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Finding an ayi or housekeeper in China

You might think of your ayi (阿姨, literally ‘auntie’) as a housekeeper, cleaner or nanny. Whatever you hire them for, they can be an incredible support, helping take the pressure off you domestically. Here’s what you should know before you go looking.


Things to consider

  • What level of care do you require? Cleaning? Cooking? Doing laundry? Babysitting or taking care of pets?
  • What specific tasks do you need your ayi to carry out? Do you know how to describe these in Chinese (You should prepare to, if you expect your ayi to do a good job)?
  • How often do you need an ayi to visit, and for how long?
  • How much are you willing to pay?


Ways of finding an ayi

  • Getting a recommendation from a friend or colleague. By far the best option, as they can vouch for a person’s ability and trustworthiness. 
  • Local expat websites may have classifieds sections or forums where you can browse or ask for help.
  • Post fliers in the apartment complex where you live to looking for candidates. Some grocery stores popular among expats may have notice boards where you can post an ad.
  • Use a housekeeping agency. This will cost money, but you may find better-trained or even English-speaking ayi through these.


Interviewing your potential ayi

Next, arrange an interview with potential candidates. Make sure a Chinese speaker is there to help you, and think carefully about what you want to ask, and what you want to look out for. A few considerations to help guide you:

  • Is she (ayi are pretty much always female) experienced in the tasks you’re hiring her for?
  • Do you trust her to keep your house clean and safe? Can she be relied upon to look after your baby, children or pets?
  • How old is she? You might have more faith in an older ayi.
  • Does she have any bad or unhygenic habits? Is she neat and tidy? Look for red flags.
  • Does she have any qualifications that prove her skills? This is unlikely, but worth considering.
  • Can she speak English? To what level? 
  • Why does she want to work for expats?
  • What can she cook? (You may even want her to demonstrate something – particularly if you expect her to cook non-Chinese food).
  • What would she do if she thinks your child needs to be reprimanded or punished?
  • What did she do for previous employer(s)?
  • How many people were there in her previous employer(s) house?
  • Does she have children? Are they in the same city as you live in? Try to assess how much childcare experience the ayi has. Some ayi may be migrant workers who have children back in their hometown who are being taken care of by the ayi’s family. Therefore, her own experience may be limited. 


Your obligations

  • Make clear what tasks she is expected to carry out. Be specific on both the tasks, how regular these tasks are (every time she visits? Daily? Weekly? At what time should these tasks be performed) and the standard you expect.
  • Be clear about her working conditions – which day(s) do you need her to come? At a specific time? How long do you expect her to stay? When will she be paid, how and how much? Will you provide cleaning materials, or do you expect her to bring them? Will she have a key (and door card, if you need one to access your complex or building)? 


Useful Chinese words and phrases

阿姨                āyí                maid/cleaner/babysitter (literally: “auntie”)

家政服务            jiā zhèng fú wù        housekeeping service

保姆                bǎo mǔ                babysitter

厨师/做饭           chúshī / zuòfàn        cook (noun)/to cook (verb)

打扫清洁            dǎ sǎo qīng jié        clean

洗衣服              xǐ yīfú                do laundry

拖地                tuō dì                mop the floor

推荐信              tuī jiàn xìn            recommendation letter

雇主                gùzhǔ                 employer

兼职                jiān zhí                part-time

全职                quán zhí                full time

住家保姆            zhù jiā bǎo mǔ        live-in nanny


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