Size Matters

Received Thursday, October 21, 2010
A day in the life 10 I wanted to share with you what passes for Nanny housing in Hong Kong. Mind you, EVERYONE lives in small spaces, but for this Westerner it was an eye opener.

I thought the top photo was a storage closet, but soon realised that it was actually considered the Nanny's room. At the end of her duties I guess she is banished away to the closet? I don't know, but I treat my pets better than this, I can't imagine putting a human being in the closet unless we were waiting for a tornado or hurricane.

The second photo feautures what is considered a luxury suite, as it also has its very own bathroom. (third photo) Aren't you the lucky one to get these digs. No, really. It beats the closet without a bathroom or window like most the nannies are alloted.


alex said...

wow! definitely tight quarters! Although, the first picture reminds me of the size of some dorm rooms that two people have to share! :)

MissDee said...

WTF? I don't have the ability to fit in that tiny space wearing my backpack. Even worse, my butt and mouth are too big for a small space! What I lack in shoe size I make up for in I guess nannies over there are twigs?

former au pair said...

I au paired in Paris and my "independent apartment" was perhaps half a foot wider than this, and considered top of the line seeing as it included a private toilet and shower. Nothing like perspective.

CanadianMom said...

I lived in HK and some nannies or 'helpers' (Philippina women are often retained as general domestic help as well as nannies) do not even have their own rooms, they have to sleep in the children's room, and I have also heard of some helpers sleeping in the kitchen! We had a Philippina friend who was desparate for somewhere to live so she slept in a space in our flat that you could just stand up in and was the length and width of a single bed, it was all we had to offer and she paid a *minimal* rent to cover utilities.

Rocket Scientist said...

Definitely tight quarters...but at least it is a western style toilet! Many toilets around the world are the squatty-potty type, which are not SO bad except if you are wearing pants. When I was in Asia for several months (my room was small, but not like these!), I would have to take my pants halfway off and hold them with one hand while taking care of business. Maybe those who are accustomed to it have a more graceful way...if so, I never figured it out :) I was glad for the western style toilet in the home where I lived, because many public toilets were squatties.

How's that for some overshare, haha :)

nannettel said...

we americans are so spoiled and don't appreciate it I'm 6 ft and would never be able to stand up straight

CuriousDad said...


My sister and brother in law had a smaller apartment in Korea. One of my friends in High school had to sleep in a dresser drawer when she was younger. People live where they live when they do not or cannot get better.

I love the USA. Even our poor are in the top 50% of income worldwide (include any government payment as income). Let alone live in places that are middle income or better in other places.

world's best nanny said...

When you have millions of people living in your country it gets hard to find a place to put them all. Grave yards have been dug up to make room for the living.

I don't know too much about Hong Kong. The last time I was there it was still a British colony, but mainland China is nutty with the toilet situation. Squatters everywhere, some were just a hole in the ground. Also most of the plumbing is not designed for toilet paper so it piles up in a trash bucket somewhere in the bathrooms. Eww! In Japan where you take off your shoes whenever you enter a building and yes that does include places like schools and hospitals. Going to the toilet there you were special "toilet shoes" and if you saw the conditions of some of those bathrooms you'd want a hazmet suit let alone a pair of flimsy flip flops. We are very spoiled here in the USA and I for one am happy about it!

Not a City Girl said...

I am from HellA (hellyeah) and I must admit to being spoiled with space and room that the thought of living like this is just sad to me.

Anonymous said...

Note the poor man's bidet on the wall.

Traveler said...

Some Parisian "chambres de bonne" are extremely small too. They were initially created for maid ("bonne") and are now mostly used by students. Mind you, the rent isn't cheap... 400 euro/ month and upward.

I lived in HK for a while and yes, real estate is crazy expensive so apartments are usually very small. That said, this is much smaller than most "help" quarters I have seen at my boss' place.

I hate the way a lot of HK people treated their nanny and their maid... most were from the Philippines and were treated like animals.

Rocket Scientist said...

Village, I am pretty sure that is the shower head.

Anonymous said...

I don't think so. The glass shower door is visible in the right forefront of the picture. A shower head hung that low on a wall next to a toilet in a bath without a bidet is for cleaning the private parts. North America is the only place with indoor plumbing that doesn't routinely have bidets in their baths, in my experience, (New York City being the exception.)

Rocket Scientist said...

I respectfully disagree on this very important subject :)

It looks to me as if there is a "lip" on the floor at the door threshold, and the glass door folds closed along it. The doorknob on the wooden door in the photo would be on the hinge side of the door if it were the door to the bathroom, which doesn't make sense. Also, in the picture directly above this one you can see where there is a "lip" and a separate door-frame for the wooden door.

I googled pictures of Chinese showers, here is a typical result:
I also lived in Asia for several months and did not see a single bidet.

Maybe we should start a bathroom critiquing blog together, LOL :)

The world is watching said...

After a bit of research: In HK you must make about 2K USD a month to have a nanny/domestic. You must pay this help 528 USD a month, which includes the food allowance. Said person works 6 days a week (Sunday off) and is allowed 7 days of vacation a year. At the end of the 2 year contract you must pay said person's fair back to their homeland (usually the Philippines, Indochina or Thailand in HK)

the sneaky photo snapper said...

Rocket is right, that is the shower area as the glass door closes for bathroom privacy. Not that the shower head can't also be used as a bidet, that is room is everything bathroom related.

Marypoppin'pills said...

100% that is a toilet w/i a shower, to save on space. Real Estate is prime in HK and square footage is saved wherever possible.

The bad side? Sitting on a wet toilet seat! You have to wipe it off if you go shortly after showering because either water gets up under there or the moisture from heat does.

The good side? No more peeing in the shower! ;)

Rocket Scientist said...

Hey! A showerhead/bidet! Yessss, we're both right! :)

Mairin said...

I'm sorry to say that I live in Indonesia, and my nanny's room is SMALLER than that! And there are no cabinets or shelves on the wall. In fact, I had to have a bed MADE because regular twin beds wouldn't fit in it! The worst part is that there are NO outlets in the room, just a light bulb in the ceiling. We ran an extension cord so that she can plug things in.

This is not just my house- every house, no matter how big, has a TINY maid/nanny room. When we first moved here, I was too mortified to have anyone live in such a small space, so I hired a nanny who could live-out. Then she had to quit and I couldn't find another good live-out nanny, so I had to hire a live-in. I was so embarrassed when I showed her the room and bathroom (squat toilet in the floor, NO SHOWER, just a tap to fill a bucket with and bathe with that), but she seemed really happy with it. Turns out that she usually doesn't get a whole room to herself, so no matter how tiny it is, she likes it because it's her own. I bought as much stuff as I could comfortably fit, which was not a lot.

I pay my nanny almost $300 a month, which other people think is a lot. She also helps with the cleaning, but I don't have her do cooking, laundry/ironing, making beds, dishes, etc. I give her the evenings and full weekends off. In the contract, though, it says that she is supposed to get one day off a week, and only 6 consecutive hours of "rest" time. That is the standard contract that the nanny agencies use. My nanny loves working for us, she thinks it's an easy gig!

We lived in the Middle East before here, and the poor nannies were pretty much treated as slaves by many people. The local people always complained about us foreigners because they said that we treated our help too well and that none of them wanted to work for the locals anymore because we paid more and expected less work. I would hear stories of nannies who worked 7 days a week, for 8 hours a day taking care of horrible children and making about $200 a month. I paid my nanny $500 a month and had the same expectations that I have for my nanny here. She loved us!

It's all about perspective, I guess.