It is unavoidable that there will be cultural differences between you and your domestic helper. Just consider that you have different upbringings, cultures, situational factors, and habits. Sometimes we can’t help it, but cultural differences can cause unwanted conflicts inside the house.
So what do you do when this happens?
You might say that you didn’t have the same problem with your previous helper. But you have to understand that every person is unique and even if they came from the same country, they could still be different in a lot of areas.
Comparing them with your previous helper will not bring you any good. Of course, in the first few months, both of you are still adjusting to one another. So give her space to adapt to this new working environment that she’s in.
No one gets it correct during the first try. Remember that she’s still learning to do things inside your house.
What we have to understand is that cultural differences and habits are different.
Let’s use an example where your helper does something, and you feel baffled by it. First, what you have to find out if it’s a cultural difference or a habit. This can be dependent on their previous experience.
When a helper has already worked in Hong Kong for ten years, they are familiar with throwing the garbage or using the washing machine here. With this example, you should look at the habits: ask questions such as did her previous employer asked to separate the laundry based on colour or material?
Other cultural differences could be: she uses bottled water even for cooking pasta and washing of vegetables. It’s not because she wants to waste money, but because she does not see tap water as clean. This can be based on her upbringing.
You can also observe that she doesn’t use salt and sugar when cooking, or she doesn’t put all items in the fridge the same way you do. This all depends on her home country.
What can do you about these things:
- Ask your helper if the instructions were clear. Since she is not a native English speaker, she may not have understood you clearly. If she doesn’t follow the instructions, it’ll affect her job.
- Don’t hesitate to ask questions. When you will instruct her to use appliances, ask if she knows how to use them correctly.
- Don’t give general instructions. Instead, be very specific. For example, say, “I want you to wash clothes today by separating white and coloured clothes.”
- Initiate a conversation when she does something different from how you do things. In this way, you’ll be able to understand her cultural background too.
- Be approachable and assure her that it’s okay to make mistakes as long as she learns.
- Be open as well. This means that how you used to do things does not mean it’s better than your helper’s. Her ways might be more efficient too. So be open to ideas.
At first, it will be hard, but when you get used to it, you’ll see that understanding cultural differences build the employee-employer relationship.