The curse of the expat spouse

March 30th, 20101:47 pm @


"Darling, is this our usual tea wallah? And why does the garden look decidedly African?"

It’s a long way from the suburban sprawl of middle Australia and middle America, and for Delhi’s expat spouses life can be one long, difficult struggle as they – Cnut-like – attempt to hold back the tide of incompetence exhibited by their domestic staff.

Luckily for them – and us – they have the blogosphere to share their tales of woe. Their lives make for uncomfortable reading as they cope with abused white goods, fecal lawns and locals who just won’t speak the language.

So, with the heat rising in the capital and nerves at breaking point, it’s time to open up the floor and provide a comforting shoulder for them to rest their bleached split ends on, Dr Phil-style.

Delhi expat wife number one is the micro-manager of a motley gang of useless natives who need the expert guiding hand of an Australian to help them see the one true path, especially the cook, who:

Doesn’t melt the chocolate while making a cake, stands there watching the creamed butter and sugar whirl around my precious Kitchen Aid while chunks of cooking chocolate thunk round and round endlessly, making a god awful noise, completely mangling the whisk.  My only thought was how effing long was he gonna stand there before he stopped to wonder if the chocolate was never gonna melt that way!

How effing long indeed! It beggars belief that someone who probably grew up in – and more than likely still lives in – a slum is not familiar with the most basic workings of a Kitchen Aid. My advice is to fire this incompetent fool’s sorry arse and get yourself a Michelin-rated chef if you want your Kitchen Aid to survive your India stint.

As well as suffering under the weight of 12 – count them, 12 – domestic staff, she must also raise her two children, who appear to be named Emmental and Xerox, but I digress.

Next up in the conga line of incompetence is the driver, who has been causing all sorts of inconvenience. Sit down sister, tell me your problems.

The same driver who, not even 2 weeks later, was ratted on by another driver for drinking while waiting for us to finish our Margaret River wine tasting evening at the Aussie High Commission!   No James, just cause we’re drinking doesn’t mean you can while away the hours drinking the local (and godawful) whisky!”

Two words: Absolute, cad.

I mean, drinking on the job is one thing, but drinking that abhorrent local hooch is grounds for a diplomatic incident, especially when you’ve been suffering those God-awful West Australian excuses for wine.

My advice: get yourself a driver who only knocks back single malts. Sure, you’ll probably need to pay a little extra so he can afford to buy the imported stuff, but it will be so worth it next time you’re sinking reds at the Aussies. Standards dear! These things matter!

Finally, we make our way into the garden of good and evil, where the workers don’t seem grateful for the privilege of picking up shit.

Or the malis (gardeners) who refused to pick up Bongo’s poo … until the Maharajah and his doting wife … made a big show in front of them how they’ve been doing it for the last 10 years and you know what, if it’s good enough for us to do it, then they’re damnfreaknwell gonna do it too!

I do hope Bongo is the name of the dog and not a sibling to Emmental and Xerox, because if your kid has been leaving calling cards on your lawn for 10 years, you’ve got bigger problems than recalcitrant staff.

But amen, sister, our work here is done. You clearly know how to teach the natives the way of the white folk. Go forth and continue to rain hell upon these uneducated incompetents until they, you know, get a clue.

Our next Delhi expat wife – let’s call them DEWs from now on, shall we? – joins us from the United States. She, too, endures a  useless cook.

Even though we employ someone to come in and cook daily, I am exhausted trying to figure out new and exciting things for our family to eat.  You see, if I DON’T come up with the ideas, we end up with chicken, stir fry vegetables and chipati [sic]. Everyday.

The horror! The horror!

I’m amazed you’ve stuck it out this long under such siege conditions. Lest you think I can’t empathise, I do, sister, I really, really do. Last December I gave our cook a copy of Nigella Christmas and told her to get on with lunch for 12.

Oh. My. Gawd. (As our American cousins like to say.) The absolute mess she made of it! Roast turkey with cumin in the stuffing, cranberry sauce that hadn’t been reduced enough, potatoes roasted in oil and not goose fat. Can you believe it?! I nearly got on a flight then and there, except I had an appointment the next day to have my earlobes waxed and I didn’t want to miss it. Sorry, where was I? Ah, yes.

When I confronted her she started jabbering on about how it was difficult to study the instructions at night because there was no power in her slum and how she didn’t know any English in the first place.

My advice, as with DEW1, is to fire the cook and get yourself a professional imported from the US of A.

Speaking of language difficulties, DEW2 also seems to have a problem with the natives’ jabbering. Take a breath, dear, and let us into the dark place you inhabit.

I’m not a fan of hearing miscellaneous Hindi … with the term “madam” being thrown in (in English) with the Hindi on a regular basis.  I know I’m being talked about … and while it doesn’t bother me if ya don’t like me or can’t stand me, it’s quite another thing to have the people that you employ doing it … right in front of you.

Doncha just hate it when the natives talk in their, you know, native language? It frustrates me no end that they can’t speak English proper.

My final piece of advice – because advising the DEWs is taxing and my earlobes need attending to – is to perhaps take the time to  learn the language of the country you’re living in.

I know it’s a bit “out there” and it might interfere with book club, canasta and the weekly wine tastings, but think of the joy when you know what your staff are planning to do with your carcass.

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