This month I have made an easy checklist of how to spot a dodgy expat. While there may be some exceptions to my list, in general these are the tell-tale signs of who you are dealing with. If they hit on more than three of these be warned: they are probably ‘dodgy’.
No Paperwork. We all know some expats who have lived the expatriate lifestyle but have never had the legal paperwork to do so. No work permits, no tax code, not registered where they live etc. They come up with every imaginable reason why it’s better to fly under the radar, but at the end of the day the main reason is that they are dodgy.
No Chamber Affiliation. Here is a great way to meet some quality expats. Go to a chamber event — those that are members in general are far more professional and legit than those who are not members. Auscham, BBGV, AmCham, the Singapore Business Group, Nordcham, Eurocham, InCham — all super examples of great business network chambers to join.
@gmail or @hotmail for business. This is by far one of the best ways to spot a dodgy expat. It still amazes me that there are financial services “professionals” who offer advice on investment, insurance or property and yet have no business email account. If the business card has @gmail just turn and run. If it was accurate it would say @dodgy.
Change of Companies. Many expat managers in Vietnam complain about how quickly Vietnamese change jobs and this is also a warning sign for expats. If the expat has changed companies every few months then there is a probably a problem with the person not the companies. Be warned — they could be dodgy.
Change of Social Group. I have met a few expats over my time that change social/friendship groups on a regular basis. Over time I have realized it is not them meeting new and better friends, but old ones figuring out how dodgy they are and the expat having to move on to the next bunch of suckers. If someone is best buddies with a group one week and the worst of enemies the next, there is a good chance there is something dodgy going on.
No Charity Support. If you have been an expat for any length of time in a developing market, you should get behind at least one charity organization with at least social support if not financial. Next time you meet an expat ask them what charity they support, and get the inside scoop if they might be dodgy.
Girly Bars. If the expat goes to girly bars a few nights every week, this means they need to pay people to hang out with them and pretend they are somewhat interesting while they get drunk. We all know the answer already — they’re dodgy.
So the next time someone hands you a business card and offers you some advice, make a mental check with the above list. Who knows, it just might save you a lot of hassle down the road.