a 3-day camping trip for work, taking time off after a break-up, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My firm wants us to go on a three-day camping trip

I work in the design field, and my small company was recently acquired by a multinational firm. We’ve known that each summer the entire company is invited to three-day company-wide meeting. The dates, location, and details are a surprise, released only 90 days in advance. Our managing director wrangled the dates a while ago and that the meeting this year would be held in Europe. So, for those us in North America – the “new kids,” as it were — that would mean a day of travel on each end of the meeting, thus a full week away.

We just learned that this year’s meeting is a three-day Scandinavian camping trip. Not glamping – camping. No electricity and we’ll each be provided with our own personal tent.

My main concern is for the accessibility-challenged among us – someone who has mobility issues, a broken bone, severe allergies, or requires use of a CPAP. What if a breastfeeding mom wanted to (at her own expense) bring her newborn and a nanny? What about the city mice among us who don’t own a sleeping bag or backpack? This plan seems designed to exclude more people than it includes. There is also the concern of the outdoor trip being near the solstice in a region that will be daylight for nearly 22 hours a day and not having access to blackout curtains to sleep.

This will be the first in-person contact many of us will have with our colleagues from around the world, and few from our office want to attend. We’re worried about sleeping on the ground for three nights after a 12-hour flight, the lack of proper bathing facilities, and, frankly, the sleep deprivation. Not the best first impression.

It’s our understanding that the arrangements have been booked and we need to RSVP within two weeks. Our North American senior staff have promised no fall-out if we chose not to attend. Any advice here our collective next move? Should our entire office boycott on principle?

I mean, that sounds horrible. If anyone in your office is genuinely excited to attend, there’s no reason they need to boycott on principle, but for the rest of you, you’re being told there will be no fall-out if you don’t go, and I’d take them at their word about that and decline.

It’s also worth saying something like this: “We’d love to attend and meet everyone, but camping isn’t practical for many of us, due to mobility issues, allergies, breast-feeding, and so forth. We assume it’s too late to change the plans for this year, but we’d really be excited to attend next year if it’s something where hotels are an option.” If you weren’t the new kids, I’d suggest pushing back harder. But you’ve just been acquired by this company that clearly has their own way of doing things, and I think you’re going to get a better outcome if you stress that you’d like to participate next time but this one just isn’t logistically possible.

2. My boss won’t stop pressuring my employee to work in another country

My company does work in another country overseas. My boss (Arya) wants one of the people I manage (Sansa) to go there to work. It’s not a niche area but Sansa is the only person at our company with the relevant knowledge and experience. Sansa refuses to go work there. She cites the restrictions she would be under: She would have to live in a building or compound with other foreign workers. She wouldn’t be in one of the main or large cities so the compound and her living space would be small. She would have to wear black robes and covered hair every time she went outside. She wouldn’t be allowed to speak or be alone with any man, including colleagues. She wouldn’t be allowed to have a bible or practice her religion. She would be restricted on where she could go outside the compound. Things for entertainment like movie theatres are banned and don’t exist there and her internet use would be censored and monitored.

Sansa says no amount of money is worth living under those conditions. Arya keeps telling Sansa she has to go and is pressuring me to talk her into going. I spoke to Sansa once and she shut it down saying she isn’t going. She said she will quit or be fired rather than go there. Arya says it’s too costly to hire someone just for this project. Arya will not let up about Sansa going and asks me several times a day to talk to her. Sansa is a good employee and I don’t want to lose her, and I think Arya and the company need to accept her decision. What can I do to get Arya and the company to back off and accept Sansa’s decision? I’m getting tired of Arya asking me about it also.

Say this to Arya: “Sansa is thoroughly considered this, and she will not go. She has valid reasons for that, including religious ones. We cannot continue to pressure her, and she won’t change her mind if we do. She’s made it clear that she’ll leave her job if necessary in order to avoid going. At this point, we need to decide how we’re going to move forward.What is plan B?” If your boss still keeps harping on it, say this: “She’s made it clear she won’t go. I assume we’re not going to fire her for this, and if we did, we’d still need to find someone else to go. If we continue pushing, we risk her quitting outright and I don’t want that.”

Ultimately, you can’t make your boss back off. You can say the things that would get a reasonable person to back off, and even most pushy people. But if she’s gone off the rails and is determined to stay there, all you can do is to keep using the language above. (I suppose at some point, you could switch to, “We’re running out of time to find someone else, and I think we need to shift our efforts to that.”)

3. Is this a real job offer?

I did all of the rounds of interviews for a job, and in the final interview, the head of the group I was interviewing for asked me when I’d be able to give a yes/no if an offer was extended, since it was pretty heavily implied that I’d get the job. I had said I’d like to finish a few other interviews, and asked for until the end of April (this was in late March). He said it was fine, and the next Monday I got a call from the recruiter saying that they team thought I was “the perfect candidate” and wanted to give me an offer, but “just to be transparent” there would be an influx of people looking to fill this role internally, and I should try to give an answer as soon as possible.

Later, I got an email that said: “I spoke with the team. They are supportive of being flexible, but would truly appreciate an accelerated schedule. We would like to proceed to offer, but we can wait. We will continue to evaluate other finalists and make formal decisions in the interim. There is some chance that with your timeline we could advance with others. Just trying to be as transparent as possible. Good luck and lets connect live next week to firm up timelines.”

This, of course, made it seem like I didn’t have an offer so I asked, “In the interim, can I get a written confirmation of the offer just as both proof if anyone asks, and really mostly for my peace of mind?” as part of an email I sent back. I got told, “With regards to offer, we are happy to discuss it formally when you get closer to your deadline but until that time please note our intent is there. Excited to drive this for you.”

So does this mean I have an offer or not, especially because of the discrepancy between the recruiter and head of the group? Is this normal- I’m surprised they’re not willing to give me an actual offer solely because I mentioned I was looking to finish off my interviews to make a more well informed decision? Should I be concerned?

Yeah, they’re telling you that they don’t want to wait that long, and they’ll continue considering other candidates meanwhile. (That really is a long time to ask them to wait — a week is more typical in most fields). They should say that more directly, but that’s what they’re saying.

It sounds like your choices are to accept the offer now (and forego the other jobs) or wait until the end of the month and risk that they’ll hire someone else meanwhile.

4. Taking time off after a break-up

I’m 26 and met my boyfriend at work (but not in the same department). We have been together a little over four years and we have lived together for the past two. However, 18 months ago he took time off work with anxiety and depression which developed into chronic fatigue. The great benefits our work gives us means that he has remained on half salary and has been able to keep living with me (paying half the rent/bills in our expensive city) throughout this time.

Throughout his illness, I have been his main emotional and physical support. He is generally unable to look after himself like a normal adult. From looking it up, I believe I fit into my work’s definition of a carer, although I have never raised this with management.

For various reasons, I have decided that I can no longer continue with the relationship. I have not taken this decision lightly and I know it won’t be easy. Not everything is bad in our relationship and I will miss him loads. Given his almost complete dependence on me, any break-up is bound to be messy.

I’m concerned that when I finally get up the courage to break up with my partner, I will be a mess. How do I communicate this to my manager? What support can I ask for or expect? I think at a minimum I may need a couple of days off to get my head together — should I be expecting to take this off as annual leave? I think it’s akin to grieving (which my company would never expect you to take time off as holiday or sick leave for), but haven’t heard of anyone doing it.

You can’t generally take bereavement leave for the break-up of a relationship, no matter how much like grieving it is. You should be able to take regular vacation or sick leave though.

5. What should I say in an email where I’m attaching my cover letter and resume?

When sending a cover letter attachment to an email address, is there a best practice for what to say in the email itself? It seems overly formal/unwieldy to paste the entire cover letter, and I’m not sure what tone to use to introduce the application materials otherwise. (Sending a blank email or a bland “please find my materials attached” doesn’t seem like the right answer either, especially for high-profile jobs.)

You’re right that you shouldn’t leave the text area totally blank, but it’s fine to just say “Please find my application materials attached for the X job” (and that’s what most people do if they’re not putting their cover letter in the body of the email itself). Don’t write much more than that or you’ll be writing a second cover letter, and you don’t really get two bites at the apple like that.

{ 1,054 comments… read them below }

    1. LouiseM*

      Right? Don’t you usually need internet to get work done? I have so many questions, it’s so ridiculous it almost seems like it can’t be possible!

      1. JamieS*

        My impression was the meeting is more of a company retreat get to know your co-workers type of thing rather than an actual business trip.

        1. Stone Cold Bitch*

          Yep, team building trips are fairly common. I know multinational companies that do them once a year, it’s a casual party trip (beer gardens and biking in Berlin, campsite in Portugal with cabins, games and pool, that sort of thing).

          1. Artemesia*

            We have an acquaintance who FIL was on a river rafting trip in Canada for team building; I can’t remember how many people drowned, but more than one. I wonder if the European company is very youthful; I remember leading a two week workshop in Singapore where all the participants were barely out of their teens and all the activities they planned in addition to my instruction were team building events that were very tough for me physically although I was only in my late 50s then and reasonably fit. I pretty much had to participate; I particularly enjoyed little bits like getting from the floor to your feet without using your hands from a cross leg sitting position (yeah that’s happening.)

            1. Ozma the Grouch*

              That’s absolutely tragic. My brother works for a company that makes outdoor gear and his company regularly goes on outings to the mountains, rivers, and other wilderness settings to “test” the gear. The company does have a very strong bias towards younger, fitter employees under the guise of culture fit. It’s like they expect even the reception desk employees to test gear. So far no serious injuries or anything, but I’m just holding my breath for the day one of the employees doesn’t come back from an ice climbing test or a spelunking exercise.

        1. Elemeno P.*

          Shadow Puppet campfire pie charts, along with a rousing group song about the latest expense reports.

    2. Beth*

      Right? It’s such a divisive kind of trip–most people I know either love camping or absolutely hate it.

        1. MCL*

          I also love camping, but never for work. Also, camping with people who don’t like to camp is no fun, so I don’t see how this will be so great. I think this is a very strange choice for a work trip.

          1. Corky's wife Bonnie*

            Right, I would be one of those people who would be no fun. I don’t think anyone would want to be around me after not being able to sleep because of the tent and the extended light.

