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Talk about a cultural divide

We always invite our cleaning lady to have lunch with us, and while she does usually end up eating our food, she has never sat and ate with us except for the first time, preferring to dine when it suits her.  Yesterday I made an Indian lamb dish that I think she liked.  I had deliberately made enough meat for J to take to work and enough rice for him, Sprout, and I to have leftovers, but when we got home from our outing, the food was gone (and at the point I realized it, so was Z). No leftovers in the fridge, none in the garbage... So she either ate two super generous portions of meat and four of rice or she packed it up and took it home with her. At least she liked it. *LOL*

Then, this morning, I started to do laundry and found her cleaning outfit bundled up with the dirty rags. I don't mind washing it, but it is a bit weird, in the sense that I can't imagine doing it myself. :P  Also I feel really strange giving it back to her without mending the gaping holes in the underarms. What to do, what to do...

And a little something an Egyptian told me yesterday:

Hussein, from Upper Egypt: When are you going to Aswan?
Me: Well, now is not a good time because of my pregnancy, but hopefully in the fall or winter of this year or spring of next year while the temperatures are reasonable.
Hussein:  Yes, when the baby gets downstairs, you should go.

:D  That's one way of saying it.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 5th, 2014 02:47 pm (UTC)
Wow, how awkward, that first situation. Like, maybe she thought that was your tacit way of giving her a present…. but maybe it's just a way of taking advantage; it's hard to say. But you have to be able to leave leftovers in the fridge for yourself and not worry that she's going to assume they're for her! What are you going to do?

The washing thing sounds like maybe it's something, again, that's an unspoken part of the contract? But who knows! Do you have acquaintances in Cairo you can ask?

"When the baby gets downstairs" is very cute :D
Jan. 5th, 2014 03:43 pm (UTC)
The whole thing was strange. I just hate not being able to communicate. I've actually been pretty frustrated with the whole "help" experience because of the language issues. I'd like to tell her little things, but even little becomes huge when you don't know how to communicate. Then those little irritations (like her using a tablespoonful of dishwashing detergent to wash one mug or cleaning the toilet with a spray hose and then not drying it off, just leaving it dripping wet) start accumulating into one big annoyance.

For the food, specifically, we usually leave it on the stovetop and then she serves herself and covers it up, then I go past and put it away. So she has never taken stuff from the fridge. But yesty, nothing on the stove, and the pots were washed and put away, and as I said, no food. :P I told J that I hate to assume how much food will satisfy her, but I think I'll leave out what I deem a reasonable portion and will put the rest away immediately. She has done a weird portion thing before: We had grilled steaks and there was one huge piece (as in one pound of meat) on the cutting board and she took it all on her plate. She then proceeded to cut and eat it, as you would with your own steak, and when she had had enough, she put the rest of the meat back on the board. Again, maybe I'm being narrow-minded and too stuck in what I consider "culturally" correct. :P
Jan. 5th, 2014 07:34 pm (UTC)
This really seems like something where you'd benefit from talking to other ex-pats (people you more or less like or trust, though, in terms of their sensitivity, etc.), and also any Egyptians you know well enough to ask about this stuff.

It's **so complicated**, though, because you're not asking about something cultural, you're also asking as an outsider, so people's expectations of what *you* should do/think and how *you* should act may be different [better or worse, more or less easygoing] than how local folks would do/be in relation to servants. And when you consider that part of how *she* may be behaving has, no doubt, to do with her perception of how foreigners are different and want/require/care about/don't care about stuff, then your head must really begin to spin.

How old is this woman?
Jan. 5th, 2014 09:40 pm (UTC)
What an awkward situation.
Jan. 6th, 2014 10:08 pm (UTC)
Hahaha... gives new meaning to "Upstairs & Downstairs".

As for Z... could it be the half-arsed thing? It sounds like something my family's maid would try to sneak in as a new "something that is simply done".
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )


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