68, from Shanghai. Worked as an ayi for 13 years; previously worked in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region; more than 10 years with current employer.
Jean Wylie, 40, from Scotland, in Shanghai for 12 years. Managing director of a PR firm. Speaks good Mandarin. Lives alone. Had four ayis, two in Shanghai, including current one, two earlier in Beijing. Another employer Jeremy Chapman is from UK.
Wylie's father, who is elderly, once stayed in Shanghai, along with Wylie's sister. Zheng insisted on coming every day. She went to the fabric market shopping with them and helped them get good prices. When they left, Zheng gave her father a treasured porcelain plate.
Zheng doesn't cook regularly but occasionally takes dishes over, such as stir-fried shrimp and preserved chicken.
"She always says it's delicious," Zheng said. "Since I spent many years in Ningxia, I like it a bit spicy and fortunately she does too."
• Biggest difference
Wylie: The biggest difference is that I don't have to worry about daily-life things anymore. She loves to take care of me, and I love to be taken care of. She looks after everything, such as dry-cleaning and making me little dishes for lunch. She likes to go arm in arm with me when we cross the street and she always makes sure I get the best price when we go shopping. She is just like my mother and with her, life is easy.
• Most touching moment:
Wylie: Once when I was very, very sick, Zheng made congee and a medicinal dish. She got up at 5am so it would be ready for me for breakfast. She bought plasters with some kind of hot pepper to take the pain out of my aching back. She helped put them on as if she was my mother and watched as I ate every spoon of congee.
• Cultural differences
Wylie: The ayi just walks into my bedroom in the morning when I am changing — she has chores, but I am completely naked.
It's very important for each to tell the other what they want. As long as you let people know what you want, they will understand and the difference is not that remarkable.
Wylie: Mutual trust is very important. I can absolutely trust the ayi, and I never worry about leaving money or jewelry where it can be seen ... We treat each other like family. She frequently visits Ningxia and brings back lamb, wolf berries, wool and cashmere.
Zheng: I love Jean and Jeremy and I am happy for what I have here, with my foreign children. If they returned home, I would consider retiring, but not before.
• Learning from ayi
Wylie: The ayi always tells me when I spend too much or flowers, water bill is too high or the air-conditioning is on too much ... When she cooks, even a little dish, she tells me exactly how to do it, even dumplings.
• Advice to ayi
Wylie: I had to explain about separate washes for whites, colors and black, what needs to be hand-washed, what needs to be dry-cleaned, and what should not be ironed.