Affordable Sushi in Brussels: Makisu Restaurant Review

Pre-lockdown sushi

It’s hard to find affordable sushi, and even harder when you’re student on a budget in a big metropolitan city in Europe. So, you can imagine my delight when I discovered a budget-friendly sushi option with 4 restaurants in Brussels! There is one in the city center, one in Cimitiere D’Ixelles, which is a trendy student neighborhood by VUB and ULB campuses, and 2 nearby Flagey, which makes it pretty easy to get to one of them when you’re desperately in need of sushi.

But Makisu isn’t only sushi; They offer sides like miso soup and edamame as well as donburi bowls, including their salmon avocado bowl and their chicken katsu bowl. My favorite part about Makisu though, is that they allow you to design your own roll or bowl, so you can put whatever you want into your meal! While this option is slightly more expensive, it’s the best when you really need a California style sushi roll with mango and unagi sauce.

The best part is that, after a short period of closure at the start of the lockdown in Belgium, Makisu has reopened for takeout and corona-safe dining. You can order online for any of their locations, and they usually get your order ready pretty quickly! This is definitely my favorite restaurant in Brussels so far.

Restaurant Apollon Nidri Review

I went to Greece this summer and had an absolutely lovely time. The people, food, and environment there were just fabulous and gorgeous. One of my favorite restaurants I ate at during my 10 day stay in Greece was Restaurant Apollon, a family owned restaurant with delicious food and excellent service! They’re conveniently situated close to the beach in Nidri and near a few hotels, including the one my boyfriend and I stayed at, Babis Apartments (which was likewise a lovely experience).

Aside from the convenient location, the owner and his son are very generous and sweet people. I wasn’t able to catch their names, but in the two days I stayed in Nidri we ate at their restaurant twice because I just felt so at ease there and I really wanted to support them and their business in these difficult times. They really treated us like royalty, like every customer is a VIP. I thought it was a welcome change and a sweet surprise. 11/10 definitely recommend this restaurant, and would go there again if I ever find myself in Nidri in the future!

3 Steps to Overcoming Exam Failure

It’s summer, but it’s also the end of exam season, when many students like myself are getting their exam results back and planning their next semester. Contrary to my expectations, I did horribly, and failed quite a lot of exams.

I was devastated.

But instead of giving up, I decided to use this as a learning experience. Luckily, I have one session of exam retakes in August when I can try to pass all these exams again. But here’s how I’m coping with failure, and how you can too:

1. Feel Your Feelings
The first and most important thing to remember is that failure is not the end of the world. After I read my exam results, I let myself have a little existential crisis. I let myself cry hysterically. I let myself write in my journal. I allowed frustration, anger, sadness, and feelings of inferiority rush right through me. And after I was done crying, I reminded myself that I’m still alive and I can try again or plan an alternate path.

2. Forgive Yourself
When we fail, we tend to feel frustrated and angry at ourselves, at the institution, and at the world. It’s easy to tell yourself that you didn’t work hard enough, or didn’t pay enough attention, or didn’t communicate and ask your professors and peers for help enough. But you are enough. It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel like you didn’t do your best. Right now, the most important thing is progressing past this failure, and you can’t very well do that if you’re beating yourself up about it the whole time you’re trying to get over and through it.

3. Make a Plan
So, you failed. What do you do next? How can you still reach your goals in spite of this setback? I made a list; maybe you can too. First, identify your goals. What do you want to do? Maybe you want to pass your classes next semester, or maybe you’re planning more long term and you’re trying to get your degree, or get a job in a specific career field. Whatever it is, write down your goals and think about it.
How were you originally planning to get there before this setback? How does this setback change your original plan? After you consider your paths towards success, write down 1 or 2 alternative ways to reach your goal and include minor steps so it doesn’t seems so overwhelming.

After that, it’s just a matter of actually doing that. And actually sticking to plans is something I definitely can’t help you with. Do you have any advice to avoid procrastinating or forgetting about plans?

Cafe: RetroFlakes 199x

Inside the Cafe

During my lecture-free week between semesters, I travelled to Mallorca with a friend. It was definitely an interesting experience: my first trip with just me and a friend. There’s a lot to do in Mallorca, which is an island off the coast of Spain. It’s known for partying and, for some reason, being a common tourist destination for Germans (if anyone knows why, leave a comment!). This lovely island is much more than Palma, and I spent most of my time taking in nature in small villages rather than the biggest city.

