The Different Kinds of Expat Jobs

Probably not for what I think it’s for.

You’ve seen them- from time to time on the expat social media group you frequent, someone posts a want ad that seems almost too good to be true. A job! And they want to hire an expat! I have been living abroad for several years now, and if there is one thing that makes me sick, it is the almost infinite number of companies that prey off the desperate expats looking to live abroad. These parasites latch onto the countless hopes and dreams of foreigners struggling to survive and are enough to dishearten even the brightest lights.

Let me be abundantly clear- there are ways to live abroad. The struggle is enough to make many just give up and go home with their tail between their legs. But for those expats who are willing to sacrifice and put in hard work, the experience can be extremely rewarding. Problem is most of the expat jobs out there don’t make it easy.

For starters, any company that seriously advertises job openings exclusively on Facebook and leaves out relevant information (salary, hours, the name of the company) should raise some warning flags. If they can’t even afford to properly place a want ad, they probably can’t afford to properly pay you either.

But so it goes, and here I go with what, in my opinion, are the different kinds of jobs the expat abroad will find.[1]

The “We Have Other Ways of Paying You”

These ones are thankfully on their way out due to most countries offering a mandatory minimum wage. However, some countries still do not, or some companies have found ways to be “creative” when it comes to your salary, so they try to distract you.

“What is the expected salary?” you might ask.

“Salary… ooh, that’s a tough one. Have you seen our free cereal bar? Heard about the beer fridge? Played the free Nintendo Wii we ironically bought to look cool even though we’re pushing 50?”

“Yes, but is it like an hourly wage? Are you only hiring part time employees?”

“All good questions! Let’s talk about it over all the coffee you can drink at our state of the art espresso machine! It learns your name and everything!”

And that’s when you realize the espresso machine is worth more than your month’s salary.

Should you take the job?

Not a bad job for an “in-between” period, but be careful- you can get sucked in and depend on that cereal. Also ask if you can take cereal home for dinner.

The “It’s Not Really a Job” Job

Anyone who has ever set up an Etsy shop or an Airbnb profile to rent out their apartment or signed up to be an Uber driver will tell you the same thing: “It’s a great way to earn money fast”. The money can be good. You are your own boss. Work hours are whenever the fuck you feel like it. But then you start realizing your boss is a real jerk- sleeping in when he should be checking his account, partying with his friends rather than completing those orders, or neglecting to maintain the product so it can’t be used. Furthermore, the downsides of not having job security with things like a steady paycheck or paid sick leave can really, really drain you. When you have that burning fever and stomach cramps but can’t afford to go to a doctor and need to finish making 100 wooden triangle necklaces to be shipped in 5 hours, you’ll probably rethink the decision.

Should you take the job?

Maybe you’ll love it. It’s not a bad thing to have on the side while pursuing other activities. Just be careful it doesn’t switch from a well-paying hobby to the sole reason for living.

The MC Hammer (Can’t Touch This)

These are few and far in between. You’ll see it every once in a while- the perfect job with a company that you are legitimately interested in and they are legitimately interested in you. There’s just… one thing. There’s always one thing. You will never get this job. Whether it is because your visa is somehow just barely not enough to let you do it, or the start date is too close for you to get the job, or someone who is like your alien clone walks in after you and doesn’t have your visa complications, you will never get this job. Instead you will get the disappointing phone call, complacently reply “I understand”, and then flip off the sky with both fists as you start crying those bitter, bitter expat tears. You will never get this job.

Should you take the job?

You will never get this job.

The Machine

The Machine is the Machine, and you are a cog. These companies know that you are an expat desperate for work and will take full advantage of it. Did you want a full-time job with benefits? Best they can offer is a commission based sales job with quotas you’ll never meet. Your boss? He’s a 23 year old dipshit who bought into the hype of a start-up with his parent’s money and will treat you like scum while high-fiving the 30 year old dipshits willing to do anything to stay there. Did you want things like government mandated vacation days? Pension? Contracts? Somehow these companies have found every loophole in the system and are exploiting it to make sure you get dick.

Should you take the job?

Only if you’re about to get booted from your friend’s room and are willing to both metaphorically and literally suck cock to stay in the country.

The Mystery Machine

While not really a part of the Machine, you’ll still feel oddly like it. The job is scant when it comes to details- you never really know what exactly you’re applying for or what you would do once you get hired. Is it illegal? Will you have to compromise your values? Does it involve killing a kitten? The frustrating thing is that the company posting the job will be extremely vague and almost unwilling to answer your questions, which only causes your suspicions to deepen. If you apply for this job, you may or may not end up under government observation.[2]

Should you take the job?

Should you? Should anyone? Why would you? Why would you not? What would it mean? What does all of this mean?

The Ol’ Switch-eroo

Every once in a while you’ll find a job posting which seems almost too good to be true- that’s because it is. You walk in with your resume (or CV, if you’re in one of those countries), confidence, and a smile. After 30 minutes of what seems like a solid interview, you’ll only have your resume left. See, the job you came in to interview for? Ah, geez- just filled that position. It’s a pretty hot company, looking to fill jobs like that all the time! Best they have to offer you is an entry level position with half the pay- but if you stick it out, maybe that position will open again!

But it never will. That job was never there. They put it out there to get you in for another job they knew you’d scoff at if you weren’t already there. And so you’ll work there, as hard as you can, hoping for the day where they’ll finally recognize and promote you- a day that will never come.

Should you take the job?

That’s tough. Money’s money, and you might be able to pad out your resume. Just know what you’re getting into first.

The Flash[3] in the Pan

Some stars burn so bright that they are only around for an instant before they burn out. These jobs are those stars. The money is AMAZING, the work environment is fantastic, you really feel like part of a team that appreciates and respects you (despite only being able to order a coffee in their native language). But then, as quick as it came, the job is gone. You are let go, left to wander the desolate wasteland of unemployment until you find another flash in the pan.

Should you take the job?

Yes. It is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. Also, the unemployment money from this job is usually enough for you to carry over to the next one. But if you want stability you are SOL.


[1] PS I love my expat job!

[2] Unless you’re an American, in which case you already are.

[3] AH-AHHHH!

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