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Christmas gift ideas for domestic helpers

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By Freedom Jackman

Christmas is a time when family and relationships are brought into focus; it’s a time for reflection, for being thankful and for showing our gratitude to the special people in our lives. At Maid for You, we’re often asked how employers can best show their appreciation for the hard work and dedication of their domestic helpers, particularly when it comes to Christmas gifts. Which gifts are the best to buy? How much money should employers spend? Is it better to give physical gifts or would cash be preferred?

Many domestic helpers, when asked directly, say that money is very much appreciated and gives them options and choice. Many employers, however, worry that the helper herself will not benefit from the money, and are keen to give a more personal gift.

Because of this, a lot of people choose something they think their helper will like, for example jewellery, a scarf or a bottle of perfume, and gift that along with a small amount of cash. If you know that your helper is interested in a particular hobby, another nice option can be to pay for her to attend a class such as swimming, cake decorating or music lessons.

Gift vouchers are a popular choice too and provide the means for an experience that your helper may not have chosen otherwise. If you decide to buy vouchers, keep in mind that she might want a friend to accompany her, so it can be a nice gesture to cover the cost for two people.

If you do choose to give cash, the amount you give is up to you. There are no set rules; it just comes down to your own set-up and personal circumstances.

Another idea that can work nicely, if your helper is returning home for Christmas, is to contribute to the family’s Christmas feast. Food hampers or gift baskets can be ordered online and delivered direct, so there’s no need to worry about excess baggage! This can be a wonderful surprise on the day or alternatively you can have fun planning and picking things out together.

Of course, while you might be thinking of something for her, your helper might actually appreciate a gift that she can give to her grandchildren, nieces or nephews. Think about the reason she is here in the first place – to create a better life for her family at home. Are you able to provide the gift of a term of school fees? Does a family member need medical assistance that you can arrange and pay for?

For many families, of course, cultural differences come into play. Perhaps your family has different traditions to those of your helper and doesn’t celebrate Christmas. If this is the case, think about how you would like to recognise and share these differences, and how you would like to involve your children. Could they give her a handmade gift or card in honour of her special day? How can you include her in yours? At the end of the day, being respectful of each other’s cultures and beliefs helps to create a relaxed and harmonious home.

No matter what you choose to give or when, acknowledging your helper’s efforts, patience and absence from her family with sincerity will always be appreciated. Wishing you all a harmonious and happy festive season!

Freedom Jackman runs Maid for You, a Hong Kong-based helper agency offering ethical, personalised services matching domestic helpers with expat families. For more information, visit www.maidforyou.com.hk.

Image: Claire Fraser – www.highjumpphotography.com

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