Remember when we were kids and we asked our parents for an “advance on our allowance” from the Bank of Mum and Dad? Or as I liked to call it, “Mummy whom I love and adore, may I please have $20 to go the movies?” Some parents made their kids work for their money. Others made their children justify the need for the money. The really nice ones gave their wonderful children the money realizing that they were good kids deep down and didn’t ask for money unless it was absolutely necessary – like seeing “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” on opening night.
In the developing world, even if you don’t have children you still get to be part of this long standing tradition of visiting the Bank of Mom - or, in this case, the Bank of Employer. Expats reading this know where I’m going but I’ll fill the rest of you in.
I dare you to find the expat who hasn’t been hit up for a loan by a member of their staff. In Delhi, both my sainted maid, Maria, and our driver, Swami, asked for loans at one point or another. I should note that they were both good about paying back these monies. I would also like to note that it was always the chump (aka Me) they approached first for their loan. I must look more gullible than Hubby.
Nairobi has been a continuation of the same. Our maid, V, asked for and received two loans before she had even been working for us for a month. (Ok, maybe I am the gullible one.) My problem is that I always feel bad… Stupid Catholic guilt!
Our driver, Pedro, recently went the radical route of asking Hubby, in writing no less, before mentioning anything to me. And now he needs money again. Did I mention that it’s been about two weeks since we agreed to loan him a small fortune the first time around? And now Hubby is out of town, which means that I’m stuck with Catholic Guilt which says, “Give him the money;” Expat Logic who says that I have to, “Say no or I’m setting a wickedly bad precedent;” and, finally, Real World Common Sense which dictates that, “He needs to give me something in writing from the people who need the money to explain what’s going on.”
Sadly, I’ve never had much common sense and I’ve only been an expat for two years, whereas I went to Catholic school for 13 years. I knew education would work against me eventually!
After weighing my options, I finally told Pedro that I would have to wait to talk to Hubby. Yeah, I’m passing the buck but let’s be honest - I’m not good at giving people bad news. In this case bad news would either telling Pedro no, or telling Hubby that I gave him the money. I hate being a wuss but I would hate it even more if I found out that the generosity of the Bank of Typ0 was being abused.