Questions to Ask Potential Hosts
Over the course of my long-term travel experience, I spent a month as an English tutor in Greece, six weeks as an English tutor in Turkey, and six months as an au pair in New Zealand. Through those experiences, and a failed exchange with a potential host as well, I’ve learned what questions to ask potential work exchange hosts.
I’ve sung the praises of Workaway and Worldpackers work exchange platforms time and time again. Both work exchange platforms are free to browse, but you do have to purchase an annual membership to apply and start messaging hosts.
For au pair opportunities, I used Au Pair World but the idea is generally the same. In each case, I lived with a family, sharing my culture and caring for or teaching their children, in exchange for free room and board. In the case of the au pair job, I was also given a weekly stipend.
After you decide to explore work exchange as a long-term travel option, finding interesting opportunities is the easy part. The more difficult part? Messaging hosts. Developing a rapport with them. Ensuring the opportunities are safe. Making sure each opportunity is a good fit for you. A non-communicative potential host is a major red flag for me, and the reason I chose not to pursue an opportunity to work at a French estate.
One of the best ways to vet Workaway hosts is to ask questions. A lot of questions. Don’t be afraid to “lose" an opportunity by asking a lot of questions. Being curious shows Workaway hosts that you’re serious about pursuing a work exchange with them.
Here is a comprehensive list of the best questions to ask potential Workaway hosts. This also works as a thorough list of questions to ask potential au pair host families.
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Practical Questions to Ask Work Exchange Hosts
What is the minimum and maximum length of stay?
Some Workaway hosts are very relaxed about this. Others want to schedule their workawayers for specific lengths of time or specific dates. Be sure that you’re schedules align before either of you gets too invested.
Will I need a car?
Some countries may require an international driver’s license. Other countries require you to drive on the opposite side of the road. Some hosts may only have manual cars for you to use. Better safe than sorry on these driving questions.
Will I have my own room? Will I have my own bathroom or will I be sharing?
Not all work exchange opportunities are created equally in this regard. Don’t be afraid to ask for photos of your space. After all, it will be your only private area. I’ve been lucky enough to have private rooms in both of my work exchange host homes, but that’s not always the case.
Have you hosted people in the past? Can I talk to them?
This is a great way to vet for safety. If you have any reservations about the workaway experience, talk to someone who has done it and lived to tell the tale. For peace of mind, I personally would only agree to a workaway or au pair experience with a host family that has done it before.
Do you have pets? Will I care for them?
Of course, this question is particularly important if you have an allergy. Either way, pets can make or break your work exchange experience.
Work Questions to Ask Potential Workaway Hosts
What are the duties you expect me to perform?
This is a big one. The post may mention childcare duties, but does that mean cleaning the children’s rooms, doing laundry, or cooking? It’s important to know what is expected of you and be up front about what you are willing to help with.
What will typical hours be? Is the schedule set in advance or is it flexible?
Some hosts may be very rigid about the days and hours they would like you to work. Others are more go with the flow. Regardless, asking these questions will give you a much needed framework of what is expected of you. It also helps you plan what your time off could look like!
Will I be paid a stipend? Will it fluctuate based on my hours worked?
This is more for au pairs specifically. Don’t be afraid to ask how much the weekly stipend they are offering is and if you will be paid more for extra hours.
What should I know about your children?
Again, this question is specifically for au pairs or workaway experiences where you’ll be interacting with children. Parents love to talk about their kids and they’ll love to see you take an interest in them.
Lifestyle Questions to Ask Potential Workaway Hosts
What do you and your family do for fun?
This is a light question that really helps to give you a feel for what the hosts are like. Are they active? Could you share hobbies with one another? Will you have enough to talk about?
Do you and your family follow a special diet? What do you typically eat for meals?
If you’re an extremely picky eater, work exchange programs might be challenging for you. Part of the experience is sharing cultures, which often means sharing meals that are new to you. Asking this question up front will help you mentally prepare.
I could have saved myself from an embarrassing experience when I brought a gift of cookies to a host with a gluten-free diet.
How far away is the nearest town? Is it walkable?
Will you feel too isolated at your host home if you can’t explore the area easily? Are you hoping to see certain sights while you complete a work exchange or au pair stay? Make sure that you’re able to enjoy your time off fully.
What is your daily routine like?
This question is so valuable. It allows you to picture what life is really like with your Workaway hosts and what family life as an au pair is like.
Are there any house rules I should be aware of?
It’s never a good feeling to break a rule you didn’t know existed. Of course, hosts may not remember to tell you everything up front but it is still a relief to know they are a “no shoes" household or they don’t think bikinis are appropriate before you find yourself in an awkward situation.