Posted by: suemason | December 10, 2009

maid in china

Maid In China
Nearly every home in Shanghai has a maid, or Ayi. The word Ayi means auntie but an interesting side affect of the Country’s one child policy is the disappearance of some words from the dictionary. For example, Mandarin has separate and distinct words for older brother and younger brother. Likewise the names for sisters – mei mei and jie jie. In time siblings might expect to become aunts and uncles but no siblings means no aunts and as no one under the age of thirty has these relatives, the words themselves are becoming as extinct as a panda.
There is an Ayi where I am staying. She works six days a week, arriving mid morning and leaving at 5.00pm. An Ayi is most likely to be a woman from one of the poorer provinces. She will have a child and possibly a husband back there, whom she will visit only once at Chinese New Year. Then, the bus and railway stations of Shanghai are thronged with migrants. There has been a reporting of a new trend in ex-pats employing a male to undertake Ayi work. With great
imagination, they are known as Man-yi. Man or woman, they are much more than a cleaner. They get roped in for all the activities of the household from dog-walking to child rearing. Often ex-pats will declare, ‘my Ayi will do it/ collect it/ deliver it. And they do. Shopping for the family, they get the best deals in the markets too. Of course there are the tales of Ayi catastrophes from shrinking the best cashmere sweaters, to letting the children play on the roof. But the stories of ex-pats flying off home, then returning to find film in their camera of their Ayi and her friends dressed up and smiling in her family’s clothes must be an urban myth, surely.


  1. A little job for your Man-yi in that case, Nip round Macau, I have got the address but won’t post it and check out the splendid E1 SA 285R which resides at the house of one Eddie Chan. New Zealand have supplied him with spares fairly recently and this car has, it is said, been raced in the 4th Grand Prix of Macau (1954/5). If Eddie needs a hand, help him, and then be back to get the tea on. Today will do, don’t put your Man-Yi under any pressure. Eddie has been a JCC Member since 2008

  2. oh, no… My family does not have an A-yi

  3. Well, Li If you need someone to help you around your home, can I come and be your A-yi?
    My skills are limited but we could sing duets while doing the dusting.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: