Common Issues for Helpers





+ Communication

Talk, talk, talk! Your adjustment to HK will go more smoothly and your level of happiness will increase if you learn to communicate Hong Kong style.

What is HK Style:


If we don't like something, we will tell you straight away.


We expect you to give us the raw facts, not paint a picture to make yourself look good.


HK people are dramatic in their speech - high tones, short expressions of anger, frustration, surprise are common.


Your employer is allowed to speak in an angry, surprised shocked tone to you, BUT you must not respond in the same tone. In HK we always speak in a respectful tone to authority figures including our teachers, our leaders, and our employers.

Like it or not - you will receive feedback on your performance, AND in Hong Kong most of the feedback will seem to be NEGATIVE

How to Handle Feedback

  • Invite feedback
    In the first 2 weeks ask your employer to check your work "Ma'am, is this what you had in mind? Is this OK? Would you taste this? inspect this? If you ASK, your employer will know they have hired a confident competent helper. And, you won't feel so bad if it is "negative" because you asked for it.
  • Change your belief about feedback
    "Negative" feedback is your friend. It not only tells you what things will lose you points in the eyes of your employer, it also tells you how to score points in the eyes of your employer, Stop thinking about feedback as a reflection on you as a person. It is NOT personal. It's not about you, it's about doing things the way your employer wants you to do them. Embrace feedback, adjust your performance and win!!
  • Respond to feedback appropriately
    When your employer gives you feedback just listen carefully. In most cases just say "Sorry ma'am, Sir". If they are teaching you something new that you didn't know before say "Thank you! I appreciate you teaching me this."

Do not make excuses or try to explain even if they ask "Why did you do that?" In most cases they don't really want to know.

Did you know that you can hear a smile? If you smile when you answer the phone, the person on the other end of the line can hear and detect your smile. Staying and behaving in a cheerful way is part of your job.

Jollibee counter workers are expected to greet customers with a smile and a cheerful "Welcome to Jollibee, can I help you?" It doesn't matter if the worker has a bad day or not - it is part of the job! You also are in a service industry job and it is important for you to smile and greet your employer warmly, politely and professionally at all times. It doesn't matter if you don't FEEL like it. That is why we call it "performance".

+ Day-off

"Six days shall you work, but on the 7th day - Rest!" Genesis 1

You work hard, you deserve a day off every week. Under HK law your employer must give you one day off a week, BUT the employer has the right to choose which day they will give you. Employers whose days off always change (police, nurses, flight attendants, etc) won't often be able to give a weekend off.

By law the day off is 24 hours, but since most helpers live with their employers they usually return home between 9-10 p.m. so as not to disturb the family when they come in.

Your family and friends in Hong Kong may put pressure on you to take a certain day off or stay out late on your day off. If you have agreed with your employer to be back by a certain time on your day off, then you need to follow your agreement. If you want to change that agreement, talk to your employer about it during the week, BUT do not unilaterally decide to stay out later than agreed, UNLESS of course you want to get fired and go back home to the Philippines

Do not agree with your employer to regularly work on your day off in exchange for money. First - it is illegal. You may work on a day off occasionally but it is illegal to do this regularly. Secondly, with no day off you will burn out in 6 months. Helpers who give up their day off almost NEVER last more than 6 months.

+ Food and Rest

FOOD: "You can't eat shy!"
After one week of work helpers often complain about being hungry. They are expecting their employers to "tell them to eat" Kain ka tayo!" It's not going to happen. Hong Kong people are busy and assume that if you are hungry, you will eat. You NEED to ASK "Sir/Madam, when should I have my meals?" Employers will usually ask you what you like to eat and it is important that you answer truthfully. If you love rice, say so or you may end up eating Ramen Noodles for 2 years. If you feel like you are not getting enough calories, say so. Tell them, "Please increase my food portion because I am losing weight and often feel hungry." Hong Kong people don't mind you bringing it up and we will feel bad if you feel hungry but don't say anything. Speak up!

Average adults need 7-8 hours of sleep a night. So do you. If you don't get enough sleep then you will NOT finish your contract. If you are not getting enough rest, please talk to your employer about this problem. The best approach is to say "Ma'am / Sir, I want to finish my contract and take good care of your child, but I'm facing a problem and I need your help." "I'm not getting enough rest at night and I can tell my performance and mental sharpness is being effected. What can I do?" Allow them to fix the problem.

+ Fear!

"We have nothing to fear but fear itself" President Franklin D. Roosevelt
"Fear not!" Jesus from Nazareth

If I had one dollar for every time a Filipina told me "Sir, I'm afraid", I could buy a new iPhone. New arrivals in Hong Kong bring along a lot of fear in their luggage.

The boss yells at them - they are afraid;
The boss points at them - they are afraid;
The boss says "I'll call Immigration and report you" - they are afraid.

And because they are afraid - they want to resign. One helper told me "I'm afraid my employer will fire me, so I want to resign first."

If you find that you are afraid what should you do?

  1. Take a deep breath and calm yourself down. More than 90% of the things we fear NEVER come to pass, so odds are that whatever you are afraid of will not happen either.
  2. Decide NOT to make ANY decisions when in the middle of strong emotions. Emotional decisions are almost always 100% wrong decisions.
  3. Understand your rights and the protections provided by HK law. In HK the Labor regulations that protect every worker in Hong Kong also extend to and protect domestic helpers. Read the Practical Guide to the Employment of Foreign Domestic Helpers
  4. Call Arrow and talk to our staff
  5. If you really have a reason to believe that someone may physically harm you call 999 and talk to emergency services.