Thursday, August 21, 2014

An Expat in Myanmar

Steve has been an expat for many years, moving from the USA to Canada, France, the UK, Qatar, Myanmar and back to Qatar. Here is his experience of working in Yangon, Myanmar.

Where are you originally from?

Is this your first expat experience? If not where have you lived before?
No. I’ve lived in Canada, France, the UK, and Qatar.

Where are you living now? Myanmar

How long have you lived here for? 10 months

What was your first impression of the city / country you moved to?
Very lush and green surroundings (especially after the Middle East!) but also quite poor, with chaotic third-world driving standards.

What do you like the most about where you are living now?
The people are very friendly and welcoming even though the country had been closed off for so long that foreigners are still a novelty.

What do you like the least about where you are living now?
Yangon traffic is horrible. It’s also still difficult to find many items that could easily be found elsewhere – Western clothing and food brands, etc.

What do you do for fun?
Yangon has a growing nightlife scene and several very good restaurants, so I typically go to a bar or restaurant with work friends on the weekend.

What is the funniest / strangest cultural experience you have had?
When visiting the iconic Temple of the Golden Rock a few hours outside Yangon, some Burmese pilgrims to the temple approached me and my partner and asked to take pictures with us. After they snapped several photos, another group came, then another and another. We lost count of how many groups got our pictures but must have spent half an hour posing with total strangers. It made us feel a bit like rock stars even though it was of course nothing personal – we were just completely foreign and novel to them.

How did you find the cost of living compared to your home? More or less expensive? Why?
In general more expensive. Housing that even approaches Western standards is in high demand and fetches a high rent – a fairly average 3-4 bedroom standalone house rents for US $5000-6000 per month.  Owning a car is prohibitively expensive.  That being said, going out is cheap compared with other places I’ve lived and taxis are pretty cheap too, with a typical fare within the city usually being no more than US $4-5.

Did the company help with your move? How?
I’m on a temporary assignment at the moment and received airfare plus a cash allowance that would have been more than adequate to ship belongings here as air freight.  If I move to a longer-term contract, they will cover professional movers and a 20-foot container.

 Does your company pay for any of the following -

Communication (e.g. Internet; Telephone)

Education (e.g. Children’s School Fees)

Furniture & Appliances (e.g. Semi-Furnished Housing)


Healthcare (e.g. Medical Insurance; Medical Facilities)

Household Accommodation (e.g. Housing or Housing Allowance)

Personal Care

Recreation and Culture (e.g. Fitness Club Fees)

Restaurants, Meals Out and Hotels

Transport (e.g. Company Vehicle or Transport Allowance)

Air Fare Home each year

What does your company not pay for that you feel it should pay for?
Fitness club fees would be welcome.

What do you find expensive in your Host city?
Housing, private transportation, imported foods, electronics.

Do you have any advice for readers on becoming an expat and the type of research to do before hand?
First and foremost, have a sense of humour since research won’t prepare you for everything. Be sure you understand what’s included in your package and the cost of any things you’ll need to pay yourself.  For example, I and many colleagues had an unpleasant shock when first moving to Qatar and learning that the cash housing allowance offered came nowhere close to covering the cost of suitable accommodations based on the market rates at that time.

Any favourite websites  / blogs about where you live, that can help others with their move?, Yangon Connection FB page

International expat cost of living
Steve in Myanmar provides up-to-date cost of living data for over 700 locations worldwide, employers and employees can calculate how much is needed to earn in another location to have a similar spending power. Steven McManus is a Remuneration and Benefits Consultant and founder of

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