Whether or not you think Regina Ip’s comments about Filipino maids were racist or just plain wrong, they must surely strike a cord with every married expat woman in Hong Kong. While I can’t help but smile at the alleged request of Discovery Bay housewives for legal action to stop their helpers seducing their husbands, there’s a niggle at the heart of it.
Soon after moving here I read a piece in The Times where a man claimed to have the inside track on expat wives’ lunches in Hong Kong. He decreed that we inevitably talk about “amah drama” – live-in helpers not only enjoying extra curricular activities with their gweilo employer’s husband but, gasp, marrying him.
I can honestly say I’ve never heard the phrase amah drama. Clearly I’m not mixing in the right circles. Or going to the right lunches. Or maybe this is just the attention grabbing, made up media construct it smacks off. How does a guy know so much about wives’ lunches? Hasn’t he got better things to do, like working hard so his wife can go to Zuma every day. And the only people I know who still use the phrase “amah” are British boarding school kids who left HK long ago and are possibly fending off the Eastern European nanny in South West London as I write.
Admittedly I have met one woman who said that women with live in helpers “always think” their husbands will run off with them. But being as we were at a party hosted by her divorce lawyer and that this had happened to her, she would say that wouldn’t she.
My friend, N, tells me that single British women usually go home not because their expat packages have run out but they can’t find a partner – all their male counterparts choose Asian girlfriends. Minxy Filipino maids is not what N is talking about though, rather the gorgeous single Hong Kong women.
There’s an interesting flip side to this. R, who has been married forever and is the most confident woman I know in Hong Kong says it’s her Chinese friends married to gweilo husbands who are worried, “They know their husbands like Asian women so they don’t let them out of their sight.”
Of course, I have the odd, fleeting pang but like any sane person I swiftly push it to the back of my mind. While I was still an editor in London a remarkable young woman told me that she doesn’t let her mind “go to dark places”. And this was someone who survived not one but two highly risky brain tumour operations. She simply won’t let herself ask “what if?”. Sounds like good advice to me.