Many families leave their children for years to be looked after by young people about whom they know next to nothing, from places they have barely heard of. Who are these au pairs, why do they come and what is their experience of this arrangement? Do they, for their part, find that they are treated as one of the family, and would they even want to be? After a year of careful research, this book shows how most of our assumptions and expectations about au pairs are wrong.
This is the first book devoted to the lives of au pairs, their leisure as well as their work time. We see this world from the eyes of the visitors, and their unique perspective on what lies at the heart of our family life. The book does not flinch from documenting the realities of the situation D the racism and the problematic behaviour of the au pairs themselves, as much as the ignorance and exploitation they can be subject to. The book is a case study in how to come to feel modern life empathetically from the viewpoint of one of those many migrant groups we take for granted and rely on but rarely try to understand.
Zuzana Burikova is a researcher at the Institute of Ethnology SAV, Slovakia and Lecturer at Masaryk University, Czech Republic Daniel Miller is Professor of Anthropology at University College, London
Acknowledgements vii Prologue 1 1 Why Not? 5 2 An Embarrassing Presence 32 3 The Hard Work and the Soft Touch 60 4 Sort of English 87 5 Bored in Beddlingham 114 6 Men 137 7 Out of Time 156 8 Conclusion: Structure, Behaviour and Consequence 171 Appendix: Academic Studies of Domestic Labour 184 References 200 Index 204