Employees by day, tourists by night
Hundreds of thousands of women choose to become domestic workers in Beijing. Most do the work because wages in the metropolis are higher than in other cities, but for some, the work offers an opportunity for domestic tourism and a chance to broaden their horizons in China’s ancient capital.
Ding Surong is a retired primary school teacher from the outskirts of Hegang city, Heilongjiang province. The 60-year-old was once employed as a domestic worker in Harbin while her daughter attended university inthe city, the provincial capital.
The single mother chose domestic work because she was under pressure as a result of supporting her daughter through university, but her decision to pursue the same line of work in Beijing was mainly due to her curiosity about the city.
“I wanted to hang around in Beijing,” she said, adding that many zhiqing— youngpeoplefromurban areas who were sent to the countryside around “the cultural revolution” (1966-76) — who worked on
I played around Beijing while working as a domestic helper. It was a very nice way to learn about local customs and practices.”
Ding Surong, a 60-year-old domestic worker in Beijing her farm now live in Beijing, as do many of her former students.
“It (domestic work) suited me well. Therewasnoneed forany further study, and working in a client’s home was just like working at home. All you needed to do was cook and clean the house,” she said. “I played around Beijing while working as a domestic helper. It was a very nice way to learn about local customs and practices.”
Ding chose to only work for seniors. “I had been around children formorethan half ofmy life, I didn’t want to care for children anymore,” she said, “Some of the seniors I worked for were intellectuals and veterans. I learned a lot from them.”
During her seven years in the capital, she visited almost all of Beijing’s major tourist attractions, but has also traveled to Xi’an in Shaanxi province and the northern port city of Tianjin.
Last year, Ding quit her job and went back to herhometown to help her daughter, who is planning to open a kindergarten.
When Jia Huifeng was laid off from her job as an accountant at a factory in Shanxi province in the 1990s, she became a businesswoman and then a domestic worker in Beijing in 2007.
“I had been thinking about coming to Beijing after I was laid off,” said the 55-year-old. “Many people have to spend money on tourism and having fun in Beijing, but I can tour the city while working here. It’s a lot of fun.”