If you have one, what do you call the person who cleans for you (for people not in the UK)?

(56 Posts)
strandednomore Sat 18-Feb-12 16:47:41

Just wondering what was acceptable/is used in various countries across the world now. When I was young we used to have "maids" in the Philippines. In the Caribbean we had "helpers" and then in another country "housekeepers". I don't think anyone uses the term servants anymore, at least I hope not! I know people used to use the term "houseboy" but I assume that's not used any more either - do people say "staff" if they have more than one?
In the UK most people just say cleaners; I'm not sure why this isn't used more universally?
And for nanny's - so some people still use ayah's?

OP’s posts: |
Greythorne Sat 18-Feb-12 17:00:48

I say cleaner or housekeeper.

In France.

Bue Sat 18-Feb-12 18:26:36

In Canada growing up we had a 'cleaning lady'. I am a bit hmm looking back at that now. Incidentally when my parents hired a man to do their cleaning a few years ago they switched over to 'cleaner'!

IdontknowwhyIcare Sat 18-Feb-12 18:29:44

UAE. We have a houseboy and he is happy to be called that. some people have maids, nannies (unqualified but look after children), drivers, gardeners. We call Sanjeev our helper. back in the Uk it was cleaner. My next door neighbour has a number of maids. HTH.

Labootin Sat 18-Feb-12 18:32:53

UAE I have a driver, a housekeeper ( she deals soley with the house) and a maid who babysits and helps the housekeeper.

strandednomore Sat 18-Feb-12 21:15:21

Thanks - this is useful. Maid is still used quite a lot then, presumably it's not seen as offensive or derogatory?

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butterfliesinmytummy Sun 19-Feb-12 01:52:14

It used to be maids here in Singapore 15 years ago - when we returned I was a bit surprised that no-one used that term much any more - they're now helpers. I don't have a live-in but I do have a lady who comes twice a week to clean and iron - she's my "cleaning lady"


RealLifeIsForWimps Sun 19-Feb-12 02:47:53

Hong Kong- the term used for domestic staff is helper (That's their official term per immigration visas as well - "foreign domestic helper" and even if the cleaner is a local hire they're still called helpers. I guess people don't say cleaner because helpers can actually do a huge variety of roles- some are purely cleaners, some are housekeepers/cooks, some are nannies, most are a mixture of all three. Mine looks after my son 3 days while I'm at work (so basically a nanny) but also does the housework/shopping on the days when I'm not at work.

If I said "my nanny" people would assume that I had an actual qualified nanny from UK/Aus/NZ.

No-one really says maid anymore. Some people still say "amah" and children will usually call the helper "Auntie" or "ya-ya" which is Philippino for nanny

RealLifeIsForWimps Sun 19-Feb-12 02:49:47

OP Helpers here would not want to be called maids. However, I know in the ME it's still used quite widely, and indeed in the US, cleaners are still called maids, so it depends where you are in the world I think.

Blx2thelotofem Sun 19-Feb-12 02:52:48

I think "helper" is more derogatory than "maid". At least "maid" is a job in its own right. We struggled a lot with this. We initially called our maid "nanny" but then you get people saying that she isn't really as she's not qualified.

strandednomore Sun 19-Feb-12 08:07:04

Hmmm interesting that you see helper as more derogatory than maid. I see your point about maid being like an actual job title, with qualifications (even if that just means experience/knowledge etc) rather than helper, which could just be anyone coming in to give you a bit of a hand.I do quite like housekeeper, as that sounds a bit more like a proper job. On the other hand, helper is quite descriptive of what most domestic staff are, they help you with whatever you happen to need (we had a nanny/cleaner/cook in one of our postings, I don't think we ever really decided what to call her - to us she was known by her name!).

OP’s posts: |
C0smos Sun 19-Feb-12 08:15:56

I have a cleaner and a nanny (in South Africa) my nanny has a childcare qualification. I've heard other people call their cleaners helpers or domestics which I guess is OK. My MIL calls her 'the girl' though which I think is quite rude. I also call my gardener "the gardener" rather than garden boy, not really sure why gender has to come into everything.

Blx2thelotofem Sun 19-Feb-12 08:24:00

We also tried "housekeeper" for a while but that causes confusion if she also ,looks after your kids. Also 'housekeeper' sounds quite grand and show-iffy.

LadyPeterWimsey Sun 19-Feb-12 08:28:30

I grew up in Singapore with an amah, although we called her a maid to people back home who didn't know the word 'amah'. In the UK, I have had cleaners.

RealLifeIsForWimps Sun 19-Feb-12 09:09:41

Yeah, in some ways I'm surprised that they prefer "helper" to "maid", although I do think maid implies cleaner, and most of them are more like nanny/housekeeper hybrids. I think though, that what you have to remember is that they have a complex hierarchy within their own ranks that is far more important than any job title an employer can bestow on them.

strandednomore Sun 19-Feb-12 10:04:49

Yes I think that's a really good point - it isn't just about what WE feel comfortable calling them, and the implications that has on our own feelings of equality or whatever, but about what THEY want to be called and what that term will mean within their own circles. So if the word "maid" makes us feel uncomfortable but means the maid feels she has a job to be proud of and gives her social standing within her contemporaries, I guess that should have precedence over our own feelings.
Does any of that make sense?
I agree that using the word "girl" or "boy" sounds derogatory wherever it's used though. I don't think many people would say "my cleaning girl" about a UK cleaner even if they were young. Or would they? My granny (were she still alive) might well say that, although her cleaner was only a few years younger than her and was simply known as Joan.

OP’s posts: |
strandednomore Sun 19-Feb-12 10:33:38

Sorry I could have said that much clearer. Basically we should respect what they prefer to be called even if it isn't necessarily what we would chose for them to be called.

OP’s posts: |
oldnewmummy Sun 19-Feb-12 11:49:35


Bonsoir Mon 20-Feb-12 17:31:31

I've noticed that Americans call the person I would call a "cleaner" or "cleaning lady" a "housekeeper". I think (I am English) that a housekeeper is someone who (a) works FT and exclusively for one family (b) is able to take on a degree of responsibility for the running of a home. But clearly that is not the job description of these particular people, who tend to do a mix of cleaning and light childcare, mostly under supervision and always under instruction.

Lots of people in France call their home help a nounou, which is the French term for a slave childcare person in your home who also does the cleaning and cooking.

kilmuir Mon 20-Feb-12 17:34:02

houseboy, but we call him by his name.

scaryteacher Mon 20-Feb-12 18:54:06


RealLifeIsForWimps Tue 21-Feb-12 00:02:48

Bonsoir Are these nounou's basically foreign domestic workers (i.e. right to remain tied to employer) or are they French residents/passport holders? I'm interested in the trend as few years ago I knew no-one in London who had a Filipino "helper" for want of a better word- i.e. someone who does both childcare and housework. Now I know about four. Now these helpers are all legally in the UK and not on tied visas, but I wondered if the same is true in France.

Portofino Tue 21-Feb-12 08:46:12


Bonsoir Tue 21-Feb-12 08:48:28

They are all nationalities! The DSSs only ever had a French nounou because DP and his exW wanted someone with her bac who could help with homework, deal with workmen etc. But French nounous know their rights and don't work nights and weekends.

There are lots of foreign nounous and lots of Filipinas, yes, some of whom are here legally but not all. There's definitely a pecking order among the nounous (visible outside school by who talks to whom).

There are also quite a lot of nounous of African descent who are French citizens and commute in from the suburbs.

natation Tue 21-Feb-12 10:06:56

All your cleaners / babysitters are called something starting with MMMMM.

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