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Hiring Home Help in Dubai: How to begin your search

INFO POST: Whether you’ve recently moved to the UAE, or simply grown tired of battling the housework on your own, finding the best cleaner in Dubai is easy once you determine what sort of home help fits in best with your lifestyle and budget

Should we or shouldn’t we hire a helper?” It’s an issue that desert dwellers soon encounter. For some, it’s a no-brainer. Both parents might be working and an extra pair of hands around the house is an essential cog in the wheel – the glue that keeps the family, with all its comings and goings, functioning.

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How long until she caves in and hires a maid?!

For others, it’s a complicated decision that often starts with resistance (‘I didn’t have help at home, why should I need it here?’), becomes a grey area where you’ve warmed to the idea (husband’s travelling, baby has colic, school run takes two hours, family are 8,000 miles away), then ends with a full-on, wide-scale search for the right fit for your family.

At first, finding the best cleaning service or maid agency in Dubai may not seem straightforward. There’s a myriad of different services and cleaning providers to choose from, foreign brands you may not recognise, not to mention the well-intentioned but often outdated advice from friends and work colleagues which can make the process appear more confusing than it has to be.

But once you break it down and figure out exactly what it is your family needs, finding the right fit for your lifestyle becomes much easier. For busy professionals and young families alike, a good starting point involves asking yourself:

Should I sponsor a maid or hire a cleaner?

Live-in maids who help with the housework and children are invariably from Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Ethiopia or India, and are a popular choice, despite the fact they’re unlikely to have any childcare qualifications. A housemaid will need to be sponsored by the head of your family (which means assuming responsibility for her), but if you hire someone whose personality you like, who knows when to take the initiative and when to step back, and is liked by your children, this arrangement can be wonderfully beneficial, for both you and her.

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During your search, you might meet the Pampered Housemaid. She’s worked on the Palm and expects travel on Emirates rather than a budget airline. When you respond to her ad, she’ll interview you, bringing the conversation to an abrupt end if you reveal you have more than two children

Gone are the days where expat families quietly hired cleaners on the black market for a few hours a week

Sweeping changes made to labour laws in the UAE, and newly enforced regulations in countries such as the Philippines, Nepal and India, have made the process of sponsoring a maid more expensive and complex than it once was. Hiring a live-in housemaid involves paperwork, financial payments and deposits, and health checks, which can all seem rather daunting, but have resulted in largely positive changes to the working conditions experienced by domestic staff in the GCC region. You can find out more about sponsoring a maid’s visa at ExpatWoman’s Maids, Nannies & Home Help Section.

Gone are the days where expat families quietly hired cleaners on the black market for a few hours a week. Alongside the new labour restrictions and regulations, recently introduced penalties for hiring maids and cleaners off the black market have made many Dubai residents think twice about hiring house help illegally. Instead of risking hefty fines for employing black market home help, a considerable number of expats are instead turning to registered cleaning agencies.

Hiring a part-time cleaner from a reliable agency relieves you from all the headaches associated with applying for sponsorship visas. Using a reputable cleaning company not only enables you to take the worry out of hiring a cleaner, but gives you peace of mind, with the knowledge that your home is being looked after by someone with professional cleaning experience.

How to search for a home cleaner in Dubai

If you’ve decided that hiring a part-time maid, or even a one-off cleaner is the best way forward, the next step is knowing where to find a local cleaner that you can count on. It’s easy to flip through newspaper classifieds or online message boards, but if almost every maid agency and residential cleaning agency in Dubai claims to be the best in the business, who should you trust?

Trustworthy cleaning companies should employ well-trained and friendly cleaning staff, who have all the necessary permissions to work in Dubai. Ideally, you should be looking for a service that can offer you an easy-to-use booking system, a transparent pricing structure, a secure method of payment, and have a customer support team at the ready, just in case you have any questions. Not all cleaning companies have the same standards of cleanliness, so try to stay clear of companies that have bad reviews, that don’t seem to be interested in receiving customer feedback, or can’t offer you proper receipts.

It’s important to choose a home cleaner that you feel comfortable with, who will not only leave your home sparkling from top to bottom, but can be trusted with your valuables. If you’re still getting used to the idea of employing home help, it may be best to search for a company that ensures that all of its staff have been personally interviewed, tested for their cleaning knowledge and experience, and are able to communicate in a language you’re comfortable using.

