Success Is On The Backs Of Others: Let’s Give Back

Making a high salary is done on the backs of others. And this is never truer than when you are on an expat assignment.

A high wage is never achieved in a corporation without the help and support of those with lower wages. How else is the company able to afford to pay you, the high wage earner, such a high salary?

Many times these low wage workers that are employed by the company are directly working for you and getting paid only a fraction of what you do because they are seen as not as valuable. If the work is not as difficult or takes less technical know-how, then they will be paid less.

Nevertheless, during this Christmas season, in this time of giving, it is time to give back to the little guy.

Giving Back

If you have read about my expat package in the past, you will know that I have tons of help to be an expat in China. Moving across the world is a lonely exercise and the help and support that we receive from the expat package and my coworkers really helps to make our lives easier.

While living back in the US, you really take for granted the freedom you have to travel and go where you want when you want. Your car is always at your beck-and-call. However, when you move across the world this may not be true anymore. It is certainly not true for us.

Using A Private Driver

We are one of the fortunate couples that were afforded a private driver by our expat contract. So, I have not driven a car for nearly 3 years. By the time I get home from this expat experience, it will have been 4 years without really driving a car.

The private driver takes me to and from work (45min – 2 hours each way) twice a week. I commute by bike the rest of the time because it drives me crazy to sit in the car that long. The driver’s working hours are Monday – Friday 7am-6pm or so. Basically, the hours that allow him to take me to and from work.

On the weekends, it is all overtime for him, but he is always more than willing to take us wherever we need to go on the weekends. Whether it is just in town to the store (we usually just commute by bike) or across cities to go race bikes or go hiking. He has given up many of his weekend days to drive us to locations, sit around all day, and then drive us home.

I suppose it is not that bad for him because he gets paid for the entire time he is gone, but he is still missing out on time with his wife and son. I know I would want to be home on the weekends, but I am also a salaried employee, so I do not know what my thoughts would be if I could make “the big bucks” by working on the weekend.

We always feel bad about using him on the weekends because it takes him away from his family, but he always seems happy enough about it. It helps him to support his family.

A Private Driver’s Pay

So how much do you think a private driver would make in a month of driving me around in China?

$3000? Too much

$2000? Still too high.

$1000? Still too high! This is getting ridiculous.

$500 is his pay before overtime is added. With overtime for the month, he can make between $700 and $1000. Maybe that is why he always seems happy to take overtime and wants to know if we need him on the weekends.

Now, $500-$1000 goes a lot farther in China than it does in the US. It is more than enough to live on. You can get an apartment for the month for the equivalent of $50. Granted, it is not very nice, nor is it big. But you can find a place to live for $50 and then feed your family of 3 for the month with $100-$200 and still have money left over to save.

This, of course, assumes you live a very simple lifestyle. The Chinese nowadays are going through a transition period of trying to be like the US, where everyone tries to show off to everyone else how much money they have by buying fancy things. The vegetable lady at the market has an iPhone 6 that cost ~$800 in China. That is several months salary.

American consumerism is alive and well in China. They seem to have adopted the worst possible idea from the US. Just imagine the freedom that could have been felt here if they instead embraced frugality and living a life free of the chains that consumerism puts on people.

Giving Back To Our Driver

Knowing all of this, I feel that it is a small token of gratitude to our personal driver that has been with us for 2.5 years now to give him a small Christmas bonus/gift. The Chinese don’t celebrate Christmas, but they will nevertheless appreciate the token of our thankfulness. A gift of $100 for a year’s worth of driving us around seems reasonable and is a 20% raise for him. Wouldn’t we all want a 20% Christmas bonus?

He has certainly earned this and we truly appreciate all he has done for us over the years. He may be part of the expat package that was given to us when we accepted the assignment in China, but he has become more than that.

It definitely feels good to #DoGood. J Money reached out earlier this month with a plan to give 20 bloggers $100 to do good. I responded with the above story, but only after he had over 100 replies. Oh well. The inspiration was what it took, to get us to follow through with our own money.

Never forget that your success is on the backs of others. Always appreciate the opportunities you have been able to have and give back to those that have helped you along the way.

So readers, do you agree that success is on the backs of others? Should we give back? Let us know in the comments. 

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  1. I totally agree with you – giving back is important.

    You can give your time, your money, your experience – I choose to give all 3 aspects in different ways

    My time as a volunteer trustee of a charity
    My money to a variety of charities, from the university where I got my first degree, to micro loans for 3rd world entrepreneurs (which I recycle & gift again)
    My experience in mentoring others

  2. I agree with you to all your aspects in your writing. At the right time, we should share and honour/appreciate the people around us. Bur minority has this attitude. This “giving back” shows the difference of the succesful/true-hearted person and self-conscious person.

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Success is on the backs of others. When we make a high salary and are successful, those making less afford us the opportunity to make it. Giving back to them is a way to express our collective gratitude.