#66 Offices in VIP Neighborhoods
Expat Aid Workers really hate colonialism and disdain any sort of colonial behavior in other people or institutions — like mining companies, multinationals, the local wealthy, and China (especially China). But they do like having offices in big old colonial homes or newer homes located in the VIP sector of town.
Having an office in a giant old house rather than an office building is a plus for many reasons. To begin with, you can be sure that you’ll be in same neighborhood as all the other INGOs and UN Agencies. This makes it easier to coordinate meetings and luncheons with your colleagues to hear all the EAW gossip and find out about job opportunities for lateral movement without having to brave traffic.
In addition, these neighborhoods are built with the best kinds of gates and fences to keep out the riff raff. The EAW doesn’t have to worry so much about street children bothering him or her (those kids need to be in programs, not begging on the street! That’s why the EAW approved funding for their favorite SLoNGO’s Micro-entrepreneurial Opportunities, Self-Esteem Strengthening and Family Caring and Awareness Program for Children Living on the Street!) because the best US Embassy-vetted private security companies are already there keeping an eye on things, so if the INGO gets an office there, it can be sure to have the requisite high security that EAWs (the friends of ‘the people’) need when working in developing countries. Compared to a fortified compound, a well-secured mansion feels really homey!
Offices in colonial or VIP neighborhoods are normally where you also find the houses of the local elite, the top wealthy business owners, and the homes of government officials. This means that the roads are always the best, and problems with black outs, lack of internet or cell phone network and water cuts are minimized. The EAW and the INGO staff, unlike most people in developing countries, have jobs to do, and so minimizing these types of service interruptions is really necessary to avoid drags on productivity. (Be sure you do not rent an office near anyone that people regularly protest against or you might have to deal with periodic interruptions to your work day.)
In some countries, having an office in the colonial sector affords a lovely view of the coastline or maybe a swimming pool in the back yard. In other countries, it’s right near the mall, the expat book store, the best expat restaurants and bars and the American/International School, making it quite convenient for social gatherings and getting the children to school in the mornings, especially on those occasions when the driver or the maid hasn’t shown up to work and the EAW has to step in to do their job for them.
The tree-lined streets that characterize many of these neighborhoods (save certain desert-y climates) provide shade so that the EAW doesn’t to expose him or herself to the hot sun when strolling over to the expat coffee shop to meet friends from other offices in the same district to discuss partnerships or joint work. The EAW will usually live in the same neighborhood as the office, or in a home in one of the other top neighborhoods, in a large house built for a different former colonist, or in a neighborhood of new constructions that offers all the amenities an EAW would expect, perhaps a neighborhood in a beautiful, hilly, fertile area that until recently was covered with trees and wildlife.
Offices in old colonial homes or newly constructed mansions allow the director of the INGO to have a large office with big windows overlooking the well-kept garden or with a view out towards the sea (though unfortunately one of the windows may be partially blocked by the air conditioning unit, and all the ground and second-floor windows probably have bars over them). He or she can also have a private bathroom right in his or her office (helpful for maintaining dignity when experiencing stomach troubles).
The only real downside to having an office in the colonial or VIP sector is the lack of parking for the multiple Land Cruisers that support the work of the INGO. Luckily the national director has a special parking spot, and there is always a driver to re-park any cars so that he or she can move in and out, and the security guards are there to protect any vehicles left on the street in case any of the local thugs happen to venture into the neighborhood.
The office in the colonial home or newly constructed mansion may seem like a luxury to outsiders but, really, the comfort and convenience that it brings along with the rise in morale and productivity make it a wise business decision.
Note: Updated with locations of the photos on 6/23/2011.