Tag Archives: expats and maids

No Maid Today!


“No maids today

The maids have gone away

Bill, made sure of that

And they aren’t coming back!”

(with apologies to Herman and the Hermits 🙂 )

OK, you hire the staff that come with the house and you are guaranteed that they will serve you with a smile.

Twenty days ago the maids – a mother and teen daughter combo returned to this house after a three week vacation. They were given the time off by the previous tenants who assured us these two were worth the overpriced salary we were expected to continue to pay them.

The mother arrived as the cook and the teen daughter posed as the cleaner.

First meal served, Bill looked at me and said,

“This is not how you make porridge” – or words to that effect.

Clearly he was not delighting in the meal set before him. The food was either bland or riddled with salt so there was never a rush for seconds.

We had set out some basic ground rules about enjoying our privacy and the cook took it literally by not returning to clear the dishes.

Next morning, Bill and I make our cuppas and start our day.

Traditionally, staff here are up with the birds, washing is on the line by 7 a.m and they are the last to go to bed.

At 8.10 a.m the cook comes down from her room asking what we would like for breakfast.

Bill looks at his watch, realising its time for him to get to work but puts in his request for tea and toast. The tea is weak and the toast is dry… not a good start to the cook’s repertoire. Her scrambled eggs matched something that rhymes with comet.

Meanwhile, after a quick once over the lounge area with a mop, bucket and duster, the teen disappears till evening. I find her crooning her lungs out on the top terrace – Tina Arena she ain’t!

It is hot and humid here and though I enjoy ironing, this is not the season to be doing it – you sweat the moment you move away from under the AC. Approaching the cook for help with washing and ironing she bluntly retorts, “I don’t do that.”

Off to Bill’s HR department we go, maids in tow; perhaps we can sit down and negotiate a job list that includes things I need to get done in my new home. The teen looks bored and tells the HR rep that all she wants to do is dance classes. Clearly this mother and daughter have had a pretty relaxing time in the employ of the previous tenants.

It works out that their former employer gave them free run of the house, cooking some meals, cleaning a little and spending lots of  time in the park playing with the tenants 3- year old. They were also given weekends off, not appearing for duty until 8 am Monday mornings. (Most staff here get either half day or one day off – some work 7 days a week).

For this, they were paid three times the going rate for live-in staff and a TV was set up in their room for their viewing pleasure. (Staff are lucky if they have an overhead fan, rarely do they have access to a power point).

Bill went purple the day they asked for access to the internet so that the teen could catch up with ‘her friends’ – the previous tenants – now located back in the UK.

For those of you not aware, India is the land of maids, cooks, drivers, gardeners and dhobi wallahs {look it up :)}

Millions of people all looking for a job.

Now after ten months talking to the locals you get an idea of what each job specifies and what you can expect to pay.

Clearly, our fore runners had set a standard that spoilt these two women for their next employer.

Although our requirements had been made plain to them by the HR department – in Hindi, these two continued to do their own dance steps.

Saturday morning, I ask the cook to prepare some fresh dim sum which she boasts are her best dish. “Now?” she asks.

“My sister is going to Darjeeling, (etc etc)  I must see her to the station.”

I’m not exactly a she-devil so I say to her, forget about the dim sum (locally called mo-mos), go to the station and see you Monday morning.

Bill hears about this and is not happy.

By now we have driven off to lunch ( yes, cook’s day off!) so I call the maid to tell her I expect her home instead by 6pm Sunday.

No reply.

I SMS her.

No reply.

I call her Sunday.


Monday morning comes and Bill receives an SMS saying she will be home Tuesday morning.

Bill replies, ‘Yes, see you then – ready to pack your bags’.

Clearly spoilt and ever ready to take advantage of the nice expat.

I remember reading long time ago that American tourists tipped so highly whilst traveling overseas that they spoilt it for every other foreigner passing through.

There has been a recent heated argument on a local expat forum over staff and their salary ranges. One point was that some expats are paying staff the equivalent to a university graduate working 48 hours a week.

 Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dust each day and I don’t expect my staff to fill their day doing the same. All up, I would say there was no more than two to three  hours of work to do daily and plenty of times I let them go out in the afternoon. Most days I barely saw them between 11am and 6 pm.

It reminded me of the maids we had in Indonesia – two sisters.

Coming home unexpectedly from holidays, we found them having a barbecue with relatives from their village…in their bedroom!


A nightly feast served up by Dinesh, the guesthouse cook at Garden Estate, Sikandepur, November 2012