Package Envy/The Nose Knows

Disclaimer: Not for Shrinking Violets or Those with Sensitive Sensibilities

Package Envy is the bane of every expat. There is always an expat out there who managed to negotiate, wheedle, lie, or haggle his or her way into a better “package”. There are expats with paid R&R (Rest and Relaxation) trips to lush locations to escape the pollution, crime, or any other unsavory aspect of life currently affecting them. (I have never had this benny but admire those companies who dish it out and those employees who are smart enough to ask for or wangle it.) The first rule of expat package negotiation is “Don’t Ask, Don’t Get”.

Mr. Understanding and I always argue at this point in the negotiations with the contracting company. He thinks I am being greedy and I think he is being ignorant, or better yet, just plain stupid. The truth lies somewhere in between. Why not ask them to pay your phone bill? ABC Co. does! How about all the utilities? XYZ company does! Mail pouches? Mail Express has that covered. Cars and drivers? Schooling for children? Maids? How many home leaves per year? Business class or steerage? Full rental? Do you get a rental car on home leave? It is all up for grabs.

Then there are expats paid as locals who get none of this.

Naturally the discrepancies in packages generate widespread, internecine gossip and speculation when packages are compared. Minions note the super size of the big boss’ mansion, the wife’s wardrobe, grooming and jewelry, and the vacations taken en famille to 5 star hotels. How come she gets 2 trips home and I only get one? Those divas at the top of the heap start to feel supranaturally special and those wannabes just starting out their expat adventures are pickled green with envy.

So that was what I had when I visited Normal this weekend. No smells! A fab floor plan! Amazing shower pressure with constant hot water!!! I am close to tears just recounting this. I am beyond green.

Contrast this with Monday morning at Stinky Glama Villa. Thing 1’s bathroom is back to smelling horrific. The master bedroom, oddly, smells like 100 Chinamen have farted in the room (this is an understatement). I knew it is neither myself*, Mr. Understanding, or the animals. The room has smelled this way before but by the time the Chinese maintenance staff has arrived, the odor has dissipated like money in my bank account during the holiday season. The Chinese nose can discern nothing amiss.

So, on Monday, when the smells were emanating from the house’s every orifice, they sent the foreign nose in straight away. Elbart, a new employee of the “concierge” staff and a former resident of Belgium , came over to smell check my Glama Villa.

Thing 1’s bathroom was easy.

“I can smell it from here,” he said, midway through the bedroom on the way to the suite’s potty. “Definitely sewage.”

The smell in my bedroom proved harder to describe.

“It smells like toothpaste. Shampoo. And what’s that smell like rotten eggs?” he asked.


“Yes, that’s it, sulfur. With a little bit of sewage,” Elbart proclaimed. Sniffing the air in the bedroom and bathroom, unable to pinpoint the origin of the nastiness, Elbart roamed the rooms like a vintner or a Perfume Nose striving to discern the floral topnotes in a cabernet sauvignon or a vial of eau de toilette. Was it perhaps the floor heating, we queried? Heady stuff indeed.

So, Banana Jo, if you are reading this blog you will have a clue as to my impending nervous breakdown. And that was before I saw the mold on the top floor of the house today, in Thing 2’s bedroom, clogging his lungs, causing fever and other nasty symptoms. Who’s got package envy now, huh?

*comments from my family regarding this subject will not be tolerated – that means no good premios for you!

** I have been meaning to plug the following site helpful to expats seeking all sorts of helpful information:



Filed under Life

5 responses to “Package Envy/The Nose Knows

  1. MCV

    In fact Expat Princess originally described the smell to be as that of 10,000 people farting. That’s got to be one horrendous stench . . . to the Green Stone you must go.

  2. Mood Ring Momma

    No comment indeed. Premio por moi?

  3. Flaky Friend

    How awful – we had a cat pee problem for awhile right before Christmas that was awful and very stressful. I hope it gets cleared up soon – that has got to be tough.


  4. Princess Poor Package

    You hit the expat nail on the head with this one, Princess. It can take a lot of energy to rise above package envy — and stay there. There are times – esp. with Secret Sarah – when I find myself angry at my OWN husband for is poor package. But at the next turn I find myself chatting with some sucka’ who is putting up with this crazy place AND paying for their own children’s school. Princesses really do need to make peace, but it is not easy.


  5. expat princess

    MCV: am working on it!

    MRM: premio coming your way!

    FF: how did you handle the cat pee problem? Mine are terrible, which is why we have no rugs. I think my cats are just angry.

    PPP: remember to dish about lunch with Secret Sarah! My own package is a combination of 12 years of hard work, observation, and husband’s quashing of exorbitant expat demands. Drawing the line is what it is all about, wouldn’t you agree?

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