Hey my name’s Celina and I can’t afford tissues or body wash. That’s right, I use toilet paper and shampoo instead. My social media doesn’t show pictures of me eating the same exact pasta for dinner every night, nor does it show my boots that are falling apart. On my Instagram you’ll only see me drinking overpriced coffee in a cafe or eating a meal with a friend that I can’t afford.
Last week I had 7 euros to my name (not because I’m reckless with my money, but because of unexpected circumstances). I was determined not to ask my host family for an advance, so I swallowed my pride and spent 3 euros on food I hoped would last quite a few days. I ate as much fruits and veggies as I could at my host family’s when I was working. And I went home and ate gross pasta.
And I’m sick of it. I don’t make a living wage. Of course, I make enough to survive. But I do not make enough to go out with my friends. I spend a lot of time alone, not because I want to, but because I don’t have money to go get coffee, or drinks, or, God forbid, a whole meal. I work a job without a salary; I receive a monthly “stipend.” And no, my host family isn’t stingy. They pay me the average wage for an au pair in Paris, and have already given me my Christmas bonus (That’s how I had the privilege of spending 7 euro on a Greek salad and fries today).
I’m sick of getting paid the same as 18 year olds who don’t hold degrees (and whose parents’ support them). I’m sick of getting peed on and going home to eat dinner alone. I’m sick of being too poor to buy milk for my coffee, or shoes that don’t have holes in them. I’m sick of living in a city I can’t afford in a career (if you could call it that) that I don’t enjoy.
Don’t get me wrong y’all, Paris is amazing! But for me, it’s not a city that I can afford right now. So what am I going to do? Well, I’m currently working my butt off to find freelance writing gigs, as well as training to get my TEFL. Sure I would love to live in Paris for another 6 months or a year, but I refuse to continue doing a job I don’t enjoy for an unlivable “stipend.”
However, I am not quitting my job. I signed a contract, and I will be staying here until late May, 2017, after which I will visit home to see my little sister graduate. As of now, I plan to use my degree and TEFL somewhere else in the world where I can live comfortably and – gasp! – actually save money every month. Right now, that place for me is Seoul, South Korea, but in a few months, who knows, I may have another destination in mind.
So thanks for reading a real, not so pretty account of an au pair. If you’re looking for a budget way to move abroad, au pairing is a great start – but it’s just that, a start. Au pairing is not a way to save money, or really live comfortably without savings, support from home, or other work.
So now I’m off to work. After, I walk home in the 6 degrees celsius weather and make my famous 1 euro pasta meal. I’ll do some freelance work and probably watch some Netflix. Later I’ll write down what I’m grateful for, and hopefully go to sleep with a thankful heart.