do expats typically have live-in maids?

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britexpat
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Post by britexpat » Mon, 27 Oct 2008 7:05 pm

Hi QRM
Thanks for your responses, but I am highlighting to expats what many of them will discover for themselves when they take on a maid. I am only commenting on reality as it will be experienced by all to many expats. Sure most maids do a great job, but there are downsides.

To address your points, sure I don't speak Filipino as well as the maid speaks English, but I am just stating a fact that most maids' English is pretty hopeless beyond the basics.

Re your point that the maid's cooking 'is as good as my teaching', I did not come to Singapore to teach people to cook. Our maid came with a cv that said she was good at cooking. Most have cvs that gloss over the fact that they are pretty out of their depth in a modern kitchen. My wife and I have spent ages in the kitchen with her, but with little result.

You suggesting that we should 'pat ourselves on the back' for being a soft touch compared to local employers I think misses the point. The thing is, as a westerner, we are usually used to dealing with people in an understated 'equal' sort of way - 'would you mind cleaning that toilet please when you have got a spare couple of minutes?' . To a westerner the underlying nuanced message is picked up - you're not doing your job. But in other cultures it is not, it is interpreted as weakness. Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia have societies where understatement just isn't part of the communications repertoire. They often respond to it by assuming that they can have an awful lot of lattitude in their job. They respect employers being firm and overtly assertive, anything less runs the risk of being taken advantage of. We have found this to be the case and have friends who say the same.



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Post by QRM » Mon, 27 Oct 2008 8:42 pm

Britexpat

You are assuming that they have the same sort of background as "us". When I say " us", it ranges from the council estate Chav in his stolen Vauxhal, to Lord Fauntleroy in his family's Bentley, we all know what a washing machine does, probably all held a vacuum cleaner in our hands, and have a vague inkling how a microwave works.

Some of these maids come from shacks with no running water and many still cook on charcoal fireplaces with hard packed soil for a floor. Put it this way if you where back in the UK and employed someone for 3 pounds a DAY (not 6 pounds a hour) you will not be expecting a rocket scientist.

On arriving here there needs to be a shift in standards, I am not saying its bad or a downward shift could just be a lateral one, but its still a shift.

When we first got here everyone was saying Tangling Mall is one of the best places for expats in Singapore, we had a look and was really depressed, now 4 years on we think its brilliant.

Its the same as employing anyone, most people turn up to the office interview with a fancy CV claiming they have direct links to the Pope etc. Once you figure out that the person is actually an OK sort then you just have to work with their strengths and try and develop or accept their weakness.

If you come out here expecting a maid to be like the big breasted ones you see in upstairs downstairs tightening your corset, then yes, you will be very disappointed.

Some do take the piss if you are kind to them not just maids anyone generally. Next week we are taking our maid to toys R us to buy Xmas pressies for her kids, we will cover the cost for the gifts and her flight back home over Xmas, she really appreciates its, and its nice helping someone in a less privilege position.

Nothing like a bit of scare mongering to start the week off, a few weeks ago my wife client three year old daughter drowned in the pool while being looked after by a maid, like Aussiemeg highlighted, she asked some of the maids interviewed what would they do if they saw her kid struggling in the pool, the reply was "I would call sir" :shock: its all about different background and concepts.

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Post by britexpat » Tue, 28 Oct 2008 2:40 pm

QRM,
Please, I know exactly what sort of conditions many maids come from. I am not assuming they are like us. No one with an IQ above 10 would imagine they come from the same sort of background as expats do.

However, they have been on maids' courses prior to coming here. If you asked your agent at the time of taking on your present maid she would have waxed lyrical about the extensive training your maid will have undertaken.

My essential point is that, when recruiting, expats imagine that there is a bottom line level of professionalism across the 'maid' sector. I suppose it is because they are so used to this back home. A bit like when you hire a plumber you imagine that he knows how to repair the toilet as well as water leaks. If he were to say he can only repair water leaks when your toilet is blocked, you would question his competency. There is no such bottom line level of proficiency in the maid sector. This is all that I am flagging up, so that expats are suitably aware when recruiting and go with their eyes wide open into the process.

Yes, you are right, treating people well usually works. And you think about their strengths as well as weaknesses and try and overcome their weaknesses. But they are not the most sparky of people and do not always respond when their language is poor.

Not sure what the typical maid's wage is, but ours is paid the sterling equivalent of £7.50 per day and has all Sundays and bank holidays off plus one trip back home per year at our expense . Back in Phili that is that wage of a professional nurse. Her working hours are also pretty good, 7.30 to 12 then three hours off and 3pm to 7pm.

