It’s common for expats and Shanghainese alike to hire full-time or part-time local maids, known as ayis. An ayi (which translates to ‘auntie’) is a Chinese woman who can clean the house, cook, buy groceries, look after children and run other assorted errands.
At first, the idea of always having someone in your house can seem strange. A downside is that most ayis don't speak any English. Although the lack of English can be challenging at first, it’s a good way to learn some Chinese in Shanghai – children invariably pick up the language quickly from their ayi.
Ayis are generally paid RMB 20-30 per hour plus a Chinese New Year bonus. Some expat families living in large villas with several children, or who work long hours, hire more than one ayi. It’s extremely important that you make clear to your ayi exactly what needs to be done in the household and how you'd like it done. Your ayi will appreciate this and it will ideally serve as the foundation of a long and successful working relationship. Show her the household basics, such as working the washing machine and how to prepare your children’s favourite meals. It’s helpful to have someone who speaks Chinese translate instructions and scheduling for you. This does not need to be a formal contract, just a way to establish expectations. Learning some Chinese phrases will make the relationship more productive and congenial. Even if she has worked in a foreign household before and is familiar with your appliances, she will not know how your family likes things done. An ayi is a great option for Babysitting or Childcare in Shanghai too.
The best way to find a reliable ayi is through friends, neighbours or co-workers. If you’re seeking part-time help, start with your neighbours, as it’s convenient for an ayi to help out at adjacent residences. Announcement boards in Western stores and community clubhouses also advertise ayis. If this approach isn’t working out, go through a domestic help service. Domestic help agencies provide household staff trained to cook Western food, speak some English and care for infants. Try the City Weekend classifieds at www.cityweekend.com.cn/shanghai/classifieds.