Teen travelled from Germany to Eltham to be Taranaki family's final au pair
A German teenager is swapping her city life for the farm after signing up to an online au pair service.
Katja Heise, 18, had never been to New Zealand nor been an au pair - but that didn't stop her from making a leap from her hometown city of Rostock to the small town of Eltham.
Although she plans to study special education, Heise had no idea children could be such hard work.
"I really didn't expect there would be so much laundry," she said. "It's really hard with five children, but it is a lot of fun."
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Since 2006, Au Pair Link NZ has connected busy Kiwi families with wanderlust foreigners.
And as an au pair, the German teenager provided a live-in form of childcare while contributing a cultural experience for the children she helped care for.
From a city of 200,000 people to a town of just 2000, Heise said she chose New Zealand because of "nature and the mentality".
"People are very laid back and relaxed here and I wanted to experience that type of culture," Heise said.
"And it is so beautiful and on the other side of the world."
With five children to look after, Heise said she's kept busy with both chores and playtime.
"I make the laundry and get the groceries," she said.
"I have to keep them busy. So we go to swimming, and the skate park and the library.
"Then, I have weekends off and I go see the country."
Since arriving five weeks ago, Heise has rafted Waitomo waters and skied the slopes of Mt Ruapehu.
This weekend, she will sift through the racks of the op-shops throughout the region.
"Second hand shopping is very popular here."
Heise will be the 11th and final au pair for the Eltham family, mother Karen Smylie said, as the children are getting older.
Smylie began using the au pair linking service eight years ago when her eldest was just two.
"Before having an au pair, there was just so much pressure," she said.
"Now when I come home from work, the washing is done and the groceries have been got."
Besides lifting the weight off her shoulders, Smylie said her favourite part of the service was seeing her family grow.
"We have an au pair hall of fame," she said.
"We keep in touch with them on a regular basis. We've even gone to one of the girls weddings in Sweden."
After Heise's one-year au pair position, Smylie said the family would be sad to see her go.
"The girl who leaves in July is so much different than the one who arrived a year prior."