fbpx
Friday 15th November 2019

What I’ve learned about money by living overseas

In an association with Open Money
Living overseas

Sometimes, a little perspective is a powerful thing, especially when it comes to your money mindset and your spending habits. I had to go a long way to acquire my own perspective – 6000 miles, to be more precise.

I spent six happy years in the Middle East, where gold-dusted cappuccinos and gold bar vending machines actually exist.

Some acquaintances fell for the trappings of a Dubai expat lifestyle, hook line and, ultimately, sinker. They took loans for the latest 4X4, holidayed in exotic five-star resorts and lived in luxury villas with stratospheric rents. In the aftermath of the 2008 economic crash, UAE banks were keen to grant credit and loans. Sales calls from loan arrangers came daily, and there were few restrictions on advertising credit products. Good advice was hard to find, as the transient nature of the predominantly expat workforce meant trusted advisers and friends frequently left. It’s little wonder so many were lured by the prospect of a ‘have it all’ lifestyle.

I spent six happy years in the Middle East, where gold-dusted cappuccinos and gold bar vending machines actually exist.

We led an uncertain yet comfortable existence, balancing a high cost of living with putting some money away for the future, driven mainly through fear of ending up without sufficient contingency funds. The precarious nature of my husband’s industry prevented us ever feeling secure or complacent. Luckily, I’ve never been a slave to designer fashion, preferring a more eBay than Yves Saint Laurent approach to my wardrobe. We had enough money for our son to attend a non-profit school. We loved our time there, despite the obvious mis-match between our means and the crystal-encrusted extravagance the region had become known for. Keeping to a budget may not have seemed very glamorous at the time, but I am grateful we resisted the temptation to keep up with the Joneses. My natural tendency to save money, find good deals and buy second-hand were not very well aligned with the city, where there were no second-hand shops.

In a contrast I can only describe as seismic, I relocated with my family to Cambodia – a beautiful, tropical country in SE Asia struggling to emerge from its war-ravaged past. A large percentage of the rural population still lives in poverty with little to no access to hygienic water, let alone a full education.

I’ve never been a slave to designer fashion, preferring a more eBay than Yves Saint Laurent approach to my wardrobe.

With Cambodia fast becoming a popular holiday destination, as well as new development and investment from neighbouring countries and a growing population of expats, new threats to its future have become apparent. Pollution – particularly plastic – has had a devastating effect on the region. Families, unable to afford private refuse collections, are left with little choice but to burn their rubbish, or throw it into already-overflowing open drains, or rivers. The air quality has decreased to the extent that many choose to wear protective masks.

Supporting sustainable tourism, and socially responsible enterprises has become nature, even though it means paying a little bit more, sometimes, or challenging myself with the additional effort required. The benefits of swapping the throw-away for the re-usable are immediately obvious in places like Cambodia, and the re-education has been powerful. My husband left his former industry in favour of a social enterprise, benefiting his health and wellbeing as much as it does his conscience. The glitter and polish of the Emirates seem a lifetime away, where high consumption and excess were so often revered.

Tags:
Clare Lawrence

Clare Lawrence

Mouthy Blogger

Clare Lawrence, nicknamed 'Coupon Clare' at college, lives mostly in Cornwall. Proud mum to Gregory, she'll stop at nothing in her quest to save cash!

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

SUBSCRIBE

Subscribe to get Mouthy stories straight to your mailbox.