By Gringo Blogger
So recently I joined the Brazilian elite, well the middle class elite that is, and hired a cleaner. Well technically my wife hired the cleaner, as we’d had many discussions” about who was doing the cleaning in our apartment. Unfortunately there’s a culture clash on this topic, as the Brazilian perception of cleanliness, for my wife at least, is equivalent to the type of clean a house in the UK gets when you’re leaving it and trying to get your rental deposit back! Something I wasn’t prepared to do on a weekly basis. As an aside, I suspect a lot of middle and upper class children have this drummed into them as they come from family homes which have such a high level of cleanliness, albeit due to the full time cleaner.
So a compromise was reached with my wife over how we’d divide up the cleaning… and that is how we arrived at the idea of hiring a cleaner. The cost for any type of domestic staff in Brazil is extremely low. The cost of just getting a cleaner to your house in the UK is equivalent to or more than the cost of both travel and 8 – 10 hours of work in Brazil. Even so the low salary level is not something I was particularly impressed by, albeit even with these wages the cleaner is making 3 to 4 times minimum wage based on working 5 days a week. Low salaries are unfortunately a fact of life in Brazil. So you can either choose to go with it and help those who aren’t employed, or take the moral high ground… the dirty moral high ground that is.
Hired helps (cleaners, cooks, maids, nannies etc.) often become one of the family in Brazil. For example my wife’s aunt has a hired help, that cleans and cooks, who travels on holiday with her, and brings her daughter as well. They also feature quite often in the infamous Brazilian soap operas, presumably because in real life they’re often walking soap operas. Good hired help is notoriously difficult to find, and problems such as arriving late, not working very hard, asking to borrow money, and sometimes even stealing from the house are not uncommon. Most of all though it’s a case of getting someone who’s reliable and works consistently for a long period of time, and households often go through several hired helps before finding one that matches. Hired helps often end up doing a variety of tasks as well, aside from just cleaning. Often they will cook one or more meals in the day, as well as looking after children and/or babies.
So the cleaner’s first day arrived, she’d been hired on a one day per week basis as our 60 square meter apartment couldn’t feasibly require much more. My wife informed me that she was arriving around 7am (7am?!), so I rather curiously felt the need to get up, washed and dressed beforehand. Perhaps through the worry that she would come into the shower room at the wrong time, or at least I didn’t think she’d appreciate me in my usual early morning attire of “dishevelled-in-underpants” (underpants optional).
Although I was up at 7am my wife had got up earlier and was cleaning the apartment! I knew better than to question it, although I was requested to clear my “junk” off certain areas. I replied with an, “errr, isn’t that the cleaner’s job?”, to which I was informed that apparently the cleaner needs to be able to clean under my mess, not clear my mess.
The cleaner arrived on time, and set about washing every available surface with some noxious fluid that would have stripped the lining from my nostrils. I say would have as I was used to my mother-in-law doing the same thing, and my nostril linings were already stripped from a couple of years of that. I was amazed to see that she spent the whole day washing, wiping, mopping, scraping and ironing. When I tried to walk on the floor wearing socks it was like an ice rink! For my own safety I had to go barefoot.
Unfortunately the following few cleaning appointments weren’t quite so great. The cleaner left earlier and earlier, and failed to show up without even a phone call for the last two. So we’ve moved onto our second cleaner, who so far is a lot more reliable!
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Previous articles by Gringo Blogger:
Brazil Blog: Dealing With Doctors
Brazil Blog: Showers
Brazil Blog: Dia Dos Namorados
Brazil Blog: Fishing Trip Part 3
Brazil Blog: Fishing Trip Part 2
Brazil Blog: Fishing Trip Part 1
Brazil Blog: Feira Frustration“