In an earlier article my colleague Mark wrote his praises of Filipino domestic workers. Although they make up a large part of the total domestic worker workforce in Singapore, a group that is not much smaller or perhaps even bigger are the Indonesians. So we owe it to you to give them a good look too. Since a peoples’ behaviour is culturally influenced, it is not a surprise to expect some differences.
What makes Indonesian helpers so popular in Singapore?
Everyone is different and we know we are generalising when we say that the Indonesians FDW do not speak and understand English as well as the Filipino ones. The reason why we mention it however is not to criticise or put anyone down but to make the point that this necessitates even more attention to communication than with Filipinas. Indonesian culture is more introverted and humble, also when it comes to communication with employers. So Indonesian don’t talk back as easily as Filipinas generally do.
The importance of good communication
When the employer and a live-in maid understand each other, openness will easily follow. When there are communication and openness, a good relationship with each other will quickly sprout if both parties allow. Particularly helpers who are first-timers may not be used to talking with foreigners with different cultural traits, pronunciation and intonation. Miscommunication happens between the Indonesian maid and employer if one doesn’t speak out and would only make assumptions. Hence attention is required to ensure a healthy information and communication flow. Also if the helper is more experienced and already speaks English. Every household is different and so the learned ways before may not work for the house of the new employer. It’s just fair and practical to teach the maid first how things work in her new workplace.
Are Indonesian helpers really gentle, quiet and patient?
Not only because of their limited foreign language skills, but also for cultural reasons you will find Indonesian helpers less argumentative and peace loving. That does not mean you can take advantage or that they are push overs. Indonesians are sensitive and have a strong feeling of justice and although your helper may not always communicate satisfaction or lack thereof, it does not mean that there is not any.
Again, communication is paramount. Good instructions and regular feedback sessions go a long way to prevent build-ups of frustration or misunderstandings.
Just as in all Asians cultures, family is very important to Indonesians. Your helper can be concerned about her family in her home country so much and not get used to being separated from them. This may push them to deciding not to finish her contract in Singapore. So help prevent homesickness by letting the helper in Singapore communicate with their family at home after a long day of work. They will feel recharged for the next day’s work knowing she’s still somehow connected to her family. Giving them the opportunity to go and visit family more regularly than once every 2 years may also be a good investment.
Hardworking and dedicated…
There is no denying that Indonesian maids are hardworking, can show initiative and are usually great cooks. Their patience and gentleness is the reason why Indonesian caregivers can take care of the elderly, keep nagging children at bay and do the chores at the same time. However, it is reasonable to expect that they can only perform different tasks when they are taught well or have undergone training.
The Indonesian kitchen is world famous and if you are lucky you will find a helper that can bring the Indonesian delicacies to your dining table and get you hooked. There is of course a big difference between young and more experienced and mature helpers. For young girls it will always be a bigger challenge to stay focused, but in general the dedication to duty by Indonesian workers is usually perceived to be very good.
To us, Indonesian maids are definitely amazing!
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