30 August 2013

More Moaning

I feel like I'm having a really hard time fitting in with the new group of expats I'm hanging out with. I'm not even overseas yet, but we're all sort of cooped up in what feels like a holding pen while we're waiting.  Since I have a five-year-old, I spend a lot of time at the playground and talking to other parents (if I'm not reading).

I really like many of the people I've met.  They're interesting to talk to and have lived in interesting places.  They have nice children and spouses.  Many were born in other countries (love that).

But a common theme is that our employer doesn't do enough for us/pay us enough.* As expat jobs go, this one is pretty average.  It is very, very easy to find other expats who get WAY more money and benefits than we do.

For example, take a business expat in Singapore.  Like a lot of expats, they get a cost of living addition to their salary.  Singapore is expensive, yes.  But that cost of living benefit alone is more than our monthly salary.  I don't even want to know what their salary is. And that doesn't include the housing and schools and travel to your home country and so much more. It's not hard to feel poor in Singapore if a lot of your friends make that much money.

But from my perspective, this new job makes it so much easier for us to go overseas. In Bishkek most expats expect to get some sort of hardship pay in addition to a cost of living benefit.  For people working in the same line my husband does, that extra hardship and cost of living pay per month is more than what we got per month on our grant- and that was everything we got.  Nothing extra for airfare, housing, or schooling.  Or hardship. Airfare alone ate up several months' money. But it was easy to live on that amount in Kyrgyzstan.

I also didn't have very many expat friends. We did have a few who were "volunteers," and while they were definitely better off than we were, they still are often some of the least well-off expats. Nearly all of our friends were local and it's pretty hard to feel poor when your best friends are unemployed, or living off measly pensions, or even making $500/month, which would have been wonderful.

So I spend a lot of time being quiet about the financial aspects of this job because I'm just not feeling it.  And the few times I've tried to explain how I feel, I don't think I managed to explain things well.  It's like I lived in a completely different expat world.

*Another favorite discussion/complaint is household help.  I have to shut those conversations down immediately or I'd run screaming from the playground.  It's one thing to complain about your temperamental electric dishwasher, but if your dishwasher is a human being you've hired to work for you, I am not at all sympathetic if you don't like them.  I wouldn't want to work for you either.


  1. So I'm guessing it will be awhile before you start giving out your blog address to your local expat friends :) Otherwise you'll lose your venting place.

    I can kind of relate to this, having toughed it out economically in more than one foreign country. I sometimes feel stuck between feeling like an expat and an immigrant, like I can't really fit myself into either category: http://casteluzzo.com/2010/10/05/are-you-an-expat-or-an-immigrant/

  2. Yeah, I probably wouldn't make too many friends through this. I don't think I've ever given out my blog address to a real-life friend anyway, even though a few have found it.

  3. AMEN! I got many earfuls of "I hate China" whining when my husband and I were living out of two suitcases in a hotel room, making enough to cover our return tickets home. And these were people who lived in their American-suburb gated communities, cooked American food, had all American friends, and as far as I could see, never actually went" to China. Some of it is that people love to complain. Another reason, though, is that these women are lonely, suddenly illiterate, frustrated, and overwhelmed, tagging along with their husbands on a job, living a lifestyle they never envisioned for themselves. There's often a root to the problem.