The Writer just wrote about spoiled expatriates, “those who come from developed country and get a job in developing country and live like a king/queen“. With salary which is unbelievably higher than a local standard – mostly due to ridiculous exchange rates and tax regulations – and lots of allowances, they soon embrace a lavish lifestyle with maids, gardeners, security guards, and so on.
I couldn’t deny that many expats are living like that. Being expats means they have to sacrifice many things: their life back home, their friends and family, their comfortable surrounding, to go to a foreign place thousands miles away from home with different customs, food, culture, temperature, and work attitudes. Many of them are reluctant to be posted overseas, especially if they have children to think about, or will be posted in a not-so-popular country like Colombia (and I don’t think they will jump in joy when they know they will be sent to Indonesia!), and have to be lured to say yes (hence the allowances and first-class treatments). Lots of them are in the managerial position or even higher (because some company applies a rule that you can be posted overseas at least after 8 years serving the company), so they are entitled those allowances even in their own country, like flying with business or first class, unlimited mobile phone usage allowance (this is very handy, many occasions my mobile went dead because I exceeded the limit; very annoying when it happened when I was in a meeting overseas!), and so on. First-class treatment is automatically expected, or else they’d choose not to take their overseas posting. I have heard a story about one country manager of a Fortune 500 company who was just posted in Indonesia, and he must inspect some houses before deciding which one he would reside for the next 4 years, and my friend had to take him to several locations. Because it was scheduled on Saturday, my friend thought she would only meet him (and probably his assistant). She was waiting by the gate of the first house and surprised to see the guy arrived with entourage: human resources manager, 2 general affairs (GA) staffs, and several guards. I remember vaguely she mentioned about either finance director or lawyer who was there as well. There were 4 black shiny sedans (5 in total, including my friend’s) which went from one house to another just to cater this guy’s need.
But this doesn’t only apply to developing countries, those expat staffs who are posted in developed countries also living in a good life. They get to choose their nice (and huge) house, can send their kids to best schools, can fly back home once a year, usually with business class (or depends on the agreement between them and the employers. Some prefer cash so they can use it for holiday instead), and in some case, are very pampered in every possible way you could imagine, like having a weekly free coffee morning in 5 star hotel, and an organization – with several full-time staffs – to help them to settle in their adopted countries (this is from sending an information about a party held somewhere in the castle to the news that some company is looking for a staff). Sometimes you could do nothing but smile when they start complaining about small things. I heard one was upset because they had to fly their cat from their overseas posting back home and it wasn’t covered by the company (it cost them USD 4000 so I understand why she was upset). One didn’t complain, but sometimes compares her house (which is big) to another one’s up in the country which faces the hills and the forest and twice bigger than hers, and compares the life she gets in UK to the one she was accustomed in her last posting in Middle East and in South East Asia (yes, maids and everything).
The Writer actually wasn’t talking about the expatriates. She was talking about the local girls who become their girlfriends or wives and quickly adopt this extravagant lifestyle of “expatriates” (big house, personal staffs, everyday shopping and parties, everyday dinner in 5-star hotels, and first-class treatments everywhere), and think they will get the same treatments once the partner is sent back home.
I couldn’t agree more. I see so many Indonesian girls are either delusional or plain daft, thinking how rich their boyfriends are with USD 3,000/month apartment or USD 5,000/month house in posh area, complete with private pool, maids, a driver, security guards, sometimes a PA, and cooks, and of course the whole office is more than ready to assist whatever they need. But this local girlfriends and wives don’t realize that it’s paid by the company and if the boyfriends get to pay the rent from their own pocket they wouldn’t choose five thousands dollars-a month house in a first place (for more silly house hunting experience, click here). And this housing allowance, once he gets back to his home country, wouldn’t apply anymore, and he gets to live in a normal house or apartment.
These local girls only think about how they could brag to their friends that they will be moving to a Western country, but don’t realize what’s in the package deal. One Indonesian girl met a Briton a few years ago and they finally got married in Indonesia. When his time was up, they had to go back to UK. She was disappointed that turns out he didn’t even own an apartment (compares to their posh residence next to Plaza Senayan in Jakarta) and I am very sure that the place they rent would not have a receptionist, a greeter who opens the door every time she enters the building, a 24 hours room service she could call if she’s lazy to cook (who am I kidding, of course she doesn’t cook, she survives by eating-outs, deliveries, and take-outs), or a bell boy she could send to buy chicken satay from across the street, let alone a private gym. She complained everything is so expensive so she couldn’t go shopping everyday and they didn’t go out clubbing and partying as often as they used to. She couldn’t cope with the new lifestyle, and forced her husband to quit his job and move back to Indonesia so they could continue their life as it was. I think she’s doing ok now, I saw her briefly a year a go in one club in Jakarta (she was sporting a designer bag and huge rock on her finger) and again in Singapore airport (moving from one designer shop to another).
I know a girl who is so accustomed to a “good life”. She has a good job and is perfectly capable to afford a lavish lifestyle, sort of. She always carries expensive, branded bags and dresses immaculately. She dines and parties at the most expensive restaurants and clubs (although hardly pays, there’s always someone who buys her drink because she is very pretty). So it’s no wonder that her dates are usually are as successful as her: young, gorgeous, managers (mostly she targets directors), and of course, expatriates (actually she dated a local guy but I guess it’s because he picked her up with a sport car). Although she doesn’t have her own residence yet (she still rents the same room for almost a decade now), she never washes her hair at home, every two days she’d go to her hairstylist and have it washed and styled. But one occasion she phoned me from Bali, panicking and almost crying, saying that the hairstylist in Bali wasn’t as good as the ones in Jakarta and her hair was ugly and she had to attend a posh wedding in one hour. That time I was wondering, if she couldn’t survive in Bali, how could she survive overseas? I don’t think anyone goes to hairdresser every two days, unless you’re Victoria Beckham. I know she had lived overseas before as a student, but I’m sure the last time she was holding a toilet brush was over ten years a go. The fact that she dreams of living and working in overseas puzzles me. I’m not sure if she is ready to trade her current life now with the life here: no maid, no driver, no cook, no every two-days-hairstyling, bus or tube everyday, two pairs of shoes everywhere you go (one pair of sexy stilettos and another pair of flat shoes to run and catch a bus).
These girls live in their own bubble world and I wouldn’t think they could stand living in their partner’s home country and loosing all the helps and luxuries they’re so used to. If you’re an expatriate and dating a local girl, you wouldn’t see any problem as long as you’re being an expat and get pampered and served like a first-class citizen. But you might want to take your girlfriend back home for a week or two and see if she could cope with the normal lifestyle you actually have had, like washing dishes, doing laundry, buying own groceries, and cooking. You might want to explain to her why you can’t take her out every night for a dinner in a nice restaurant. If their love is as thin as the dress they usually put on, they’d soon complain about how they miss their maids and driver. And it’s probably a sign that they love the helpers more than their love to you.