I had a chat with an old high school friend yesterday on Facebook. I don’t know how we got on the topic of cleaning ladies, but we did. Yes, politically incorrect, but in Turkey, there is really no such thing as a male housekeeper.
I told him that in Turkey it is very common for almost everyone to have a cleaning lady. They come at least once a week to most homes. If a family can not afford one, then the woman of the family spends much of her day cleaning. At retirement age, the government actually will provide a cleaning lady for you. I’m not sure, but I think that is once a month.
In Turkey, the cleaning lady does windows! This is a very important part of the job. Windows need to be done regularly because the cities are covered in dust and concrete. When it rains, even just a little, there is no place for the water to go, so the rain splatters against the dust and your windows end up just filthy. Sometimes, depending on who my house guest is, I find myself being more and more embarrassed by spots on my windows.
Who cares, you might ask? The Turks do. One thing Turks are really proud of is the cleanliness of their homes. I don’t always agree with how they clean, throwing buckets of cold water on the floors, using waaaay to much bleach on everything, and so on. But I must admit, I have never seen anything less than a sparkling home here.
Cleaning ladies will often cook for you as well. I have had to turn that down many times. I like to cook. If I want Turkish food, then I learn to cook that too, or my husband does it. Of course, his mother will always drop off something special when she comes. Let’s face it, you are never going to catch me rolling and stuffing grape leaves!
This friend in the States also has a cleaning lady who comes once a week. This is much more uncommon in the States. We care how our homes look, but we care much more about other things. We clean when we have time and energy, focusing our interests on work, children, fun and more fun. We don’t lose sleep over a spill on the floor that hasn’t been mopped up.
My friend pays $100 for one day. In Turkey, especially for foreigners, we pay about 100 TL for one day. (Foreigners often have larger houses. But I think the cleaning “mafia” is on to us, and knows what the market will bear.) It’s about half the price of what an American pays in the States. I was surprised by the U.S. price, because I believe that on average, a Turk earns less than 50% of what an American earns. In addition, while some things are much more expensive than in the States (cars, gas, electronics, meat), most things are cheaper. So 100 TL really seems high to me. But, they do work hard.
My friend’s wife does not work, but she does do other things. So he was sort of okay with having a cleaning lady. But he couldn’t help think about what he could buy with that money instead.
One hundred dollars a week. That’s $5200 dollars a year. In ten years, he could save enough for one year of a decent private university for his kid in the States. In one year, they are spending for cleaning ladies, almost 1/3 of a decent Turkish salary.
So at 100 Turkish Lira, one living in Turkey and earning 3000 TL per month (after taxes) is spending 14% of their salary on a clean house.
I am a cleaning machine, but I am not going to hang out on a ledge to do windows. So when I lost my job, I cut back to “once in a while” for a cleaning lady. So far, that has been once in two months.
I don’t have any kids and am therefore not saving for college tuition. But still, once in a while seems like too much to me. I’ve been becoming a little too Turkish. Time to cut back even more and use those TLs on something a little more important to me — like travel, retirement, and health care!