When I lived in a shared house in London, we had a cleaner once a week. There were four of us, plus visiting partners and a cat, and the idea was that having a cleaner would help us to keep the place clean/tidy throughout the week. It cost us about 15 GBP per hour (I can’t find the pound sign on this keyboard…). Because I am middle class and British, I found having a cleaner really weird, but accepted that the alternative was to clean up after my housemates.
In Shanghai, I live on my own and so have been fighting getting a cleaner. But no more.
Yesterday I went on 大众点评 (an app that’s a bit like yelp or google reviews or something, but better – you can book through it) and ordered a cleaning lady, or ayi, to come this morning. It cost me 70 RMB for two hours.
She showed up 20 minutes early, which was a bit awkward as I was just going out to buy a milk tea and some more cleaning products – I was suddenly worried that she wouldn’t bring any… and I was right. We had a bit of a chat and I showed her around the flat and left her to start on the bathroom while I went to the shops to buy her a mop.
I came back and found her cleaning the bathroom with my face towel. “Is it okay to use this cloth?” she asked. Well, a bit late now…
I retreated to my bedroom where I attempted to look very studious. She didn’t care about this and kept popping in to ask me questions about why I lived alone, how much rent I paid, why I didn’t clean more often… In the meantime she made every surface in my flat damp, before sweeping the floor and making that damp too. I *think* she used some cleaning products but not really enough.
After about an hour she told me that she was done, and I pretended to inspect the place and said “yeah yeah, looks great, thanks” so that she could leave and I could use the loo.
Actually, she’s not done a bad job. Cleaning is boring and I’m happy to pay someone to do it for me, and I get to practice my Chinese in the meantime. And now I own a mop.
Here are my top tips for getting an ayi:
- Don’t expect her to bring any cleaning materials or products. Mine literally just brought a straw hat.
- Either get one through a recommendation or you can order one through the app if you can read Chinese.
- Don’t expect her to speak any English whatsoever.
- Expect lots of personal questions!
- Hide anything you don’t mind her commandeering for use as a cleaning cloth. I’m serious: towels, pillow cases, sheets, underwear, clothes, etc.
- Point out the cleaning products several times and make it clear that you want them used.
- Don’t get stressed that her idea of cleaning is to make everything damp with a cloth. If you have specific things you want cleaning then either tell/show her or do it yourself when she’s gone – I have a bit of a mold problem and bought some fancy imported mold spray but I wasn’t going to go to the hassle of explaining how to use this to her.
- If you book her for a certain time, eg 09:30, expect her anytime from 09:00. And don’t expect her to stay for two hours, she’ll tell you when she’s finished and then you can either say you’re happy with it or ask her to clean something she’s missed.
It’s pretty cool to think I have a nice clean(ish) flat now, having booked it on an app yesterday. That’s one of the cool things about living in China, you can order/book anything you like. If I run out of ice, I order some. If I’m hungry, I order food. If I want an inflatable ball pond to play in, I order one. Life is convenient. Life is good.