Consider hiring a Helpling

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Helpling’s part-time cleaners have all passed a strict interview process

If you’re looking to hire a part-time cleaner, either for a weekly, fortnightly, or once-off clean, consider hiring a Helpling. Helpling is an online service that matches your cleaning requirements to experienced Dubai cleaners, who are fully licensed to work in the UAE. In just a few clicks, you can arrange for a Helpling cleaner to assist with your home cleaning needs, whether it be mopping, scrubbing, sweeping, or ironing. Enter in your cleaning needs, alongside your address and desired time and date, and Helpling will do all the rest.

NEXT WEEK: A great alternative option for childcare – Grannie Au Pairs!

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Meet the granny au pairs

It’s a divisive issue that newcomers to the Middle East soon encounter: ‘Should we or shouldn’t we hire a helper?’ ‘Won’t it feel weird having someone living in our house?’ And, after a prolonged search for someone reliable, ‘Have I developed maid envy?’

For some cultures, whether to hire help at home is a no-brainer. They grew up with live-in staff and fully intend to carry on that tradition. In other families, both parents might be working and an extra pair of hands around the house is an essential cog in the wheel – the glue that keeps the family, with all its comings and goings, functioning.

I wonder how long until she gives in
I wonder how long until she caves in

For others, it’s a complicated decision that often starts with resistance (‘I didn’t have help at home, why should I need it here?’), becomes a grey area where you’ve warmed to the idea (husband’s travelling, baby has colic, school run takes two hours, family are 8,000 miles away), then ends with a full-on, wide-scale search for the right fit for your family.

And, personally, I don’t believe that those who choose to hire a live-in helper do so simply because it’s much cheaper out here and they’d rather be in the salon or handbag shopping.

The decision is usually based on the need for back-up and the realisation that society in the UAE is geared towards having domestic help. (Gyms with childcare facilities – forget it. The assumption is you’ll leave your child at home with the nanny. And a nursery that DOESN’T run on a school-term system with lengthy shut downs for holidays – unlikely. You’ll have to fork out for camp for your tot if you need holidays covered.)

Of course, every family is different, and many expats in the UAE survive perfectly well under their own steam, but if you did want to hire a live-in helper, what are the options? Here are three ways you can outsource some of the countless tasks that keep a family happy, healthy and smiling.

A live-in maid, who helps with the housework and children: Invariably from Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Ethiopia or India, a housemaid is a popular choice, despite the fact she’s unlikely to have any childcare qualifications. She’ll need to be sponsored by the head of your family (which means assuming responsibility for her), but if you hire someone whose personality you like, who knows when to take the initiative and when to step back, and is liked by your children, this arrangement can be wonderfully beneficial, for both you and her. Find out more about hiring a housemaid at ExpatWoman’s Maids in Dubai section.

A pampered housekeeper: She’s worked as a housemaid-come-nanny in Dubai for a while, in the Marina or somewhere in the Ranches, and expects perks, from flat-screen TVs to satellite packages, use of the pool, a blind-eye to her boyfriend, Wi-Fi and travel on a national carrier like Emirates rather than a budget airline. When you respond to her ad, she’ll interview you, bringing the conversation to an abrupt end if you reveal you have more than two children.

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Reinventing the au pair: Sonja Franke is a Dubai ‘granny’

A granny au pair: An au pair with a similar background to you might sound like the ideal solution if you’re looking for someone to care for your children while you’re at work. Add the ingredients of age and experience to this female export and your family life could be transformed by a caring, grandmotherly figure.

I didn’t even realise this was a possibility out here, but there’s a German agency that’s providing families all over the world, including the UAE, with mature au pairs, aged between 50 and 70. Many are women who have brought up families of their own and are now keen to travel or learn another language.

It’s a win-win situation for both sides, as the idea of an au pair is based on mutual help. The granny helps with housekeeping and children, and gets free board and lodging in return.

Older women are usually better than younger au pairs because they have more experience of life, says Michaela Hansen, founder of Hamburg’s Granny Au Pair agency. “Families like to take them on because they are reliable, serious and know how to be strict.”

CASE STUDY: “We had fun together in the Range Rover, even in traffic jams”

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After nine months as an au pair in Switzerland, Evelyn jumped at the chance to make Dubai her next stop

Granny au pair Evelyn Eis spent four months in Dubai earlier this year, living with a German family with two boys, aged two and four, in Nadd Al Hamer.

The emirate had long been a source of fascination to Evelyn, making an au pair placement in the UAE a dream come true. “I’ve always been interested in Dubai – a whole new world to me, with its great architectural buildings, warm air and sea, and Arab culture,” she told Circles in the Sand. “I wanted to get to know the emirate better – for myself, rather than hearing about it in the media.

