#35 A Tidy Salary and Dank Perks
Submitted by David Fox
Expat Aid Workers love a tidy salary, and the perks that go with real EAW status.
If one starts at the very beginning . . . many, many moons ago, traveling to foreign lands to help people meant suffering tremendous privation, possible death (by disease or angry locals) and NOT getting paid well (if at all). Back in the day, the EAW was driven by his or her sincere desire to help less fortunate people in foreign lands (editor’s note: or the conviction that the natives needed to be evangelized). Giving up the comforts of the home country was not an obstacle to getting out there and fighting poverty, injustice, civil war, and you know, all that other shit that people in developing countries have problems with.
In today’s world, however, aid work is often much less about noble self-sacrifice and much more about getting hooked up with a dank salary and some pretty sweet perks. By “dank salary”, we are talking by Western standards. By local standards, we might just call that a “small fortune”. Many EAWs earning an “international salary” will moan about their meager earnings and neglect to mention that all housing, food and utilities are paid for and they are getting a pretty sweet per diem or “hardship” payment. In the end, some EAWs actually put as much money in the bank as someone making twice that “meager” salary in the West. When we add “no taxes” to the picture, all of a sudden an Expat Aid Worker making a mere 25k USD can more accurately be compared to someone making 75k USD living back in New York…
If the salary isn’t enough for ya, just consider the perks! That rent-a-car that costs more per month than the average local’s monthly salary? Expat Aid Workers cannot survive without it (well, unless they have a personal driver of course)! Sure there is a cheap bus system that the locals use, but the locals smell funny and Expat Aid Workers don’t want to stain their new Anthropologie/J Crew clothing items ordered online and FedEx’ed to their office. And anyway, the nearest Western-style grocery store is all the way across town, and it would be a HUGE pain in the ass to lug those boxes of Kraft mac and cheese, cheerios, and pringles (without which saving the world would be impossible) back to the apartment/ compound.
Speaking of another perk necessary for EAWs to save the world, we cannot forget the license to PAR-TAY! While we don’t have any photos of said license on file, we all know that it is automatically issued to all Expat Aid Workers no matter where in the world they are posted. Yes, despite the offensive nature in many countries of alcohol consumption and late-night parties with blaring music, partying hard is absolutely necessary for EAWs to forget their woes and do their jobs properly. Sure, the local insurgent forces are now performing reconnaissance on the walled, guarded compound they live in because neighbors have tipped them off about the loud, godless, alcohol imbibing foreigners in their midst, but the fact that Joe Aid Worker got hammered and sacked up with Natalya the hot Russian aid worker gives him an extra skip in his step while putting together kick-ass power points at the office the next day.
Yes, yes, every now and again, there is one of those funny Expat Aid Workers that works for a local salary (*gasp*), buys the same food that the locals do, lives in the same type of accommodations that the locals do, and – worst of all – gets NO PERKS!! These EAWs make the EAWs with the international salary packages uncomfortable, because they are used to telling themselves and others that unhappy people can’t do aid work (or really help people in any way at all), and happiness is directly linked to having a nice salary and perks.
These “local-ish” expat aid workers who actually live pretty much like locals and know more than 50 words in the local language often find themselves at Expat Aid worker Parties, but they are there more as a curiosity then anything else. It is considered “bad form” for them to bring up the idea of excessive salaries, perks, or flamboyant lifestyles of the standard Expat Aid Worker. There is the unspoken threat that such talk could lead to the local-ish aid worker being “accidentally” left off the guest list at the next alcohol-fueled EAW party. This is a serious threat for the local-ish EAW, as all the time in the field has given him or her a true local’s desire to sleep with those exotic and wealthy “foreigners” that are somehow now out of his or her league.