When I first moved to Bangkok, Thailand, having a maid was a very strange thing. Growing up in the west, my family had never had maids so, when I suddenly had one, for a while I really didn’t know how to treat her. At first, it was quite uncomfortable having a maid as, from a western perspective, you feel a bit like you’re supporting some form of slavery. Once you become more used to the Thai culture though and realize that, for many people, being a maid is a step up from a job in the fields or selling food on the street, you start to look at maids a little differently and treat them differently too.
Treat Your Maid With Respect – During my six years living in Thailand, I’ve come across a fair few western expats who aren’t so nice to their maids. They treat them like indentured servants, watch every move they make because they don’t trust them, talk about them badly to their friends then, the minute the poor maid makes one false move, they fire her. I’ve learned over the years that, if you treat your maid with respect in Thailand, most of the time you’ll reap the rewards. She’ll work harder for you, she’ll take care of things better for you, she’ll give you some great advice about things you know nothing about, and she’ll do a great job protecting your house when you’re away. Treat your maid with respect, just like you would any human being, and you’ll immediately find your relationship with her improves.
Trust Your Maid – So many westerners in Thailand start out their employer-employee relationship with the maid by deciding they don’t trust her. Now, I’m from a family where my parents always taught me to trust people first. Only when they prove you cannot trust them do you treat them like you can’t. In the six years I’ve lived in Thailand, I’ve had three maids. I’ve trusted all of them implicitly, left them alone in my house for hours on end, and given them money to buy things at the store. I’ve never once been stolen from, taken advantage of or treated poorly. Every Thai maid I’ve had has been honest, hard-working and an incredibly helpful person to have around.
Be Generous With Your Maid – Having a maid in Thailand is very cheap. Most people pay their maids between 6,000 and 8,000 baht a month ($169-$225). This is for a live-in maid who will also be given a small room with use of a bathroom and television. My maids are not live-in, they just clean for me two to three times a week so my cost for a maid is less than 2,000 baht ($55) a month. But, above and beyond the basic salary, I also tip her every time she comes to clean and often buy her small things (a t shirt, a scarf, snacks, clothing for her kids) in gratitude for her help. If you’re generous to your maid in Thailand, because so many people are not, you’ll find she works harder for you and takes care of things even better.
Talk To Your Maid – At the company I work for, on my floor we have four maids. They take care of cleaning the bathrooms, clean the offices themselves, wash the dishes after lunch, wash coffee cups, bring the executives (myself included!) cups of coffee, tea and water. They serve small snacks and even buy and prepare breakfast and lunch for the executive level employees. My office is near the kitchen area so I see the maids often and, every day, I make sure I talk to them. They teach me Thai, they tease me about my western behavior, they bring me new Thai snacks to try, and generally treat me like a special daughter. Talking to the maids makes my work day just that little more fun and I also learn more about Thai language and Thai culture.
Having a maid in Thailand may see a little odd at first, but it’s amazing how quickly you get used to it. Maids in Thailand, for the most part, have jobs they are proud of, treat their employees with respect, and generally put in a hard day’s work for a sometimes-not-so-fair day’s pay. It’s only fair therefore that you treat your maid with a bit of respect and she’ll thank you with loyalty and friendship.