“I had the good fortune to be placed with a kindly German family with two lovable boys. The area in which they live is predominantly local and when I did my buggy walks each morning, people would stop their car and offer me a lift. They weren’t used to seeing an older woman with a child walking the streets and it was so nice to meet such kind locals who wanted to drive me!

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Footie in the park

“I also met men and women from the community at the beautiful neighbourhood park. The women let me see their faces when speaking to me and sometimes we’d arrange to meet the next day. I was invited to visit them in their villas and was introduced to other members of their families, while my two boys played with their children in their house and garden.

“Every day, I’d drive the older boy to school in the morning and pick him up at 2pm. (The younger boy was, in the meantime, with the Indian housemaid.) In the afternoons, I’d take both boys to various activities, ie, football or swimming and, once a week, to meet other German children and their mothers at one of the city’s many parks. The different meeting places were not easy to find, even with a sat-nav. I’d drive between 20-40km just to get there in ‘my’ great-big Range Rover. But the boys were always happy with me in the car, because we had fun together, even in traffic jams. I miss them now!”

Families looking for a ‘Granny’ are encouraged to contact Granny Aupair at info@granny-aupair.com. More about the service can be found at www.granny-aupair.com

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When the housemaid’s away

It was a day I wasn’t especially looking forward to: our live-in helper and nanny Catherine the Great was leaving on a well-deserved vacation.

Not for the first time – she returns to the Philippines for a month each year, but usually this is while we’re gone over the summer. This year, she’s going twice because there’s a special occasion at home she really wanted to attend in March.

In other words, it’s the only time in four years she’s left us [hangs her head in shame] to our own devices in Dubai, with one-and-a-half jobs and the children to juggle. [Gasps]

I could tell she was nervous. She had a long journey ahead to Manila, albeit in business class, and a 10-hour coach ride to her village.

pic1We talked about what to wear on the plane, to be wary of fellow, drunken passengers (my main advice was to travel semi-smart – no flip-flops, no shorts – and she took this to heart, looking glam as she left). We discussed how I could contact her. Then I realised what it was she was actually nervous about.

She looked at me sagely: “Will you be okay Madame? With the two boys? All by yourself.”

The worry in her eyes was undisguisable. OMG, I thought, she thinks I won’t cope. She’s sure the household will fall to rack and ruin with me in charge.

“Of course!” I replied, with a squeaky, too-high voice. “We’ll be absolutely fine. But you will come back, won’t you?” I asked with a nervous laugh.

She assured me she would (PHEW!) and I told her to go upstairs and help herself to as many of the baby toys in the cupboard as she could fit in her suitcase.

philippinesHer family lives on a rice farm in an impoverished part of the Philippines. They don’t enjoy all the trappings that we do in the West and anything we can send over really helps. There’s probably a whole island wearing my old clothes from Gap and Monsoon; and much of our baby stuff has already been shipped to her sister, who recently gave birth.

We hauled her suitcases – practically splitting at the seams – to the door and called a taxi. I’d bribed BB and LB with sweets to be extra-nice in the hope she might miss them (one was, the other wasn’t, the little minx) and then it was time: to let.go.

With a swish of her long, black glossy hair, and one last worried glance back, she was gone.

And suddenly I was staring down the barrel of no childcare and a job to hold down for the next couple of weeks. The silence of the abyss she left behind would have been deafening if it wasn’t for the fact I had to put a kicking-and-screaming BB in time-out for bidding Catherine goodbye while STILL on his DS machine – after which he RAN AWAY.

*Good* start.

pic2But, and I know you can’t wait to hear how it’s going, things have gotten a lot better. Day one, to my amazement, was remarkably smooth, even quite blissful. We reveled in the independence, loved having the house to ourselves. I moved things around in the kitchen; reinstated control and was practically doing pirouettes around the broom.

“Wow,” I thought. “This isn’t so bad.”

Fast-forward nearly a week, and the novelty has begun to pall, though to be honest – other than not finishing all my chores until 10pm – I think DH might have noticed her absence more than me. I’m finishing a work contract, so he had to take vacation (not sure he’d exactly call it that) and has been holding the fort at home; yesterday accumulating neighbourhood children as the day went on like a Pied Piper of Dubai.

Help with childcare and chores aside, I genuinely miss her – she’s a true gem, a gentle, kind and sweet-natured person and an adult companion in the house with oodles more patience than me.

I REALLY hope she comes back.

Now, where did she say the iron was kept?