The Case For D.I.Y.

I’ve come to the realisation that having someone to do things for us can make us very lazy very quickly, and can actually change our personality and values on quite a deep level.Hired help

This is coming from the perspective of someone living as an expat in what would be termed a “third world” or “developing” country where, to put it crudely, the white people hire the brown people to do the jobs they don’t want to do. It’s not uncommon for a family living on an expat wage to have a full-time cleaner/cook, nanny, and driver, as well as a gardener and pool guy dropping in every day or two. A totally different living standard to what they’d be able to afford back in their home country. (However  I am not talking about the executive type person like my friend in Rockingham WA, who is used to taking stretched limousine to the airport, for example)

My comment today is not about the terrible white/brown socioeconomic divide; it’s about the effect that this level of home help has on the white people involved.

A couple of examples that I noticed just in the last week:

  1. I got a lift with a friend who has a driver. She wanted to stop off at the supermarket on the way. Her driver dropped her off at the front door – fine – and then parked in the closest available space, probably about 15 steps from where he dropped her off. I waited in the car. When she emerged with her small bag of shopping, rather than walk the few steps to the car, she waited at the door for her driver to come around and pick her up. It left me wondering, how on earth did she manage when she was doing the weekly shop by herself?

Later, we got out of the car and went around to the boot and she WAITED FOR HER DRIVER TO COME AND OPEN IT FOR HER! I was shocked. She’s not a nasty person but I really didn’t like the way she was acting with such a sense of entitlement.

  1. 2. A retired friend has been living in a villa with a lady coming to clean and cook for her a couple of hours a day. She’s moving to a different area and is wondering how she will cope when she has to cook and clean for herself. It’s not that she’s unable to look after herself for health reasons; she’s still pretty young and active. It’s just that she’s got so used to having someone to do these jobs for her, she doesn’t want to – or doesn’t think she’ll find the time to – do them herself. Hearing her complain about this just drives me crazy – I don’t have someone to cook or clean for me, and I have a 1-year-old child to look after! The reality is that she’ll soon find someone new to come and do her dirty work for her once she moves.

I feel like these people need a reality check. If they could go back 10 years and get a look at their future selves, what would they think? I expect the idea of such arrogance would horrify them.

Am I innocent in all this? I suppose not. I got a little glimpse of the privileged life a couple of months back, when I had a lady who worked 3 mornings a week helping to look after my daughter and clean the house. I used the free time to get some work done, and it was fantastic knowing I had that time scheduled in rather than having to snatch half an hour here and there whenever I could.

But if I’m honest, I did get a bit lazy about cleaning, knowing that she would be there the next day to do it for me. She was only there for three weeks, but even that was enough time for my attitudes to start to shift. When she stopped coming, I was left with no choice but to mop the floor myself, and guess what – I coped!

As human beings we have an amazing ability to adapt to new situations, but I don’t think this is always a good thing. It can bring out the best in us and make us resourceful, cooperative, inventive creatures. Or it can bring out a darker side of laziness and superiority.

Is it time you gave yourself a reality check?

Reality Check, and back to welcome message