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Transitioning a maid into your home

My friends at home think life here in Qatar is something out of ‘Downton Abbey’, especially when you get onto the topic of having a maid. The reality is that many expats are not fortunate enough to have extended family live nearby to support them with raising their families so having a nanny or maid can become a great asset. But if you’ve never employed a nanny or maid before, you may have some questions about bringing a maid or nanny into your home. Here are some tips for successfully transitioning a new maid into your home.

Provide personal space

If she will be living with your family, make sure your maid’s room is ready and that it is comfortable. Most maid’s quarters are small in size, but as this is going to be her home or at least her private space, do what you can to make it restful. Consider what would make you comfortable if it were your room. Besides a bed and dresser, she may also appreciate a small fridge, a cooker, a water dispenser, window coverings, Wi-Fi access and a TV—items that enable her to be independent, eat, drink and have access to basic entertainment and communication. It’s no secret that employees are more productive if they are happy and contented! 

Set expectations

Before your maid starts, have a serious think about how having a maid is going to work for you. Will she be responsible for childcare? Housekeeping? Both? She may not know how to operate a dishwasher, washing machine or vacuum and may need several walk-throughs, particularly if there is a language barrier. Being patient and forthright with your expectations will go a long way.

Decide on your rules and expectations before she starts and clearly state them at the beginning of the relationship. Some items may need to be included in the contract. 

Here are some key questions to consider:

  • How will you communicate with each other on a daily basis? Will you provide her with a phone and monthly top up cards so that she is always reachable?
  • Are there times in the day where she needs to be extra quiet?
  • How many breaks will she have during the day? Will there be an extended mid-day break if you need her to work in the evenings?
  • Will there be rules for mobile phone usage whilst she is working? 
  • How will you handle loan or salary advance requests?
  • How many sick days will she be allowed per month? Do you have any expectations for what constitutes a “sick” day, i.e. every time she menstruates?
  • When and where will she eat? Will she eat the same meals as you or will you provide a food allowance?
  • How will she enter and exit the house on her day off? Will she have her own set of house keys? Will she have a curfew? 
  • Will you purchase basic toiletries, e.g. soap, shampoo, conditioner and feminine hygiene products for her?
  • Do you have any pet peeves about cleaning that you want her to know beforehand, such as using one sponge for dishes and another for countertops?
  • Do the children have any rules that she needs to be aware of, e.g. no T.V. before homework, no sweets after school? 

Prepare a schedule

A schedule is an excellent way of helping you to clearly think about the maid’s role in your home. It is also a great focal point for your first conversation, when she arrives and clearly documents your expectations for future reference. 

Check out our sample schedule below and then download a blank version to fill out with your own schedule..

Communicate, communicate, communicate

Communication is the heart of any relationship. Remember when speaking to your maid to be clear with your language and not use too many words if she is not fluent in English or Arabic. If language is a barrier, it might be worth finding someone to translate the schedule for your maid at the beginning. Also, when explaining things you may need to physically demonstrate what you want her to do, if appropriate. 

Be aware of cultural differences 

Your maid will most likely come from a very different culture to your own. According to cultural expert and CEO of Oxford Strategic Consulting Qatar David Burton, in the initial transition period when your maid is settling into new routines, you both can go through culture shock-like symptoms, as your maid may misinterpret your explanations because of her cultural background. Burton goes on to further explain some potential differences. With respect to time, for example, some cultures are based “in the now” while others are more future-focused. This can cause potential issues with schedules and time keeping. Additionally, some cultures communicate differently. For example, when a person says “Yes,” after you have explained something, it can mean, “Yes, I heard you,” to some while in another culture it could mean, “Yes, I understand.”

Be patient. It will take time for you and your maid to adjust. Remember your maid may come from a country that is literally, and figuratively, a thousand miles away or more from Qatar. Be respectful yet firm, fair and consistent and stick to your boundaries and you’ll set the stage for a positive relationship with your new maid. 

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