Hiring Domestic Help
One of the luxuries of living in a developing country is that household-help is extremely affordable in a way that is unimaginable in the West. Moreover, while you may experience a guilty pleasure about exploiting the natives, remember that in a country like Cambodia with high levels of unemployment, you are actually providing someone with an income – often a vital source of cash that may support an entire family.
Hiring staff, however, can be a hit or miss affair. If you’re lucky, you may find an excellent maid, driver, nanny, security guard who quickly becomes indispensable with you and your family highly reliant on them. Equally you may find that your new employee’s idea of the extent of their responsibilities is simply to turn up to work.
At times in fact, Cambodians can be extremely stubborn to acquire new skills and are capable of being quite uncooperative if not resentful if asked to do anything they regard as outside their domain. You may have no recourse but to fire them if their attitude to you sours. Be cautious in doing this, however, as face is everything to people here in Asia. The threatened lose of it can easily make a recalcitrant employee vengeful and therefore dangerous.
However sometimes it is that you as the employer have simply failed to clearly and comprehensively explain what it is you require of them. Never assume. What may be obvious to you may be totally alien to someone those culture and life-experience is profoundly different from your own. That flash new household gizmo you brought with you could be very intimidating to someone without the experience or confidence to engage with it. Above all, be patient.
Good staff, however, can actually save you money. A good local driver may know exactly where to get the things you need (or can easily find out) for the best price. A cook may be able to source as well as prepare good produce at her local market much cheaper than the Western-style supermarket you are more comfortable shopping in. Of course they may pad the bill but this will be offset by their ability to bargain with market vendors much more ruthlessly than you will ever manage.
If you’re a family with children, having a nanny can be a totally liberating experience for a hard-pressed mum, especially one who also brings home the bacon. A nanny that doubles as a maid also allows the lady of the house to commit more time to other important pursuits, like retail therapy or meeting with the girls for coffee at Frescos!
Maids/cooks/nannies can be hired full-time (44 hours per week) for approximately $100 per month, whereas a part-time (6-8 hours per week) gardener (if your estate requires one) will cost around $20-$30 per month. Wages for full-time drivers (sans vehicle) may run from $150-200 per month. You will be expected to pay for gasoline and generally drivers are paid for overtime. While some expats abhor the idea, having a driver can save you a lot of time and grief if your vehicle is ever involved in an accident.
To compensate for these modest salaries, employers often provide domestic staff with additional benefits, such as a 13 month bonus in conjunction with the Cambodian New Year. Basic medical care costs as well as the cost of English or cooking lessons are also frequently part of the package.
Cambodian people can be marvelous. Much of this depends on the individual dynamic between them and you. It is not unknown for employees here to become part of the family, even to invited to travel with the family to their next destination once the employer’s contract is completed.
This is a conservative culture and you need to be cognoscente of this. Physical chastisement is common here, as is sleeping fully clothed (because few people here have the luxury of sleeping alone). Try and be respectful of this to avoid unnecessary problems.
If you have to fire someone, moreover, try to be as diplomatic about it as possible. Often a white lie is expeditious, as is a parting bonus, as this gives the retrenched employee face and less reason for causing you any further problems.