Friday, January 09, 2009

For richer or poorer

When you work overseas, you become richer or poorer every time the exchange rate moves. In Scotland, I was making almost 2.5 times as much as I could have in Canada - though when I was a student and exchanging my student loans, I also had 2.5 times less. And it really was less or more by that amount, because things in Scotland often cost the same numerical amount as those in Canada, just with a pound sign in front, rather than a dollar.

Here in Korea, my first three contracts were golden. Because the American dollar was on par with the won, it was easy to just drop three zeros to make the exchange in your head - thus, if I was sending a million won back home it was like a thousand dollars. Except, of course, to the Canadian dollar it wasn't, leading to the lovely feeling of being given several hundred dollars of "free" money every time I sent money home. Brilliant, right?

Now, not so brilliant. I still love my job and I am still so much better off than many back home in the middle of the present recession or depression or whatever it is that we seem to be in. My job looks pretty stable - certainly there are starting to be rumours of lowering enrollment as belts tighten amongst workers, but there has also been increasing demand for teachers here. They've even started to lower the standards for teaching in public schools to allow people with only two years of university to teach. So, it looks ok, stability wise.

Also, for all that I'm making a couple of hundred less a month and prices have gone up here (as of last winter I was seeing things go up between fifty cents to a dollar for food in restaurants), I do live in a country that has an extremely low cost of living. If I had to, I could live here on $500 a month - maybe even less, actually, if I had to. I can't imagine another situation where I could live off less than a fourth of my income, allowing me to pay down debt and still do some travelling. At present, I send half home and spend half. It's not the most financially agressive strategy, but it is one that makes me happy.

I'm horrible with budgeting and in the past, the lack of ability to make payments on my student loans easily and cover my rent (which comes straight out of my pay before I get it, convienently) without stress led to a very unhappy time in my life. Here in Korea, none of those things are worries.

It may sort of be for poorer right now, but I'm very lucky. I need to remind myself of that more often.


sarah said...

wow, i can relate! i mean, everyone feels the burden of the economy - especially when it bounces up and down like a hyperactive 6 year old. but you never feel in its clutches quite like you do when you dapple in a foreign currency

feralgeographer said...

want to know a secret? i'm currently considering jobs in the yukon, and might even cut short my upcoming australian adventure if i find something worthwhile...

financially-speaking, it's pretty illogical for me to leave canada for another country where my money is barely worth more. adventure-wise, it's fantastic, which is why i'm doing it. however, the far north is also exciting, and the wages are twice what i could make down here on this island. expenses are higher, but not as high as i'd thought.

it feels so hideously grown-up to be making decisions based on these concepts! ick.