#94 Moaning about their servants
Submitted by Leila
Presented with a big, fat housing allowance by their employers, many Expat Aid Workers start to search for a suitable home. In many countries, this involves opting for a house complete with swimming pool, tennis/squash court, 4+ bed- and bathrooms and a decent electric fence. Never mind if you’re a single man who only receives visitors once a year – a perk of the job is occupying the kind of place P Diddy would choose to live in if he unexpectedly upped sticks and moved to southern Africa.
But herein starts the perennial dilemma. How on earth to maintain such a spacious residence when you are so busy fighting poverty in your day job? How to keep one’s lawn looking verdant, even during dry season? How to keep those pesky parasites out of the swimming pool? Find a more modest, manageable residence, perhaps? Don’t be silly! Why would you do that when you could just as easily employ a maid. And while you’re at it, why not get a gardener/cook/houseboy? You’d be doing it for the good of the country, right? This is employment creation, after all!
And yet, despite the Beverly Hills-esque house, and a full complement of staff to rival Jennifer Lopez’s entourage, a surprising number of EAWs just love to moan about their servants.
Common complaints voiced at dinner parties include:
1) “Magdalena doesn’t hang up my blouses properly, no matter how many times I tell her.”
2) The cook can only cook two decent dishes. I don’t know WHY I employ him. And he insists on using so much OIL. It’s as if cholesterol doesn’t exist…
3) I swear the maid is stealing sugar and flour from our pantry. I mean, I know she has a big family of her own to feed, but still…
4) The nanny simply doesn’t interact properly with baby James. I came home the other day and she’d plonked him in front of the TV. He was watching a soap opera, can you imagine!
It is very tempting to respond to each complaint with the following retorts:
1) We hope Magdalena is doing this on purpose just to annoy you. We also hope she irons a big crease down the front of your jeans next and throws a red sock in with your white suit next time she washes it.
2) Considering that back in your home country, you lived off a diet of takeaway kebabs, burgers and greasy Chinese food, and the last time you actually used your kitchen yourself, Reagan was in power, I really don’t think you’re in a position to complain.
3) In a way it’s both apt and ironic that your maid steals food from you. After all, aren’t you the head of Food Security Programmes at a big donor agency?
4) Yes it is strange how your nanny isn’t au fait with the latest Montessori child-rearing techniques. But then again, perhaps there’s a teeny-tiny chance she wasn’t exposed to Mary Poppins and Nanny McPhee in rural Burkina Faso, where she grew up.