Maid in Mexico

The American dream of retiring to Mexico and having a maid and gardener is alive and well albeit perhaps a bit tarnished. If there was a simple answer for hiring people in Mexico for these services the discussions would have ended long ago – a simple solution isn’t going to happen. Like the discussions on the ‘dangers of living in Mexico’, controversy about employing of maids and gardeners is ongoing.

Heard in a coffee shop near you, “You can move to Mexico, have a maid and a gardener while living on social security!

My Amigo Steve brought the issue up as it relates to him over there on the sunny beach of Melaque.

Steve wrote in part, “I am purposely generous on the maid cost; she needs it.

Steve being the consummate nice guy would be in that camp. But, if we look at this beyond the surface Steve comments, “The maid issue is a ticklish one.

Ticklish Maid Issue

Ticklish Maid Issue

If we were to hire a maid in the United States for $60.00 US a day or more we probably wouldn’t be taking into account the maids living condition beyond that business relationship. But, somehow in Mexico we consider the helps life style as it compares to our own to the point of modifying compensation – perhaps because the gap between ‘the haves’ and ‘the haves not’ is widening?

The other side of that coin is “The gringos come down here and distort the economy. We cannot afford to hire these laborers at the rate of pay the gringos provide.

In our part of Mexico there are few foreigners – thus the distortion of the economy is barely perceptible. However in areas where there is a large expatriate population the unbalancing of the economy can create wide spread hard feelings, widening the gap between locals and foreigners.

A thoughtful person who I know Steve is must carefully weigh these issues. Charity begins at home. Our home is in Xico, Mexico. We want to be a good neighbor and fair with the people we live amongst. But combining the hiring of a local service with charity is a problem.

If there was a simple answer we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Compensation, local economy and responsible behavior towards hired help have been issues since we first moved to Mexico.

The Calypso family doesn’t have a maid or gardener. We do occasionally hire some yard work service.

We tend to lean towards not disrupting the natural flow of the economy (read pay local rates). I don’t have any special insight or answers. What I do suggest is to not be too judgmental about what others might be doing and to thoughtfully consider the many angles of this very complex issue.  Stay Tuned!


  • Anonymous

    John,
    Well put…and valuable insight…you could’ve been a diplomat. I’m not retired in Mexico…but how do I get in touch with the maid in your post?
    Sorry to change the subject, and you may have answered this already…I couldn’t find your answer..Which Beatle was the most fun to work with in your studio engineering days?
    Saludos,
    Francisco

  • francisco

    Juan,
    Good post. Valuable insight that can only be gained through experience.
    Saludos,
    Francisco
    P.S. Don’t know if my original comment cleared.

  • http://www.vivaveracruz.com/blog John Calyspo

    Francisco – That particular maid can’t seem to get a job – it seems hombres wives don’t feel she covers the requirements. Go figure?

    I enjoyed working with all the Beatles as individual artists. George Harrison was extremely displeased with Capitol Records as a company – so his attitude was understandably marginal on occasion. If I had to pick a favorite it would be John Lennon.

  • http://steveinmexico.blogspot.com/ Steve Cotton

    John — Good points all. I am solving the problem in December with my next move. I am not hiring a maid. I intend to live in my natural squalor. (Of course, there will undoubtedly be another maid associated with the house — and here we go again.)

  • ken k

    Resort areas tend to almost command NOB labor rates because the gringo money distortion where they have tossed money around sometime by feeling guilty or showing off to friends. Places with less tourists and visitors keep the economy affordable, but it is hard to reason with people tossing money around. Interacting with locals is the best lesson if taken.

  • http://www.countdowntomexico.com Nancy

    My two cents on this is that if you have NOB income most likely you are upper middle to upper class in the local economy. And if you don’t employ people to help you clean or whatever you are considered cheap. I know I got a lot of looks when I worked on the salitre on the front of my house or sweep the gutter and sidewalk when it needs it.

    I actually agree, even with help in the house (and I hate to mop floors) there is a lot to do to keep a house when all the windows are open all the time and we have animals.

    I’d love it if some Mexicans would chime in with their perspective. (but my Mexican daughter in law says this, fyi)

  • frankania

    Well, since 1993, we usually have had a maid twice a week, paying about $11/ 8-hr.day. We give her coffee breaks and full dinner when we eat about 2pm. We have a gardener who is fairly incompetent for 4 hours per week. Ania and I usually do the main gardening tasks.

  • bj

    Nancy,
    We visited an American couple who were living in a lovely “employer provided” home in an upscale gated community in the Puebla area a few years ago. They expressed sentiments similar to yours.