        2. Sans*

          Same. Also, my knees are crappy. So I’d want to know what the daytime activities are. If it’s pretty laid back, okay. But if they are planning 10 mile difficult hikes, etc., then no, I’m not going unless there’s an ER nearby to fix my potentially dislocated knee. Actually, I’m not going no matter what – a dislocated knee is the only pain I’ve had worse than labor.

          Normally, if someone offers me a free Scandanavian camping trip, I’d gladly accept. But not as a work thing.

          1. VioletDaffodil*

            I would never go camping because I am not a person who enjoys being in nature for extended periods of time, but doubly so because of the dislocated knee issue. I’ve done it before and I think I really have some mild PTSD over the thought of it ever happening again.

          2. Clorinda*

            Scandinavian solstice camping means the daytime activities are alcohol and possibly saunas. Also, ALL the time is daytime, depending on how far north. Signed, a part-time Finn.

          3. AdamsOffOx*

            If it’s Sweden, no problems – it’s mostly flat. If it’s Norway, you’ll be climbing mountains.

        3. Parenthetically*

          Yeah, the trip itself sounds incredible, and not dissimilar to something my husband and I have been dreaming of doing since we got married (I’m sure OP was trying to be very straightforward in describing it, but I was going all heart-eye emoji reading about it!). But it probably sounds like hell on earth for a lot of folks, AND even as amazing as camping (<3) in Scandinavia (<3<3) sounds, I'm not at all sure I'd like to experience it for the first time with a bunch of new work colleagues rather than… you know… people I love.

          1. hermit crab*

            Yeah, I am someone who has literally gone to other continents to go camping with a coworker (on vacation – this is someone I’ve been personal friends with for years). And even I agree that it’s not an appropriate choice for a work retreat.

          2. fieldpoppy*

            I’m with you. This is something I would totally seek out on my own — I rode my bike by myself across Latvia and Estonia last year! But I would not want to do it for work, and I would not want to do it with non-campers!

            I suspect if this is a scandinavian country they are following their cultural norms more than we would be in north america.

            1. the gold digger*

              A friend has to go to Helsinki for work occasionally. His co-workers there take him out for heavy drinking and a sauna (the kind with snow and icy water).

              “And that’s if they LIKE you,” he says.

              1. Artemesia*

                One of the great surprises of my life is that rolling in snow after a sauna is not unpleasant; it doesn’t even feel cold.

        4. lady bird*

          I love camping, but absolutely not for work, if only for the hygiene aspects. I have no hang-ups being unshowered for three days with my close friends but with coworkers (especially making a first impression!) no way

        5. Artemesia*

          Me too. Being dirty and uncomfortable is fine on my own backpacking trip with my spouse; not so much with my colleagues.

          1. SC*

            Honestly, this is why I’ve never used the gym in my office building. I just don’t want anyone to see me sweaty and red-faced and in workout clothes. Camping would be that with the benefit of 3 days without showers. No thanks.

        6. The OG Anonsie*

          Yeah this is me. I’m actually planning on this exact same vacation this year and I would still cringe at the thought of having to do it with coworkers.

      1. Scarlet*

        Exactly. If the whole point is team-building, the smart option would be to go for something that everyone can enjoy.

        1. myswtghst*

          Agreed. A trip like this ensures most people will be stressed out by trying to keep up appearances while meeting new colleagues for the first time in much less-than-ideal circumstances, and pretty much ensures the only thing people will bond over is either loving or hating the trip.

      2. Mad Baggins*

        noooOOOOO

        I am a hobbit and I love my creature comforts. Not for any sum of money would I camp on the ground jetlagged in Europe with no nighttime with acquaintances who will picture me from this trip every time I send them an email.

        I’m afraid I would have “plans” that week.

        1. Zennish*

          No doubt. I find the whole idea appalling. If I wanted to camp out in the woods, I would have become a Forest Ranger. I need a hot shower at the beginning of the day, and a reasonably comfortable bed at the end, and I don’t think that’s unreasonable.

        2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          A-MEN!

          The last time I went tent-on-the-ground camping was…. um. High school, I think? And overall it was terrific fun during the day, and absolute misery at night. And that was when I had a teenager’s ability to spend a night on the most miserable “bed” and still be able to move the next day.

          Now, at thirty-mumble? Hell to the no.

          1. Not a Morning Person*

            And at more than thirty-mumble…even sleeping on a regular mattress isn’t enough to overcome a few aches and pains nowadays. I can’t even imagine sleeping on the ground anymore. I’ve done camping in tents on the ground and enjoyed those trips…a decade ago or so. :) but now I need a good mattress and indoor plumbing with hot running water and flushing toilets.

            1. PhyllisB*

              At 67? You’d have to call the paramedics to help me up in the morning. I’m in reasonable shape for someone my age; a few (cough cough) extra pounds, and arthritis that likes to make surprise appearances from time to time, but this would hell on earth for me.

        3. Beth*

          I’m with you on all of this. I’m very fond of sleeping on mattresses, with a roof over my head and curtains on the windows and some nice private quiet time to rest up every night. I also like daily hot showers and flushing toilets.

      3. Kelly L.*

        I like it, but with my partner and close friends. Emphasis on close. My co-workers do not need to see my third-day camping hair. Nope nope nope.

        1. Snark*

          Same thought. I love camping. I do not love the idea of Griselda from accounts receivable getting to know my campstank. Nah fam.

      4. Temperance*

        I’m firming in the “hell no” camp when it comes to camping, but especially for a work trip. Camping is dirty! There are often either no showers accessible or really disgusting ones. I wouldn’t want to be around coworkers with camping-level hygiene.

        1. Elizabeth H.*

          I feel like it’s cleaner out there with just dirt, trees and rocks than in the city where you touch a million doorknobs other people have touched each day. I seriously never “feel like” taking a shower when I’m camping, even when hiking and sweating and stuff. Maybe it’s just me?

          1. Pomona Sprout*

            It is DEFINITELY just you, lol!

            Seriously, when I sweat, I feel sweaty, and hot, and dirty, no matter where I am or what I’m doing at the time. And if I get really sweaty and can’t take a shower, I am one miserable sad panda. Sleeping on the ground would also be a major ordeal for me. I am absolutely in the “hell to the no” camp on this camping trip.

            *insert gif of actopus running away with the word “NOPE” flashing*

      5. Rachel 2 - Electric Boogaloo*

        That trip sounds like something out of my nightmares. Mind you, I’d love to go to Scandinavia, but only for three days (barely able to get over jet lag before going home!), sleeping on the ground, no electricity, and no running water? NO THANK YOU.

    3. CityMouse*

      It is also just bizarre to demand two days of pricey travel for 3 days of a limited retreat. The whole thing seems very poorly planned.

        1. Specialk9*

          But not for all the camping gear except the tent. I’ve spent years and many shekels gathering that stuff together.

          1. Colette*

            They might be expecting employees to provide a sleeping bag (although they may have a plan to provide them for employees that don’t own them) but I see no indication that they’re asking employees to provide other camping equipment (such as cooking gear).

          2. Penny Lane*

            You don’t know that. Anyway it’s been clarified that these are essentially hotels where you sleep in a tent.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              The OP specifically says, “Not glamping – camping. No electricity and we’ll each be provided with our own personal tent.” Other people have shared that European camping can be different, but we don’t know that’s the case here.

              1. Stone Cold Bitch*

                We have very clear rules on public access to the land, and a group that large will only be permitted to stay at an established camp site or on a private property with permission from the owner.

                1. Annie Moose*

                  I think there’s a cultural miscommunication here. Of course they presumably would be on private property; in the US, you generally can’t just plop down a bunch of tents on public land either. But being on private property doesn’t necessarily specify whether there will be showers available, or flush toilets, or electricity, or even running water.

                  Being on private or public property isn’t the question here–it’s what amenities are available on that property.

                2. Stone Cold Bitch*

                  In Sweden and Norway you can camp on most private property for a night or two, as long as you only have a few small tents (1-3), are 150 meters away from any buildings and don’t inconvenience anyone. Not in the middle of a field of crops, but in a forrest or in the woods.

                  What I meant to say was that they are most likely staying at an established camp site, either on public land or private land. Not in the middle of the woods with no facilities.

                3. Annie Moose*

                  In the US, staying in an established campsite doesn’t necessarily mean you have amenities. For example, tent campgrounds (or campsites for tents) often don’t have electricity at campsites. Showers and flush toilets may or may not be available. And many campgrounds are indeed in the middle of the woods.

                4. myswtghst*

                  Seconding Annie Moose here. I’ve stayed at plenty of established campsites (in the US) that had very limited amenities / facilities, which usually meant no hot water, maybe stall showers if you were lucky, and non-flush toilets, all of which were at least a short walk from the actual campsite and were limited in number. Not a big deal if I’m camping with close friends or family, but not something I’m comfortable experiencing with my colleagues, and definitely something that could cause issues for people with disabilities / medical conditions.

                5. The OG Anonsie*

                  You guys are describing the same thing with different expectations.

                  SCB is describing how it works where they’re actually going. She is pointing out that they will be in a maintained and designated camp ground potentially with dedicated staff and other resources, not totally roughing it.

                  The thing is that this is how it always works in the US– the type of pure backcountry camping you’re describing is really, really rare here. If you go camping in the US, you’re gonna be in a campground with some facilities or very close to one. You can’t camp on private land and on public lands you’re almost always required to camp only in designated spots, most of which are right next to where you park and to some cruddy outdoor toilets.

                  Our facilities are usually much worse than the ones I’m familiar with in Scandinavia, though, so there’s also that.

              2. Brock*

                Seriously, as an American who has spent most of my adult life in the UK, I would trust Stone Cold Bitch on this. What most Americans think of as ‘camping’ would be called ‘wild camping’ in the UK and is really way, way out of the norm and is actually illegal in England and Wales.

                I’ve been to (non-work) ‘camping’ conferences in the UK, with a perfectly nice, modern conference centre, all meals provided in the conference centre dining room, toilets and showers in the conference centre, secure laptop and phone charging etc, a mini-shop and/or standard supermarket within easy walking distance, etc. Sure, there wasn’t any electricity in my tent, but the norm is way more ‘civilised’ than US camping.