However, even though I absolutely adored the small towns, hiking, and gorgeous scenery of the Mallorcan countryside, cafes will always be close to my heart. In a small corner of Palma rests the cafe, RetroFlakes199x. It’s a relatively small, very cute cafe that sells bowls of retro cereals with colorful milk.

This cafe definitely scores pretty high on my list of favorite cafes. I’m not one who visits cafes for coffee, because I don’t drink coffee; I love cafes that give me a good vibe, where I could sit there and enjoy its environment. Retroflakes 199x gave me a really true to itself retro feeling. The cereals were nostalgic, some of them I hadn’t even seen since I was a single-digit age, and the colorful milk was a super cute touch. It also helped that it was really affordable, even for a broke college kid like me.

Overall, I’d go back to this cafe every week if I lived in Palma. If not for the cozy nostalgic feeling, then for Lucky Charms and cotton candy flavored Fruity Pebbles.

Simple No-Bake Pie Crust

Some people don’t have ovens, and some people don’t have the energy, time, or desire to use their ovens, especially when it starts getting hot. Here is a super simple pie crust that even a college student could make in their dorm. It’s a little crumbly, but it does the trick.

1 1/2 Cups Sweet Crackers (like Graham Crackers or Maria Cookies)
1/4 Cup Melted Butter
1 Tbs Milk

1. Prepare your pie pan by buttering it or covering it with parchment paper.
2. Blend or crush crackers until fine and powdery.
3. Melt butter
4. Add melted butter to crackers and mix with fork until all of the crackers are covered in butter
5. Add milk until it’s a little bit sticky consistency.
6. Knead/press together and press onto your prepared pie pan.
7. Squish with spoon until it’s really stuck together, then stick it in the fridge for about 30 minutes to an hour.

Super Easy Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake

Everyone is baking these days, expressing their creativity through breads and cookies. I’ve always loved to bake and create desserts, but I had never tried to make cheesecake. Maybe it’s because my family isn’t a huge fan, or because I always thought it was too complicated. But this no-bake cheesecake, based on this recipe from Charlotte’s Lively Kitchen, has quickly become a favorite. It’s super easy and quick, although definitely still very much a make-ahead dessert.

This recipe is made for a larger (10-inch) pie pan, but you can always adjust the recipe slightly to fit a smaller one, or even just put your leftovers in a small ramekin and make little extra cakes!

Here is a list of all the ingredients so you know what to put on your shopping list:

2 1/2 Cups Sweet crackers (like Graham Crackers or Maria Cookies)
1/4 Cup Melted Butter
3 Tbs Milk (give or take)

2 Cups Heavy Whipping Cream
1 1/2 Cups Powdered Sugar
200 Cups Cream Cheese
1 1/4 Cups Pureed Blueberries
1 Large Lemon Juice + Zest (or 2 small lemons)

Extra blueberries or lemon slices for garnish

Above is a picture of the cheesecake. I actually messed it up by not whipping the cream stiff enough, so I’m sure yours will look much better!
Without further ado, here is the full recipe:

Time to Make: ~30 Minutes
Time to Cool: ≥3 hours

Tools: Refrigerator, Oven, Hand/Stand mixer (preferably), blender/food processor (preferably), Spatula, Fork, Spoon, 2 mixing bowls, pie pan

Crust Ingredients: (to fit 10 inch pie pan)
2 1/2 Cups Sweet crackers (like Graham Crackers or Maria Cookies)
1/4 Cup Melted Butter
3 Tbs Milk (give or take)

Crust Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C) and butter or line your pie pan with parchment paper.
(No oven? Here’s a recipe for a no-bake pie crust!)
2. Blend the crackers in a food processor so that they’re super fine and powdery and put in a mixing bowl.
If you don’t have a blender or food processor, just crush it up as finely as possible (you can put the crackers in a plastic bag and hit it with a wooden mallet or something!).
3. Melt the butter and add to the bowl of cracker powder. Mix well with a fork or your hands.
4. Add milk tablespoon by tablespoon, mixing in between until it becomes a knead-able dough.
5. Press the dough into your pie pan, poke holes in it with a fork so it doesn’t get air bubbles, and put into the oven for 7-10 minutes or until golden brown.
6. After the pan has cooled enough to be touched, place in the fridge to cool it more.