    The wife said that she enjoyed gardening and decided that she would keep up the flower beds (hired someone for the lawncare). She, too, got lots of condescending stares; and ended up hiring out the “flower bed” work to avoid them.

    She said that she and her husband didn’t need a housekeeper, but “kept” the one who’d worked for the previous occupants, because she really needed the money.

    I’m guessing that I might have ignored the stares and continued to do “my thing” if I truly enjoyed it, regardless of the neighborhood norms. But then, that’s easy for me to say, since I’m not living there full time dealing with the neighbors.

    If one follows the “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” adage, some parts of that could wreak havoc with very budget conxcious Americans living SOB.

    Frank, Mexican friends of ours (high income by Coatepec standards) had a large lawn & formal garden that needed a gardener a minimum of twice/weekly. (At one time they had the guy 5 days/week.) They said that they were paying the equivalent of $18 US/day, a year ago for his services. I failed to find out how many hours that was for.

    Wish I knew more details and whether or not what they paid was “normal” for jardineros in the area, or a bit high, becuase they could afford it.

  • Amanda

    This is indeed a ticklish issue…no I don’t want the maid with the feather duster. One thing I have learned is not to hire someone that lives close to you. If for some reason you need to let them go this avoids having your neighbors stirred up against you. Hire someone from the other end of town…preferably with references.

    When I first moved to my current house I decided I didn’t want a maid. My first experience with a maid wasn’t that bad but not what I was wanting. The colonia I live in is not fancy and I’m not living in a big house. Yes people looked at me a bit strangely at first but now that they have gotten to know me they think nothing of it. I’ve explained that I am just like them…I’m not rich and I prefer to clean my own house. For the first couple of months I had young women/girls stopping by the house asking if they could clean for me. Uh-uh no way. You definitely want a mature woman that knows what she is doing. My 2 pesos worth.

  • Kelly Hart

    Hi John,

    As you know Rosana (now Zana) and I have been living for the last four years in Mexico, in a small village next door to Ajijic on Lake Chapala…a very popular region for foreigners to live. At first we resisted hiring most of our help, being totally accustomed to doing all of our own house cleaning and gardening.

    But then after about a year the swimming pool maintenance got to be a burden for me, so we looked into hiring someone to take responsibility. Through a mutual acquaintance Roberto was recommended, since he had many years of experience at the local spa resort. He had some extra time that he could work between his shifts, so we hired him at the same rate he was being paid at the resort (about 40 pesos/hour). He offered to also do some yard maintenance, and since we have a quarter acre of thoroughly landscaped jardin, we also signed him up to work up to 6 hours a week to keep the lawn mowed and looking tidy. He is not really experienced as a gardener, but he does those tasks just fine.

    We were so pleased with how he was working out, we eventually offered him 50 pesos/hour, which is well worth it for an experienced pool person I think. We couldn’t really afford to may much more, since we’re not really wealthy, even though most Mexicans think that we are…and of course compared to them it is true.

    Then mi esposa finally realized that she could relinquish that task of cleaning the bathroom and other parts of the house without feeling that she was behaving beyond her class. We asked around the neighborhood about who might be a good maid (muchacha). We eventually hired Rosa who is our age and has been working nearly all of her life for gringos in the area. She doesn’t speak English, but her Spanish is very clear and she is used to communicating with people who don’t really understand her language. And she is a true professional about the job of cleaning! We hire once a week for about 4 or 5 hours at 40 pesos/hour…on the high end of the scale, but well worth it.

    Both Roberto and Rosa have become very close friends. We make a point of chatting with them in Spanish whenever they come by, and catch up on all the local gossip and neighborhood events, as well as on their large families.

    Getting to know them has become one the highlights of our time in Mexico, and has certainly improved our grasp of Spanish. In fact we call Rosa our profesora, and pay her for the time she spends instructing us in Spanish. Our lives have been enriched enormously by getting to know them!

    Whenever we have asked native Mexicans about how they feel about all the gringos living in their country, they always say that it is a good thing; that not only does it provide employment for many people, but that the cultural mix is beneficial. For instance they notice that gringos are more often altruistic in ways that Mexicans seldom are, caring for abandoned animals, volunteering help in many ways. Mexicans tend to be much more occupied with their own families than the community at large.

    So, my feeling is that hiring Mexicans to help with household chores benefits everyone in more ways than may meet the eye.

  • juan

    im looking for american couple living in veracruz, mexico with young childrens just for chat or fun. we are a young couple with childrens.
    you can reachme at juangnoval@hotmail.com