                1. Amelia*

                  I’ve done a fair amount of camping in France. And it definitely conformed to my American ideas of a campsite. Very rustic, tents, no electricity, outhouse type toilets. I mean, it wasn’t like forging a path through the Yukon but it was the same as every time I’ve camped in the US.

                2. Mara*

                  My Duke of Edinburgh award scheme was like this (for non-Brits the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme is something teenagers do in the UK, it involves several tasks including a hike and camp for one/two/three nights depending on the level of which there are three). The camp site had a shop (just a mini one) and there were showers and toilets. We had to cook our own but there was a microwave and kettle in the shop. I had no idea wild camping was so common in the US.

                  But as I am now disabled I would not be keen on such a camping trip even if it is European style.

                3. Just Employed Here*

                  Nordic person here. I have never camped on a camp site, always just in the woods. Even with larger groups. As in: there is no toilet until you dig a hole and construct the seating for it out of nearby birches.

                  I’m not saying this will be the kind of camping the OP’s company is planning. But there also isn’t any mention of facilites or a camp site in the letter, so it could be the case.

          3. MCL*

            Yeah, camping gear can be pretty pricey! Sleeping pad, bag, pillow, liner, lighting, and that’s just for sleep. I have learned my night clothing requirements over several years of experience- I get cold easily and I often sleep in 3-4 layers. That doesn’t even cover cooking gear and all the other stuff. And if they’re camping very primitively the toilets may not exist, you have to make your own!

            1. Specialk9*

              I found that the only non-excruciating camp sleeping method is a Hennessy hammock (hammock with attached bug guard and separate rain fly – you sleep diagonally and it’s not too U shaped). I put a blow up camp bed pad in, wool blanket, sleeping bag. But it’s freezing, other than summer! Regular tent on the ground? Nope!

          4. The OG Anonsie*

            I never pay to check a bunch of gear in luggage when I go overseas. Cool thing about Norway (and probably Sweden?) is that you can rent outdoor gear in a lot of places and just use it while you’re there. Pretty good stuff, too, I’ve actually later purchased things I’ve rented and liked. It ain’t CHEAP cheap but way less than buying, and I have to imagine the company is covering that cost anyway so that that point it’s just convenience.

            This is still an overall bad idea but the base logistics are probably alright. International outdoor tourism is a pretty big business.

          5. Penny Lane*

            Do you seriously think that a multinational company would expect the US-based staff to fly over for this outing AND have them individually buy and schlep all their camping equipment, too? IF such equipment were needed for this outing (doesn’t sound like it is, but let’s say it was), they’d have it provided on site.

            1. Anna*

              So many responses to you have been to correct your impression of the trip. Tents provided, no electricity. I don’t understand why you’re so bent on ignoring what has been said.

            2. else*

              Yeah – if they’re the sort of people who suggest camping as a bonding exercise, 90 to 10 they’re the sort of people who actually know how to do it.

        2. Quickbeam*

          Yes! I’d go in a heartbeat and I am physically disabled. No company I’ve every worked for extended that kind of largesse to me.

        3. CityMouse*

          I know the company pays, but it seems like a bit of a waste. My spouse travels for work abroad all the time but there are concrete connections he makes there. Paying for a bunch of people to go to a camping retreat for 3 days seems like some wasted cost. It isn’t enough time for people to really get to know each other and they aren’t really networking or otherwise benefiting the company.

      1. Antilles*

        I don’t think we can fault the company at all for the travel. OP says they are now owned by a large multinational firm. So if their intent is for the US Branch to meet the colleagues around the world, it’s physically impossible to have people from Europe physically meet people from the US without *someone* being forced to endure a long plane ride each way.
        Maybe you can wonder why they’re only doing 3 days of a retreat…but then again, camping is basically spending 72 straight hours together (more or less), so I can’t honestly say that it would be good for it to be longer…

        1. Artemesia*

          Expecting exhausted jet lagged new colleagues to sleep on the ground with no darkness is some form of hazing torture; the idea that it will build bonds with well rested, well showered, used to the northern nights colleagues is bizarre. What it will do is provide fodder for the European colleagues to make fun of the Americans, probably but not necessarily, after they have left for home.

          1. Penny Lane*

            They are a MULTINATIONAL COMPANY. People already travel internationally for them. They will build in some time to overcome jet lag. They’re used to managing this.

            1. Totally Minnie*

              I understand that people who are used to international travel have coping mechanisms for jetlag, but for people who are new to it, it’s not as easy. And bodies are different. Some bodies will take longer than three days to adjust, at which point OP’s trip will be over and they’ll have to start all over getting acclimated for their home time zone.

              I don’t think anyone here is saying that no one should ever have to travel to a different country for business. But I also don’t think it’s unreasonable to point out this particular travel plan is kind of a big ask for a lot of employees’ first international work trip.

              1. tangerineRose*

                Yeah, traveling to another country is one thing. Traveling to another company to *camp* as part of a work event is just unreasonable in my opinion. Then again, I hate camping. Limited facilities, limited if any shower access, sleeping on ground, lots of bugs.

              2. Deep end*

                I understand that camping may not be everyone’s cup of tea; fair enough, but set that aside. Are you seriously saying that no one should ever go abroad on a company retreat? That’s going to make retreats nigh impossible for multinational businesses. And if it’s someone’s first international trip, so what? If you can’t stomach the thought of international travel, don’t work for a multinational. Sometimes we have to jump into the deep end.

          2. Antilles*

            True enough, but that’s still an issue with the overall plan of “what they’re doing”, not the concept of “two days of pricey travel for 3 days of retreat”. There’s just no getting around the fact that a multinational retreat is going to have someone end up with a crummy jet-lagged 14-hour flight; it’s just the logistical reality.

      2. Decima Dewey*

        Or, depending on what New Company wants to accomplish, diabolically planned. “We offered the new people a three day retreat, and we’d pay for travel. They’d each get a personal tent. And only X said yes. We’ll have to rethink which of the new people would be a good cultural fit.”

        There’s also 90 notice–do all the new people have passports? They may have young children, or have to scramble to find petsitters.

        1. the gold digger*

          There’s also 90 notice

          Plus there are people like me who reserve their summer vacation cottage on Madeline Island and put it on their work calendar 11 months in advance. No way would I sacrifice my summer vacation – the only thing that keeps me going through the winter months – for a non-mandatory work trip. And if I had to cancel my vacation? I would be very, very cranky.

          1. Not a Morning Person*

            Just asking for clarification: You’re saying when the business trip conflicts with your already scheduled personal vacation trip? Agree! Not giving up a long-planned and important personal trip! I’m assuming people aren’t being asked to use their PTO or vacation time for this event.

            1. the gold digger*

              Correct. I am thinking 90 days’ notice is really not enough time, especially for an event that happens in the summer. People I know make plans way more than three months in advance.

        2. Tuxedo Cat*

          Good call on the passport issue. Is the company going to pay for passports if people don’t have them?

          1. Penny Lane*

            IME, it’s the norm that multinational companies requiring you to travel on company business will pay for a passport if you don’t have one.

        3. Penny Lane*

          In a European-based company, the “excuse” or “obstacle” that “I don’t have a passport” would be laughed at. Certainly you can go scrounge one up with 90 days worth of notice, esp on the company’s dime. Moreover, if the travel is to an area where a visa would be required, these companies have procedures in places and sub-companies on call (such as CIBT) who can process and handle multiple visa requests.

          It was not uncommon in my old job to have to work through situations where you needed your passport for your Brazil trip at the same time you needed to have your passport at the Chinese consulate so you could get your visa to China. People – and companies – deal with this all the time; there’s no reason to expect a multinational wouldn’t have the resources for it. It’s not good optics to be so stymied by the procurement of a simple passport with lots of advance notice. It will come across as “self-centered, untraveled ugly American.”

          1. tangerineRose*

            Sure, because people have nothing else in their lives to do but deal with passports, buying camping gear, and figuring out the logistics that go with leaving home for several days that many people do run into when they don’t travel a lot.

            Many of us don’t work at jobs that require a lot of travel because we don’t want to deal with all of this all the time.

            1. Deep end*

              “Many of us don’t work at jobs that require a lot of travel because we don’t want to deal with all of this all the time.”

              So if you’re at the company in question, leave. This is a multinational in what seems to be a fast-paced industry. Travel is part of the equation.

              My own view of someone who complains they can’t get a passport with 90 days notice (without reasonable explanation, etc.) is that such a person is looking to create problems, not solve them, and therefore not someone I want at the business.

          2. Deep end*

            It’s not good optics to be so stymied by the procurement of a simple passport with lots of advance notice. It will come across as “self-centered, untraveled ugly American.”

            +1111

    4. Traffic_Spiral*

      Yeah… I have a personal rule for certain things: I ask myself “what movie does this sound like?” Here, we’re talking either a Steve Carell comedy of misery, slapstick, fremdschamen, and at least one really disgusting gross-out scene, or a horror survival movie. Either way, I vote ‘pass.’

      P.S. It takes a more than a tent and a sleeping bag to camp like that. Even assuming the site provides the food, lanterns, stoves, etc. You need hiking boots, thick socks, a pad or air mattress for under the sleeping bag, multiple layers of appropriate clothes, bug repellent, knives (good luck bringing that on the airplane) etc. This whole thing is gonna end miserable-hilarious.

      1. Lindsay J*

        Depending on the campsite (and I admit I don’t know how they’re set up in Europe) you really don’t.

        I’ve gone camping before with regular shoes, no layers of clothing other than what I usually wear, no knife. We did have a mattress pad underneath the sleeping bag but I would say that that is more “nice to have” than essential. The campsite wasn’t a far hike from where our vehicle was or anything. We pretty much got out of the car, walked maybe 100 yards, set up the tent, and camped.

        Definitely need the bug repellent, though.

        1. Totally Minnie*

          My back doesn’t like it when I sleep on the ground without any kind of padding, so I don’t think I would ever put a mattress pad in the “nice to have but not essential” category when camping.

    5. MJ*

      Yep. I love camping, but I barely camp with friends. Going with people from work sounds like actual hell.

