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How to deal with the pitfalls in being a successful expat
In his treatise on multi-national living, Expatriate Observations, my cultural consultant wrote the following superb dissertation on how to deal with the pitfalls of being a successful expat:
â€œ***Those men who visit exotic foreign lands are often taken in by the beauty of the scenery and the women as well as by the friendliness of the local people. Their money which doubles or even quadruples elevates them to a higher status that what they had back home. Being suddenly rich, in a beautiful land, surrounded by gorgeous women who admire the man every step of the way, the charmed tourist sometimes says: " Wow! I am never going back home, I am staying here."
However, after being in the place for several months, the tourist discovers that not all is rosy here, either. Corruption abounds. People seem unreliable. He is overcharged when buying simple commodities. And, sooner or later, he starts running into people who do not like for a foreigner to be there. He needs to bribe people to get simple things done. Nothing seems to work. People do not speak English, or what he perceives as "correct" English and, after a while they expect him to speak in the local language.
In other situations, he learns the local language but the locals do not understand his accent and are not helpful. Some make fun of and look down on him. Some feel insulted that a foreigner is speaking their language. Some, particularly in the case of Asian societies, stare at him as if he were a block of wood, disbelieving that a person of another race can speak the local tongue and guffaw in ugly laughter when they realize that he is in fact speaking it.
The culture shock and the disappointment set in.
Now he begins to understand why the local people treated his with so much respect in the first place- he was perceived as a rich and successful visitor from America, an achiever, a new face from the land where everything is possible and opportunities abound. Now, that the locals see that the tourist is not as rich as they thought and is complaining about this and that, their friendliness to him diminishes. They cannot do much about the corruption the disorganization and the poverty of the country and it irritates them even more to see a foreigner whining about the fact that the things are not the way they are back home. His girlfriend is also unable to help him. In many cases she does not have the money or the connections to set up a business for him or make him advance in his new society. Eventually, the tourist starts seeing that while there were not many beautiful women and/or friendly people back home, everything else worked well, he knew the social and cultural rules and did not feel out of place as much as he does here.
In addition to that, he discovers that as a foreigner, his legal rights in the new country are limited. He cannot own real estate, cannot have anything in his name and is dependent on visa authorities to grant him the permit to stay in the country.
Eventually, the embittered tourist ends up teaching English for a pittance, not being able to find a job in anything else and observing the local rich living the life of Riley while he is plugging along from one meager paycheck to another.
Then, he goes home, a broken man.
This is a very typical scenario which can be observed with many starry-eyed expats all who tried to find work in the so-called developing countries.
Now, what if you have money? Like, a lot of money.
Well, now we are talking about a whole different game. If you arrive from America with a few hundred thousands of dollars, the smiles will not diminish with time. If you become a foreign investor, and go through the local government authorities and hire local lawyers, then, your quality of life will be much much better. You will love the people forever and the people will love you, the cultural problems will not seem unsolvable, but rather, amusing. The woman will not be upset with you and she will serve you blindly forever.
Ah! The power of money!
If you are not rich yet but have a way of making money either in your country or in some oil-rich state in the Middle East, you should become a frequent, long-term visitor who comes and goes. This way, when the culture shock hits and the place seems unbearable, and the locals get tired of you- as in about three months, you can then leave, go back home," regroup", recuperate, see things in their proper perspective and let people back there miss you. Distance lends enchantment and when you are back there with more money, well rested and confident again, you will thoroughly enjoy your stay and be attractive to the local women again.
The above are not the only scenarios, either. Here are some things one can do:
1) Work on the Internet for a company back home. You can be a translator, an online instructor or a programmer. This way, you can live in a country you like without having to deal with the misery of trying to eke out a livelihood from the local corrupt and inefficient economy.
2) Become an artist or a writer - you can work anywhere and email or, in case or paintings ship them back home to various galleries. This is hard even back home and takes time to establish oneself. With the Internet you now have a chance to speed up the process and make a worldwide living out of it. It is not easy but possible.
3) Become a buyer of goods. If you find a customer back home, you can offer your services in the way of buying merchandise in a foreign land at discount prices. But for that, you will need to have local contacts. These are not easy to find.
In all cases, one needs to do proper homework, learn about the culture and the laws and patiently work one's way into the new society without severing ties back home.
A smart expat is not an emotional but a cool-hearted and patient one. And he never relinquishes his ties to his home country- it has a lot to offer in the ways of organized business infrastructure, availability of information and the seriousness of the people.
The best way to expatriate has been to live not in one country but to use each country for what it is good for: the West for business ties and the "fun" countries for fun and romance. Be prepared to shuttle back and forth a lot.â€�
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