Dear Mum

Help! This is perhaps the strangest experience so far in my eight days in China – I have a maid! This is a very new concept to me, having done my own housework since … forever. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy to be in the situation where having an ayi is not only appropriate but is expected of me, in fact I have met a few people who are frankly astonished that I’m only employing a part time ayi, the expectation seems to be that a family of 5 would have at least one full timer (and often a weekend ayi too!).

So despite my discomfort, and seeing as the only home we could find here with the five bedrooms we wanted, also comes with five bathrooms and enormous stretches of dusty wooden floors, I will embrace the ayi experience with all the grace I can muster. As I write, this lovely lady who I met this morning, and have hired after taking the advice of a complete stranger, is cleaning around me. I think this is where our utter newbie expat status really shows, having discussed the hiring of ayis with several experienced expats, it seems that everyone else is utterly at ease with having domestic staff, many expats have multiple ayis and a cook, as well as the ubiquitous driver. So, with Downtown Abbey as my only reference point, I am trying very hard to not be a Matthew Crawley – I must get over myself and let each person actually do their job.

I have to admit, having a driver is actually quite wonderful. I ring and he arrives, calls me Madam and opens doors for me. I never have to find a car park, I never have to fill the car with petrol, I can text away to my hearts content while being ferried around the place and I have a very keen umbrella-toting building-to-car escort in the rain. I am told by much wiser expats than I that this driver honeymoon period will come to an end, and even I can see a glimmer of independence fast disappearing as I come to rely on someone else on daily basis.

In an attempt to reciprocate the ad hoc Chinese language lessons he’s getting from our driver on the way to and from work each day, my darling husband has taught our driver the phrase ‘happy wife, happy life’, something which apparently doesn’t translate with any humour into Chinese. The result of which is that our driver has taken this instruction to heart, and has repeatedly told me that Mr Ross said I must be kept happy at all times: “Happy wife, happy life!”. Bless him. More than once now Ross has given him an instruction in front of me, only to have our driver turn to me for confirmation: “Is this okay with Madam?” I’m going along with it, its very funny.

In conclusion, you see that I am at dire risk of becoming a lady who lunches (and not much else), so to stave off that grim possibility (although honestly it doesn’t seem all that grim)…I must go now and work on my CV, I have a job prospect to pursue – and now I also have an ayi and a driver to pay!


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