    6. Runner*

      It’s celebrating the midnight sun/solstice in Scandinavia — to some people a once-in-a-lifetime vacation (to poet types it’s the stuff of a Midsummer’s Night Dream). I had to laugh reading the letter, though I personally also can’t stand to camp. I’m assuming the multinational corporation that acquired this group already is in Europe and that, while announced 90 days out, has been in the works for a while. At least this one is simple: Don’t go.

      1. Nita*

        Ah. I thought there may be some reason for the choice of location and timing. That does sound absolutely amazing, and if my company offered that, I’d be thrilled that they came up with the idea. Even if I couldn’t go for personal reasons, I’d still be thrilled for those that can go. It sounds like this trip is optional, more like a company picnic than a must-attend conference, so OP’s coworkers really need not panic. If they don’t want to go, they just don’t go.

        And of course there is travel time involved. It’s a multi-national business, no matter which location they choose to meet in person there will always be many people for whom it’s too far.

        1. fieldpoppy*

          I love this idea too. I wonder how much resentment at being acquired is under this letter, because yes, it’s a challenging option for people but it’s also super interesting and generous and a rare opportunity.

        2. smoke tree*

          To me, the issue is that it’s so blatantly exclusionary–like if the organizers had thought about it for five minutes, they should have realized that this would be a complete non-starter for lots of people, like anyone with a disability or medical condition. That’s pretty different from just choosing not to go. Considering that the event is supposed to bring people together, I think that it would be totally understandable if the people who can’t possibly attend feel like the company doesn’t care about them.

        3. Happy Lurker*

          Personally, I would strongly consider going, because it seems like a “once in a lifetime” event. Plus the good will from the new European owners could pay back in spades.

          But…I would gripe and complain and take off as many days of comp time as I could for all that travel and ensure that the company is providing the gear.

          At least the tents don’t require doubling up. Good luck OP. Please let us know how this all ends up.

    7. Samiratou*

      Strange, perhaps, but I don’t get the outrage. It’s a company-paid trip to Scandinavia. There are always going to be reasons why people can’t do x or y, and if there’s no fallout for not going and you don’t want to go…don’t go. It sounds like the details of the trip change every year so while this year’s might not work for someone, next year’s might be awesome for them and vice versa. If they forced employees to go it would be a different story, but I don’t get being angry or upset that your company is paying for you to have an adventure in a beautiful location you might not otherwise get to see. If camping isn’t your deal, that’s totally fine, but lots of people enjoy it.

      1. Kelly L.*

        I don’t really see outrage in the comments! Just people saying why they’d say no, and why they think it’s a bad idea in general. We can have opinions about something without being in a white-hot fury.

        1. Specialk9*

          I mean, I’m annoyed at the casual ableism, sponsored by the company, and how people with any of a range of issues don’t get career building networking. I’m surprised that Samiratou is surprised that people don’t enjoy ableism. Is there any other -ism for which people would be ok with ‘just ignore it’?

          1. Tuxedo Cat*

            It doesn’t seem like there will be other alternatives in the near future, either. It would be one thing if this was one event for this quarter and then a different event the next.

            That said, I think an exclusionary event as the first one these folks experience is likely to leave a bad taste in people’s mouths.

      2. Morning Glory*

        I think that a Scandinavian camping trip would be a really fun way to get to know one another and establish camaraderie across teams (I did a similar kind of roughing it trip last year with colleagues and it really helped us bond), so this is something I would be really excited about.
        That said, I also think the OP’s points about how this is exclusionary are valid, particularly for people with physical disabilities or financial situations that would make camping/buying equipment a burden.

        1. Parenthetically*

          This is about where I fall. Although given it’s Europe, and having seen photos of the places my husband has camped in Scandinavia, I’m very confident it’s not going to be “roughing it” — not in any way those of us who like to camp in the US would think of.

        2. EddieSherbert*

          Same. I would love doing this! But I’d feel guilty going when some coworkers couldn’t (if you’re physically unable to camp, I would feel like it’s not really “your choice” to opt out… you have to).

        3. Penny Lane*

          It seems abundantly clear from the discussions that this is more akin to a rustic hotel, and no, you aren’t going to have to buy tons of camping equipment. I too don’t see the outrage. I know most AAM readers don’t have professional positions with multinational corporations, but yeah, when you work for a multinational you may have to (gasp) travel to meet and go to conferences and workshops with your colleagues. When I thought of it as US-style camping I thought “ugh” but once I started looking at the sites people linked to, it looked quite fine.

          1. Morning Glory*

            The OP very clearly and specifically says each participant will be provided with their own tent and there will be no electricity. It sounds like this is clear information provided about the trip, and not just an assumption she is making.

            Again – to me, that sounds fun, I would love it. But I am not sure why you would just ignore the OP’s description.

          2. Katniss*

            I’m not sure why you’re reacting so aggressively and sarcastically. The LW has a different preference than you. That does not make their preference invalid. They expressed no outrage, either.

            1. Not a Morning Person*

              I don’t see anything aggressive in the previous comments. I see a little sarcasm for emphasis, but I don’t take it as an attempt to invalidate someone’s preference, just a note that there are common things at some employers that are not common at others and to be open and aware that those differences are often normal expectations and not unusual. Travel appears to be a different kind of expectation. I’ve worked in organizations where travel was regular, common, and expected, both domestically and internationally. I’ve worked at a non-profit where a single conference might cost more than the organization’s entire professional development budget and so travel was a “BIG DEAL”. Expectations are different and it takes time to learn the culture of a new organization. OP and coworkers are getting a crash course in the culture of their new parent company. It’s uncomfortable, out of their experience and something they will learn about as they go. Navigating the new norms and expectations will take some experience. If the OP and others find this trip too daunting, for any reason, then take the boss at her word and don’t plan to go. Maybe the next retreat will be more accommodating for OP and others. If one or more think it’s something they want to do for any reason, then they can plan to go and bring back tales of what they learn about their new organization and their experience with camping in Norway.

          3. Jessie the First (or second)*

            Penny, I’m not sure why you say it’s akin to a rustic hotel, when the OP explains in her letter that this involves tents for each person and no electricity.

            I also don’t think there is an issue with the travel aspect; it’s that the travel will mean jetlag and it is difficult for some (including, it seems, the OP) to manage sleeping on the ground in a tent while jetlagged, and given the short length of stay, it’s especially difficult. I don’t see the OP or anyone else yet complaining about having to travel generally. Certainly not in the snarky “gasp” way you mention here in your comment.

          4. Specialk9*

            “I know most AAM readers don’t have professional positions with multinational corporations”

            I don’t think you do know that, actually. What a bizarre statement.

            And I don’t care what the amenities are, sleeping on the ground isn’t possible for me (multinational business, extremely well traveled). Sorry that you think that ableism and multinational business need to go together.

            1. Tuxedo Cat*

              I don’t but several friends do. They would be bothered by camping.

              Not all of them travel internationally for work and the ones that do were told that was part of their job from the beginning.

          5. Buckeye*

            I would think that major multinational companies would be more aware of the obvious issues presented. Regardless of how nice the camping conditions are, an employee with mobility issues has a logical right to be concerned.

      3. Nanani*

        Sometimes, a disagreement is just a disagreement. People are capable of having different opinions without “outrage” or “crying” or whatever the internet’s preferred emotion-for-trashing is this week.

      4. myswtghst*

        “if there’s no fallout for not going and you don’t want to go…don’t go.”

        I think part of the problem is there isn’t a good way to know this for sure from the outset. Even if management genuinely means it when they say “if you aren’t able to go, don’t go, and don’t worry about it!”, the people who don’t go are missing out on an opportunity to network with their new colleagues, and may be judged in absentia by their new colleagues / bosses for not going. As with a lot of non-required events at work, there is usually a cost to not going, even if management does their best to minimize that cost.

        1. tangerineRose*

          Exactly. Especially when management is new, it’s hard to tell if they mean what they say.

    8. The OG Anonsie*

      I gotta guess that this is a Scandinavian company for which this is culturally less weird. Well, like, the camping is less weird, I’m not sure how typical it would be to do this for a work retreat. Might still be weird to do it with coworkers.

      My family’s from Norway and doing this type of summer trekking and camping out in remote areas or the Norwegian Trekking Association’s maintained cabins is a big deal. They’re really cheap, some of them are in absolutely breathtaking places and run like $20 a night for an adult member. Then there are other areas where you can pop a tent instead. Many of these places are quite accessible for people with limited mobility (like myself) and are popular for families with small children, so it’s not the degree of roughing it that you might think. You can hike into some really remote spots or you can do what is essentially car camping, only way nicer than your typical park-in campground.

      From what I hear it’s a typical sort of national pastime like the family road trip might be in the US: maybe not everyone does it all the time, but most people have probably done it. I actually planned a whole summer vacation around it this year, which some of my actually-lives-in-Norway family said might as well come with an application for citizenship. I have to imagine the company thought this would be a great cultural exchange and might have had some blinders on about how well it would be received by folks who aren’t used to it.

      Or maybe they’re from some totally different place and have wacky ideas. Neither would surprise me, I guess.

      1. Sandman*

        I agree with this. This sounds like a very typical cross-cultural snafu, which to me says that both the new company and employees should be extra patient with each other and assume good intent (that’s critical, IME). In the OP’s position, I would take a deep breath, pop the melatonin in my suitcase, and go. It may not be easy, but it will be instructive and useful.

    9. Totally Minnie*

      I am allergic to most plants, which means I avoid the outdoors as much as I possibly can. I can’t imagine having to sleep outside (where the allergens live!) and then be a functioning person for work functions the next day, even if those functions are largely team-building rather than normal work activities.

    10. mcwriter*

      My company did a “mandatory fun” camping trip a couple years ago, on a Thursday afternoon through Friday afternoon. (One of those, “You will go unless you have a damn good excuse.”) I love the outdoors. I did not want to do this. We were “glamping” in little cabins, 8 to a cabin, with electricity and running water. Three days before we were supposed to leave, the place we were booked discovered a bedbug infestation (!) and offered to reschedule. Instead, our Fun Committee quickly found another campground (“more luxurious”) in another state, 3 hours away. We carpooled to get there (byo sleeping bag, or in my case, pile of blankets). The first few hours were fun – games, cookout, etc – but when it started pouring down rain, everyone crammed inside to drink heavily and play Cards Against Humanity (not what you want to play with coworkers!!!). The next morning, the organizers realized that they’d only brought two sleeves of bagels (12 total) for the 40 people looking for breakfast. We all left shortly afterward, and no one’s spoken of it again.

