JournalismPakistan.com September 18, 2013
Expats love knowing what others make. On being introduced to each other they will ask, so what's your basic? None of your flipping business, mister. You look horrified. What basic?
You know what I mean, how much are they giving you? And if you say something like, not enough, not by half, you don' t want to know, they extend the quiz game further by saying, okay, don't give the exact figure, just the ballpark idea.
Why should I give you any figure? The ones incapable of taking a hint then move into what one calls the 'package' mode. Tell us your house rent-cum- furniture-cum-perks-cum-car allowance; is it over twenty grand a month? All this out of the blue, like a normal ice-breaker, how are you this evening, how's the golf going, how much are you getting?
But it is kindergarten stuff when compared to the big league where the question changes form and becomes third person. Like if you are not in the room? How much do you think he's getting? This debate is often transparently camouflaged by concern, genuine interest and affection, all these sentiments being totally made spurious by the rampant curiosity that churns beneath the surface. The moment the question is flung at a group, there is a chorus of responses, their figure directly proportionate to the professional 'threat' value of the person concerned. If it is too high, someone will surely say, naaw, I don't think it is that much. If the figure suggested is comfortably low, then someone will say, perhaps a couple of thou and more.
And if none of the beating about elicits a satisfactory answer they will all go into the realm of reassurance. How much do you think he gets? This sentiment is punctuated with a sprinkling of can't bes, maybes, nevers, no ways, possible (said grudgingly) and all of it then rounded off with an 'anyway, what difference does it make to us?'
Expats need to hear that the package has inherent flaws, the company giving it is unreliable, there is a chasm between the promise and its fruition and only then, having obtained some consoling sliver of doubt to cling to, will they let the topic go.
(The writer is a Senior Editorial Advisor of Khaleej Times and the paper’s former Editor. He has also been the Editor of Gulf News, Gulf Today, Emirates Today and Bahrain Tribune)
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