The dramatic increase in wealth in China over the past few decades has resulted in many new superrich families seeking to introduce the Western world to their children.
Sometimes wealthy Chinese go to the west: for instance, Bo Guagua, the son of ousted Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai was educated at London’s Harrow School, Oxford, and Harvard (the man who “fixed” this elite Western education later ended up dead, by the way).
Sometimes Europeans and Americans go to China for jobs in child care and education. For the Western job-seekers, it’s a chance to see a different world and get paid while doing it. For the Chinese families, it’s a chance to introduce their children to a different language and a different culture.
One British girl used an agency to work as a nanny for a wealthy family in Hangzhou (rich enough to have five Porsches) recently took to Reddit to answer questions about her experience, and her answers are wonderfully candid.
We’ve included some of her answers below, lightly edited for clarity. Bear in mind these are just one person’s experience, and she’s also one person who plans to soon leave China.
“I get paid s***-all. I have all my food, room and pocket money given to me. I also get some treats now and then because the hostmother is a kept woman so I get some beauty treatments and things for free. I also get free Chinese lessons which is good. They pay in part for my flight there too. The experience has been very interesting but the agency has scammed me in a few ways too.”
On her family’s Western habits:
“[The family tries to fit in with Western culture] and it’s sort of embarrassing, especially with the food. And labels, the obsession with western labels on clothes, even if the clothes don’t go or look stupid […] The first day I arrived at the family’s house they took me to a steak house which apparently is a huge deal (I was mostly veggie in England). It was surreal to be served steak and potatoes and have my favourite Chet Baker song in the background. Very weird. Fast food is also popular and before I came there was a Lady Gaga themed steak house.”
On the family’s routine:
“It seems to vary family by family. [I’ve other nanny friends] but mine seems to be the father away all the time apart from one day at the weekend, the mother ferrying her son to all his schools and activities and endless parties and lavish dinners. During the day there’s very little to do because there’s also a housekeeper. They shop, go the movies and watch TV.”
On their wealth:
On her own routine:
“I take the kid to school, come back and work on some Chinese or write, and sometimes I sneak off to model here too. On my days off the family go away to a different city so I walk around singing loudly because I can and maybe meet up with another nanny that lives near me. I also play basketball.”
What the kids get away with:
“Pick his nose and wipe it on me? Wave his bare arse at me? Oh and a friend who works an hour or so away has seen the kids be allowed to just piss on the living room floor so they don;t have to move from the television. Occasionally they’ll bring him a bucket.”
How the wife treats her:
“Oh she’s generally sweet to me, really. They are very nice, especially the ayi (grandmother) so I’ve been relatively lucky. However some things remind me of my status sometimes, like not being taken for medical care etc.”
The bad side to the job:
“Many things, not being able to fully discipline the kid sometimes, the lack of freedom as a previously quite independent person and actually China is very dirty and polluted, so I feel quite guilty I get to leave and they just have to dea.”
“For example today [the child] came home from the hospital after being in for some kind of very bad cold (when the worlds antibiotics become completely ineffective we will know exactly which country to blame) in his mask and the first thing he did when i knelt down to say hello was wipe his phlegmy coughy mask round my face O_O.”
When local guys hit on her:
“[It happens] all the time, but not in a very sleazy way. If I go out they send drinks to my table which I actually don’t like and I get people coming up to me in the street but it’s not intimidating or anything.”
The best and worst things that have happened:
“Hmmm, I kept telling the family here I was sick for about 3 months and they just laughed it off and told me to get over it. Eventually I got a fever and deep pain in my kidneys which was a kidney infection. They wouldn’t drive me so I had to walk a few miles to the most vile hospital ever and get examined on a gurney in a room of Chinese people with colds with them thumping me and asking me if it hurt in certain places. I had to pay a buttload and get lots of IV’s. Ick.”
“The best? The boy can be very sweet and funny and I had a great birthday party here, we went to a Chinese club and I brought twerking to the mainland.”
What she’ll take away from the experience:
“Meeting young Chinese people and having so much in common with them, even when language was a problem we have had so much fun learning about each others’ cultures and helping each other out. I’ve made amazing friends. How sweet the Chinese are to their kids, watching the grandparents sit by the lake with the young kids is heartwarming. Bonding with a kid who isn’t mine and having him give me a kiss goodnight. Lots of good things.”
[Please note, the answers have been lightly edited for clarity]
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