One factor that makes expats stand out from other social groups is how invasive we are about the private lives of other people, friends, acquaintances, colleagues.
It matters not a fig that we want to know everything about them ranging from their house rent to what car they drive and even how much they earn. We do not consider it rude, we think it is normal conversation. Actually, how much others earn is the spearhead of expat conjecture and enough of them are not even uncomfortable asking someone bluntly: how much do you make.
Faloos, cash, packet, sal, man, how much did you make a deal for?
That is the one thing about being expats. They can ask the most invasive questions without a qualm.
Then, in case they feel you haven’t gotten the message, they’ll say basic and perks, what’s the figure.
Why should you give them any figure? The ones incapable of taking a hint then move into what one call 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 and the grand hope that the person has a rotten deal and it is less than yours. The moment the question is flung at a group, there is a chorus of responses, their figures directly proportionate to the professional ‘threat’ value of the person concerned. If it is too high, someone will surely say, no 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.
At such moments of discussion there will be a pastry-like selection of inputs from those around.
I don’t think he gets any commission I know someone in his company, very low scales.
He’s bluffing, you can see by the house rent, his basic couldn’t be more than seventeen, seventeen five.
Hard to believe he’d come on just fifteen flat considering how well he was doing at home.
No way he’s getting over eighteen, his last job he was on nine plus accommodation.
His boss is a pal of mine and he doesn’t get twenty five, so how can this fellow, believe me, he’ll settle for sixteen, market is not good.
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.
It is nice to feel good about feeling good when someone is doing bad. Then you can afford to be generous and say bright, cheerful things like he’s a good man, sad he has to settle for less, deserves more.
But if he gets what he deserves then everyone will be miserable.
The good part is that these are all your friends talking…imagine if they were your foes.
It is probably a reflection of our general insecurity that there is so much comfort in other people’s problems or limitations.
Even a job loss or a resignation is viewed with suspicion. There has to be some ulterior reason, some motive for the departure even if it is the normal course of things. Our minds will not accept such development as part of the course of things. Someone has reached retirement, someone has decided to return home. No, there has to be something unsavoury or what one calls the ‘inside story’ otherwise we won’t rest easy.
And if there is no reason to be found we will manufacture one, just spread a light rumour and it will pick up speed on its own.
That way we feel better about our lot and the departures give us not just comfort but heightened security. At least we have a job.
By the way, how much do you get?