August 25, 2020
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In my day to day activity as a hospitality recruiter, I receive requests from two opposite groups of people: the “expats” who can’t wait to come home, and the “domestics” who cannot wait to go back to the expat life.

What is an expat? An expat is usually someone who has started his/her career domestically (i.e. as a Front Office Manager for Four Seasons in Arizona) and has ended up overseas via a company transfer. Why a transfer? Many possible reasons: too many people double parked for a division head position (Director of Rooms usually follows Front Office Manager) and giving into the temptation of skipping a step or moving more quickly. Our candidate may accept a Director of Rooms in Chiang Mai, as opposed to waiting another year in Arizona for a domestic post. Chiang Mai is going to be fun: you will be paid a salary comparable to what you were paid in Arizona, yet the company will provide you with housing, a tax-free (or tax-reduced) status, often longer vacations and R&R trips. Once however, you and your wife have grown tired of elephant rides and Pad-Thai, it won’t be easy to come home. Ask the company for a spot back home and the answer is likely to be we have not built any new properties in the US since you left, and many Front Office Managers have reached the level of seniority qualifying them for a Director of Rooms position. It would not be fair to let you short-circuit their plans. And there you are, possibly stuck in Asia or (worse yet) the Middle East (or the  Maldives) for much longer than you expected. Sure, you can save money, which you would not have been able to do in the US. However, there ain’t nothing like home. What do many people do? They quit the expat golden handcuffs and come home without a job. All of a sudden, they have to pay rent or a mortgage, pay tax on every penny earned, pay for the kids’ education. How much fun is that? And yet, this is the best case scenario. Many a time you may not be able to land a job in the US, because you are not realistic in terms of salary and benefit demands. Or you have been away too long to be deemed “current” enough for the US market. So, you languish. And you languish and you languish more, until you finally make the decision to return to that foreign destination you had grown to detest.

Ever wondered why the Middle East, Africa and parts of Asia are teeming with aging (mostly) European hoteliers whose careers started in the United States?

My word of advice? Just think before you act. Think of the family unit, think of your long-term career goals. Nothing wrong with spending 10 years in Thailand to save enough money to buy a great home back in Santa Barbara. If that is your goal.

But look at how much an expat costs the hotel owners as opposed to a “national”. Make that 3 times as much. And then some.

How long do you think this will prevail??


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