'There is a huge demand for nannies in Munich'
Being a nanny or au pair can be a great way to experience German culture, but there can be pitfalls. Nicolette Kalbfell explores the ins and outs of working in Munich.
If you happen to be a young, educated English-speaking woman with a knack for keeping children entertained, you can easily find work in Munich these days.
“It was overwhelming,” said Carrie Lawler, a 27-year old full-time nanny living in the Bavarian capital. “After I posted my availability online, the number of interested families willing to hire me was in the dozens.”
Lawler is part of an elite group. She possesses the exact qualities many mothers in Munich are looking for in private childcare. She speaks native English, she has an education, she is young, female, available, and she needs the money.
“I work between 30 to 55 hours a week,” said Lawler, who is originally from Cary, North Carolina. She moved to Munich in August of 2009 to be with her German boyfriend and find adventure. After teaching English didn’t work out, she posted her availability for babysitting on The Local's English-language forum Toytown Germany and was shocked by the response.
“I was blown away then and still am now,” she said. “Since I moved here, I’ve worked for six families, one of which I was with for three years. There is a huge demand for nannies like me.”
Lucky for these mothers, Munich is full of young English-speaking women looking for a part- or full-time job: students looking to fund their studies and expats looking to pay their rent.
According to the Goethe Institute, bilingual families are on the rise and so is the expectation that a child can speak multiple languages. For many Germans, English is the language of choice.
“The parents expect me to help the kids with their English homework, check their answers and drill them,” said Lawler. “The German families want their children to have an advantage in school. The international families don’t want their kids to grow up without English.”
Lawler admits that some of the people she works for take advantage of her kindness. The most common problem is parents returning home hours later than they had agreed to. Some ask her to clean, do dishes and do laundry, even though these tasks were never included in her working agreement.
Earning €15 an hour, she doesn’t have work contracts with the families. She keeps track of the hours she’s worked in her head and is paid at the end of each week. Though many English-speaking nannies working in Munich are paid under the table – with no reporting of earnings to the tax man – that's not the route Lawler chose.
A few years ago, she filed for small business status with the city's municipal authorities, which provided her with four years of German residency and a work visa. Each year, she reports her earnings to the government, but has yet to make enough to have to pay taxes.
The current shortage of childcare in Munich is one reason foreigners like Lawler believe they are being granted small business permits.
Jeanette Cropsy, who asked her name to be changed for this article, has been living in Munich since 2008, is now married to a German man, and has never wanted for work.
“I’ve worked for a number of wealthy German families in the Munich area,” said Cropsy. “One family even required me to sign a non-disclosure agreement.”
Cropsy, who is under 30 years old and also from the United States, used to live in the basement apartment of her employer’s house near the Nymphenburger Canal. Part of her fulltime working agreement was that rent and groceries were included in her pay. On top of that, she received €700 a month.
She was required to travel with the family four weeks out of every year. Once, Cropsy said she worked three weeks in a row with no day off, sometimes up to 12 hours a day.
“The expectations were unhealthy for me,” she said. “And it was difficult to turn off my working mindset when I lived just below my employers.”
When Cropsy left that family in 2011, she was shocked when her employer of two and half years said she wouldn’t be able to visit the children for six months after the working arrangement ended.
“I was heart broken. I never thought she would take them away from me like that,” she said. “I would never work that closely with a family again.”
Cropsy considered starting her own agency to bring families and nannies together, and to protect nannies from being taken advantage of.
Cropsy now works 20 to 30 hours a week caring for one child. The schedule is much healthier, she says. She makes €11 an hour, which includes cooking and shopping; two tasks which were never explicitly discussed as part of the initial working agreement.
“It’s not perfect, but it’s really good,” said Cropsy.
Vacation and sick days are also not included in her verbal contract with her employer.
“What I realized is that I have to look out for me because as much as it feels like family, it’s not,” said Cropsy. “If you’re doing your job well, you should feel like part of the family, but often, you’re not treated that way.”