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Overseas with family

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Well-known member
Jan 3, 2005
Assuming there are jobs available overseas, What has been your experience with regards to family life overseas? Has your family adjusted well? What has been the most challenging? What about schools and healthcare? What about recreation? I read alot about Dubai and it seems one of the better places to be. Thanks in advance!
If this sound glib, it isn't meant to be:

Expat life is what you make of it. If your family are adaptable and resilient, you'll love it.

I've been in Hong Kong for almost twenty (20) years and it's great. We've done well (very well) here as a family, career and financially.

There are downsides to every expat posting - you tend to be the "stable" family whilst most of your friends are transient. It isn't home - in spite of having a nice house and all the trappings, you still long for "home" - in our case, Canada. We go "back" for almost all our vacations. Forget about emulating your former lifestyle - you simply can't. No lakes to swim in on hot summer days, no salmon fishing here, no lazy bike rides with the kids, no country picnics, no tailgate parties...that sort of thing. Stuff does happen, but in a different way.

We (at CX) have "bases" - different domiciles - I'll be putting in for one soon as my kids are getting to high school age and "values" are an issue with me here.

I'm not so sure about DXB (Dubai) to be honest. Are you from PHX? It gets very very hot and the place is turning into a huge shopping mall. The ruling family set out on path of turning DXB into something other than just another oil state and the path seems to retail therapy for all. Not my scene at all. The locals are (for the most part) arrogant pr!cks and treat expats there with absolute disdain.

Freedom of thought, association, speech and religion are all issues in countries outside the West - can you deal with that? Hong Kong is pretty good to be honest, but some countries really suck.

How much will you work for you bag of silver? How tired will you be? Will you be able to enjoy your rewards? How about your family life?

What about language? Ain't no Spanish out here or DXB - if you want the "full experience" you should learn to speak local - I did but I'm one of about 4 or 5 in a company of 2500 pilots.

Education - a real issue for many especially if you plan on a faith-based education (other than Islam). Costs can be extremely high if you want something other than vanilla...

To be brutal, most North Americans can't cut it. Some are very happy (like Bjammin) working for expat companies but I doubt if he'd be at CX if HKG was the only option. At the moment, EK (Emirates) don't have bases. If they did, there would be an immediate exodus from DXB. Here at CX we have about 40% of our guys on bases outside HKG - JFK, ATL, ORD, ANC, SFO, LAX, YYZ, YVR, LHR, CDG, AMS, etc. Nice option if you can get it.

Anyway, just some of my thoughts. Good luck (you'll need it).
Captain U is pretty much spot on. Sometimes it is the little things that become a big issue. I am next door to Capt. U at the "other" S.A.R. and I am jumping through a bunch of hoops in getting our dog over here. Silly I know but I have learned to just take a break and relax, go with the flow. In San Antonio I could knock out a ton of "honey do's", here plan on just one! And then, go have a pint!

The language barrier is steep but I have shortcuts on small notes in my wallet and in my cell phone. When I get in the cab and give a greeting and my address of destination in Cantonese the drivers smile and appreciate it, even when the "tone is off".
My employer has given me a medical package that is far better than my last company. Mainly cause it's free. And, anything extra is very well priced considering the states. But, the dental is standard, 2 cleanings a year, flouride treatments (to sap and impure our precious bodily fluids ;)).
The usual stuff. Ortho is extra but once again it is a lot less expensive here.I think care here is on par with the west. Heck my wife's doctor did her internship at her Alma Mater, Tulsa University. It is a small world.

Before I sign off, I have to mention shopping. Walmart may get there stuff from China but I don't have one where I am located. You will learn, very quickly, to have a close orbit of 3 or 4 stores to do your shopping. If you have a particular product you like and see it in the store it is best to stock up.

On a happy note, I am drinking a 640ml bottle of Kirin Beer that I paid .90 cents USD. There are perks. Since I am faithful to my wife cheap beer is my only perk. Remember this is Asia;)

Good luck with your search.

Cheers- Rum
There's a thread on APC about DXB in particular as well. One of the article from a British media doesn't paint a good light on that city. I think living abroad is what you make of it. Your wife may tell you she'll do fine, when you bring her along with your EK interview for 4 days. But think about years later, will she feel the same way? I always think that as adaptable we pilots are, our loved ones may pay the ultimate price. There're pros vs. cons, I wish you the best of luck.

The biggest factor is YOU and YOUR FAMILY, not where you live. A couple of examples:
Emirates and Dubai:
1-The company is crap, the training is crap, the people are asses, Dubai sux, the foreigners suk, the traffic is horrible and it's the worst place in the universe to live.
2-The company is great, training is top-notch, the employees are great to work with, living in Dubai is amazing, it is so good that I can't believe I'm actually here.
Same place, same airline, two different people

Me in NBO:
I have been told I am very adaptable. So far, living here and the job are turning out to be way better than I thought. I would consider working here for longer than 6 months, because it is going so well. There have been about 5 other pilots who could not do it, for various reasons.

So, if you WANT to go overseas, go and it will work out. If you do NOT want to go, don't as it will not work out.

My family and I love it. We're in DXB. I fly for EK and am really happy.
Despite recent events and certain clowns the company is great. Like everything it could be better, or worse.
You have to take DXB with a smile. Things are not the same as back home, specially efficiency.
Overall we can live a very nice lifestyle on first (now second) year F/O pay and only one salary. Wife takes care of the baby at home. Couldn't do that at home.
Like someone else said, it's what you make of it. We miss the States, but we're very happy here.
Having spent upwards of 22 years in the Gulf and Southeast Asia, I have to agree that the biggest variable is the family. If there is family buy-in on the move and the location and all of you forget the phrase 'this isn't like home', your chances of a happy overseas assignment go way up. The families who don't make it seem to be the ones constantly comparing the new country with 'home'.

Like Capt. U said, forget about emulating your former lifestyle. Try to embrace your new home and settle in without comparing it to 'home'. Take advantage of the new opportunities to travel, find new hobbies, make new friends. It can be very rewarding. Expat life can be very transient, but when your friends move on, look at that as another opportunity to travel and visit them. Some of my best friends are ones I made years ago in Vietnam and the Gulf. It's rare when I am on a trip and don't know someone in the layover city.

When we moved back to the States last time, I thought I was going to have to get a divorce and lose the kids-- the family wanted to stay!
Living overseas, is much easier today than it was 10+ years ago. You have the internet, can get a Vonage or Magic Jack to make cheap calls home and there is always Skype. When you can talk to other family members on a daily basis, the distance doesn't feel as far.
Compared to my former job in the US, I get 42 days paid leave my first year, and every year after. The pay is finally what I feel I should have been making as an airline pilot. And, at least for the near future, it seems like there is actually a bit of stability where I am, in the Middle East.
Look carefully at what they are offering, the entire package of benefits and have a good talk with your family. If you have an offer, consider going by yourself for a time to make sure you are happy. Get yourself settled, set up the household and once you have the place figured out, bring the family. good luck
Cliff and Capt U are spot on, it's a very subjective matter, I am in SE Asia and I feel that about 60% of the families adapt well and the rest are unhappy for many different reasons, good luck.

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