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FAQs for Living and Working Overseas:

Written by a former Peace Corps Volunteer living overseas since 1989

The Expat Guy: FAQs for Working and Living Overseas

Expatriate Housing
and Accommodation Issues

Housing is a frequent bone of contention in the expatriate world

Housing can often be a real problem overseas, so you might as well ask specifically about it - early in the game.  It isn't so much of a problem if your employer does not provide it, as you can find and get the quality of housing you want.  But when the employer provides it, sometimes you will be stuck with a less than satisfactory situation.  And a big disappointment.

Cutting Costs

Employers that need to provide housing want, of course, to spend the minimum amount needed for your accommodation.  Ask employees already there if it is decent or not.  Employers will sometimes find a tiny closet for you to live in - not concerned that you need to share that small space with all the cockroaches that already live there.  The housing issue comes up often in East Asia, but rarely in the Middle East.

Shared Housing

Be careful with shared housing.  While it may be fun to have a roommate - you can also end up with the roommate from hell.  Most people recommend that you not accept shared housing.  The author shared overseas housing twice - once was great and I made a good friend.  The other time was terrible and I couldn't wait to get out.

"Western Style Housing"

Some employers will advertise that they provide Western-style housing.  Don't trust it - sometimes that only means it has a bathroom with a "throne" or seat toilet versus a "squatter".  You still need to ask what they mean by "Western style".

Paying the Bills

If at all possible, try to make sure that YOU pay the bills.  Some employers like to pay the bills, but then don't give you a real accounting of the costs.  Some will greatly overcharge you.  Ask current employees about this.

"Furnished" Accommodation

Ask specifically what "furnished" means.  Does that mean one wooden chair and a bed pad on the floor?  Or does it include a microwave oven, TV, air-conditioning, washing machine, etc?

Demand Decent Housing

When having a problem with housing after you arrive, you can always ask your employer, "Would you accept living here - like this?"   But, sadly, sometimes they would!  Or they feel it is just fine for you.

Don't demand a mansion, have reasonable expectations, but do require something decent.

BTW, the author has, only twice in sixteen years, moved into a CLEAN apartment.  Much of the world cleans when they move in - not out.  Expect to move into a filthy apartment. 

No big deal - you can leave it dirty when you go!  It's just different - it's not wrong.



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