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How to find work in a tropical paradise

How good can life get?

In England, as long as you think you're in a good, well-paid job and have enough time to spend with your family or friends, then life can be pretty good. Pubs, clubs, cinemas, restaurants, public services and shops all combine to give a reasonable standard of living. Many people would rather be in the UK (or a country like it) than anywhere else in the world. However, a wet afternoon in front of daytime television in an unemployment black spot in the de-industrialised north of England is one of the most powerful incentives to flee a country you could wish for. So, thousands of young men and women choose to look for work and life abroad every year.

Of these, a significant number take advantage of the European Union's flexible labour policies. As a citizen of the EU you can live and work indefinitely in any of the other member states. It's as simple as that. The Netherlands is popular with Brits, especially around Amsterdam and Rotterdam. The locals speak English and Dutch society is relaxed on matters of drug enforcement, licensing laws and the sex industry. No wonder these cities have become so popular. If you're young and want to live somewhere similar to the UK, but with refreshing differences, then the Netherlands may be your first choice.

What about the Mediterranean?

Many people are just looking for sun and sea in familiar surroundings. Happy memories of family holidays on the Med, or even raucous, boozy, sex-crazed jaunts in early adulthood may stir a need to spend as much time as possible in the same area. Thousands of young Europeans head for the resort towns of Spain, France, Italy and Greece every season, hoping to find work, sex, booze, music and drugs. And who can blame them? But even on a good day, the Mediterranean, in high season, is not paradise. Some towns in Ibiza and Majorca have become noisy offshoots of Britain, but with a little more sunshine and more people in shorts. A true paradise should be more exotic than this, with golden palm-fringed islands set in warm, topaz seas.

An interview with a real-life Tropical Paradise worker

Scott, a determined 23 year old, tried a few regular-sized jobs around Leicester in England before deciding that his future must lie overseas. He always had a strong belief that the world had a lot more to offer than the Midlands of his teenage years, in fact he dreamed of finding the best place on the planet and making his living and living his life there. After ruling out a career in the Armed Forces (he'd had a taste of what was involved as an Army cadet), he made his way down to Spain, where he found a job selling holiday homes to British tourists on the Costa del Sol. Unfortunately, despite a record of success, he had difficulty getting money out of his employer. He returned home to gather his resources, re-double his determination and try again.

One afternoon, while scanning the jobs pages in his local newspaper he saw an advert for a holiday apartment sales job in Bali. Scott only had a vague understanding of where Bali was - he opened an Atlas and found it was on the other side of the world, below the equator, near to Australia. This was Indonesia, an impossibly exotic location compared to Northwest Leicestershire. He called the number and applied for the job immediately. After excelling at a couple of interviews in Birmingham, he got on a plane and fourteen hours later he and his girlfriend at the time touched down at Denpasar Airport, Bali. That was nearly three years ago. He's been in the region ever since, making a very comfortable living. He believes that just a little determination and ambition can land anyone in such fantastic surroundings.

I asked Scott a series of questions about his decision to move out there, how to prepare and what to expect.

You're earning all your money selling to people at the moment. What experience of selling is necessary?

No real experience is needed as training is usually provided. However any sales experience will be considered an asset and you'll feel more confident and self-sufficient from the start. When you're so many thousands of miles away from the certainty of home, self-confidence is vital.

What sort of personality is most likely to succeed out here?

The more successful people are outgoing, sharp and enthusiastic. These are qualities which will mean you can both communicate with and persuade the people you deal with.

How much cash should people take with them to fall back on if things get tough?

£500 or more is advisable but I went over with less than £200 pounds. You'll need somewhere to stay, something to eat and enough money to keep yourself looking presentable. Any extra cash you can spend on enjoying the country.

Does the employer pay for airfares?

The employer will pay the cost of a return flight in thirds - one third after training, the second third after your first deal and the final instalment when you have completed three deals.

If things are going well, what perks are on offer?

Well, you get to see a lot of culture and enjoy a good lifestyle. This is a beautiful island. Southeast Asia is studded with beautiful islands and coasts. I spent some time in Thailand recently and I've been put up in five star hotels in Singapore and Bangkok. Basically, if you do well even the sky seems like less of a limit than it used to!

Then there's the whole culture thing. Asia is still very different to back home in England. There's a very different psychology and social structure out here. You can get away with things you wouldn't even think of trying back home, but at the same time, you've got to be aware that this works both ways. Small-time corruption isn't unknown and there are some things that are impossible to do without influential, local contacts. It's all educational, I see Britain in a new light whenever I go back there.

What other jobs are there out there for westerners that will make a reasonable living?

One of the remarkable things about this island is the amount of crafts being created by the Balinese. Everyone who's not directly involved in the hospitality end of the tourist industry seems to be carving wood into furniture or figures, making textiles, clothes or religious objects. It's pretty good stuff with an intricate style all of its own and there's a market for it in other countries. So, a lot of Westerners set up export businesses and the successful ones probably do very, very well.

Others have careers in the hospitality industry itself, as hotel managers, chefs or run their own bars in the tourist centres.

Finally, there's the entertainment industry. I know several people from Britain and the States who have come out here with their record collections and make their living as DJs in the clubs. The only problem is buying new records; the shops here aren't as good as back home. Some of the clubs down here are spectacular and very busy, it's a great place to become a star; everyone's social life seems to revolve around the big clubs and bars at weekends.

What's the accommodation like? How much does it cost?

Accommodation can be good but prices are going up in Asia. £300/month will get you a nice house, probably with a maid.

What's the nightlife like? Is it all grass skirts and shadow puppets?

Fantastic what more can you say. OK, I'll say a little more. It would be easy to turn your nose up at the music and at some of the things that go on in some of the clubs, if you know what I mean, but you can let yourself go out here and have a better time than you're likely to have back home. And then, when the sun comes up, you walk out of the club into the most astonishing scenery - volcanoes, waves crashing onto the beach, early morning street markets, religious processions - it's all going on.

What are the long-term prospects and chance of promotion?

People that last a while usually end up running their own venue which can lead to very good money. Promotion depends on performance like any other job.

Are there any concerns I should have about diseases, health and security concerns?

There are no serious concerns if you're sensible. Personally, I've never had a problem; it's probably a safer environment than London.

Will I need a visa to work out there?

As a tourist, you must not stay in the country for longer than 60 days. However, 12-month business visas can be obtained.

Give me some cost of living indicators - what's the price of a beer, a pack of cigarettes, and a meal?

It's 40p for a pack of 20 cigarettes, 50p for a bottle of beer (most likely Bintang which is as near to Heineken as you'll need, usually served in an iced glass, straight from the freezer). A typical meal is in the region of £1 - £2 for the local fried rice, Nasi Goreng.

So do you like it out here? Do you miss home at all?

I went back to Britain last May. To be honest, it was a bit of a disappointment. It was great to see my family and stock up on HP sauce and decent teabags, but I'm in no hurry to go back! You people don't know what you're missing out here!


Of course, you don't have to follow in Scott's footsteps. It's always best to go there looking for a job or location that suits you best. Life in a developing country, no matter what the scenery and climate, can be frustrating at times. If everything goes wrong, you could find yourself stuck a long way from home. But if home is a grim, rain-streaked terraced house somewhere in northern Europe, you might not care.