Foreign families in Vietnam set bar high for housekeepers

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Modern appliances and foreign languages are just a few things expats expect their housekeepers to know.

Nguyen Thu Phuong, a third-year student at the Hanoi University, works part time as a housekeeper for an Australian family in Hanoi.

“I want to earn enough money to live in the city, and I want to improve my English skills,” said the student from Thai Binh Province who has been housekeeping for three months. “The job takes me three hours a day, so it doesn’t affect my studies.”

She can earn some VND100,000 ($5.2) a day buying food, helping cook meals and cleaning up the house.

“Sometimes, my boss gives me books. I try to read them, and then talk about them with her,” Phuong said. “We also talk a lot about the traditions and customs in the two countries.”

Housekeepers are often stereotyped as poor and uneducated women from rural communities, but many students and educated workers are happy to do the job.

A housekeeper for a foreigner’s family earns VND25,000-30,000 per hour, or VND100,000-120,000 for an 8-hour work day. In addition, they can receive bonuses, and have Sundays or holidays off, said Nguyen Thanh Vinh, a representative from Luc Viet Company, which introduces house workers to families.

Rigorous recruitment

Tran Bich Thuy, a graduate from the Trade Union University in Hanoi, has yet to find a job in her field since graduating with a degree in business management a year ago.

Companies that find maids for foreigners

The TDC company
Room No. 04-B2, Dich Vong Apartment Building, Cau Giay District, Hanoi
Phone: (04) 6 291 6902 â€" Fax: (04) 2 221 3573

Vinahelper company

Room 4-31, Hung Gia II, Phu My Hung New Urban Area, District 7, Ho Chi Minh City
Phone: (08) 5 410 0823 â€" (08) 6 654 9939 Hotline: 01255 114 11

The Nam Dinh Province native said she wants to work as a housekeeper for foreigners until another career comes along.

But she said it has not been easy to find a job as housekeeper for a foreign family as the requirements are high.

Le Thi Hien, who has worked for foreigners for nine years, said she had to interview and work on a probationary basis for a month before being hired by the family of a US Embassy official.

Housekeepers for foreigners have to know a foreign language and how to use modern home appliances, said Hien, who has studied Korean and English in hopes of keeping housekeeping as a career.

Nguyen Minh Phung, from Vinahelper, a company that introduces housekeepers, said foreigners’ demand for house help in Vietnam was high. But she said it was often difficult for families to find qualified laborers able to meet specific requirements.

“They [the foreigners] want professionalism. Housekeepers have to start work on time and in a disciplined manner, but many of Vietnam’s workers don’t adhere to these tenets rigidly,” he said.

Phung said his company had thus opened training courses for people who want to work as housekeepers for foreigners. The courses focus mainly on skills having to do with taking care of old people and children, as well as cooking, food hygiene and safely using electronic appliances.

Tough retaining talent

Some foreigners complain that keeping a good maid can be even more difficult than finding one.

Liu Xiangxiao, wife of a Chinese businessman in Hanoi, said her family had employed five maids during their three-year stay in Vietnam. Her newest housekeeper now also wants to leave to find full-time work with a higher salary. Currently she cooks and cleans from 2 p.m.- 7 p.m. every day for a monthly salary of $100.

“She [the maid] has worked for us for over a year, and she has worked well,” Liu said. “It’s such a headache to find a good maid. This time, we’ll ask whomever we hire to sign a contract for at least 2 years.”

Reported by Bao Van

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