Filling Ingredients:
2 Cups Heavy Whipping Cream
1 1/2 Cups Powdered Sugar
200 Cups Cream Cheese
1 1/4 Cups Pureed Blueberries
1 Large Lemon Juice + Zest (or 2 small lemons)

Filling Instructions:
1. Add the powdered sugar and heavy whipping cream to a mixing bowl and mix until it has stiff peaks. Important: Don’t overwhip your cream, but make sure it is stiff, because this is important for the stability of your filling!
2. Puree or mash blueberries until juicy (if you don’t like little blueberry skin bits, you can also strain the puree)
3. Mix blueberry puree, lemon juice, and lemon zest with the cream cheese until well mixed
4. Fold the whipped cream into the fruit and cream cheese mixture until well incorporated.

Put it all together:
1. Take the crust out of the refrigerator and put the filling into it, smoothing it over as you go.
2. Refrigerate until firm and cold.
3. Garnish with extra blueberries, lemon zest, and/or lemon slices.
4. Serve!

3 Ways to Feel at Home in a New City

Moving is a big change, and getting accustomed to a new city can be super daunting. The streets could look different, or the buildings. There could be more cars, louder horns, or bikers everywhere. It can be tempting to stay in the sanctuary of your new home, only venturing out for work and to get groceries, especially if you suffer from anxiety. But that’s exactly what you should not do! Here are 3 ways to feel at home when you first move to a new city.

Explore all those out of the way alleys that tourists don’t get to see!
  1. Go for a walk

It’s good to explore the city. I’ve found my favorite cafes, small parks, and cozy spots while walking around without the help of a map! Walking around without a set destination can help you feel more comfortable in your new city (although I recommend keeping your phone with you so you can get back home).

For example, you could join a board game club!

2. Join a club

When you move somewhere completely new, where you have minimal contacts, you should try to get out of the house and expand your social life. Living someplace where you don’t have any friends is really lonely, so it’s best to find a group of like-minded people to socialize with and make some strong connections. I suggest looking at your local groups or browsing the reddit page for your city. You could even join local online groups via Facebook or Instagram!

Make your home a cozy place that reflects

3. Make your house a sanctuary

Even if you’ll only going to live in the new city for a year or even just a semester, make your living space something you are proud to show off and where you want to be. Sometimes it might seem like too much work to spend a day or two putting your house together only to take it down a few months later, but coming home to a space you don’t absolutely love can get really tiring. You want to feel comfortable and cozy in your home so you can associate that comfort with your new city!

Ultimately, when you move, whether it’s a big cross-country move or just to another part of your state, it can be a disorienting and overwhelming experience. Making connections and forming relationships in your new city is the best way to start feeling at ease in your new home!

5 Surprising Things About Moving from California to Belgium and the Netherlands

The highland cow! Fuzzy bebes!

Moving to a totally foreign place always comes with many culture shocks. As a young, small town raised, Gen Z American girl, it’s easy to romanticize Europe. There are so many cool things here, like beautiful cathedrals, castles, fuzzy cows, and affordable healthcare. Coming from the US, Europe also feels tiny in terms of travel; If you fall asleep on a train in the Netherlands you could wake up in Germany! Moving to the Netherlands, I was so excited! I couldn’t wait to explore and get to know my new city and zoom all around the continent.

Of course, living here came with many surprises both positive and negative.

1. The Weather

Windmill near Amsterdam on a cloudy day

Moving to the Netherlands from California in February was definitely a huge shock to me. At home, it was nice spring weather, but the Netherlands was still cold and rainy. It snowed my first week there, and I didn’t realize how much near-constant cloud cover would affect my mood. The weather in Belgium, where I live now, is very much the same: little sun, lots of rain.

When moving to a normally cold country, it’s important to consider the weather and its potential effect on your emotional health. No matter where you are, your health is the most important thing!

But even though the weather here does frequently suck, it’s still gorgeous (and the summers here are getting hotter every year). Plus, there are still beautiful sunsets. Being grateful to live in such a beautiful place helps me stay positive and appreciate the little things when there’s no sun and remembering how much I hate being cold makes me appreciate the sweaty summers.

2. The Food

Belgian fries near Grand Place, Brussels

I grew up in a family who loves spice. My favorite foods are spicy and salty. Unfortunately for me, I was completely unprepared for some of the food norms here (eating bread with breakfast, lunch and dinner?) and the little variety I found in many supermarkets. It can be pretty hard (especially, I’m finding, in Brussels) to find any real spicy peppers in a corporate supermarket here. To find them in Belgium, you’ll have to go to a Moroccan market or maybe one of the farmer’s markets held in Brussels on the weekend. I definitely had a big food culture shock moving here!

