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Phuket: A guide to effectively communicating with home help

PHUKET: Claire Connell speaks to Bangkok author Kristen Rossi about her new book Maid in Thailand, designed to assist with communication between foreigners and their home help.

By Claire Connell

Sunday 12 May 2013, 03:37PM

Tell us a bit about yourself. 

I am American, born and raised in New York. I have been in Bangkok since 2007 with a short hiatus in London in 2008.
I have my Bachelor of Arts in acting; it is my passion.
I work as a performer (actress, singer and swing dancer) in Bangkok. I have started my own show, Broadway Babe: Vintage Nights, one hour musical revues based around a loose story.
My performance website is kristenevelynrossi.com and you can find Broadway Babe information on Facebook.

What is your newly released book, Maid in Thailand, about?

The book is a trilingual guide for dealing with your household help and them with you.
The first section is a guidebook; where to look for a maid, things to think about pre- and post-hire, cleaning instructions, tips for your maid and so on.
The second section is a cookbook with Western recipes, an ingredient index and conversion information. The entire book is in Thai, English and Burmese.

Who is the book for?

The book is designed for newer expatriates that have never had to deal with household help before, and also for more seasoned expats that have new maids that they struggle to communicate with – primarily Burmese but also Thai.

Where did the idea come from?

I got the idea two years ago. I had a Burmese maid that could speak Thai but only read Burmese and spoke no English. We communicated in Thai but written language was a problem.
I bought a Burmese/English dictionary to help when we had issues, but when it came to cooking I had to print out two English copies of the recipe then literally hold up each ingredient and have her translate it next to the word in English.
For someone with little patience and a lot to do, it was very tedious. I tried to find Burmese/English cookbooks but struggled so I thought, why not make one myself?
Then friends of mine, photographers Dennie and DK Cody, suggested if I was going to make a book, why not do a full book? Not just on cooking, but a guide on running the house. So, I did.

What research did you do, and what was the process to create the book?

The book took about two years from start to finish. The information is a mix of things I have learned and found useful over the course of my time in Bangkok mixed with information and tips from other long term expat friends.
I started out first with the cookbook. I chose a variety of dishes, a combination of ones I really like and ones I thought would go well together.
Once that was finished I cooked them all again to make sure I was happy with the recipes I had (my friends enjoyed this part of the process!) and then I started on the guidebook section.
I used several translators. Myat translated the Burmese and then I had another Burmese friend proof read it.
With the Thai part, I had two translators translate the book and two additional proofreaders.

What has the feedback been like so far?

The book was released in December and this is the second print run.
The reaction so far has been great. People are really excited to have a book that helps them communicate with their household staff, especially of Burmese descent as there are not many books in Thailand in Burmese.
The content is to be used by both the employer and employee.

You are working on a sequel, can you provide some details?
The sequel will not be a guidebook but about maids in Thailand; their stories. Think the film The Help, but set in present day Southeast Asia instead of 1950s US.

Maid in Thailand is available for B420 from traveleasyasia.com; by emailing kristenevelyn@traveleasyasia.com; at Chulalongkorn University’s bookstore in Bangkok; or online as a downloadable PDF at tinyurl.com/maidinthailand



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