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Post by franchupe » Thu, 24 Mar 2011 6:13 pm

hi everybody, i am new expat in Singapore and i am in the process to look for an apartment. one of the question that i am asking to myself is whether or not i want a maid to help us me and my wife as I will be travelling a lot and we have a young baby. Reading all your great feedback makes me realize i have to rent a bigger appartment to have a decent maid room. i almost got trapped by the real estate agents BS about how satisfying a bomb shelter is for a maid, but i am looking now for bigger.

that brings me to my question: how many of you the expat actually do use a storage room or a bomb shelter as a maid room? please be honest. i am just curious to see if people actually do it, it will not change my decision to look for a bigger apartment.

thx

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Post by snowqueen » Thu, 24 Mar 2011 7:00 pm

Just about everyone I know has a live in helper who would live in the 'maids room' or bomb shelter in their condo, which is usually situated just off the kitchen, depending on the layout of your condo/house. These are all people with one or two children, those who do not have a live in helper, at the very least have someone come in and clean twice a week.

I on the other hand have opted to continue doing everything myself, cleaning, cooking, shopping and even look after my own child. I have to admit, it is sometimes tempting to give in and get a helper but to be honest, I can't bear the thought of clearing out my maids room which has become my storage room for the last 2 and half years. I just suck it up and get on with it. I do however have a baby sitter every now and then so me and my husband can have a night out but it's very rare.

I know a couple with 2 children who had a helper living with them within 2 months of being here which I think works out very well for them as they have a pretty active social life.

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Post by franchupe » Fri, 25 Mar 2011 12:36 am

thank you Snowqueen. so people do use the storage room as a maid room. reading the post i was under the impression that really few people were doing it. i guess it all depends how big the room is, the air and window. do the exptats do that or mainly the locals?

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Post by sundaymorningstaple » Fri, 25 Mar 2011 6:51 am

Mainly the local and Asian Expats. Having said that, there are people from western countries who also treat their maids like slaves as well. Fortunately, they are a minority.
SOME PEOPLE TRY TO TURN BACK THEIR ODOMETERS. NOT ME. I WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW WHY I LOOK THIS WAY. I'VE TRAVELED A LONG WAY, AND SOME OF THE ROADS WEREN'T PAVED. ~ Will Rogers

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Post by rickjames » Fri, 25 Mar 2011 2:12 pm

sundaymorningstaple wrote:Mainly the local and Asian Expats. Having said that, there are people from western countries who also treat their maids like slaves as well. Fortunately, they are a minority.
Fully agree, I've found that most locals and Asian expats will do this- but Asians, generally speaking, treat others they deem 'lower' than themselves very badly, so I would never think it's okay to follow their lead- especially on maid treatment.

personally, I use mine as storage as the bomb shelter is not meant for a living being, no matter what the agents say.

Ps- edited to say, IMO, actually anyone who would think it was okay to keep their maid in the bomb shelter, whether they're Asian or non- is just not right my book.

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Post by QRM » Fri, 25 Mar 2011 3:54 pm

rickjames wrote:Ps- edited to say, IMO, actually anyone who would think it was okay to keep their maid in the bomb shelter, whether they're Asian or non- is just not right my book.
I suppose a bomb shelter is better than having to sleep on the kitchen floor, which according to MOM is perfectly legit place for a FDW to sleep, so long provide some sort of screen like a card board box.

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Post by ecureilx » Fri, 25 Mar 2011 4:06 pm

rickjames wrote:Ps- edited to say, IMO, actually anyone who would think it was okay to keep their maid in the bomb shelter, whether they're Asian or non- is just not right my book.
Seriously, having done some counselling - most if not all the maids, having lived in houses back home with just four walls and no rooms, and everybody eat/sleep do all in the common area .. enough of maids have said that they are happy to be allocated even the bomb shelter (oh - the bomb shelters in condos that are termed as maid room- with private entrances) as, the alternate would be not so nice - don't ask me what the alternate is.

While there is a lot of noise about maid rights and all, if you enforce every rule, my simple guess is, 50% of the maids can't be employed in Singapore as the employers can't meet the demands of this and that .. so ?? Is it better to get rid of the 75,000 or so of the maids ? So they can be back home and starve ?? i would easily raise that number to 90% of the maids need be sent back if employers need to provide the maid a bedroom with aircon, attached toilet .. etc. etc. ...

No - me not trying to throw some fuel to the fire, and do not condone the conditions of the maids back home .. but .. reality sucks ..