Another different food habit that I’ve noticed is that people here (Belgium and the Netherlands) tend to not store their leftovers in containers. Instead, they leave it in the cooking pot and just put it in the fridge with the lid on. That’s really strange to me, but I guess it’s much more convenient!

3. Shopping

A shopping street in Brussels

In the US, it’s common to find everything you would need in one place, like in Target or Costco. Not here! When I first moved here, it was a huge shock to have to go to a different store for all of your different needs. I was used to being able to find medication, lotion, and toys in the same place that I could buy my food.

In Europe, even though there are a few department stores like the Carrefour Market in Belgium or the Albert Heijn in the Netherlands, the shopping is generally much more separated and there are fewer indoor malls. Instead, there are large outdoor shopping districts with several specialized shops in the same place. This is different from a regular American outdoor mall because there’s usually a road that cars drive on even when there could be hundreds of pedestrians; it’s just a regular street!

4. Public Transportation

Sunset from a Brussels tram station

This one was really a pleasant surprise. I moved to Europe almost directly from Korea, where public transportation is very efficient, but can be super expensive.

In the Netherlands, public transportation is very convenient, efficient, and there are generally very few delays. You can just travel with a reloadable OV-Chipkaart or with disposable tickets, which can be purchased at a kiosk or by machine, respectively. The price of your journey is determined by the distance you travel, so you have to check in and out when you get on and off the bus, tram, metro, or train.

In Brussels, each journey is the same price, so you only need to check in. Sometimes this can make your fare much cheaper, and sometimes it makes it a little more expensive since a single journey ticket is around 2 euros. For students like me, however, I can pay a fixed price of 50 euros per year for a transportation card with the city line service (STIB-MIVB) with unlimited use within Brussels.

5. Language and Travel

Intercontinental flights can be as cheap as 20 euros round trip!

American culture doesn’t really actively support being bilingual or a polyglot. Growing up, knowing anything other than English meant that you were an “other” and it was made fun of or exoticized (or both). I love that it seems totally different here. Most people are at least bilingual, and in Brussels, it’s common to speak at least 3 languages, no problem.

Also, many other European students I meet travel a lot, either alone or with their families. They’ve almost all been to several other countries and love to travel on the weekends. It makes a lot of sense that students would travel in Europe since travel is cheap and accessible!

Korean Saeng Cake (Fruity Sponge Cake)

A few weeks ago, I got to visit my last host family in the Netherlands. My boyfriend, Floyd, and I were tasked with bringing dessert. I absolutely love baking, and when I have the time, I prefer to bake desserts myself. I was really craving Korean Saeng Cake, which is a light sponge cake topped with fruit that many Koreans eat on birthdays. Saeng (생) cake is really whipped cream cake, so this is kind of an alternate version because it’s not made with whipped cream frosting, and Saengil (생일) means birthday, so it’s a fun play on words. Floyd and I had made Saeng Cake once before, but we’d used a different recipe that we couldn’t track down this time.

This time, Floyd and I modified a recipe we found on the blog, Michelle Makes More (link to the recipe!). However, we substituted the cream of tartar with corn starch and the orange with lemon! I think lemon makes the cake lighter and more exciting. This cake is soft, airy, and not too sweet. Everyone loved it!

This cake usually has 3 components: sponge cake, fruit, and an absolutely delicious whipped cream frosting. However, I replaced the frosting with a Swiss Buttercream Frosting (which turned out a liiittle chunky because the butter was still too hard) because I didn’t have time to run to the store for heavy whipping cream!

After we finished the cake, we had to drive 45 minutes to my host family’s house. Surprisingly, it was really not that hard to keep it balanced on my lap. The cake was really yummy and we went home with fully tummies and the satisfaction that comes with baking something delicious.

We ate the entire cake between the 4 of us!

Au Pair in Amsterdam: My Experience

Racist Hosts, Overworking, and Red Flags

As a young 18-almost-19 year old, I wanted to see the world, learn about new cultures, maybe pick up a new language, and, most (not) importantly follow my then-boyfriend to western Europe. Arguably, the least expensive way to travel Europe as a young teen is to become an au pair. It’s meant to be a kind of cultural exchange; Ideally, the host family provides room and board as well as cultural immersion (often in the form of language classes) while the au pair becomes part of the family and can explore the hosts’ country, city, or even continent on their free time!

