Monday, June 30, 2008

Expat Packages

I was recently reading the fantastic blog Daily Life in Rio and the author commented upon ‘typical” expat salary packages. It never ceases to amaze me how these packages differ depending upon whom you work for: embassy, big corporations, or NGO’s like Hubby. Needless to say, we are at the low end of that totem pole.

One of my favourite corporate benefits are rest and relaxation trips. These so called “R&R” trips are quarterly (or semi-annual) trips to anywhere you want to go. When I lived in Delhi, many of my friends used these paid mini-vacations to visit places like Singapore or Bali. My friends would return from these brief sojourns renewed and refreshed while I was still stressed from the daily chores of living in India. Hubby, it should be noted, has never received any such extra funds – we are supposed to like wherever we live and never want to leave.

Some extremely lucky people even have provisos in their contracts, which stipulate that they (and their families) will only fly business on flights over a certain number of hours. My favorite, however, has to be people who get “danger” or “hazard” pay. Now, if you’re running off to Sudan every month or so, I might understand that, but just to sit in Nairobi and do deskwork? Well, sign me up! Please?!

Other great non-Hubby benefits include quarterly DHL packages from the Real World filled with whatever you need or want and allowances that pay for everything from utility bills to your driver’s salary. The former would have been a great boon both here and in India where receiving mail in the same condition (and with the same contents) it was mailed in is an adventure in and of itself. BBA sent me a Christmas gift a few years ago that only took three months to arrive. The flip side of that would be the order I placed which arrived within the stipulated 10 days. I was then, however, asked to pay duty on it when it arrived: the so-called “duty” charges (aka baksheesh) were more than the contents were worth!

The biggest misconception about most expats is that they earn oodles of money. At least in Hubby’s case this is patently false. Yes, we earn a tax-free salary, but we don’t earn what some of the corporate types do when they agree to move abroad. Our benefits may slightly outstrip what could have been earned back the States but the actual take-home salary isn’t exactly what you read about in fashionable magazines.

All this kvetching aside, I can’t complain – we do have a great lifestyle here that we couldn’t afford back in the Real World. If we still lived our old lives back in the States, I wouldn’t be able to travel as much as I do. Nor would I have time for things like volunteer work, my book group, crafting, learning a new language, or any of the many things with which I fill my days. The NGO expatriate lifestyle, while not quite as wonderful as advertised, is still lovely and I wouldn’t trade my years in Delhi and Nairobi for anything.


Aurenna said...

You fibber! You'd change them all for a couple of years in Newcrumble, and you nose it! :D

Anonymous said...

Your Just Jealous as hell admit it!! But at least maybe I'll use one of those R&R's to visit you in Cairo!!