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Get live-in or live-out helper?

  1. #1
    SarahHK is offline Registered User
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    Get live-in or live-out helper?

    Hello moms-

    We may be moving to HK from US this fall and I was wondering what the pros/cons/suggestions are for hiring helper - particularly the advantages and disadvantages of a helper living in in such tight quarters or living out issues.

    Some background: we have an active 2yo boy, my husband will work long hours, I will occasionally work from home (writing), and we view home as a haven. We generally value privacy but are open to change.

    PS - do helpers really live in those tiny rooms? There are so many cultural details to adapt and learn re: helpers in HK.

    Thanks in advance for your advice.

  2. #2
    carang's Avatar
    carang is offline Registered User
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    yes, they really live in those tiny rooms. but that's not to say that you couldn't rent a 3 bedroom and give her a proper bedroom (we did this before).

    a live-out foreign domestic helper is illegal. if caught, you will likely be banned from hiring a helper again, could be fined and even jailed for breaching conditions of stay for the helper. the helper, if caught, could be fined, jailed and deported.

    many people choose to take the risk, but personally, it's not a risk i would take.
    (same holds true for part-time foreign domestic helpers)

    it is possible to hire a local person to cook/clean for you, but (1) costs more (2) communicating can be difficult as they often speak little to no english.

  3. #3
    Shenzhennifer is offline Registered User
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    I'm sure most will disagree with me, but in my very limited experience with having a (live out) helper, I have to say I really don't like it. Yes, it's fabulous to have someone doing the cooking, cleaning, my home looks great, help with laundry, ironing I would never do(just hubs biz shirts), etc. And for the 2 months following the second birth and c-section, it was awesome as I was weak. But now I'm back to nearly full strength(did anyone else not sleep last night?), and the relationship has soured a bit (almighty dollar reasons), and well, I just can't wait till she stops working for us. Having someone around all the time, LISTENING to your private conversations, observing your family habits and relationships, and even giving the odd comment or judgement(!), is just too much for me.
    This helper talk seems to be a never-ending can of worms here in hk, and I am glad to leave it behind.
    I support live out, even if it's not legal. Tins of people do it, locals and expats alike.
    If I were in the position where I had to hire F?t live in, I would get a 'fresh grad' from the Philippines, and train her according to how I would want our family to operate. No superiority complex, no attitude. Ach, I won't go on. My 2 cents:)

  4. #4
    Gracey is offline Registered User
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    Sarah -- Just to explain some background.

    Foreign domestic helpers (FDH) -- mostly Filipinas if you want an English speaker -- have to be hired on a full-time contract. That means that you are responsible for their room, board, health insurance, etc., as well as a salary that is a little under HK $4,000 (US $500) a month.

    Some people, like myself, will hire a Filipina "amah" (as we call them here) and then pay extra for her to live outside the home. As Carang said above, this is technically not allowed in the contract, but many people do it anyway. I know dozens of families -- both local and expat -- who do this. There's another thread around here that goes into those pros and cons. In a decade here, I've never heard of anyone being caught or punished for it. I think Immigration only gets involved if there is a case of abuse. But, again, there is a small risk.

    Technically, FDH also cannot do outside part-time work, but most of them do. In my office of 20-30 expats, I think all of them use a part-time Filipina helper, who is usually paid HK 60-65 an hour (US $7.50- $8).

    My husband works long hours and I work 3 days in an office, 2 days at home, where I need quiet and privacy. (I think we might do similar work). We are expecting our first child in a few months, and expecting our first "amah" in a few weeks. Like I said, we will pay extra for her to have her own accommodation. We also don't want her to squeeze into a tiny "helper's room" and be around us 24-hours.

    We chose to have a full-time because of the impending birth, and because I will be returning to work several months after the baby is born. Our amah will mostly work as a nanny.

    But before this, we were perfectly happy with a part-time lady who came once a week just to do the heavy lifting, like the floors and bathrooms. Otherwise, we did all our own groceries, cooking, laundry, etc., and were just fine.

    Carang's reference to a "local person" means a Chinese person, usually a woman from a poor province of Mainland China. I've had some limited experience with local cleaners, and they were not good. They are more expensive than the Filipinas and, in my opinion, less careful, too chatty and can be a bit unprofessional. This is not meant to be a racist statement, as I'm Chinese myself. But there is a cultural difference. Also, the "local" or Chinese helpers will probably not speak English. This is not an issue for me, but it might be for you.

  5. #5
    Gracey is offline Registered User
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    If you can stay at home most of the time, and as your child is no longer a baby, why not start with part-time help and see how you like it? You can always get a full-time later if you want. Also note that getting a full-time from the Philippines usually takes 2-3 months.

  6. #6
    nino is offline Registered User
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    We have a toddler and two dogs. We also feel that our home is our haven and value our privacy more than a very tidy home. Therefore, we decided not to hire a full time, live in domestic helper. For several reasons, a live out domestic helper is not an option (one major reason being that I think it would still feel like having someone in our home for the majority of the day would be uncomfortable for us). We have hired a part-time, local woman to come in and do some of the major cleaning three times per week and have grown to trust her enough to leave our toddler with her for one evening a week.

    We have made some sacrifices: my husband has to do some grocery shopping and cooking after work, which luckily he doesn't mind; we have missed out on many social events, both during the day and in the evenings; we didnt have a night out alone until our child was two; there is a language barrier with our current cleaner - she only speaks Cantonese - however, we did have someone prior to that who could speak English as well; I do some work from home and have had to work around nap and bedtime schedules; and finally I don't get much of a break during the week.

    All this said, I don't think I would trade it for a full time, live in helper, as the major advantage to us, privacy, is too important.
    Last edited by nino; 06-13-2011 at 04:40 PM.

  7. #7
    banane76 is offline Registered User
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    I have to say that I find our live-in helper INVALUABLE. We got a 3 bedroom so that she could have a real bedroom and some privacy when needed. My husband and I were weary at first about it, but now find it soooo very helpful especially as I have a 17month old and now a 2month old. It's been really helpful with the breastfeeding as feeding on demand is just that...on their own schedule so you never know when you have to feed especially the first couple months and my older one is now very active and needing time outside. It just has given us the freedom to spend time with both babies and she cooks and cleans for us. I still do most of the shopping with the baby while she watches the older one. Yeah, we can't run around the house naked anymore lol, but it's a small sacrifice for us. It's also been great since the both my daughter and baby usually goes to bed around 7 for at least 4 hours, me and my husband can have some time to ourselves and even go out for dinner nearby.

  8. #8
    Frenchy is offline Registered User
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    Welcome to HK !
    It took us more than 2 years, and a second child, to take a decision about a helper. It is a really different cultural understanding, but you have to live here, to see how it works, to make it clear. Some people never hired a helper, but most of expatriates do, for a good reason. These helpers replace our families/friends/baby sitters/cleaning ladies... who ever you need to be there when you have a dentist appointment, a diner out, something urgent to do, or just have some time for yourselves.
    Finding someone who fits your family takes some time, a helper is not part of your family, but spends more time with you than anybody else.
    We are sooooo happy we found someone who fits our family, who likes to play with our kids, and that we can trust. She is not doing everything, as I'm the one to take care of my kids, or to cook, or do the grocery shopping, but she is making my life so much easier.
    Spend some time in HK, see how it works, and give it a try.

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