10 January 2006

Bishkek Belly?

When I started to look for more information about moving to Bishkek, someone on the WTM boards recommended Real Post Reports (or talesmag, or Tales from a Small Planet). It is a handy little site and even had a recent report from Bishkek which was very helpful.

They put up a new report a few weeks ago. A couple of things in it amused me. She was very opposed to taking any kind of public transportation- she said those who ride the minibuses "must have strong stomachs or no sense of smell or a grand sense of adventure." I wonder which one of those I have. And what is her thing with "Bishkek belly"? I've never heard that before, and I've certainly been no worse off than I was in the Middle East.

The thing is, most expats couldn't live the way the US Embassy people do, and that's who's writing most of the reports for this website. Business expats could, but there aren't many in Bishkek. I couldn't possibly afford the over-$2000/month rent; the full-time driver, nanny, gardener, and housekeeper (that would add up to around $500/month); and the $1000/month tuition at the International School.

I think it's reasonable for expats to have a similar standard of living to what they did in the US. We're reasonably close to ours, although it's a little lower here. I do have someone clean once a week, but other household chores take more time here, especially boiling and filtering all the water. Other than that, I don't have anything here that I didn't have in the US. And I don't have a library (sob).

It's the living an extravagant lifestyle in a poor country that bothers me. Tales of a Female Nomad mentioned this. She spent some time with some expats in Guatemala (although clearly a limited set) and summed it up pretty well- "the ex-pats are living in luxury for next to nothing." Well, maybe for next to nothing compared to what you'd pay in the US, but it really can add up- and your tax dollars pay for it.


  1. I have written this comment -now- 4 times, trying not to offend. I found it hard to read what the author of the article wrote because it sounded very elitest, and almost mocking at points.

    It bothered me that this person and many others like her represent what others will see as the 'average American'. It reminded me of an interview Dave Letterman had with Hillary Clinton where they were discussing how to help the working families in the US. (like somehow working families are a minority) They were talking like all lower income workers were making around $80-$90k per year. The topic came up on how there are "literally -other- people whose paychecks are only $24,000 per year! I mean really how are these people surviving?" It was a good question, but the greater one would have been to ask either of these millionares if they knew the kind of work these people were doing for that $24k. Not a few years ago it could have been pretty much every first year teacher in CA.

    It amazes me how the folks in power just assume everyone is making $100k or better a year and that everyone has a nanny, gardener, and pays the kind of money for housing they do.

    It also bothers me that these same people mock or turn up there noses at folks who have cultures different than our own which are full and rich and amazing - if they could look beyond the horrid "generator in the front yard" and see them. This unfortunate woman spent 2 years in another country and never learned a thing about it's most valued asset, the people. She missed out on "fun things to do" because after a while "just going outside" was obviously boring to her.

    Ugh. What a difference your view has given us. Again, I am begging you, write these experiences down and publish a book. Write a review for Small Planet!

    Well I have reread this and again I want to delete, but I won't.

  2. Can we say Ugly American. Where do we think people get the image of the all consuming all powerful America. From our own consumption and the ex-pats that do such a good job of being obnoxious.

    Sorry for the rant Amira. You put it much more eloquently.

  3. Americans actually have a pretty good rep here in the UAE, compared to other expats. And honestly, the expats we have gotten to know in our little town are not the obnoxious kind, just the adventurous, open-minded kind. Why else would they be here in the middle of nowhere? :) But I've heard horror stories about the antics of higher-paid expats in the big cities, who really are there just for the money.

  4. Thanks, all.

    I agree with Michelle. There are many, many wonderful expatriates out there. The best are those who want to live overseas. But so many, especially business expats, are assigned and have little choice. Embassy families don't always have much choice in their assignments either.

    There are many hard things about working for the foreign service. Moving your family around often, changing schools, dealing with new cultures and languages all the time can be very, very tiring.

    It's like every group of people- you'll find good and bad everywhere.