Building a Happy Relationship with Korean-Chinese Nannies

      September 19, 2008 10:49

      Ethnic Koreans from mainland China are popular among Korean mothers as nannies as well as maids, thanks to the fact that they speak Korean and it costs less to hire them.

      But because of inevitable differences between the dialects and culture, due to a lack of contact during most of the last century, many Koreans experience conflicts with their Korean-Chinese babysitters.

      Of course, some have managed to build trust with their nannies, having spent more than 10 years together just like a family, but there are others who suffer from cultural clashes.

      Korean parents are concerned that the nannies may be negligent in taking care of their children, and the nannies are worried about losing the trust of their employers. So what will it take to maintain a healthy relationship between Korean parents and ethnic Korean nannies?

      ◆ Well Begun Is Half Done

      A rocky start means a rocky ending. If you fail to build a positive relationship from the outset, life will be difficult for both the parents and the nanny. Shin, a 41-year-old working mother who has been entrusting childcare duties to an ethnic Korean from mainland China for seven years, says, "The clearer the contract, the fewer the disputes. Once you started off wrong, it is extremely difficult to set things straight again."

      Cho, a 32-year-old mother of two children aged two years and 7 months, signed a detailed written contract to minimize possible conflicts. The working hours and holidays were indicated in detail. Cho is equally responsible for not demanding too much. She cannot ask the babysitter to work on Saturday with just a day's notice.

      ◆ Do Not Compare with Others

      Chung, a 34-year-old working mother who has employed an ethnic Korean nanny for three years, says, "A simple thing I learned after much trial and error is that you should never compare with others." Nannies chat when they come out to the playground with the children and they compare their working conditions. "I was worried when she was saying who has how many days off, and was complaining about salary compared to others," says Chung. She demurred when the babysitter asked for too much. Instead, she decided to set a rule for herself -- never compare her nanny with others either. "Because each household has different circumstances, it is important to find a way that works for just the two of us," she says.

      ◆ Praise Always Works

      A foreign accent, different usage of Korean and different food are among the issues that concern Korean parents. Park, a 37-year-old mother of three-year-old twins, has been living with an ethnic Korean nanny for three years. When she heard her babysitter using language that was inappropriate in Korea, she corrected her immediately, and taught her how to cook Korean food for two months. But at the same time, she encouraged her babysitter to make Korean-Chinese food as well, such as stir-fried eggplant and beansprout, scrambled egg and tomato, and noodles. A word of thanks and encouragement will make the relationship much easier.

      ◆ Make Full Use of a Whiteboard and Journal

      Lee Hyo-jung, CEO of Babysitter Korea, recommended writing a childcare journal, which would help minimize distrust between the mother and the babysitter, and help the childcare plan. The important thing is to make it clear that the purpose of writing journal is not for supervision but for the record. Chung, a 45-year-old housewife who has had an ethnic Korean live-in nanny for 10 years, advises, "Pay due respect, but do not talk too much about personal things, and make sure to remind her that it is a relationship based on a contract."

      What needs to be done when the relationship sours to a point where it is irrecoverable? Park Young-soon, head of Bumomaum, a babysitting service provider, advises, "When replacing a nanny with new one, first consider the relationship between the child and the nanny, not the one between the nanny and you."

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