Ayi and Cleaning in China

In today’s post I’m going to talk about cleaning in China and about someone that most expats living in China know very well : Ayi. Ayi is not her name, it’s her title, meaningĀ  Auntie in Mandarin and commonly referring to the maid. Because 90% of expats in China have a maid, for the very simple reason that they actually can afford this luxury for once. When I first arrived to Shanghai, I didn’t want a maid as I was thinking I could do it myself as I have always done. After a while though, you realize how cheap and convenient it is, and how stupid you were not to do it earlier.

I had been planning to have an Ayi for some time now because 70 square meters is a bit much to maintain by myself. Basically, the agency which I rented my apartment from was supposed to introduce me an Ayi, but they didn’t seem to care about it so I decided to find a cleaner by myself.

My Chinese girlfriend asked her colleagues and we got a phone call from a serious agency that provides Ayis with recommendations and a Shanghai ID card (it’s better for security reasons).

My Ayi is a 50-year-old woman (my girlfriend did the casting…) but she is still quite dynamic and very efficient. I pay her 20 RMB per hour (5 times cheaper than in London) and she comes 2 hours twice a week. I explained to her what I expected from her and she got to work quickly.

The downside is that you have to be there. Well, you don’t have to but it’s better to be around to make sure everything is done well because we don’t necessarily have the same conception of cleaning and what clean means.

The advantage is that she does everything : floor cleaning, windows, ironing, putting clothes in the dryer, changing sheets/duvet, and even crockery (but I prefer to do it myself because I’m a bit maniac about it! ). By the way, when she changed my quilt, she noticed that a seam was dropping and pulled a sewing kit out of her bag. What more could you ask for?

Chinese cleaning VS European cleaning

First, let’s talk about the cleaning tools used in China. When I first came to Shanghai, I went to a supermarket to get a broom, which looked something like this :

Yes, this is a normal-sized broom in China, not a toy for kids. It’s fully made out of plastic, easily breakable and mostly made for people under 1,2o meter.

After sweeping the floor, you logically want to mop it. If steam cleaners have been increasingly popular in Europe these days, China seems to prefer the good old way and stick with the mop. But not any kind of mop, not those fancy mops that you don’t even need to take in your hands. Chinese prefer this kind :

I never really understood how this became an accepted way of mopping. First, you have to take the whole stick and mop to the sink when you want to wash it which is super inconvenient. Second, the material the strips are made out of and the way they are put together is just perfect to retain the dirt in the mop. Proper disgusting.


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