Maid for dependence

When I moved into my new shared apartment on Saturday, I was shocked by how messy the living room was. Honestly, one of the major reasons I chose to live here was because it was super clean when I visited it the previous Monday. I couldn’t figure out what turned my roommate into a slob until I saw our ayi (in Shanghai, we call cleaning lady ayi) enter the apartment. I then realized that she had cleaned the apartment the day before I visited.

My roommate is from Hubei Province and she has lived on her own ever since she was 18 years old. Obviously, she is capable of keeping the house clean but she has become lazy since she realized how affordable it is to hire a cleaning lady to do the housework.

Our cleaning lady is very good. But the ayi who cooks for us is disappointing. The food is not tasty at all; even I can cook better. My roommate said she will teach our ayi how to cook and write recipes on post-its and stick them on the fridge. At first I thought she was kidding. She is an excellent cook and now she wants to pay someone to cook for us who needs cooking lessons.

And why do we need two ayi anyway?

Young Chinese are getting lazy. Most of us are spoiled because of the one-child policy. Parents and grandparents treat us like emperors and empresses. One of the reasons I decided to move out from home is that I want to be more independent. My mom is in charge of all the household chores at home and she doesn’t want me to do any housework as it is not my duty. Obviously it is. In my opinion, parents should make kids help with the housework and teach them the value of hard work. A child’s duty in the eyes of parents is to study hard and get good test scores at school.

When I moved out, I expected to do more housework. I even downloaded a few recipes from the Internet. We have a really nice kitchen and I would love to cook in it. All I can cook now are eggs. With an ayi cooking for us everyday, I can rarely use the kitchen. I’m afraid I will lose my passion and motivation soon as I know someone will cook for me every day just like my mom did.

Many expats and young people in Shanghai struggle to imagine what life would be like without their beloved ayis to pick up after them. One of my local friends complained about his wife, “I could get an ayi to clean the house but it doesn’t mean my wife should just sit around all day.” His wife does not have a job nor do they have children!

I think I will have a serious talk with my roommate. We need to fire at least one of the ayis we have now. Cooking can be a pleasant activity. She could just teach me how to cook and we could cook together sometimes. It would be much better than having terrible food. As for the cleaning part, I suggest making Saturday morning cleaning time. Cleaning the house is a good way to exercise. Mom told me that’s how she keeps fit.

Keep Your Chinese name

Dear Fei,

Congratulations on your new position in that multinational company that you have been longed for. Regarding your question on if you should give yourself an English name, I don’t think it’s necessary.

First of all, how hard is it to remember or pronounce Fei? It’s simple and catchy. It’s much more unique and original than David, John, Jack or whatever names Chinese seem to give themselves in an effort to fit in or be trendy.

I know you are concerned that the employee might ignore you if they have a problem remembering your name. But in my experience, employers wouldn’t ignore you based on your name but rather the weight of your resume. The qualifications you had, experience and references count more. It is more about who you are and what you can do than how you are named.

Though you will be working in a multinational company, most of your colleagues will still be Chinese. Almost all my Chinese friends have a western name except for those that have really easy ones to remember like Ling. It usually ends up like Chinese colleagues are calling each other in English names and it’s difficult to relate your English name with your real Chinese name.

When I was studying at college, our teachers required all of us to use English names as it’s a language school and all the courses are taught in English. We were calling classmates English names for four years and I have a problem remembering their Chinese names. I ran into one of my college mates on the street the other day and I called her Cecilia without thinking but she said she no longer called herself that name. I was embarrassed as I couldn’t remember her real Chinese.

But she doesn’t forget mine. I didn’t have an English name and I insisted my teacher call me Yiying. Only by that can I feel that people are calling me instead of a stranger with a strange foreign name. She accepted with pressure. See, an English name is no need. My name is my identity and I am very proud of it.

Don’t worry that your foreign colleagues won’t remember or pronounce your name. It wouldn’t take long for most people to learn how to pronounce your Chinese name properly. In English speaking countries, many people have long and difficult names, let alone people from some other countries like India, Middle East or Africa. People are usually willing to try to pronounce your name correctly. Worrying about people having difficulty trying to pronounce your name shouldn’t be a reason to change your name.

The best example to follow is Arnold Schwarzenegger. When he first came to the US, he was told to change his name to Arnold Strong. But he stuck with Schwarzenegger and look at him now.

Be true to your name is like believing in yourself. If you mingle well enough and just give everything a go every once in a while, you’ll fit in just fine. Eventually, most reasonable people will know you as you and take you for whom you are.

In the end of the day, you would realize that foreigners actually prefer Chinese names. Since they work in China, they must have some common sense about Chinese names and culture. What’s more, a lot of foreigners give themselves Chinese names to fit in China. Why should we use English names in our country?

Therefore, I strongly suggest you keep your Chinese name. I wish you the very best luck in your new job.

Yours sincerely,