Posts Tagged ‘ex pat living’

Ask any ex-pat professional and they’ve got a story about the ex co-worker who had a sudden uncharacteristic thermonuclear meltdown while on a foreign posting, and either left in an unannounced mysterious huff or had to be physically extracted due to ‘a situation’. There’s no telling who might go ballistic over some trivial event while in Shanghai, Bangkok or Riyadh. It’s as predictable as vulcanism. The clashing of civilizations is too great for certain personalities. In the traveling world, business or otherwise, is well described as ‘culture shock’.

Relocating to a foreign country, where language, extremes in weather, officialdom, expectations, going to the bathroom, the cuisine, walking down the street, banking, post offices, shopping, and social interaction are often the opposite of normal in ones home country can either be stressful…or entertaining, depending on personality. In some cases, you’ll either love…or hate your new home, and either might have consequences….for better or worse. You can usually tell who’s heading for a short stay by how much that person bitches and kvetches about local conditions. Some people adapt and thrive, others…not so much.

This is part of the reason there is always a significant ‘turnover’ in satellite offices. Human resource officers go to great lengths to attract and vet the right people for these postings, but there’s no way of telling how an individual will adapt to the local conditions. It isn’t always possible to attract the right skill set from the finite pool of experienced ex pats willing to relocate, in spite of offering lucrative compensation packages, signing bonuses, relocation allowances and RSU’s in a low tax country.

In spite of all that vetting, despite the beneficial financial offerings, newbie hirelings still bail in surprising numbers after short periods of time. It comes down to the effects of #culturetainment….you either like a challenge…or you don’t. In the case of foreign government workers and NGO assignments, these people are often fit into a compound type environment where they live entirely separate lives from the local population. To my observation this often leads to a neocolonialist attitude where the ex pats become entrenched in a game of ‘us and them’. In that case I have to ask, “Why leave home at all if you’re going to live in a sterilized bubble?”

#Culturetainment, as I call it, is to develop the right frame of mind to enjoy your new home, and find the good, rather than the bad, in the culture you have decided to co-exist with . The world as we know has gone western, or haven’t you noticed? No one traveling on business lives in a grass hut surrounded by half naked servants. The economic miracle of the past forty years has brought millions of people, in countries like Thailand where I reside, into the modern age.

Without exception it is possible to live a very satisfactory lifestyle here in the ‘third world’, often with more mod-cons than we have in the west. Thailand for example has embraced technology and provides internet services far in advance of those offered in Canada, my home country, at far lower price points. There are more fast food franchises than ever before. I’ll fess up and freely admit to making the KFC soft ice cream cone part of  every day.

Yes, the street life scene can seem a little weird at times. Society isn’t as stratified here as in a western city. You’ll get everything, across the spectrum, on any city sidewalk. There always seems to be a million people around you, and you have to get used to the idea that personal space rules are not in effect. Sensory stimulation is on overload, it’s never quiet, there’s always so much going on. Asians use loud music to block out the traffic noise. Trish and I appreciate the excitement, versus the sedate predictability of a western city.

I can guarantee you’ll feel alive in an environment like this, and when you’ve had enough, you can always go back to your modern little high rise apartment and stream Netflix. But…to go ‘ballistic’ because the ‘foods too spicy’ or some other excuse, don’t be absurd. Enjoy the free #culturetainment’ and remember, you can sleep when your dead.

sleep when you're dead

sleep when you’re dead

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Have you figured out how to travel for free yet? Have you got a plan to get you out and never come back? There’s lots of ways of doing that, you just have to apply yourself. The lucky ones will inherit an obscene amount of money from a parent or grandparent, that’s number one on everyone’s list. And believe me, there are more of these types than most people imagine possible. Next, there are plenty of people who have defined benefit pensions whose cash flow will never fail due to the crazy courtesy allowed by a broken system of government. Some of us have to be smarter and more creative to achieve our goals.

