Help

When I tell people our family is moving to Singapore, three things are usually mentioned:

  1. how clean it is;
  2. how tough the laws are; and
  3. how cheap the maids are.

Number 1 and 2 are well known and widely reported, but I’d never given any thought to the affordability of maids (or Foreign Domestic Workers to give them their official title) until people kept bringing it up.  So, I googled and yes, maids are cheap in Singapore with salaries starting from $300 per month plus government monthly fees of about the same.  There is also a $5000 bond paid before employing a maid and a few other costs.

So, yes, having a live-in maid is certainly cheaper in Singapore than it is in many parts of the world.

But, I’m ambivalent. Which would shock people as referring to ‘our maid’ has become part of my “we’re moving to Singapore” routine, along with lamenting my sadness at not being able to chomp on chewing gum, and what my curly hair will look like in a permanently humid climate.

So, why am I ambivalent?

I’m Australian.  Unless your surname is Packer we don’t really have maids. Sure, folks have cleaners, gardeners and may drop their ironing off to the ironing lady, but in general no-one has live-in help.  We might have all watched the Brady Bunch religiously, but no-one I knew had an Alice living in the room off of the kitchen!

And the live-in bit worries me.  There’s a whole truckload of etiquette involved in having a stranger live in your house.  Here’s some of my concerns:

  • would she (and I’m using she as the vast majority are women) eat with us?  This would be slightly weird to start with, but having someone eating on their own in the kitchen would also make me uncomfortable.
  • what happens if hub and I become amorous in the lounge room? (Ok, it’s more probable she would find us asleep on separate couches but a girl can dream!)  At our age and length of relationship we need to take advantage of any opportunity, and the prospect of the maid walking in on her way to the kitchen to get a drink of water, would certainly put a dampener on things. A bit like having 2 little girls in the house, really!
  • what would she do all day? Probably the same as what I do all day but without the Twitter, Facebook and blog stuff. (Which sparks the question of what will I do all day when someone is doing what I used to do?),  Which is not really a full day’s work. Or maybe it is a full day’s work and I just choose to cut corners? Which is really highly probable.
  • If I’m not happy with her work how do I tell her? Our lawn mowing man recently pruned our Kaffir Lime tree.  It is now just a Lime tree as he pruned the one branch of Kaffir that had been grafted on to it.  Thai cooking got a whole lot more tricky, but I couldn’t find it in my heart to tell him as he is just so lovely. Especially after he rescued a bird that got caught in the netting on the cherry tree.

But here’s the reasons why we probably will employ a Foreign Domestic Worker once we’re settled:

  1. Child care.  Sad, but true. We will have no support once we move and finding a trusted amah is the cheapest and easiest way to give us a little bit of free time sans kids.  I don’t intend to offload all the child-rearing chores, but an occasional night out without military planning would be very welcome.
  2. Because we can afford it and it will help someone out.  A bit of philanthropy, if you like.

I’m sure I’ll adjust and it seems from wasting time researching on the Interweb I will need to have “House Rules” for the maid.  I don’t even know where to begin on a list like that.  Sure, “don’t steal from us” has got to be top of the list but after that I’m at a loss, and the internet only made my brain explode at how poorly some people treat their helpers.

Any tips or advice from people experienced in this would be most welcome!

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