When The Bough Breaks, A Reply
I have been working on and off in Thailand since around 1994 mainly on infrastructure projects. I moved here permanently in 2000 as I was spending upwards of 6 months a year here as well as working in other countries around the region.
The company I worked for was a manufacturer based in Europe and had been successful in supplying product into projects across Asia pacific for many years.
I was delighted to move full time to Bangkok with my salary coming from the European company (tax free) and the local organization paying for my condo and utility costs.
Great times were had and as most people do I got to know all sides of Bangkok life very well and for the first year certainly did the nightlife proud (and sometimes the afternoon life as well).
I got into a few scrapes courtesy of naughty ladies, one in particular attacking me with a Heineken bottle in a very popular gogo bar. The most frightening thing about this was that it was a previous girlfriend who I had kicked rapidly into touch on finding she had stolen more than $7000 from my bank account. I had not seen her for some 12/14 months before this incident and as you can imagine our parting was not amiable, but she suddenly turned up at this venue and hit me with a bottle. I am writing this incident into another submission to be sent shortly so more details on it then.
Anyway having just read Union Hill's story about the shock news I can fully appreciate how he felt as the same thing happened to me.
Having had a good run through until 1994, acquired a Thai wife and house and all the trappings things were going very well. As I was on a European salary I had plenty of money coming in every month and life was good.
My European boss was due to visit our Hong Kong office for a few days and normally I would be expected to be there as I was responsible for the interface between the European operations and the growing Asian ones. He however called me and said there was no need to go and he would see me in Bangkok on his way back to Europe.
This was a cause for concern as it had not happened before and sure enough my worst fears were confirmed as when we met he told me that due to all responsibility for this region passing to the new Far East head office I was surplus to their requirements in this part of the world and they had no need of me out here. There was no job back in Europe as I had been away too long but there was a very decent payoff.
Shock and horror hit me and I did a Union Hill and got blasted. I had only recently bought the house for cash, some 7 million baht of it and despite the pay off this had put a big hole in my savings.
I had done a good job in my time here and was respected in the local organization and they made me an offer to work for them but the pay offered while good by local standards was half of what I had previously been earning and I just did not know what to do.
I started to consider my options very seriously and though I would have to move on, but this was not so easy due to house, wife etc.
My way out was to approach the company with a counter offer in that I would work for them on a self-employed basis but they would have to pay me more but they would have none of the employment costs associated with an employee such as social costs and health insurance. They indeed went for this and it also left me free to do some side work to enhance my earnings.
I had to eventually set up a small company but things are heading in the right direction for now and I am very aware of the potential for a new problem so am doing the best I can to cover all options.
I wish Union Hill the best but it is a reminder to all that when you go expat for a company even when you are guaranteed a job back home at the assignment ends. If you stay away for a few years things change at home base and there may be no viable way back so make sure you have a good contract. I have known many people go overseas in good management positions stay for a number of years but your old job is not waiting for you on return and you will either get laid off or they will find something for you to do, usually in a more junior role and this invariably never works out.
It is easy to fall into a false sense of security but as Union Hill, myself and no doubt many others have seen, things change and you can be doing a good job but companies change direction or focus and you can be a casualty.
It would have to be hard going from the incredible money that some expats make down to a local salary. It has to be said that the money that some expats earn out here is unreal. When I hear of guys clearing north of half a million baht a month with all of the housing and transport costs taken care of, I wonder how they can spend even a fraction of it!
But that said, good on anyone who has managed to get themselves into such a great position.