Picking My Host Family

While I was deciding which country to au pair in, I browsed extensively on AuPairWorld, which is a website dedicated to connecting au pairs with host families. It’s full of useful information, from advice about acquiring visas to stories from seasoned au pairs. Eventually, considering the time period during which I wanted to au pair, the apparent friendliness of hosts that I had contacted, and, unfortunately, distance to my (now ex) boyfriend, I chose a family in the Netherlands who had two year old twin boys.

This family seemed very nice and practical over Skype calls. They were a family with many allergies, but seemed willing to support me in my own dietary needs. Their kids seemed very cute and sweet (I’ve babysat extensively and, yes, I did know that twins would be a lot of work) and their parents informed me that they had a hard time eating solid foods due to medical reasons. I was, however, a bit confused because the host family already had a nanny. I wondered why they’d need a nanny on top of an au pair, especially as the mother was home all the time. These small worries, I would later realize, were HUGE red flags.

As an au pair, you’re supposed to be part of the family, have a schedule, and, depending on your country, not work over a certain number of hours per week. Every country has different regulations, but in the Netherlands, au pairs are not allowed to work more than 30 hours per week, and even then no more than 8 hours per day, 5 days a week. After a few very positive Skype calls with the parents, I decided to jump in and just do it.

The view from a train station in Amsterdam

And Cue the Nightmare

Not even 3 weeks into living with this host family, I knew something was wrong with how much I was working and the tasks I was doing. I was working upwards of 2 hours over my 8 hour daily limit and well over the 30 hours per week. After my one month check in with my agency, they didn’t do anything to help my situation and just told me to “work faster and stop being distracted.” If I was distracted, it was only despairing about the amount of tasks I had to do; even just feeding the children took almost an hour in total because of the difficulty they had eating and with their oral fine motor skills and all of their eating utensils had to be meticulously sterilized before use. In addition to the usual au pair tasks, like monitoring the kids and tidying up, I was also pressured into and required to perform tasks that were explicitly forbidden and strongly discouraged for au pairs to do. These tasks included making dinner for the entire family and, frequently, extended family every night, cleaning the entire kitchen even when I didn’t use it, and doing and folding laundry for the entire household.

The sheer amount of tasks (and mountains of laundry) alone were enough to make me go crazy, but that wasn’t all. Despite the physical exhaustion that looking after two wild and rambunctious twins entails, navigating around the host parents turned out to be just as, and probably even more, emotionally draining than my other duties. These parents seemed to be anxious, as any well-meaning parents, about the well-beings of their biological children. However, this anxiety transferred onto me by way of my own basic empathy and their own projection. Of course, watching young children is a job that requires responsibility and vigilance, especially when they’re little boys who constantly fight. The parents had strict rules to never take my eye off them and always be ready to separate them from each other. This occupied nearly all of the working time that could have been spent completing other chores like folding laundry or tidying the room.

Extreme Helicoptering

The helicopter parenting of the kids was frustrating and difficult, but once the parents revealed that they wanted to be my helicopter parents as well, I started to get uneasy and the stress really started. As an au pair, there can be very little social interaction with people who are not your host parents or kids. It can be a lonely, kind of isolated job sometimes, especially if you have an irregular schedule or don’t often have 2 days off in a row (which I did not). After a couple weeks of isolation from anyone close to my age or with any similar experiences, I began to get a little cabin fever. However, my host parents had set a strict curfew of 12AM on nights before a working day (which was extremely difficult because I often finished all of my chores at around 9:30 or 10) and on nights before a free day my curfew was 2AM. This made it difficult to go out because, even though there were a few cute restaurants and bars around my host parents’ house, the city center was a 20-30 minute bike ride (if I didn’t get lost) and about a 45 minute bus ride away. If I finished work at 10, that only gave me about an hour in the city on work days — barely enough time to find a restaurant and eat and definitely not very much time to bond with new friends. Basically, the schedule made it increasingly hard for me to have a social life.

Unfortunately, the helicopter parenting didn’t stop there. These hosts decided that they wanted to know exactly where I was going and who I was meeting, even (especially) on my days off. After my ex-boyfriend and I broke up, I started seeing an ethnically Afghan Dutch guy and my host parents went as far as to tell me that they would fire me if I stayed in contact with him because of his religious and ethnic background. They also told me that I was still just a child (who hires a child to watch over their children, really) because I was only 18 and they treated me as if I had never lived away from home (I had been living away from home for almost a year at that point). Honestly, I should have had the courage to leave then, but I stayed because I didn’t want to go home early (oh, the shame) and I was honestly afraid of the host parents, who would even curse at me sometimes and tell me that there was something wrong with me, that I couldn’t manage their household within 30 hours a week.

