Anywhere in the world, you’ll find that every place has its good and bad points. For the upper crust of society and expatriates who are working over here on contracts they’ll find that there are many perks to living in Egypt.

Egypt is like a treasure trove when it comes to historical landmarks, artifacts and sights. It’s rich in history and culture too. Living in Egypt can be quite comfortable if you are from the upper tier of the social ladder and if you hold a fairly good job that earns you around 7,000LE a month      (~ $1166). Grocery shopping, clothes shopping, shoe shopping, eating out at restaurants and going to the movies is affordable (when you buy mostly Egyptian made products.) If you compare the prices to Europe and North America, you’ll find that you can spend and save here.

Another upside to living here is hiring cleaning help is affordable, which is great because homes get very dusty here, quite quickly, due to sandstorms and the pollution. It saves a lot of your time and energy having someone to help in the dust busting battle. Like everything in life it can have its bad points too.

Cleaners here can be very heavy handed, so if you don’t have a house laden with antiques, glass, and family mementos or other objects that can break you have little to worry about. If you do, then put your most prized things in a display cabinet away from their clumsy hands. My parents on several occasions when they have come to move the place of one of their statuettes or vases have found them to mysteriously collapse in their hands. One of our former help had taken the broken pieces and skillfully put them back together to make it look as though it was still in one piece and intact. She wasn’t made to pay for the broken item because 1-We don’t have proof that she actually did it. 2- She wouldn’t have been able to pay us back.

When you hire a cleaner you need to make sure that for the first few times that they come, you are guiding them through the motions of how you want things cleaned and done. You also need to show them what cleaning products you want used on what. You need to mold or train them to your preferred way of cleaning, otherwise you will find that many surfaces don’t get dusted and lots of corners get cut. After 7 years of living in Cairo and cleaning my 2 bedroomed apartment on my own, I have finally given in and decided to hire someone to help me once a week around the house. I have to admit that it takes a lot of chores off of my to-do list because by the time I come home I’m too exhausted to do it myself and on the weekends that last thing I want to do is clean!  I only hired my cleaner recently and I have to follow her around making sure she cleans and dusts everything properly. The first time she came she used Pledge (wood polish) on glass and would ‘forget’ to clean the mirror in the bathroom.

Cleaners here are quite thorough, so if you find them rolling up carpets and lifting and moving furniture in the different room, and throwing soapy water all over your tiled floors you can be sure that your floor will be shining by the time they’re done! Be sure to help direct them to where things go once they have dried the floor and are putting things back, or better yet help them return things to their rightful place, (I do, it helps speed up the process).

Before or half way through their cleaning they might ask if they can have a cup of tea. They like to have it in a glass and some will ask if they can have something to eat. Usually they prefer to have bread and cheese or bread and egg. My cleaner likes her tea sweet and to have cigarette breaks on the balcony. When she comes to me its late afternoon and her last meal was probably at breakfast time, so I usually offer her something to eat. If I have food made I’ll heat it up and give it to her or make her a sandwich of some kind.

I think the normal routine with most people is to pay their cleaner after every time they come. Give them the exact amount; it will save you a lot of hassle. Don’t be surprised if they ask for advances, and don’t be surprised if they keep asking for more. The best thing is not to get yourself in that situation because you might end up giving more than you had agreed on.

Every cleaner has a sob story and they always have drama going on! Hollywood should come and listen to them for script ideas! Most of the help my parents have tell tales that pull at your heart strings and my parents, like myself are quite generous and helpful to a point. When we start to feel that we are being taken advantage of we slam on the breaks and start dishing out a little tough love. How do you know when they are REALLY in need of help, you don’t. Sometimes you can hear contradictions in their stories or their actions don’t reflect their words.

For examples if someone claims poverty and can’t feed their children, they are going to make sure that they will come to work on the days that they are meant to be there to earn the money  they need to feed and look after the family and not call up and say ‘I can’t make it I have a visitor’. One of the help our parents had would say there had been a death in the family; I sincerely hope that that person she claims to have died 5 times is well and truly dead because if she isn’t, I’d be worried about her health. If you say you can’t afford to buy a water heater for your house, you will scrimp and save to gather the money together and not go to a dietician to lose weight. (I swear I’m not making this up)

It goes without saying; don’t leave money, jewelry or anything of value lying around to tempt them. It is always better having those things out of sight and locked away in a safe place. Most cleaners are honest; others will jump at the opportunity to take what they can find to sell for more cash. A friend of mine had live in help, but the young woman someone how found the keys to all the cupboards, had them copied and when the family was out took thousands of pounds and thousands of euros along with mobile phones, IPods and other expensive items and gave them to her ‘boyfriend’. You need to be careful. You have to understand that the house and life you live in is probably what they dream about having.

Some of the cleaners will iron your clothes and prepare food too. As much as I hate ironing, I still prefer to do it myself. If an item of clothing gets ruined then the only person I have to blame is myself and I can replace it. When I also prepare and cook my own food because I find that most Egyptians use a lot of salt and oil in their food and I don’t like either.

If you do have clothes, shoes or other items that you have out grown or are no longer in need of, before throwing it in the trash, ask them if they would like it. Chances are they will take it for themselves or give it to someone they know who needs it.

 

As the famous saying goes; everything comes at a price. The question is how badly do you want it?

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