Butlers in Beijing take to the office

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 August, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 August, 1994, 12:00am

TOGETHER with the fleet of Mercedes (some no doubt straight from Hong Kong) and the bills for fees sent from top English boarding schools, we hear having a butler is now the latest status symbol among China's elite.

Ivor Spencer, who trains butlers in one of Britain's top butlering schools, told us that over the past few months four of his pupils had been employed in Beijing.

''Those are the first to go to China, but I think it's going to become so popular that I now recommend all my pupils to learn Mandarin.'' ''French will probably remain the main second language, but Chinese could be the language of the future.'' All the Beijing butlers have reported one curious phenomenon about their jobs, which Ivor says he hasn't heard of anywhere else.

''In America and Britain, butlers tend to stay mostly in the house.

''But in China, they are often asked to go to work at the office.'' When business guests arrive at the office the butler is asked to go down to the reception area to greet them and bring them up to the employer.

He then knocks on the door and, in true Hollywood tradition, announces the visitor, before serving lunch.

''It's a huge status symbol,'' Ivor said.

Trainee butlers range in age from 17 to 60, Ivor said. ''We sent one, Ed Fenton, over to work for an employer in San Francisco after his training, which finished when he was 60. Now he's 70, fit as a fiddle, and has no intention of retiring.''