      1. Marthooh*

        Glamping? No problem. Bedbugs? Shrug ’em off. Sleeping on the ground in the pouring rain playing Cards Against Humanity? Haha, what a great story to tell the kids someday!

        But a bagel shortage? Oh, the humanity…

    11. mrs__peel*

      Camping for ANY reason is my absolute nightmare, let alone with co-workers for work reasons. (shudders)

  1. LouiseM*

    So, is today “Unreasonable international travel expectations” day on Ask A Manager? Oof. For #2, personally I would leave the religious aspect as a last resort. Not because it’s not true, but because for many people that would be the least of the reasons they couldn’t pack up and move to another country. Even if it were in my dream location, I’m just not in a position to move countries for many personal reasons and that’s probably true of many future employees too. If I were the OP I’d want to make my objections as broad as possible, not country- or employee- specific, for the sake of any future Sansas out there.

    1. Zip Silver*

      It sounds like it’s for one project, rather than a permanent posting. Giving a broad response to the boss might work, but saying specifically “she refuses to move to Saudi Arabia and is going to quit if you try to make her” should work as well.

      1. LouiseM*

        Project or not, a lot of us can’t pick up and move across the world for any length of time. If it’s 2 months it might be easier than 2 years, but it’s still a non-starter for many regardless. (Also, Saudi Arabia is lifting its movie theater ban, which is another reason to not make this country-specific, if your assumption is correct and OP was referring to Saudi Arabia).

        1. JamieS*

          Given the tenacity with which Arya is “encouraging” Sansa to move, I’m thinking the chances of getting her to back off are probably higher if OP talks in specifics rather than in broad generalities about reasons other employees may also refuse to move to another country at some point in the future. Also I’m of the mind if/when OP gets Arya to see reason (or at least back off) it’ll be easier the next time because this is something that’s already come up and been dealt with.

          1. Colette*

            And it’s possible that other employees might be thrilled to take an assignment like this, so making it a general “people can’t just pack up and move” would be doing them a disservice.

            1. Seriously?*

              I think it is more that this is a big ask and people should not be expected to just pack up and move. Asked to, sure but they should be able to say no unless the job really is relocating there, in which case they may very well decide to quit.

              1. Jess*

                Aaaand even people who would jump at a chance to move for 2-3 months to say, France or Japan, would not necessarily agree so quickly to move to the country described in this letter. I am the kind of person that would love the opportunity to move to lots of places (including places less Western than France) for a few months but Saudi Arabia would probably be a non-starter, as a woman in particular. It’s actually a place where I would visit and would be willing to go on a short business trip there but an extended period of time would just be too stressful.

                1. UKDancer*

                  Indeed. My job regularly requires me to go to high level meetings overseas fairly often
                  and I’m very happy to go to the ones in Europe and places like Ukraine and Georgia (both of which I fell in love with). I have refused to go to Saudi Arabia because I don’t approve of their laws and customs and wouldn’t feel safe going there.

                2. Somewhatslightlydazed*

                  Agreed, I’ve lived in the Middle East for a year and a half (in Oman, Jordan, and Morocco) and love the region in general, but you couldn’t pay me to spend more than a few weeks in Saudi and I’d prefer not to do even that (since in addition to the restrictions on me as a traveler, I don’t want to do anything to support the government’s abysmal human rights violations of its citizens and especially its foreign workers from poorer countries)

                3. mrs__peel*

                  Yep, I’m definitely in the camp of “There is no amount of money that would make me agree to this, as a woman”. (Not even touching the issue of being Jewish, which is not looked on so favorable there by many accounts).

          2. Sylvan*

            I agree with you. Unfortunately, Arya doesn’t seem to get “Sansa doesn’t want to move,” so specifics could help get her to see reason.

            1. Michaela Westen*

              Does such insistence on Sansa moving seem weird to anyone else? It seems way beyond reasonable, not to mention disrespectful and ignoring reality.

        2. Smithy*

          Depending on the type of business the reluctance to take on any long to medium term project abroad may be a professional impediment. Whereas saying that Saudi Arabia specifically is a nonstarter for very specific reasons, but Hong Kong would be acceptable may be critical information.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        And it sounds like it’s a job where going to the site for a long period is a routine and expected thing. So refusing on “no travel anywhere” grounds would just suggest you had no idea what your job entails. (FWIW, I read this as a month or two posting–but it could be a week, could be a year.)

        So her objection IS country specific, and dancing around that wouldn’t serve her.

        1. Penny Lane*

          Look – KSA is a dangerous place for women. In one sense it’s no different than if your company told you that you had to move to Afghanistan – unless you are in the defense/military sector, it’s dangerous and it’s a hard no.

          1. RVA Cat*

            This. They’re pushing her to move to a place whether she effectively has no human rights. It would be like expecting a black employee to move to South Africa back during apartheid.

            1. Penny Lane*

              Right. I went to KSA for a week for business. I had a clear start and end point and I was being sponsored by a multinational company who had local ties so money was no object, I had a nice hotel, I was accompanied by two male American colleagues everywhere I went, and I had no fear that my Saudi guardian would actually decide to make me stay and be his servant (boy, would he be disappointed!). But I totally get others not wanting to do the same. After I went, we developed a policy that travel to KSA was totally optional and we’d refuse a project where we couldn’t find anyone to go.

              1. Jess*

                This. Wondering if the visa process requires your nearest male relative to write a “permission letter” to allow you to travel? I think this applies to some visa types to Saudi Arabia, not sure if it applies to business visas. Interesting that you had a “Saudi guardian”–was that a random male Saudi citizen who was your legal guardian for the week? Eeek, that’s kind of terrifying.

                1. Penny Lane*

                  My Saudi guardian was an employee of the multinational that I was doing consulting work for. Not a random guy.

                2. Jess*

                  I don’t think that employee of the same company qualifies enough as “not random” for my personal comfort. But that’s just me. There would need to be a deep, long standing personal relationship and trust for me to agree to any man being my “guardian.” Ugh. I would probably trust my boyfriend but certainly not my brother or father, personally.

                3. nosilycuriously*

                  Just a point here, visa rules are being updated this month to no longer require the archaic ‘male relative’ requirement, and the Saudi person is more usually termed a sponsor, not a guardian. Legally, it means if the guests / business associates coming in do something wrong, the Saudi sponsor tends to be the one on the hook.

                  As someone who has lived in Saudi her whole life (and am not Saudi), I completely see where Sansa is coming from, and no one should ever be coerced to going anywhere they don’t want to, but it’s a bit extreme and a huge generalization to say Saudi Arabia is dangerous to women…

                4. Wintermute*

                  @nosilycuriously — I think there’s an important distinction between “IS dangerous” and “has the potential to be very dangerous”. There is certainly the potential there for a very unfortunate situation, will everyone face that? no. Is travel dangerous in some ways no matter where you go? eh, maybe. But in this specific case, the potential risk is larger and the probability is greater.

            2. fieldpoppy*

              I like this analogy. It’s not about general travel, it’s about asking her to go to a place where she is less than. I travel ALL THE TIME and I would not do this.

          2. What's with today, today?*

            Exactly this. I’m surprised the employee hasn’t already quit because of the constant pressure.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Yeah. I’d be out the door. No job is worth sacrificing my personal freedoms and possibly my life for.

          3. blackcat*

            Eh, I’ve had friends who spent time living in corporate compounds in various “dangerous” places, including KSA. The compounds are generally little pockets of the west, where movie nights are common, alcohol flows, and women aren’t veiled. The biggest complaints are generally weather and boredom related. The corporations that own these compounds take security very seriously. Big compounds, like some of the Saudi Aramco ones, aren’t so bad. One friend visited family at a Chevron compound in Kazakstan and described it as a militarized hell hole. So there’s a range, but it’s likely more similar to other compound living (eg McMurdo in antarctica) than city living in Kabul.

            I still wouldn’t go. At least McMurdo has penguins.

            1. Susan Sto Helit*

              A friend of mine has a story about having to be evacuated from their compound in Saudi Arabia when her husband was working there in the late 80s/early 90s and it looked like some particular conflict was spiralling out of control. She and her toddler were packed onto a flight without so much as a spare diaper, and all their possessions had to be packed up and shipped back over some months later. That was the end of her accompanying him on contracts in the Middle East, I believe.

            2. cyan*

              As someone who’s lived in KSA, it’s been crossed off my travel list permanently. The compounds can be very nice, but the needing to be escorted, required dress outside, inability to drive, need for armed guards at the gate and a friend’s compound being bombed after we left sealed the deal.

            3. Not Borat*

              Kazakhstan is not particularly dangerous (and doesn’t particularly care about segregating foreigners; indeed, they’re setting up an entire English law-based financial center). I suspect your friend may have been visiting an oilfield?

          4. Nita*

            Exactly. It sounds horrifying and not the level of risk someone would choose to take on merely for their employer. I don’t know what happens when a foreign citizen breaks the local laws over there, but really, really wouldn’t want to find out the hard way.

          5. Jessie the First (or second)*

            Yes. A country such as KSA will mean profound changes to her quality of life, and if this is for a longer posting (not, say, a quick business trip) then springing this on an employee is just not reasonable. This entails such massive lifestyle changes and security risks that I really believe the company needs to be willing to hire specifically for this, even if they consider it a short-term project.

          6. Lindsay J*

            +1.

            I’m pretty adventurous. I just accepted a position, actually, that is going to involve a lot of travel, some of it likely to countries in Africa and the Middle East.

            KSA is on my “hard no” list. We don’t do business there so it’s not likely that I would be asked to go there. But, I’m just not. I don’t agree with their treatment of women or people of other religions. As a woman who is not afraid of most things, I am afraid of going there. They still freaking behead people. I’m a bit vulgar even by American standards. I’m not risking saying the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing, not doing the required thing etc.

            1. fieldpoppy*

              Yup. Totally agree with this. I run a project in Uganda and I’ve been to Congo and other “hard” countries and I travel all the time by myself all around the world. But KSA would be a hard no.

              1. RVA Cat*

                This. Let’s also note that plenty of other countries are people’s “hard no” list for other reasons – like Uganda for anyone LGBT.

