I am “ma’am”

Without a doubt, one of the strangest experiences in HK so far has been hiring someone to clean our apartment.

There are many many women who come from the Philipines to work as maids in Hong Kong.  From what I hear, many of them actually live in the storage closets of fancy apartments.  For example, our apartment’s storage room is ~5’x8′.  They work 6 days a week and spend Sundays getting together in any available public place — so there are hoards of women sitting on flattened cardboard boxes chatting and visiting on the weekends.

Somehow E got the name of a woman who lives in our apartment complex.  She was looking for a part-time job on her one day off.  She charges HK$60/hr (at HK$7.8 to $1 — that’s less than $10/hr).

She came over to meet us last week and we were automatically “Sir” and “Ma’am” and it was “yes, yes, of course” to everything — until the end of our chat at which point she asked if we’d mind if she said that E was her fiance.  Huh?  It’s not legal for women working as full-time maids to have part-time jobs.  So to avoid getting told-on by her “friends” she said she wants to tell them E is her fiance.  We said, “we’re certainly not saying that — what you say is your own business.”  But some folks we recently met here said that that may not be such a good idea — something about Islamic law and implied consent…

Well, we had her come anyway today — and she did a great job.  I had the very odd experience of working on a market research report for a major apparel brand on my computer while 24-year-old J– cleaned around me.  After finishing cleaning up, she then asked if next time we could pay her for a full month up front.  Huh?

She also asked me how old I was and upon hearing I was 34, she said “you still have a young face.”  Still?

All of a sudden I’m a ma’am I never ever had any intention of being.

Among other bits of culture shock…


3 Responses to “I am “ma’am””

  1. Ella Says:

    This ma’am calling has been happening to me for a couple years now. I blame our height. I’m so glad to hear you’re in Hong Kong. I may be in town in Feb., we simply must find a piece of cardboard to sit on and catch up.

  2. Jen Blauvelt Says:

    You do still have a young face! 😉

    Great title, BTW.


  3. Toby Says:

    Yes, this is certainly strange. I enjoyed reading this… hang in there Chloe!

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