our puppy. They are both fun loving girls with a great sense of humour. On the weekends we go out and enjoy ourselves with family or friends. Recently we have been ice-skating, to a football match and to the mountains, to name a few. During my free time i am able to explore Chongqing or meet friends, having the daytime to myself gives me plenty of opportunity to get out and see new things. Although my duty hours never feel a chore. I believe that being open makes this experience most rewarding, you may rarely know what you will be doing in an hours time but being open to anything makes unexpected outings and experiences all the more enjoyable.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Host Company

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Compensation

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Professional Development

    10

  • Community

    10

Au Pair in China

Living in China these past couple months has been an amazing experience. There is so much to do and see, and each day is an adventure. It helps that I have a supportive host family. My everyday life is comfortable and fun, and I get along very well with my host family.

On a normal day, I wake up early, tell my host grandparents, “Zao shang hao,” and get myself ready for the day. If Jun Jun, my adorable host brother has school, I help him get ready, and we skip to his kindergarten next door. In the afternoons, we play all sorts of games; we build with Legos and building blocks; we make crafts out of paper; we look at pictures in books and learn the words. Then, after dinner, we play some more, and we read bedtime stories or play some piano. I get plenty of time to rest, study Chinese, go out exploring, and I also get to go out with my host family.

I like my host family because I feel like a real member of the family. My host brother calls me Jie Jie, and we love to play together. My host mother is straightforward, so there are few misunderstandings, and she cares about my well-being. My host grandparents are kind and very helpful, always making sure I have plenty to eat and time to rest and study.

To have a successful placement, communication and a positive attitude are very important. At first, it takes a while to adjust, but everyone has to talk through things and keep trying. It was difficult for me at first, but I kept smiling and working hard, and now I’m very comfortable and happy.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Host Company

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Compensation

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Professional Development

    10

  • Community

    10

Living in Ningbo, China

Actually I cannot believe, that I'm living in China for already 10 months now and sadly... I just have 1 month left in Ningbo with my amazing host family!
Time can pass by very, very fast when you feel welcomed and comfortable. I really enjoy my Chinese life and can't imagine how it will be back in Germany, during my stay with a Chinese family and living in a Chinese city, learning more and more about culture and people and trying to improve my Chinese skills I must say, my attitude about different lifestyles and dealing with unfamiliar people changed a lot. I became more open and improved my self confidence!
I'm really, really thankful to my host family for letting me become a part of their family and showing me how it is to live the Chinese way of life.
For me living in Ningbo became very convenient, although the city isn't that big as usual Chinese cities are I'm still making some small adventures and exploring new places with my friends.
Finding Chinese friends was also one of the best experiences I've made during my stay in China. Chinese people are most of the time very friendly and gentle and they're caring a lot about their friends to make sure they feel comfortable and happy. My Chinese friends showed me many fantastic places in and around Ningbo and KTV will always be a great memory for me, I'm pretty sure that after my Au pair time we will keep in touch and I will definitely go on with learning Chinese!
To become an Au Pair in China was one of the best experiences I've made so far, it is always good to travel to unknown places and meeting new people, trying different food and learning a foreign language.
The key for spending an unforgettable time in China was for me having much communication with my host family and learning how to deal with different attitudes and lifestyles and accepting them.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Host Company

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Compensation

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Professional Development

    10

  • Community

    10

Amazing experience

Being an Au Pair in China has been the most amazing experience of my entire life!
My Host Family has twins, two girls of 9 years old. Everyday we had so much fun, we usually woke up together, had breakfast and then prepared to go to school. During school time I had enough free time to enjoy the city, sometimes meet other au pairs, and have Chinese classes. My host mum was an housewife so many days she spent time with me and let me see so many different typical Chinese spots, China is definitely a fascinating country. After school we went to the Grandmother's house to have dinner. After dinner and their homework we had the 'English Time', we did role-plays, read books, sang songs, saw movies; I truly believe that learning by having fun is the most effective way for a child to pick up a new language. On weekends it was always a surprise! We did so many different trips, I am really thankful for everything that they did for me. They treated me like a family member, little by little the girls opened their hearts to me, they really became my little sisters, they were lovely and really sweet. Now that I'm back in my country I really miss them, we use Wechat to see each other and keep in touch.
If you love children, have an open mind and are ready to discover an entire new world; being an au pair is perfect for you!

Overall Rating

1/ 10

  • Academics

    1

  • Living Situation

    1

  • Cultural Immersion

    1

  • Program Administration

    1

  • Health & Safety

    1

  • Community

    1

Left alone in China

I applied for a scholarship with Lopair For May 10th 2017 and was accepted. I get to China and the orientation in Hangzhou is fine and the staff seems friendly (except for the the owner. Seemed a bit like a jerk...) after my host family decided to get a new aupair after two weeks i had to stay in their home for a few weeks. I had a hard time contacting the coordinator about what happens next and when i asked the company i just got attitude. I ended up in a hostel i had to pay for and once again no support for the company or coordinator. I ended up going to a new host family in Hangzhou. When i arrived at the train station the coordinator wasn't their to meet them and i had to wait 3hrs to find and open wifi signal because i had to give my working phone back to the other family. Finally i get to the second family and everything seems fine until the kids starts hitting me. She hit me with a pool stick and a wooden pole. She would scratch me and dig her nails into me, stomp on my arm, punch me in the face, choke me, threaten to kill me, tried to push me down an escalator , tried to touch my privates, make racist comments ect. And she was only 6 so there wasn't much i could do but put my hand up to protect myself. I told the coordinator and was told to tell the mother, so i did (she and the kid could speak english very well). The mother didn't take it seriously and only thought of it as playing. And when it got worse i told the coordinator and mother again but they blamed me. I tried everything at this point so i decided i need to go to a new family or go home. I was told that if i leave those family i will have to go home because no families are available. Then all of a sudden the mother decided to end the contract after i asked multiple times to. So it put the blame on me and i had to pay compensation and had to go to shanghai alone for 18 days until my flight that my family had to pay for. Once again i was left alone by this company in a foreign country I've never been to. I also have a friend who was lied to about the living situation of the family she was sent to and had to leave because of the situation. She was basically tricked into a meeting with the owner, who then proceeded to basically make fun of her for crying. Then they wouldn't let her leave until she paid her compensation. This company is only good until things become difficult. They will be quick to throw you to the sharks to get you out of their hair in a rough situation or if you finish the program. I wouldn't recommend anyone taking the chance. There are other smaller companies but all my friends in the smaller companies had a lot less problems. Proceed with Lopair at your own risk.

  • LoPair Au Pair China Program responded to this review November 03, 2017 at 2:07 AM

    Thank you for leaving such a detailed review on our program. We understand that you had a difficult time adapting to the culture and the host family, and sincerely apologise for your dissatisfaction during your stay in China.

    We assure you that LoPair is always practicing the rules of the program and we are focusing on improving our services for every participant. Nancy, LoPair’s program service manager, is willing to discuss your individual cases further and understand more details about your problems. You are welcome to contact her at: nancy.li@lopair.com to schedule a time and Nancy willl be happy to speak with you.

    best regards
    LoPair Team