China / Society

The school that serves up butlers

By Li Yang (China Daily) Updated: 2016-02-01 07:34

The number of wealthy Chinese continues to rise, prompting greater demand for highly trained domestic servants. Li Yang reports from Chengdu

The school that serves up butlers

Vincenzo Matarrese, an instructor from Italy, demonstrates how to shine a pair of shoes in 12 steps during the opening ceremony of the school for butlers in Chengdu in 2014.

'Can a newspaper really be ironed, and what for?" asked Pei Yuchen, an office clerk at a State-owned enterprise, after reading about a school for butlers in Chengdu in the southwestern province of Sichuan. The 30-something's second question was: "Can a butler really make 1 million yuan ($152,000) a year?"

Pei, who grew up in a rural family in East China's Shandong province, is now considering quitting her job, which describes as "boring and predictable", because she believes working as a butler for a wealthy family will not only fatten her purse, but also be an eye-opening experience.

Tang Yang, public relations manager of the International Butler Academy in Chengdu, said she often received phone calls from people such as Pei, after the media reported the opening of the school, the first of its kind on the Chinese mainland, in July 2014.

The academy is affiliated to the academy headquartered in the Netherlands run by a veteran butler Robert Wennekes, who was born into a butlering family. Wennekes established the academy in 1999 in a 14th-century castle, after recognizing the great difficulty of finding high-quality, professional butlers for his clients.

As more billionaires appeared in China, Wennekes opened the Chengdu school in 2014, in cooperation with a local businesswoman in the real estate industry.

Forbes magazine's 2015 edition of the China Rich List, published on Oct 28, identified a record 335 billionaires from the Chinese mainland, second only to the United States, a rise of 93 individuals, or 38 percent year-on-year. In the past two years, China has seen about three to four new billionaires every week.

"After mansions, cars, yachts, jets and bodyguards, wealthy Chinese families need butlers. Higher-end property projects are also in a dire need of senior butlers to improve the quality of their services," said Pu Yan, the school's marketing director.

"The level of butler service directly indicates the taste of the masters. And China's new rich will pursue higher tastes of etiquette and higher-quality family life, which entails quality butler services," she added.

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