Domestic Staff in Thailand: How to Pay Your Cleaning Lady

My cleaning lady comes every Sunday at 9:30 and brings her cute three-year-old daughter who frolics and sings the whole time. Except for the fact that their visit cuts into morning chats at my local coffee shop, it’s a great arrangement. She’s fast, efficient and obliging. She not only cleans all my fans (they get dirty quickly) but removes and cleans the window screens and cleans all the windows in the house, inside and out, every week. Now my windows are clean and shining all the time (which few windows here are). She cleans the entire three bedroom, two bathroom house in under three hours and I pay her 300 Baht, US$10 – the minimum daily wage.

Thai cleaning lady
Thai cleaning lady

I’ve learned that the secret of keeping good cleaners is to pay them whether I’m home or away. I’ll spend six weeks at the beach in Australia this year and, when I return, I’ll pay my cleaning lady 6×300 = 1,800 Baht – for doing nothing in my absence. That six weeks off, plus a $60 windfall when she resumes cleaning, makes the job highly desirable. When the time comes for her to move on, she’ll give the job to another villager and everyone will be happy.

When you go away, remember to re-explain your arrangement. I use a calendar to cross off the weeks I’ll be away, then write in the amount I’ll pay her when I return. That helps allay any misunderstanding and sets her mind at ease: she’s still got a job and she knows when she can recommence work.


I’ve had difficulty keeping gardeners, for reasons that elude me. Bad luck, perhaps. My first guy was an artist with a weed whacker and could mow the lawn or sculpt the bushes with his. He was quick, missed nothing, tamed the weeds that grow outside my fence, and generally did a great job. But his wife died and he took to drink and, after a while, stopped showing up altogether. The next man was young, unreliable and careless: he cut several of my carefully-cultivated gecko vine roots, which set back my landscaping by 6 months. Currently I have the phone number of a man who does my neighbors’ garden but, so far, he hasn’t answered when I call. Here’s a great little Thai garden:

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