The Ins and Outs of Hiring an Ayi in China


It is a headache faced by all of us in China. How to get the best out of your ayi, or perhaps put in a better way, how to avoid the worst of an ayi. In this Guide to Nanjing, the lowdown on the absolute worst that could happen and tips for enjoying a harmonious relationship with that most valuable new member of the family.

Any foreigner in China for even not so long has heard their fair share of stories about The Ayi From Hell. More often complaints relate to laziness, low standards of hygene, inefficiency or communication difficulties. However, there have been some truly horrific examples of what happens when things go very badly wrong.

Tiia Olazábal Escobar, an expat living in Nanjing, one day discovered a bottle of unlabelled pills in her bathroom cabinet and, knowing that neither she nor her husband had purchased any new medicines recently, immediately suspected her ayi. She took the pills and had them analyzed at the hospital. It turned out they were a type of sedative similar to valium. Under pressure, the ayi admitted to drugging the couple’s six month old baby so that she could get household chores done without the baby making a disturbance. 

Bearing in mind that the more common problems associated with an ayi relate to theft or dismissal, the following concepts are always worth bearing in mind:

1) Watch your children closely when you’ve hired a new ayi and note any changes in their behaviour. Do not allow the ayi to administer any medicines that you have not authorized, even Chinese traditional medicines for warding off colds or building the immune system. If you suspect anything do not hesitate to confront the ayi and use a hidden camera if necessary.

2) Keep your cash and valuables in a safe place, at least until you feel entirely comfortable with your ayi. Seeing cash out in the open can prove to be too much of a temptation for some people, so the best thing you can do to prevent theft is to make sure it is not being facilitated. If you do suspect your ayi of taking something, make sure that you are fairly certain before you accuse her. If you decide to take legal action, you need to make sure that you have fairly strong evidence – again, footage from a hidden camera for instance.

3) Make sure that your contract with the ayi clearly states what will happen if she is let go, and under what circumstances, if any, she is entitled to compensation. Do not be intimidated by threats to call the police or have you deported, in fact, the police most likely will take your side, especially if you have followed the contract. Threats against your family or physical threats should be taken more seriously, and if your ayi resorts to this sort of behaviour call the police at once.

The Nanjinger Ayi Tips

    • Keep a photocopy of their ID card
    • Hire a local
    • Or…. an age old adage is the true value of an ayi lies in her cooking ability. Therefore choose an ayi who shares her hometown with your culinary favourite part of China.
    • If you see these characters on a building – 家政服务 – it’s an ayi agency!
    • How much? In Nanjing, ¥30 per hour is at present (2017) a good rate for an ayi. However, bear in mind that the cheapest available ayi will likely be ill equipped to handle a sick child or any other emergency.
    • Try have someone who speaks Chinese translate instructions and scheduling for you. This does not need to be a formal contract, just a way to establish expectations.


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Frank Hossack
Editor-in-chief and Music Critic, Frank Hossack, has been a radio host and producer for the past 35 years, the past 26 of which working in media in China, in the process winning four New York Festivals awards for his work, in the categories Best Top 40 Format, Best Editing, Best Director and Best Culture & The Arts. 贺福是我们杂志的编辑和音乐评论员,在过去的35年里一直从事电台主持和电台制片的工作。在中国有近26年的媒体工作经验。工作期间他曾经四次获得过纽约传媒艺术节大奖,分别是世界前40强节目奖,最佳编辑奖,最佳导演奖以及最佳文化艺术奖。

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