Expat Advice

Surviving French Kids – The Au Pair Special

Until I started working with French kids, I didn’t realise that they have an entirely different vocabulary to French adults. They use an array of wonderful words that are both delightful and confusing for non-native French speakers. I have learned so many new words since I began working with children, many of which are vital when you’re trying to understand them!

So to help out all those expats who are working with kids, here are my top, need to know French words. ENJOY!

Faire un Caprice: to throw a tantrum. When working with kids this often happens and you need to know this word so you can a) understand what’s going on and b) say – “Pas de dessins animés ce soir parce que tu as fais une caprice!” No cartoons tonight because you threw a tantrum!

Rikiki/riquiqui: this adorable word means tout petit (very small). For example: Son ordinateur est riquiqui! (His computer is tiny!)

Papounet/Mamounette: when I asked the 8-year-old I work with when she used these words she replied “when I want my parents to buy me something.” I had to laugh at her honesty but it helped me to understand what the translation would be. Papounet means daddy and Mamounette means mummy. Furthermore, as it’s a very cute way of saying mummy or daddy.

Un bavoir: another very important word if you’re working with young children is the word for a bib. Un bavoir is, of course, imperative to know. Without it the children you work with will be dropping food all over themselves, or throwing it at you, whatever they prefer!

Tétine: une tétine is a word you HAVE to know when working with young kids. They will often say this word when they want you to give them their dummy/pacifier.

Caca: this very informal word means poo and will be VITAL to know.

Une Couche: a nappy/diaper is called une couche in French. When the kids ask you for “une couche pour faire caca”…RUN!

Mon Cartable: a child’s cartable is their school backpack, you need to know this word because they will often ask you to carry it. They have a LOT of books, even the young kids,so expect it to be lourd (heavy!)


  • Alice

    Useful article! I love your blog! I thought of a few more I’ve picked up – ‘doudou’ (universal kid word for teddy/their favourite cuddly toy), dodo (nap) and adding ‘ou’ to the end of anything in an affectionate way (e.g. Maxime -> Maxou, Xavier -> Xaxou … It took me ages to work this out haha)

    • My Life Living Abroad

      Thank you Alice! I have had so many extra suggestions, I think I’ll have to do another article on it this month 🙂

  • Celina

    I just found your blog and love it! I’m going to catch up on some of your older posts! Also, if you know of any families in Paris needing an au pair anytime after May 10th, 2016 I’d love it if you’d shoot me an email or reply to this! Merci beaucoup!

    • My Life Living Abroad

      Hi Celina! I’m so glad you enjoyed my blog! I actually do know a family looking, what’s your email address? I’ll get in touch!

  • Fay

    I’m about to become an au pair in Paris so this is really useful! I’ve found your blog really helpful since deciding to move to France and have loved reading through your posts.

    • My Life Living Abroad

      Hi Fay! So glad you enjoyed reading my post! And ahh how exciting. I have been an au pair twice in the 8 years I’ve lived here and I’ve loved it both times. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you need any advice. Au pair or Paris related!

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