After a week of calls, interviews, and testing out different ladies, we have found our Ayi. First, let me explain what an Ayi does and what the process is. An Ayi (auntie in Mandarin) is a women you hire to help with various household chores including cleaning, laundry, cooking, babysitting, etc. These ladies work really hard. Almost every expat in Shanghai has one - whether it’s part time, full time or even live in. Luckily, our apartment has maid service, so our Ayi will only have to focus on minor chores and help watch Samantha. I feel a bit odd having someone work so hard while I watch TV or surf the web.

So, finding a good ayi is not that easy. First off, most ayis don’t speak English so communicating can be very difficult. Luckily, my mom and dad were here to help communicate with them. I don’t mind them not speaking English as it will hopefully force me to be better with my Mandarin, but my lack of Mandarin doesn’t help during the interview process when conversation is more than my basic knowledge of “hi, how are you?, i’m hunger, I want to go… etc”. Thank goodness for my mom and dad.

We found prospective ayis in various ways. We had a recommendation from my Shanghai Mamas group, we found some postings at City Supermarket and we called about 4 different ayi agencies. So we talked to a lot of people. At first, it was hard to see a real difference between some of them. You can’t really get a sense whether they will be any good or not. Actually, one ayi came in and I automatically liked her - just got that good feeling about someone but she came in for the interview only because she couldn’t reach us on the phone. She lives in Pudong and it’s just too hard for her to get to us and she accepted a job closer to her home. But she was so nice to actually come down in person and tell us. I wish that could have worked out… oh well.

We also really liked Ms. Chu - she was recommended by someone via Shanghai Mamas. We had her come in on Wed. for a few hours to see how she interacted w/Samantha and tested out her ironing and cleaning skills. She was great but the only problem was that she had another commitment from 5-8pm everyday so she’d have to leave at 4:30pm.

So, yesterday, we had Ms. Gu come in and she was good too. Samantha seemed to like and play with her and we had her make dinner. It was pretty good - she made a soup, eggplant, some spinach like vegetable and fish. She seems like a good person. She is from a province called Anhui and she used to be a kindergarten teacher. She even has a government certification to work as a daycare professional. These helped seal the deal. So, we’re hiring Ms. Gu to start on Monday. Her hours will be M-F from 1-7:30pm and Saturday 4:30 - midnight. Let’s keep our fingers crossed!

Oh, I forgot to mention what agencies we used and the differences between them - this may help others in a similar situation. First we called CC Shanghai. Christine was recommended by James’ Mandarin teacher. For our needs, an ayi to work 40hrs per week would be 2000 RMB/month plus and extra 200RMB/month for working on Saturday (total less than ~$300/mth). The thing we didn’t like about this agency is that we would pay the agency directly and they would pay the Ayi. We’ve heard where some unreputable agencies would then underpay the ayi and the ayi would get screwed. There would be a 1yr contract where they would find a new ayi for us if we ended up not liking the one originally hired. Please keep in mind, local Chinese who hire Ayi’s only pay maybe 1000-1200RMB/month so this is a large premium to pay. They provide ayi’s w/some English skills and they also can translate when necessary.

The second agency we called was something like RRJJ - not sure the exact name as we got it from a friend. We called them twice and never heard from them.

The third agency we called was Ayi Pro - also, they never called to send anyone.

The fourth agency was called SH Deluxe. They brought over several ayis that we interviewed. All with very little English but nice ladies. There wasn’t too much different between them. Although we thought the company was a little sketchy as when we called them, they said they charged a one time fee of 30% of the ayi’s 1 month salary that we would pay to them. When they came, they then said it was 50% or a second method where we could pay them the ayi salary + 200RMB service fee a month where they would take care of their health insurance and manage them for us. We definitely didn’t like this method as we saw they would probably rip off the ayi.

The last agency we called was Sarah Home Services. I’ve heard of them before and they had the best service. They arranged for ayis to meet with us within 2 hours of us calling. Also, they don’t charge us a fee - we pay the Ayi whatever negotiated rate and then they charge the ayi a fee. I’m not sure what but at least the ayi knows exactly what we’re paying her and what she’s paying the agency. The agency also provides for accident insurance of only 120RMB per year. They also spoke English well which will help in translating.

So, that’s our ayi search. Whether it’s through word of mouth or through an agency, it is a long a difficult process. And I’m sure we’re not done yet. Now, we have to train the ayi to do things our way - thank goodness my mother is still here to explain things clearly. Also, I’ve heard of people switching ayis quickly so who knows if this will be our last. I just hope our luck here is as good as our luck in NYC. We miss Nanny Bo a lot…