I grew up in the Toronto area, was an honour roll student, studied a lot. loved music, play piano. did well in math and science. I also took up horse back riding and martial arts as a kid, competing in both and winning quite a few awards locally and on a national level and travelling to a lot of big competitions and seminars in the states to learn more and compete.
|Typical picture of what a butler was in the past.|
I followed the martial arts for a few years. It doesn't pay - more of a hobby I enjoyed and excelled at. I coached, trained and competed. On the side I was a server, bartender and house keeper for a hotel chain for about 12 years. I'm now in my thirties.
Favourite hobbies, passions, pursuits?
Vegetarian cooking. martial arts. yoga. horses. I love my two kitties.
|One of the perks is driving luxury cars!|
What preconceptions did you have about the life and work of a butler before you started?
I had no idea what to think, no expectations. I love to watch Downton Abbey, but that has history as well. I was trained very formally, but the home I work in is rather informal. Compared to how most people live it's uptight, but in general it's relaxed atmosphere, not pretentious. My bosses are very kind and we actually have a small staff, so every one knows each other well.
What has surprised you about your responsibilities?
For a uniform I have a full on suit with white button up shirt, collar, black tie, black jacket. However, I rarely wear it. In my day to day chores I wear leggings and t-shirt. Modest. Where we travel during the winter it's hot so I wear shorts and a t-shirt. When we have guests I put on a simple black dress, panty hose, plain flat shoes.
It really depends on the employer and contract that you negotiate. I'm on call pretty much. If they ask me to come in, I do. My contract is for x number of hours with x days off per year. As they often travel, I usually take my "off" time when they are away. I work eight days in a row before my two off. I'm flexible because that's what my employer wants. There are definitely jobs that are 9-5. For example, a new job position in recent decades is the Corporate Butler who assists the key positions: CEO, Pres, VP etc board members. They drop dry cleaning, schedule appointments, run for coffee, etc. I have signed up to work every Saturday and Sunday as my co workers all have those ones off.
-Work out days: They both go down to meet the trainer in the personal gym. Sometimes the yoga teacher comes on the weekend and masseuse with table. I put out water, workout towels and running shoes by the front door in the direction of their gym (yes, their gym. it sits empty the other 160 hours of the week)
-Breakfast: It is formal. Plate, side plate, two forks, big spoon. tea spoon, two knives, linen napkin, not paper, fruit platter, eggs, toast, gluten free toast thing, oatmeal, topping for oat meal, yogurt, tea, more coffee and sometimes a meat dish or veggie scrambled eggs.
-I can load a whole dishwasher on just breakfast. It's okay. We have three dishwashers in the one kitchen, perpetual and double laundry system. We're not trying to save the planet, we're trying to upkeep standards of the house hold.
-Afternoon is cleaning and errands. It takes about 45 minutes to really clean the bathroom. I wipe everything in the four living rooms. Wipe each TV. Dust pretty much every artifact and antique /I can reach. Vacuum 6000 square feet a few times a week. Iron everything that comes through the laundry including pyjamas, bed sheets and underwear; and of course all formal wear. Clean coffee tables, if the kids or grand kids have been around. Put shoes away and hang up coats in closet. Tidy the guest room / play room / media room.
-Night: Flip the last loads of laundry. We don't leave unfolded laundry sitting around. If you don't have time for it to dry, don't put it in the wash. save it for tomorrow. We run about 6 loads of laundry per day depending on how many people are staying and/or how many family member are around.
-They are both retired and don't go to work. but often have lunch dates / board meetings / charity events / golf games to attend. I drive them to the airport, doctors appointments, I call the dentist to make appointments, buy groceries, baby sit the grand kids, walk the dog, get the mail from the mail box, email, print, FedEx, fax, scan, copy and fix the settings on their iPad. Tutor math and science!
What do you love best about your job? Least? Is there a funniest moment you can share?
I love driving the fancy cars. I never thought I would be that chick but man, there's something about a Ferrari that feels special. Top down, drop at the airport and then O need to take the car back. It's always the return trip I love when I'm alone. And there are so many different cars. It's not really a Ferrari. I had to say something though!
Least favourite task is ironing bed sheets. the fitted sheet is my nemesis. I'm good at it. but it's not easy. Funniest moment was when he had a lab test his doctor wanted him to do involving peeing in a jug for 24 hours. My job was to drop it at the lab. Here, please take my piss to the lab. Sure. Yes sir. Another time, I drove two hours, to a rural town in Ontario. He had installed a pool for a set of the cousins. My job was to put a big red ribbon over the pool cover with a sign that had the kids names on it. I made the sign, bought thick velvet ribbon from a craft store and got crafty! I took a picture, emailed to boss, who was half way across the planet and when the twins came home from school, on their birthday, they had a new pool!
In the past this has traditionally been a male occupation. Is that changing? Do you know other
It's the Muslim community that prefer female employees, especially Western females. They have a thing about women and men not touching - can't shake hands etc. - and if you have a man in your house and you're a woman, every time you leave your bedroom, you need to be covered head to toe including your hair. It's not practical. Plus they can only marry into their own culture, so if you're not Muslim you're not a threat to any marriage. I know of a family that prefers female staff for that reason. They have 7 employees, all female, mostly Mexican. That way the daughter and the mom don't have to cover up to eat breakfast in their own kitchen.
List some of the most important characteristics to excel at this type of work. I would assume confidentiality is top of the list.
|Zita Langenstein - as of 2009,|
Switzerland's only female butler
I have actually had to lie a little bit already, but I try and make up things that are close to the truth. I rarely tell people what I actually do for work. I imply my former job of martial arts coach, as I'm still active in that community plus the bar tending on the weekends. I post nothing on Facebook that would imply I even know my boss. I work long days. I don't drink. I have no social life really, but I have a career I love and I'm kinda a quiet person now.