YOUR EMBASSY IS HERE TO HELP.
Um... come again?
OK, so you are teaching overseas, then suddenly it all goes belly-up. The town where you worked has been reduced to flotsam by a tsunami. The school where you worked now resides at the bottom of an earthquake fault. You received a Dear John letter last week and you are now a jabbering wreck, sliding uncontrollably into a meltdown. You’ve been horribly injured in a traffic accident. You find yourself in a festering jail peopled by rats and large sodomites with rotting teeth. Or all five at the same time.
What do you do? You ask your embassy for help, of course. After all, that’s what embassies are for, isn’t it? Um… sorry to disappoint, but no. Not any longer. The reason embassies exist today is to promote trade between the host country and the home country. If a citizen should get himself into strife, that’s his bad luck. Don’t expect us to do anything about it. Oh… ok, we’ll notify your family and perhaps bring a bag of oranges to your bedside, but apart from that, all the best, Chum.
You only need to look at your embassy’s website to learn just what it is they’re not prepared to do for their citizens who find themselves up sh*t creek without a paddle. The site will contain a long list of things they won’t do for you. (They won’t even lend you a paddle.) But there is one piece of good news. They’ll arrange your funeral for you if they can’t find any of your family or friends to do it.
I’m speaking from bitter experience here. Some years ago I was stabbed twice in the stomach and robbed of all my cash and belongings in Bangkok. Not a pleasant experience. So here I am lying in hospital with plastic tubes sprouting from every orifice, including a few orifices I didn’t have before, and in walks the Embassy Guy. He’s not in the best of moods. There’s a big embassy party tonight which he should be getting ready for, but instead he’s here in this crummy, over-crowded hospital talking to me.
EMBASSY GUY: Mmm… you’re in a spot of bother, aren’t you?
ME: Yeah, dammit.
EG: Do you have any money to pay for the hospital fees?
ME: No, I was robbed, remember?
EG: No medical insurance, no bank account, no hidden emergency funds?
EG: Mmm… I don’t see where we can help in this case. The embassy is no longer authorized to offer financial assistance to citizens in distress.
ME: Buggar me! Does that mean I’ll have to stay in this hospital forever?
EG: There is one thing we can do. Give me a list of family members and friends who are likely to help out financially, and we’ll contact them.
So, the moral of my little tale is: Stay out of trouble while working overseas. And if you can’t stay out of trouble, don’t rely too much on your embassy for help.
In my new book, EFL minus the B.S. (now available on Amazon) I have touched on this theme, along with many others. In the book you’ll find answers to these questions: How can I get an overseas English-teaching job? Why in the hell would I want to get an overseas teaching job? How can I survive that job once I’ve got it?