Having a Foreign Affair
Kate rolls out of bed, and there’s a smell of fresh coffee in the air.
Walking down the hallway into her open living room, a warm breeze comes through the open patio area. Unlike a North American or European home, there isn’t a wall separating her living room from her backyard. A large, tastefully extended awning keeps the warm rain from spattering into her living space.
Kate’s maid provides coffee, freshly squeezed mango juice and banana pancakes—perfect fuel before Kate heads off to the office, driven by a gentleman who couples as her gardener.
No, there’s nothing steamy going on between Kate and her man-helper. Kate’s love affair is with South East Asia.
Her children are just finishing their breakfast, and soon they’ll catch their bus to The International School of Bangkok, located miles from the hustle and bustle of downtown. With more than 50 different nationalities represented by the student body, socializing becomes an education in itself for the kids.
Working for Proctor & Gamble, Kate never imagined she’d be spending her entire career overseas. But she prefers working in Thailand to the grind she had in the U.S. Plus, Kate gets paid more; she pays fewer taxes; she doesn’t have to cook and clean; she has a personal masseuse, and she travels extensively every year to exotic places like Jordan, Fiji and Vietnam.
Thousands of people live like Kate: thousands of miles from where they grew up. They work for companies like Coca Cola, 3M, BP, Exxon Mobil, General Electric, Rolls Royce, Crocs, Bristol Myers, JP Morgan & Chase….the list is endless. And everywhere foreigners reside in large numbers, there are schools to service them. Singapore American School, where I teach high school English, has nearly 4000 attending students between Kindergarten and Grade 12.
Foreign cultures are like magnets for some people, and many expatriates wouldn’t dream of putting their kids in North American, European or Australian public schools.
That might sound bizarre. As an international teacher, when I speak of the benefits of working overseas to friends in Canada, they often say, “I couldn’t do that to my kids.”
Yet—when I ask friends overseas if they want to go back to Canada or the U.S., they say, “That wouldn’t be fair to my kids.”
There are pros and cons to living overseas. And I want to show you what they are. In a 3 part series, I’ll profile some overseas professionals who have worked in a variety of different locations. I’ll examine some of the benefits and difficulties associated with being a third culture kid, and I’ll show you what some of the pros and cons are, socially and financially for re-locating expatriates.
Speaking of financial benefits, shall I whet your appetite?
I have friends who recreationally ride horses weekly; their kids are involved in soccer, ballet, and they live in an expatriate community of 12,000 people—thousands of miles from home. Before leaving Canada, neither of them had ever made more than $60,000 a year. This past year, his first pay check alone was $30,000 for the first month. Granted, the business gave him a “settling in” allowance, but the couple figures they can easily save more than $100,000 U.S. a year—while travelling prolifically during their time off. I said “SAVE” $100,000 a year. And he does the same job that he did back in Canada—back when he and wife’s combined after tax salaries totalled about $80,000.
Where do they live? What do they do? I’ll reveal that, and more, in my next post.
So…what do you know about expat living? And what would you like to know?