January 20, 2004

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The approach of Chinese New Year for many families in Hong Kong means one thing: helpers have 4 days off. Setting aside families that ignore the law, which is a disturbingly high percentage, helpers get public holidays and Sundays off. Many families view this as the closest as the end of the world can get. Survival mechanisms include going on holidays or paying extra for helpers to work some or all of the holiday period.

Personally I look forward to times like this. Our helper is a lovely woman and good with the kids, but she is not part of our family. It is going to be great just being us without someone else in the house for a few days. Sure it means doing the chores such as washing the dishes but it's a small price to pay.

One family man admitted the other day that he has no idea how they will cope without help for 4 days. The fact that most parents in the world manage without help all their lives seems besides the point to some. It is part of the life people live here. It is part of the culture of expectation that we constantly have to guard against. People grow to expect they have help. They grow to expect others to wait on them, to be subservient to them.

It is scary to watch.

posted by Simon on 01.20.04 at 12:19 PM in the


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it is scary to watch, but great to be part of it. i'm never living anywhere where amah's don't exist again - at least until our 6 1/2 mth old is old enough to order his own round and hold a reasonable conversation about how the wallabies and all blacks are permanently offside and yet never get penalised for it

posted by: english on 01.20.04 at 03:34 PM [permalink]

Hey, I live alone with no kids and I don't relish the prospect of being amahless for 4 days.

posted by: Conrad on 01.20.04 at 04:18 PM [permalink]

Conrad: it's a pain in the backside, I won't lie. But my point is those who rely on their amahs to bring up their kids are going to have to face being parents again for 4 days.

I figure you'll be able to cope.

posted by: Simon on 01.20.04 at 04:57 PM [permalink]

In my parents' place, the CNY holidays are the busiest time in the year as relatives and friends are all coming to visit. Definitely my mother needs the maid to stay in the house and so both agree on compensation leave later on. In fact, her maid is very happy about the arrangement as she knows all the visitors would give her laisee (red pockets) which in turn a pretty good cash bonus after all.

posted by: J on 01.21.04 at 01:36 AM [permalink]

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