Sort of reminds a maid agent friend of mine, who listed the reasons why maids wanted transfer including, "my owner is getting a dog and I don't like dogs, my ma'am is pregnant and I don't like children, my boss' mother in law is here, and I don't like old women, my boss is moving to bungalow house and expect me to take care of the plants - damn .. "

His standard answer is to smile and say that he will look into it, and he told me "we are not slave traders but, considering their life back home and the lifestyle here, sometimes I can't figure out the type of complaints these girls make - sometimes it is better to send them back home where they don't have to worry about dogs, old people and so and so .. "

And of course, he also has no sympathy for employers who treat maids like slaves, and in enough instances, have written to MOM to blacklist employers .. and neither do I have any sympathy for employers who treat maids like slaves / dogs .. (ah - I was loosing my temper at a couple, whose maid was practically scrub shining a table in the food court near by house, as the employer insisted she clean every inch of the table before they sit down .. I was tempted to give a piece of my mind, until my friends just told me to cool it off - and that's just an example of how I feel when I see some employers treat maids like crap .. )

Life sucks, doesn't it ? I too would like live in the Buckingham palace and have a thousand servants at my beck and call .. and a chorus line of .. well, I digress .. but ..

There is nothing called "enough" in this world ..

PS: I am getting ready to duck into my bomb shelter as I write this ..

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Post by ecureilx » Fri, 25 Mar 2011 4:17 pm

QRM wrote:I suppose a bomb shelter is better than having to sleep on the kitchen floor, which according to MOM is perfectly legit place for a FDW to sleep, so long provide some sort of screen like a card board box.
You summed up my thought .. :D :D

So we should start a campaign to repatriate the 100,000 or so maids as they don't have a room with aircon/hot water/master bedroom :D :D

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Post by franchupe » Fri, 25 Mar 2011 11:11 pm

thx for sharing your thought ecureilx. i do not necessary agree with it but i appreciate the honesty.

what about asking the maid to share your baby's room? do you guys do that?

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Post by x9200 » Sat, 26 Mar 2011 7:48 am

@ecureilx, the fact they sleep on the floor in their home countries does not justify anyhow to let them sleep on the floor here where this is neither a norm nor necessity. It should be a separate, well ventilated room (I see no reason for AC) with a window and enough space so a bed and some other basic furniture may fit and she still comfortable inside.
Having said that I generally agree with the tone of your message. People on this forum have a strange tendency to glorify all the FDW. Nobody is going to deny that this group is very vulnerable and frequently abused but it is enough to take a look outside of your flat to see that far too many of them are not angels. Every single day I see the maids "taking care" of children and this typically look like this: the maid on the phone (typing a message), the child left practically unattended. Waking dogs in the basement carpark or while sitting with another maid in a shade are some other typical examples. We don't have a living-in maid at this moment but I am not really surprised people take their mobile phones and do other questionable things. We will probably take a l-in maid in a future - right now we have only a bomb shelter which is out of question to put any living being there, but we are rather horrified with this prospect. Unfortunately there is no really any market of quality living-out help or nanies/babysitters here. They are probably even worse in taking care of children than FDW who can at least be trained and in principle should be devoted to a single employer.
Last edited by x9200 on Sat, 26 Mar 2011 8:15 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Strong Eagle » Sat, 26 Mar 2011 8:14 am

franchupe wrote:thx for sharing your thought ecureilx. i do not necessary agree with it but i appreciate the honesty.

what about asking the maid to share your baby's room? do you guys do that?
What this really boils down to is privacy and livability for the maid. The simple rule of thumb I use is that my maid (when I had one), would live under the same conditions that I choose to live. Therefore, a room of sufficient size to permit a permanent bed, armoire, chest of drawers, table or stand, and a chair, air con, and a window. Also access to bath facilities, ie, she doesn't need to brush her teeth in the kitchen sink.

If you do not do this then you have fallen victim to 'classcism'... she's just the maid, a second class citizen who doesn't need to live like the rest of us first class people. Even the air con guy who installed the air con in the maid's room kept asking, 'What you do this for? She's just the maid'.

So, if you can actually afford the costs of a maid, which will run upwards of $S700 per month, plus food, medical insurance, trips home, and additional utility costs with an extra person in the house, go the extra mile and get a place with one more bedroom.

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Post by QRM » Sat, 26 Mar 2011 8:33 am

x9200 wrote: It should be a separate, well ventilated room (I see no reason for AC) with a window and enough space so a bed and some other basic furniture may fit and she still comfortable inside.
We bought an mobile aircon unit for our maids room, but she doesn't like it and rather have a fan and window open. One aircon unit on Ebay soon.

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