The question of how we deal with guests who travel with their own house staff has come up several times, both in blog comments and email inquiries. As you might imagine this has the potential of creating an awkward situation being that the guest's staff members are our industry peers, but our guests at the same time.
Fortunately, long before going into private service, I gained a lot of valuable experience in this regard due to employment in some fancy five-star hotels. In that environment it's pretty routine for the rich and famous to travel with the own personal assistants or nannies. Of course, rock stars and film divas arrive with a whole entourage - wardrobe assistants, hair and makeup people, secretaries and personal assistants, security personnel, not to leave out their current bed partner.
We had a frequent British gentleman who always brought along his Valet who stayed in a separate room. Bored to death and lonely, he would wander down to the lobby and hang out with us at the concierge desk, which was a little confusing. What is he? A guest, or a peer? But in no time I grew to admire this poor fellow and learned so much from him about proper British service. Even so, I had enough sense to maintain the boundary between guest and service personnel, which he seemed to understand and appreciate.
In private homes and private service things are not quite so chaotic. But it's not at all unusual for guests to arrive with their own personal assistants, or a nanny to take care of their little brats - which is a blessing to us of course, under the circumstances.
We once had a lady who came to the house with her own chef, due to her delicate health and dietary needs, and I thought all heck would break loose between her and our lazy-ass chef. But for some unknown and mysterious reason they seemed to hit it off and were filling the house with wonderful aromas. He didn't dash out that day like he usually does the minute his work is finished, and the next morning he showed up early, clean shaven and sober for God's sake. I don't even want to think about it.
The thing is, all these traveling staff members seem to be humble and polite in their new environment and circumstance, and seemingly relate to us as peers. They take their meals in the kitchen with us, not at the dining table with our employers. And, unlike their employers, they make few if any demands on us.
I don't really know if this is my own personal experience and good luck or if it's just the way it is when servants to the rich confront one another. We're all in the same boat, after all. But the basic bottom-line rule is that anyone sleeping under this roof is a guest, no matter their station in life, and treated accordingly.
Thanks for dropping in this evening. I hope this four-part series has shed some light on the subject of house guests, which we all have to deal with from time to time.