If someone told you they were a butler, your mind may conjure up images of elderly Englishmen with white gloves and immaculate manners. However, with the rise in opulent living, China’s rich are going the extra mile when it comes to planning their dinner parties.
For more than a decade, people like Neal Yeh, a Chinese-born Briton residing in Beijing, have been training and finding work for butlers. The trend, which is said to have been inspired by the popular television drama Downton Abbey, is becoming more popular every year as My Yeh says. “The country now with the biggest trend in butlers is China.”
In 2014, the International Butler Academy China opened in Chengdu. Offering a six-week intensive course, it focuses on butler staples such as dinner service, manners, managing homes and other elements of high living.
This began a steady rise in the amount of interest regarding the profession, and with this increase, many schools have received a record number of applicants in recent years, many of whom are women.
Many attribute the rise in interest to the increase in Chinese people going on vacation outside of China, as Christopher Noble, an American trainer at the academy, suggests. “The Chinese are vacationing more now … so they’re being exposed to the West more and more.” With more Chinese tourists experiencing high-class service, it’s not too strange a notion to believe that they would want to relive that experience at home.
A high number of the applicants watch shows like Downton Abbey saying that they only just began to grasp the benefits of butlers after watching the show. Yet budding butlers are not finding the training easy with rigourous rules being instilled with every class.
It’s not unusual to learn about wine- and water-pouring being repeatedly taught for hours, with each student holding the bottom of the wine bottle as they pour until the widest part of the glass repeatedly.
However, their hard work and diligence can pay off as graduates can earn a monthly wage of USD$2,800—but only if they are lucky enough to be hired by the growing number the rich-elite in China. Wages can be even higher if they are hired as personal butlers.
Yet in the end, this is a difficult profession, although this is not stopping the ever-growing trend of well-mannered Chinese pursuing a career as a butler.