I began to see the possibilities when as a young traveler I spied opportunities to trade goods between countries where things were abundant and cheap and transport them to locations where they could be sold as rare and dear. I stole that line from Adam Smith who had this figured out in 1722 and wrote about international trade in The Wealth of Nations, still a best seller. I was very impressed by this philosophy as a teenager and applied it as a young adult wanting to travel and escape. In most western countries there are open city markets, with the exception of commercial dead zones like Vancouver,  where goods from all over the world can be sold for a profit. A simple way to increase your travel opportunities is to buy trade goods in the third world and sell them to people browsing away their boredom on the weekends. Trust me, bored shoppers will buy any kind of crap that reminds them of the holiday they had in the past.

I paid off my travel lifestyle for decades doing exactly this. My first purchases were leather products in South America.  I later branched into manufacturing jewellery from India and Thailand…even selling Indian goods in Thailand using all the same dynamics of trade I had learned along the way. I sold these items all over the world. I acted as a purchasing agent for people who wanted a steady flow of such goods to their home countries. I traded goods from Pakistan to Afghans in exchange for items of value hard to find in India. I also carried bales of cloth from one boutique to the next selling items in countries as diverse as Switzerland, Spain, Canada and the USA. Shopkeepers need unique products to draw the shoppers into the store. The more unique your products, the higher the margin you can ask. Only during major global recessions did my business ever fall off and I was forced to hunker down.

Nowadays we have become more sophisticated, we are technical specialists and visa holders practicing our trade and getting paid well for it. I miss the old days of being a traveling merchant, but that’s not to say I have foregone my old habits. In every town I go to I visit shopkeepers and ask them what they want. I go to trade shows and find out whats available. It’s best to collect as many business cards as you possibly can. There are opportunities that sometimes appear from out of nowhere and you want to be the one that takes advantage of those opportunities.

Do you hold an undergrad degree or similar certification? If so the world is at your feet. Teach English in Koh Samui with a simple TOEFL certificate. The add on is a weekend class on line but is recognized world wide. There is always a lot of turn over in teachers, and there is a hungry world wanting English teachers….from Spain to China and all points in between. Teaching English is a no brainer and less complicated than trading but not mutually exclusive…..we’ve done both simultaneously. Are you headed for a place where a great many foreigners congregate….have you thought about finding work as a rental agent or a real estate agent selling local properties? Your ex pat community has special requirements that a local doesn’t understand and your knowledge of the language is in demand. Working as a bartender or waitress is a thing of the past in places like Thailand or Mexico…but have a skill and you can obtain a legal visa to work.

At the top of the food chain are the technical specialists who can reside legally. Even the rich ex civil servants on a pension can’t live in Thailand or elsewhere permanently…they will have to abide by the short term of a tourist visa. These types have to leave the country on a regular basis to renew their status. If you are trading in a country don’t mention this to the immigration police at the border, a working visa is difficult to obtain. However, if you can achieve an ‘ex patriot’ status, where you are paid, your bills are covered and the visa is taken care of by the company you work for, then your troubles are behind you. Trisha and I have done all these things, and enjoyed every one of them. The travel lifestyle can be yours. You just have to want it.

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ex pat perks abound if you plan your life around travel

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trade goods can be found in every country…almost

 

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and by all means…enjoy yourself along the way

 

You’ve heard the old expression “I can’t remember when I’ve had so much fun?” I hate to piss you off but I still feel like that every day. I’m passing the high water mark on my third month in Texas and the longer I’m here the more I live to appreciate where I am. In Texas they say that Texas is not just a state…it’s a state of mind’…well friends…that’s entirely true.

Over the past three months I’ve reported on everything as I experienced it, to my audience of one, fresh and raw impressions served up on a platter and knowing I was into a honey pot of a unique travel destination. Taken into the context of my three month tour of wandering the back roads and historic towns on secondary highways ‘off the beaten track’ I have to say that all these good things, from realizing that gritty blues for breakfast and red dirt radio are an integral part of the culture, to BBQ and people’s true and awestruck appreciation for the states natural beauty , the genuine friendliness of the people, are all a heart stopping amalgamation of every day life, which explains why Texans are the way they are. I’ve gotta’ say it, the sunsets here are to drool over, and trust me, I’ve seen a lot of sunsets.

I came here saying “I could spend six months here standing on my head”. I’m going to have the opportunity to test that theory….wish me luck.

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