The Beginning of the End

After a couple months, I met my current boyfriend, Floyd, at my first meeting with a board game club in Amsterdam. After a blow up over me being 2 minutes late for my 2am curfew that night, I really had it in my head to leave. Anything and anywhere, I thought, would be better than living with these people. It didn’t take long for me to finally tell them I wanted to leave. Soon after, I emailed my agency to tell them that I was thinking of a rematch and my agent told me that I should wait a week to see if things improve (literally the worst advice ever). Of course, things didn’t improve.

Less than a week later Floyd invited me to a small get-together with friends close to where I lived. He told me he’d pick me up after I finished work and drop me off at church in the morning (it was a kickback and there would be drinking so of course he wouldn’t be able to drive me home late at night). I asked my host parents if it was okay (don’t ever do that; you shouldn’t have to ask permission to have fun on your day off) and told my host parents where I was going, gave them the address, numbers, and names of the people who would be there like they asked (which I think is a major invasion of privacy), and as I was finishing up my tasks for the night, the father asked me when I would leave. I told him when, and that I’d be back the next day after church. That was a Big. Mistake.

Immediately, the father starting yelling at me, telling me that I was disrespectful and rude for not obeying their rules (which I did obey) and that I was not allowed to stay anywhere overnight without them first meeting everyone there. He and the host mom told me that if I kept being so “disrespectful,” then maybe our arrangement wasn’t working. I was so shocked and angry that I blurted out, “Yeah, I was thinking of going into rematch too.” The father looked shocked, but the mom told me she already knew that. Things happened pretty quickly after that. They finalized the rematch process in a few days, but asked that I stay until the end of the month.

I agreed. But I shouldn’t have.

Fast Forward to the Last Day

Work became even more unbearable than before. I counted the days, hours, and sometimes even minutes before I could leave their house. The host mom seemed to try to pile on every chore she could think of and was more critical of my efficiency and productivity than she had been (which was a feat in itself; she should win an award). I just tried to avoid the parents as much as possible, but I felt really bad leaving their nanny because she was always so nice to me and taking care of those two boys and the household in the way their parents dictated was really a herculean task.

At the end of my contract, I had to clean my room, which, being the procrastinator I was, I saved until the last two days. Unfortunately, while I was cleaning, I lost the SIM card that the host parents had provided to me. I was more than happy to pay for a new SIM card, but when I told the parents, they, of course, viewed it as a heinous offense and freaked out. On top of that, they immediately also told me about some phone bill fees that I had apparently spent over my allowance, but would not show me the invoice and got offended that I had asked to see it. I was tired, anxious, and constantly on the verge of tears so I simply gave them the money and left as soon as possible.

Before I left, however, the host mother didn’t hesitate to give me a piece of her mind. I was almost finished cleaning my room on the morning I was supposed to leave, taking a break, when the host mom came into my room. She told me that I “f*ck everything up,” that I will never be able to survive on my own without someone to take care of me, and that I will “amount to nothing,” afterwards saying that she only said those things because she cares about me and that she hoped that I would realize it some day. I was so tired and numb that I couldn’t help but agree with her, but I wish with a burning passion that I had had the presence of mind to talk back.

Originally, I wanted to leave on a positive note, but after a conversation like that all I wanted was to run out of there as soon as possible. I left and didn’t look back, even when I realized I left the only designer item I’ve ever owned at her house (I’m really sad about this; they were cute Tommy Hilfiger boots that I got 70% off and they were comfy).


If there is anything you take away from this long, not-even-comprehensive post about my experience as a legal au pair in the Netherlands, it’s that, as an au pair, the quality of your host family will majorly determine the quality of your experience. (Also, maybe don’t move continents for a boy). Living with this host family was an invaluable learning experience for me, but I was uncomfortable, sad, angry, and tired the entire time; it was probably the furthest thing from positive that you could think of. Be careful when choosing your family! There are many resources available to help you make informed decisions about your au pair year. Blogs like Au Pair, Oh Paris (APOP) and websites like and have a lot of helpful and practical information and they have inspired me to au pair again some day in spite of my bad experience. Don’t forget to also join some Facebook groups and, if you use an agency, network with the other au pairs in your area through them!

Have you had a bad au pair experience? Do you have questions about being an au pair? Leave your comments below!