Hired help.

This morning (I am told by a fellow expat friend) marked a big step in our lives as expatriates! Our first maid arrived for her orientation! I don’t think I have been called “madam” so many times in the space of 30 minutes in my life…I put the brakes on that immediately and assured her that she wasn’t going to be in trouble for calling me by my name. It’s one thing to have a maid, it’s another to have her calling you Madam!

We had resisted the temptation to hire a ‘helper’ (the generic name for a maid here in HK) for many months now as I needed to feel ‘needed’. The sense of accomplishment after I had successfully scrubbed the toilet (coming from a family of girls and moving in with a large male was a strange new world of little nasty’s like the toilet bowl) was something I considered important while I was unemployed. The prospect of having someone do my dirty dishes and vacuum was incredibly appealing but it was not going to happen until I got a job, otherwise it was just plain excessive! Still feeling a little guilty about the whole idea, I received an email from a friend here in HK that made me feel a little less like an Eastern Suburbs princess and a little more ‘normal’; “…Without a maid you might as well be still in Sydney!” she said.

I must say, you are considered fairly strange if you don’t have a helper in HK and at $50HKD (rough conversion $7AUD) per hour there isn’t much reason not too I suppose. The minimum wage is a lot lower than Australia and other developed countries and that is something else that we will have to get used to. I noticed myself subconsciously compensating for the minimal hourly wage I knew our helper was receiving by showing her how to use the TV remote for “while you’re ironing” and making her aware of the fridge full of cold drinks. I wasn’t sure what else I could do…

Nevertheless she wasn’t interested in my offerings and more interested and the tasks ahead of her that morning until she notices the photos on our kitchen corkboard…”this your daughters?”. She points to picture of No.13 and my sisters … at first I laughed at the prospect of me being old enough to have a teenager and then felt a small wave of offence…”no, they are my sisters…” I said. She laughed, we both laughed…more out of awkwardness than anything else I think. I’d love to know what she was thinking. HOW OLD DO I LOOK LADY?! More importantly … how young would I have had my first child…so wrong.

After showing her where the vacuum cleaner was and which tray to put the washing powder in, I looked at the 500 shirts that needed to be ironed. As a footnote, No.13 is rather particular about how his shirts are pressed, it has taken me many years and many attempts to get it right…I automatically felt sorry for our new Helper. I decided to let her have a crack at the ironing in her own way, before the “No.13 Tutorial on How to Iron A Collar”!


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