September 19th, 2011
04:08 AM GMT
(CNN) – "Suck it up cry-babies," writes Jeff in response to a CNN blog about the squeeze on international school places in Hong Kong.
"So your company (probably a bank that we bailed out) is paying for your rock-star home, Bentley, and live-in Philippino [sic] but can't get you into that "rich-kid" school??? Bummer, oh well, at least you are living in a place where you have zero expenses," he says.
I can hear the collective sigh of expat families around the world. Oh, if only.
There was a time when most international postings came with an automatic business class ticket and an all-expenses paid relocation package.
Rent was picked up on arrival as were membership fees for exclusive clubs. Schooling was paid for. Oh, and flights were laid on for holidays home. Throw in a nanny perhaps and you had yourself a deal.
Of course, that still happens, but only for the elite few. Many expats are more immersed in the local culture by virtue that they're earning local wages.
Sure, they are decent wages - why else move? - but they are certainly not enough to fund the "rock-star home" and "rich-kid" school Jeff refers to.
As flippertie points out in his or her comment: "We're not all spoilt currency traders and the like – there are plenty of journalists, designers, musicians, programmers, accountants etc earning a normal local salary, with none of the fancy expat benefits who are being squeezed out of the system."
Maybe terminology is to blame for the misconception. The managing director of relocation specialists ECA International recently said as much, calling the word "expatriates" misleading and outdated.
The word "expatriate," Ian Ridgwell wrote, "carries with it all the old connotations of privilege, easy money, private clubs and private schooling. In today's global world, where international moves are commonplace, this image is increasingly seen as outdated, expensive and even damaging."
Damaging, the company says, because it creates false expectations that an international move will come packaged with perks.
"In some 'expatriate' receiving countries the word has also become synonymous with a perceived lifestyle unavailable to local employees," he added.
In these austere times, companies are becoming so concerned about the need to manage expectations down that they're changing their vocabulary.
Out goes the word "expatriates," in comes "assignees."
The message from companies: Just because you're moving countries don't expect serious perks.
Unless, of course, you're bringing in serious money for the company. In that case, hello yacht club, goodbye rent.
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