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Thursday, 26 June 2008

Maids in Vietnam. A necessity of life.


A maid

One of the great luxury’s of life in Vietnam was the presence of a maid. Nobody, and certainly no man let alone a foreigner could live there without one. Over the years I must have had numerous ones although only a handful made a lasting impression.

I always found them hard workers. They were of course not used to the modern electronic machines that the modern household requires. When up country they were quite happy to cook on charcoal stoves, to get the water from the well or send a young boy to the nearest tap.

Chickens and suchlike were always bought alive so they were quite at ease with slaughtering them and plucking out the feathers. They were not used to deep freezes or packaged goods. They would go to the market each day so the food was always fresh. In any case there was nowhere to keep it.

I always had freshly washed clothes. Well pressed too. I usually needed two shirts a day and fresh trousers every other day, sometimes every day. In camp we always had laundry women as well. Clothes needed changing frequently due to the humidity.

They didn’t ask for much. A place to sleep, food to eat and a small wage. If one was paid by the US government they were not at all expensive. When I think of all the red tape involved in paying somebody in France today with all the Security Social deductions and the Tax people and retirement schemes just paying cash for somebody working for you was heaven.

Most of all I remember the easy relationship I had with them. In ten years I only fired one. She had been a bad choice. The others though were all good, two superb. I was without doubt the employer, but I never treated them as employees. When I was married my wife took care of that side of housekeeping but she had a very easy going way with them as well.

Sadly I never took a photo of my first maid when I was living up country. Nor many others for that matter. The few that I have were taken by my sister on a visit as the photo above. It must never have occurred to me to do so. Girlfriends certainly, peasants, soldiers and everybody else. But to take a photo of one's maid. Never. Most strange. I was very young though and it was a long time ago.

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