            2. Sterling*

              Right there with you. I have a bad habit of using colorful language even when trying no to. I would be terrified of being arrested or trapped there. It isn’t safe for women in general and the more liberal the Western woman the more dangerous it could be. I will travel to most places but there are certain places that are a hard no.

          7. many bells down*

            My dad was an aerospace engineer, and at one point in the late 80’s his company wanted to send him to Saudi Arabia. He flatly refused to go unless boarding school for me in a different European country was included. He would not take either his wife or his daughter there.

          8. Rachel 2 - Electric Boogaloo*

            This. I’m a Jewish woman, and going to KSA is an absolute no for me. I would hope an employer would understand that.

      3. Ann Nonymous*

        I lived in KSA for over 20 years. And this same b.s. is always brought up as if it’s the truth. Women can and do go out and about by themselves or with male colleagues all the time. I lived there without traumatic incidents for over 2 decades. I did not live in a compound but out and about like regular people. And these days KSA is even less restrictive. I had Christian and Jewish friends there. I worked in many different jobs. There is a whole industry in the U.S. in Europe dedicated to demonizing Muslims and they’ve done a tremendous job getting everyone to think the worst. I know many, many expat women who basically forced their husbands to extend their contracts in KSA because their life there was so good. I know many, many women who went there for jobs who loved it as well. Anyone who gets a chance to go there for work should go with enthusiasm and experience a different way of life while attempting to appreciate that difference and enjoy what it has to offer.

        1. Filicophyta*

          Thank you for adding this Ann Nonymouos. I decided not to go there (for completely unrelated reasons) but I know many women who love it as you did.

        2. Sharq al-awsat*

          I agree that some of the comments about how “dangerous” Saudi is are overhyped. I also agree that some expats (even women) enjoy KSA, and about “demonizing” Muslims.

          But it *is* true that KSA is different from, say, Jordan or the Gulf. The Saudi system is based on an alliance between the monarchy and the conservative ulama. It may be changing under Salman, yes, but that process takes time. I can see how even an employee who enjoys travel would object to it.

      1. lady bird*

        Same. I work at a company that has assets in KSA and they don’t generally send women there. I don’t know if there’s an official rule but no women are asked to go and I haven’t heard of any volunteering.

        1. Chinook*

          The irony is that? If they never ask women to go to KSA, they are effectively discriminating based on gender. They would be better off making the ask with the understanding that either gender may say no for reasons (because, for exampme, a Catholic male would feel just as hemmed in by the restrictions on religion)

    2. Tally*

      I would not leave out the religious aspect because to many people, religion is a huge part of their lives. If she isn’t able to practice her religion freely (reading her Bible) and openly like she wants to than this is a deal breaker (among the other reasons she stated). As a woman, I totally agree with all her reasons. I would hate to have to be covered from head to toe and to not be able to have an innocent interaction/conversation with a male alone. I don’t know if she would be protected under any type of religion discrimination, but being forced to follow another culture’s religious convictions just feels so icky to me.

      1. LouiseM*

        Do you think it would be OK for the employer to insist Sansa move to a Christian country? The issue is that this boss has some wacky ideas about how much she can infringe on an employee’s life. Of course, religious exceptions can and should be taken into account in other situations (let’s say there I was asked to attend a conference in France and I refused because I am Jewish) but in this case, the request itself is so out of line that the main point is not the religious aspect or the country or anything else.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I think mentioning the religious angle can be helpful because there are greater legal protections for religious practice than for failing to relocate based on how women are treated in the receiving country, unfortunately :( That’s at least how I understood Tally’s comment.

          1. Borne*

            Middle Eastern countries can be very dangerous for a woman.

            The woman might be the one that is punished even if she was raped.

            1. TL -*

              Plenty of women travel there anyways – it’s fine to not want to do an international relocation, particularly to a culture that is so different from your own and I am completely on Sansa’s side, but women can and do voluntarily travel to and live in pretty much every country around the world.

              It’s highly likely that if Sansa follows all rules and advice and restrictions she’ll be fine, but she doesn’t want to live like that and I think that’s the bigger point – she doesn’t want to do an international relocation and whether that’s Canada, Saudi Arabia, or Thailand, it’s a reasonable stance. Particularly since it doesn’t sound like international moves were part of the job when she took it – that’s a big deal!

              1. Penny Lane*

                No, plenty of women do NOT travel to Saudi Arabia. I was in many situations where I was the only woman around. You just don’t see women out and about – it’s creepy. The only place I really saw other women was at my hotel. Indoors. And we still all wore abayas / hijab. I did not appear in public without it, end of subject.

                A few months before my trip, an American woman was arrested for going to Starbucks with a male colleague to do some work. That is how crazy and repressive the place is. This is a hard no. I am glad I had the experience of seeing it first hand, but I would never go back and my company wouldn’t make me.

                1. MakesThings*

                  Plenty of women still do travel there, regardless of whether you see them outside or whether it’s legal to go to a Starbucks with a man. And plenty of women live there their whole lives.
                  That’s the point of TL’s comment.

              2. Specialk9*

                Religion is hugely relevant, and protected. Of course it should come up, since basic decency isn’t working.

                I wouldn’t travel to any of the countries that persecute and Other women under the guise of religion. Uh no. And then not being able to practice my in religion?

                I have chosen to live with the real threat of corrupt cops and narco-gangs, and of terrorist bombings. So when I say that too dangerous and oppressive for me, that’s saying a lot.

                And then throw in religion (I’m Jewish and many of the countries I’m thinking of practice an extreme version of Islam) and absolutely not. No no no no nyet.

              3. Seriously?*

                The key part is voluntary though. Moving to Saudi Arabia carries risks that moving to many other countries would not. If she wanted to take those risks then there is no problem, but being pressured to take a risk she is uncomfortable with is way out of line. It would be like if I wanted to go sky diving then that is fine. If my employer suddenly decided that I had to go sky diving when it was not previously a part of my job, that is unreasonable in a way that asking something safer would not be.

              4. Observer*

                It doesn’t mean that it’s ok to force someone into accepting such a highly discriminatory environment.

            2. M*

              Also plenty of women are raped in the United States. It’s totally valid not to want to go but saying its because one might be raped in this scary dangerous country is not helpful. Sexual assault happens everywhere all the time.

              1. Penny Lane*

                You don’t get it. It’s not that rape couldn’t occur anywhere. It is that in KSA it’s the woman’s fault and she could be thrown in jail for 20 years. And in KSA, there’s not a damn thing the US govt could do to help her. This isn’t like, say, England or France. They simply have a completely different set of norms and values.

                1. Jesca*

                  It boggles the mind how much people “don’t get it”. These places are highly dangerous. And sure some women move there, but many, if not most, avoid it. Yes rape happens everywhere, but it happens a lot more in countries where there are absolutely no repercussions for the rapist. Not to mention if their coverings fall off, they can be imprisoned. Or if a man tries to talk to them. Or if she got caught reading her bible. Or for whatever other reason that government decides she can be locked up for. Women have absolutely no rights in a lot of countries, and maybe it is just very difficult in our western world to understand what exactly that means. But what it means is, you have no rights. You are not a human being there. They can do what they want to you when they want to do no matter how “well behaved you are”.

              2. only acting normal*

                The qualifying clause that you missed was *she* may well be the one punished for being raped (if she reports it). Not in a social shaming way, but in an actual facing criminal charges way.

                1. Filicophyta*

                  @Jesca ” And sure some women move there, but many, if not most, avoid it.”
                  I suppose it depends what industry you are in. Maybe you and your co-workers avoid it, but not all.

              3. Penny Lane*

                M, let me give you an example. I went to dinner with my male colleagues, clients and some other guests. We sat in a corner of a restaurant with screens set up so that the other menfolk wouldn’t be driven to distraction by the sight of fetching me in my abaya and hijab. At one point I had to go use the restroom, so I asked my host. There was no women’s restroom in the restaurant. Why would there be – women aren’t out and about; there are no accommodations for women in public places because good women are at home where they belong. The restaurant owner offered to take me down the street to an abandoned warehouse where there was (supposedly) a women’s restroom I could use. Yeah, right. I’m very friendly with one of my clients who understood the drill and I said – please accompany me and stand right outside the door while I use the facilities, this is not safe. He did so, and I was fine, but the point is — this is not like Western society. You really are not getting that a violation of the law or a physical assault here is not like Western society where you have rights and recourse. And the US government can’t come in and rescue you.

            3. Leslie knope*

              Yikes at the islamojpbia in this thread. I know we all know that rape victims don’t exactly get treated well here in the US. I can only assume the difference is that it’s mistreatment by white people.

              1. UKDancer*

                I think I’d be the first to agree that rape victims can be badly treated anywhere. In the UK there have been some instances of particularly bad practice including judges making awful comments about rape victims.
                The difference is that I don’t feel fundamentally unsafe in the UK. I can wear what I like and go where I please. I can drive my car and have relationships with men or women as I please. Having seen how women are treated in Saudi Arabia I wouldn’t be able to do these things and that is not acceptable to me.

                It’s not an Islamophobic thing, it’s a particularity of some cultures. I have no difficulty going to Turkey or Azerbaijan, but I won’t go to Saudi Arabia because the way women are treated in that particular country is not something I am willing to accept.

                1. Penny Lane*

                  No, Leslie. This is not “Islamophobia.” This is a discussion of very specific conditions in a specific country that is oppressive to women. We don’t care what the motivation behind it is at all. Any country where women cannot go where they please, cannot talk to whomever they please, cannot wear what they like without the government interfering is problematic. Good lord, some women in KSA don’t even enter grocery stores — they sit in the car and send their husbands to do the marketing.

              2. Massmatt*

                This is extremely obtuse. Many comments are explicitly explaining just why visiting a country like this is degrading and potentially dangerous. There is not a case of “eew, Muslims” and it is terrible and dismissive to suggest that it is.

                1. Specialk9*

                  It’s pretty bigoted to use the worst stereotypes of Islam, in the name of defending it. Not cool, Leslie.

              3. Jessie the First (or second)*

                Leslie, are you truly saying treatment of rape victims in the US is comparable to the treatment of rape victims in Saudi Arabia?

