Find a Housekeeper “Ayi” in China

Whether you are students sharing a flat in Shanghai, a couple who decided to practice parenthood by adopting a puppy in Beijing, or a family who is settling in Kunming, you will quickly realize that maintaining your home can be a lot easier than it was back in your home country. One thing that expats appreciate the most when moving to China is the cheap housekeeping services offered by Ayis, which can be translated by both “auntie” and “maid”.

Define your needs

First and foremost, you will need to assess your needs in order to find the right person to help you. Young people sharing a place won’t have the same needs as a two kids’ family. In one case, the Ayi will usually strictly do housekeeping tasks like cleaning and sometimes laundry, in the other, it can be a nanny who picks up kids after school and takes care of them at home.

A different culture and practices

Ayis are often women who come to the city to seek better economic and social conditions. They generally come from remote parts of China like Anhui Province for those working in Shanghai. They have very different habits from ours, partly due to a lack of education, so you might have to define clearly your hygiene and cleanliness standards.

Moreover, needless to say that in most cases, they do not speak any English. Don’t panic though, this can be an opportunity for you to learn Mandarin or to improve it. These exchanges will allow you to discover and share local traditions. They are usually very nice and friendly ladies who enjoy having a talk with foreigners. My Ayi loves that I ask her questions about Anhui and her hometown. Once, she even cooked me a typical dish from her province.

However, when it comes to cleaning, make sure you and your Ayi are on the same page. Provide her with good cleaning equipment and make a list of tasks you want her to get done. Be very precise about everything, as many Ayis won’t bother cleaning things too thoroughly if you don’t even pay attention to then. For instance, don’t expect your maid to hunt down the dust behind your fridge or TV if she can avoid it.

Cleaning equipment

Prior to hiring an Ayi, you should make sure you have all the equipment needed to do a good job. In China, you have the choice between all kinds of quality for pretty much everything, from the super cheap that lasts about a week to the top level.

You may find plastic broom for 10 RMB and the worst kind of floor cloth for half that price. When it comes to mops, you may also come across some weird strip mop that are in, my opinion, proper disgusting as they keep more dirt that a one-pieced floor cloth.

Anyway, my point is, if you want your Ayi to do a good job, provide her with good cleaning tools (and clear requirements). Buy good cleaning products, lots of cloths, a vacuum and even a steam cleaner.

Why steam cleaning ?

A year ago, my girlfriend came back after work with what looked like a vacuum cleaner and told me this would make our life (well, our Ayi’s life is more accurate) a lot easier. Instead of vacuuming, this device was actually producing steam that is used to deep clean pretty much everything besides hardwood. Since that day, I often use it and so does our Ayi. She thanked us so much after we introduce her that handy little tool as she didn’t have to scrub dirt hard anymore and most cleaning tasks were a lot less tiring from that day. A month ago, I sold that steam cleaner to get a smaller one as we lack of space in our apartment. We bought a steam mop instead, and the result is as sparkling as it was with the previous device. For those interested in getting one of these, you can find the model I have got on

How much does a housekeeping service cost ?

First of all, you should know that there are 3 possibilities to hire an Ayi : live-in, full or part-time. Currently, rates vary between 20 and 25 rmb/hour. However, if the domestic worker lives permanently with you, the salary is usually negotiated directly between the two parties. The remuneration is usually between 4000 and 4500 rmb/month.

Word of mouth or agency?

You certainly have in your circle of friends, colleagues or in your residence, people who already call upon an Ayi. If they don’t give you theirs, they can certainly advise you. Indeed, many Ayis are recommended through word of mouth. Otherwise, there are plenty agencies offering cleaning and childcare services. Some even offer the option of completing the application online like on Ayicheng.