Wednesday 25 May 2011

An expatriate, commonly referred to as an expat, is defined as someone who has moved away from their native country to take up residence in a foreign country, voluntarily.

While you might not know many people who have chosen this lifestyle, there are quite a few people who live like this for various reasons.

The majority of expats in Port Gentil are here for work.  I can't even attempt an estimation as to how many expats call POG home but the community is quite large.  I would say the majority of those expats are French, this being a former French colony and the largest oil company here being Total.

Each company provides their expats with an expatriation package and some are definitely better than others.  The majority of packages include company provided housing (utilities included), a company vehicle, a shipment of goods into the country or a payment in lieu of shipment, return flights home every year, school tuition for children in private schools, amongst other things.  Many people are lured abroad because of good salary packages and the ability to save some money.  Most people's salaries are similar to what they would make at home but are doubled or if you are lucky, tripled because of cost of living upgrades, isolation fees and risk fees.  Obviously, the more difficult the country you are in, the more money you make.  Unfortunately, Joe and I haven't saved much between robberies, vacations, and wedding costs.

Port Gentil is small and there aren't many things to do so the expat community is really quite tight-knit.  You rely heavily on friends here because you are away from your family.  The other expats become your support network and they understand what you are going through because no one at home really does.  The most important thing to do as a newcomer is to get involved in any way possible even if you aren't particularly interested in the activity (like sewing) because it connects you with others and lets you know that you are all in it together!

A few of the ladies at the PWC Charity Gala this year.

As I prepare to head back to Canada in a few days, I'm also preparing to say good-bye to many good friends.  As with us, many people are only here for a few years before they move on to another location or back to their home country.  It's difficult as you do become quite close to people here and it's hard to see them go but you know, others will be coming and one day, it'll be Joe and I moving on.

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