                If so, I seriously suggest you do some research, because that is just incredibly misinformed and dismissive. Try Human Rights Watch for starters, or Jurist (which collaborates with Univ of Pittsburgh).

                While I consider the gauntlet rape victims have to go through in the US to be a problem, they are not on par with receiving 200 lashes (an infamous sentence given to a woman who was raped, because she had dared to be in a car with man to whom she was not married). For a conviction in KSA, you need a confession by the rapist or witness of 4 adult males. In several countries in the area, you can get out of a rape charge by marrying your victim.

                Don’t pretend these laws are analogous to the problems in the US. Just…. stop.

              4. Specialk9*

                Whoa Nellie, it’s not Islamaphobic to point out that a country has deeply misogynistic laws including imprisoning women who are the victims of being raped.

                And that’s pretty offensive that you think that mistreating women is so integral to Islam. It’s not, that’s an ugly stream of extremism. There are many moderate Muslims, and many feminist Muslims. Please don’t peddle ugly stereotypes about Islam.

              5. Totally Minnie*

                In certain countries, though, rape victims aren’t just mistreated. They’re prosecuted and imprisoned. It’s okay to mention that when discussing the dangers posed to a woman being asked to move to one of these countries for work.

              6. Wintermute*

                I don’t think that acknowledging the law on the books of a nation is Islamophobic. There is a written law that has been applied to real people that could sentence you to jail for 20 years. This is not some hypothetical “those people are evil!” this is a concrete fact. Facts are not any -ist, they’re facts. You can look them up. There is a difference between bad social treatment, judges gone rogue, etc. and a law on the books that stipulates a punishment. Also I don’t see anyone saying anything about Islam at all, only the laws, factual occurrences, and personal experiences with a specific country. In fact a great many people are going out of their way to say they’ve been all over the middle east, and this particular country is quantifiably different and less safe.

        2. Zip Silver*

          I can’t think of a single Christian country that forces foreign residents to comply with Christian customs. It does happen in the Middle East, though. It’s not absurd to refuse to move to a country where you’d be persecuted for openly practicing your religion.

            1. Charles Xavier*

              To be fair though:
              1. That’s discrimination of a religion to meet areligious customs, not to appease Christians
              2. Being fined, deported – or at worst – jailed in a European is probably better conditions than being – at BEST – jailed in a Middle Eastern prison… as a woman.

              1. March Madness*

                1. That’s discrimination of a religion to meet areligious customs, not to appease Christians

                Areligious customs? No. It’s discrimination to cater to very xenophobic groups of voters (which are unfortunately gaining strength and numbers in many European countries).

                From what I’ve gathered, many hijab-wearing women have some trepidation about visiting Europe and being subjected to potential harassement. The hijab-wearing woman who was forced to disrobe by armed French cops comes to mind, as do other examples.

                1. Ex-Humanities student*

                  Yeah, that’s really not the same. The anti-muslim discrimination pushed by conservative politicians, and the sexist and discriminatory way these policemen acted is shameful ; but it is NOT a common practice in France.

                  You can’t wear a hijab (or any religious sign) in public schools, and if you are working for the civil service while you are at work. But that’s all.

                  This is absolutely not comparable to the discrimination women face in Saudi Arabia or other theocracies.

                2. TL -*

                  @Ex but it’s the same line of thought, which is the point that people are making, I think.
                  That thinking that being yourself – religious, woman, homosexual, whatever – is a crime is quite damaging in and of itself, whether it’s France’s “only in X and fined” laws or Saudi’s “in any circumstances and brutally punished” laws.

                  The extremity of the two is quite different, but the basic underlying premise is not.

                3. Ex-Humanities student*

                  “That thinking that being yourself – religious, woman, homosexual, whatever – is a crime is quite damaging in and of itself, whether it’s France’s “only in X and fined” laws”
                  But that’s not the same at all. AT ALL. Both in nature and in scale. You can’t wear a religious garment or sign in France if you a representative of the state (= in the civil service) ; when you clock out, feel free to wear whatever you want outside of work. It has nothing to do with “being yourself”. You won’t be fined, by the way, nor go to jail, and it is not a crime at all. In no way is that comparable to someone being asked to move to Saudi Arabia where you have zero rights to do… pretty much anything if you are a woman.

                  The state is neutral and separated from churches. You can disagree with the premice, but that is another debate entirely, and has nothing to gain by comparating it to the state of women’s rights in extreme theocracies. It is insulting both for France and women’s rights.

                  We could maybe launch this debate about France if a religious person from another country wanting to wear a religious sign was trying to get a job in the French civil service. But there would be no question of jail or human rights.

                4. Kate 2*

                  Um no. PLEASE do not compare countries where people are:

                  publicly beheaded and women are imprisoned for decades for *being* raped,

                  killed for being homosexual,

                  killed for not being Muslim,

                  to countries that ban religious garb in some situations.

                5. Anonymeece*

                  Okay, this line: “being subjected to potential harassment”.

                  Let me give you this example. I am a queer woman. There are several places that I could travel which are not friendly to queer people and where I would likely face harassment for being out. For some, it is totally worth going anyway (to me).

                  But there are some countries where, if I were out as queer, I could be killed or imprisoned. I would not visit those countries.

                  Neither are okay. No one should be harassed for their religion, sexuality, gender, or anything else. But there is a big difference in facing potential harassment versus actual imprisonment or death.

              2. Chinook*

                As well, places like France may ban the hijab on public employees but they don’t punish them for having it in their bag or for reading or even possessing a Koran. I remember going to Indonesia and being told to make sure I didn’t have a bible with me or wear a cross as they could be confiscated by customs. That is a world of difference.

                1. Filicophyta*

                  “I remember going to Indonesia and being told to make sure I didn’t have a bible with me or wear a cross as they could be confiscated by customs.

                  When was this? What province? I lived there for one year and many of my Indonesian co-workers were Christian. Christianity is officially allowed, there are churches, convent schools, seminaries. I think you got bad info on this one.

            2. Observer*

              Trying is the operative word here.

              To be honest if a country actually enacted a law that would punish a woman wearing a headscarf with a prison sentence, I wouldn’t want to travel there, and I don’t even wear a headscarf. Trying to force a woman who DOES wear a headscarf to go there would be utterly out of line.

            3. Penny Lane*

              Whatever one thinks of European countries banning headscarves, it is no way comparable to the loss of rights that women (of any religion) have (or more accurately don’t have) in KSA.

              (BTW I’m an advocate for not banning headscarves, bc that’s the only way abused women have of leaving their home. If you ban headscarves and they are forbidden to be out and about, they have no way of contacting police or getting help if they are being abused.)

              1. Devoted Lurker*

                “(BTW I’m an advocate for not banning headscarves, bc that’s the only way abused women have of leaving their home. If you ban headscarves and they are forbidden to be out and about, they have no way of contacting police or getting help if they are being abused.)”

                It’s also a violation of religious freedom.

          1. Gaia*

            No, they are just better at hiding the intent behind their laws.

            Look, we can argue all day long about which religion is better than which and why religion X is terrible for doing Y but that isn’t really the point here and it is just bound to upset folks.

            1. Peter Parker*

              No, really, finish your thought. I’m dying to see what laws you think hide the intent of some sort of Christian conspiracy to force people to comply with their laws.

              1. Specialk9*

                Hahaha oh honey you haven’t been paying attention to the US conservative approach to legislature, or you are Christian and think it’s ok. Those of us who are not Christian are very aware that they’re trying to force us all into their religious choices, under the banner of religious freedom.

                1. Just Employed Here*

                  “Hahaha oh honey you haven’t been paying attention”

                  I think we all may have a better chance of convincing other people of our points of view if we don’t “hahaha oh honey” each other.

                2. Penny Lane*

                  No fan of conservative evangelicals in our politics, but seriously you cannot compare what they are trying to do with the repression of life in KSA.

                3. Sylvan*

                  Specialk9: I’m a non-Christian in an area with a very powerful Christian majority. It’s nowhere near what the employee in this question is being asked to deal with.

                  I’m totally free to go about my business in public as a woman alone, to start with. The subject of whether women should drive isn’t controversial. Nobody’s getting arrested for wearing shorts.

                4. Specialk9*

                  Penny Lane, I didn’t say anything about Saudi Arabia at all. I responded to someone sarcastically claiming that that Christians never have a “conspiracy” to try to make people follow their religious tenets through focus law. Which, come on. Both current events and history make that a wildly laughable statement.

                  And yes, Saudi Arabia is, separately from this topic, deeply problematic.

                5. Penny Lane*

                  Specialk9, do you think conservative Christian activists are trying to ensure that women are forbidden by law to leave their homes or travel without a guardian or wear only modest conservative dress or not drive?

                6. Specialk9*

                  Penny Lane, I have been clear in my prior response that I was not taking about Saudi Arabia. I’m not sure why you keep trying to go there with me.

                  Ask a gay or trans person if the “Christian Sharia” laws are not a conspiracy to force people to follow specific religious sometimes, beginning and ending with “because the Bible”. Ask women who need family planning or little girls whose father or uncles or brothers impregnated them. Etc.

                1. Mazzy*

                  I agree but I do feel he need to say that for many, abortion issues have nothing to do with religion. If anything I know people who clout their anti abortion views as religion because they think that is a neat way to close a debate, rather than their beliefs actually stemming from religion.

              2. Michaela Westen*

                @Penny Lane, Christian fascists already practice emotional and mental abuse as part of their paradigm. (reference: American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America)
                I grew up in a fascist area and experienced this firsthand.
                If, God forbid, they attained the power to make and enforce laws with no obstacles, they could easily escalate to unreasonable physical punishments such as imprisoning or killing homosexuals or women who are being human, to mention two examples.

                1. Michaela Westen*

                  “women are forbidden by law to leave their homes or travel without a guardian or wear only modest conservative dress or not drive?”
                  Yes, I think it could come to that.

            2. Lara*

              European here. While I’m not French I’m aware there is a huge amount of xenophobia in France and it got worse after Charlie Hebdo. There’s a nasty far right strain running through Europe right now. Plus, France is not particularly Christian.

              1. Ex-Humanities student*

                Yes, France is much more atheist than Christian in its practices, now, although it has a Catholic history. Most people are atheists or at least not religious.

                But there is an anti-muslim sentiment, fueled by the economic crisis and opportunistic (and/or) conservative politicians, more than religion.

                Saying a “huge amount” is unfair, though.

                1. Chinook*

                  French had a history of Catholic power until they violently threw it out of power. I think Catholics in France are now just happy that the beheadings and torture of priests and nuns eventually stopped.

        3. Tally*

          I don’t think a person should be forced into a situation that conflicts with their personal beliefs. It doesn’t matter the religion

        4. Nico M*

          Well yes, moving to most “Christian” countries isn’t a daily hell.

          At the other end, refusing to travel to France for a conference isn’t a realistic fear.

        5. Scarlet*

          “I was asked to attend a conference in France and I refused because I am Jewish”

          ??? Maybe I’m being dense but I don’t get it. Jewish people are free to practice their religion in France.

          1. LS*

            There’s been several recent terrorist attacks targeting Jewish people, particularly in schools and shops, plus a great deal of non-lethal harassment and vandalism. LouiseM might not be risking potential legal trouble because of her religion but she might well be a terrorist target in France.

            1. Scarlet*

              I’m very aware of events in France.
              Anyone can be a terrorist target anywhere. Still not comparable.

              1. TL -*

                “Anyone can be a terrorist target anywhere” is quite different than knowing people like you have been targeted in a specific location.

                It’s not the same level but it’s the same feeling of being extra unsafe due to your identity.

                And yeah, it sucks to think people are avoiding a place you love out of fear but that’s the reality for a lot of people and a lot of places.

                1. Anna*

                  Exactly. Just because you can’t fathom it because you love France, doesn’t mean other people don’t view the same country with a lot of side eye. There are a lot of Muslim people who are avoiding the US right now for very similar reasons.

              2. Sigh*

                A french holocaust survivor was just murdered for being Jewish. A little boy in a kippah was violently attacked. Assaults on kosher grocery stores, women wearing wigs, and Jewish schools have become commonplace. No way in hell are you getting me to France, and most of the Jews I know there have left in the past two years for Israel or the USA (or a few select Latin American countries). You can be a terrorist target anywhere- but in France I am a target for direct, one to one, murder, violence, and harassment because I’m Jewish.

                1. Sigh*

                  And now, all the commenters who are insulted that France’s rampant anti-Semitism is having consequences are going to complain and tell me its not bad, you can practice your religion, i see Jewish people all the time, its fine, there’s popular kosher restaurants!!! Ignoring the murder and assault of young children and the elderly.

                  Jews are leaving France at one of the highest rates ever. But sure, we’re all making it up and the country is really fine. Okay. I love it when non Jews explain anti-Semitism to Jews. It always goes so well.

                2. Willow*

                  My French great-aunt recently had to call someone to repair her phone, and when he found out she was Jewish he tried to rob her. Antisemitism is a big problem there.

              3. Sigh*

                I’m at risk of direct, person to person violence from being Jewish in France. Murder, physical violence, harassment, vandalism, attacking children on their way home from Yeshiva…I’m not going to France. You can be a victim of large scale terrorism anywhere, but I know that but I going to France I drastically increase my risk of person to person violence (and given how they recently murdered a holocaust survivor for being Jewish, death).

            2. RVA Cat*

              Asking a woman to go to Saudi Arabia though is more like asking a Jewish person to go to WWII Nazi-occupied France. Seriously, her life may be at risk.

              1. RVA Cat*

                Or for a present-day analogy, it’s like asking anyone from a democracy to go to North Korea (see: Otto Warmbier).

                1. Penny Lane*

                  Yes, thank you! These are much more appropriate analogies. I’m Jewish, and I wouldn’t hesitate to go to France for business or pleasure.

            1. Scarlet*

              I do check the news (both in French and English), FYI. If you’re talking about antisemitic incidents, they unfortunately happen everywhere. That has nothing to do with someone who cannot practice their religion in a foreign country.

              1. Sylvan*

                Fearing antisemitism has a lot to do with someone who cannot practice their religion in a given country.

              2. Observer*

                You’re right – it’s not a serious in France as in KSA and the like. But the threat against identifiable Jews in France is FAR higher that the generalized threat of terrorism “everywhere”. Trying to deny that fact doesn’t look too good.

                1. Penny Lane*

                  There’s simply no reason for your average Jewish tourist or business person to avoid France, though.

                2. Scarlet*

                  I’m not trying to deny anything, but sometimes when Americans talk about France, they really make it sound like it’s almost a warzone (remember the so-called “no go zones” in Paris according to Fox news?). It’s simply not my experience or the experience of any French person I know.

                3. Scarlet*

                  Also, lots of people have those opinions about France when they’ve never even set foot there.

                4. Observer*

                  There is a difference in saying that France is not a war zone (I agree!) and claiming that therefore it’s no different than the US. There is a wide space in between those two extremes, and the truth lives in that zone.

                5. Scarlet*

                  Observer, nowhere did I claim France was the same as the US, that would be ludicrous. I’m just disagreeing that it’s generally more dangerous than the US and taking exception to sensationalistic tendencies that are often rooted in ignorance (because how many Americans claiming to be scared of France have actually been there?).

          2. Specialk9*

            I’m Jewish and was confused too. I mean, I wouldn’t likely *move* to France, and many of the local Jews have finally given up and moved to Israel out other countries, but I’d visit. I don’t wear highly visible signs of Judaism though – if I had a kippeh (skullcap) or such I might worry.

            1. Jesca*

              Yeah my boyfriend is pretty orthodox in many ways. He was raised orthodox. No way would he go to France as he wears a kippeh every day as part of his religion. I want to go visit Chauvet, and at this point he will not go with me. It is a real fear he has.

              In the reverse, it would be like if in a country Muslim women were being regularly attacked and taunted openly and without bias. They wouldn’t want to go there either. I think people get confused on these subjects because they see so much racist speech in this country and the here and there vandalism and sometimes hate crimes, but in other places, it is rampant and far worse than we here could ever even imagine! It does seem that some parts of French culture are elevating in ways even here in the US we do not see.

              1. Ex-Humanities student*

                Yeah, you are imagining things about French culture. You risk pretty much nothing coming to France and wearing a kippah. Jewish people here are not “regularly attacked and taunted openly and without bias.” That is just not true at all.

                1. Penny Lane*

                  Oh please. Ex-H Student is right. Your average Jewish person can come to France and be a tourist or conduct business and they are fine.

                2. Sigh*

                  your fellow countrymen just murdered a holocaust survivor.

                  I love it when nonJews tell Jews how to interpret and respond to anti-Semitism.

                3. Anna*

                  Here’s a thought. If you are not a member of a group of people regularly marginalized or attacked for their beliefs, then you don’t get to tell that group their fears are unfounded. It’s dismissive and does nothing but expose your privilege and lack of understanding of other’s lack of privilege. So, take your “oh please” and trot it right off.

                4. Specialk9*

                  “your fellow countrymen just murdered a holocaust survivor.

                  I love it when nonJews tell Jews how to interpret and respond to anti-Semitism.”

                  Thank you.

                5. Anna*

                  Have all the opinions you want. But I don’t think being Jewish means you don’t have privilege or that you get to tell other people how they get to feel about travelling to countries where there have been attacks. Your usual stance is to make absolute statements that really only apply to you. And that’s the thing. They are only for you. Other people aren’t going to feel that comfortable and your personal experience doesn’t equal other people’s. So maybe still back off.

          3. Ex-Humanities student*

            Jewish people are free to practice their religion in France. I live in Paris, and I see people wearing a kippah pretty much every day. There is a very well known Jewish neighbourhood in the center, with a lot of very clearly Jewish shops, places of worships, restaurants, history… and these streets are really difficult to navigate because they are always packed with members of the Jewish community and tourists.

            There have been antisemitic terrorist attacks in France which have been very much covered by the media. They were despicable and inhuman, as were the other terrorist attacks in France. But fearing them is absurd (although exactly their point) because statistically, there is almost no risk to be a victim of them.

            Saying that you can fear terrorism as a jewish person in France in the same way you can fear being arrested as a woman in Saudi Arabia is just wrong.
            As awful as they are, rare terrorist attacks in a secular democracy are absolutely not the same as a structural theocracy made to strip you of your human rights

            1. Kate 2*

              Yes, there was an article recently about how a huge number of French people turned out to protest the anti-semitic murders, and to promote tolerance and memorialize the victims. The problem is the people committing the killings, who actually were all Muslim as I recall, funnily enough. The French people as a whole are really tolerant.

            2. RVA Cat*

              Let’s also remember that the anti-Semitic attacks in France are crimes – same as the neo-Nazi who murdered Heather Heyer and seriously injured many other people right here in the US.
              The anti-woman policies in KSA are state-sponsored oppression.

        6. RobM*

          > Do you think it would be OK for the employer to insist Sansa move to a Christian country?

          The question is how _Sansa_ would feel. I’m not enthused about relocating but my partner and I might consider it for the right (would need to be ‘out of this world’) offer. Being unable to practice our religion openly would be the 100% dealbreaker.

          In this case, mentioning religion might also be a helpful “reset button” to make uberboss remember that she’s attempting to relocate a person with human feelings and all that, and not a chess piece.

          1. Jess*

            I mean, forget Christian country. It is more reasonable to ask someone to travel to Japan, which is not a Christian county, than Saudi Arabia. It’s more about the government’s protections of women and minorities (including religious ones, which, btw, includes atheists) that is the crux of the issue.

        7. Penny Lane*

          Being Jewish and being asked to go to France is not even remotely equivalent to being Christian (or Jewish) and being asked to go to Saudi Arabia. There is absolutely no comparison. Stop with the false equivalency. It’s overly dramatic.

          1. Anna*

            It’s overly dismissive to state anything like the absolutes you are stating. You don’t get to decide how other people feel about travelling to any country where their beliefs have been marginalized or where people identified as being members of their group have been attacked. It is not your place and I would suggest you take a step back and reassess what authority you have here.

              1. Specialk9*

                Penny Lane, just because you’re Jewish doesn’t mean you have some magical authority to make big judgments. You have an opinion, often a really harsh opionion, rudely expressed. Back off, eh.

              2. Working Hypothesis*

                So am I, but that’s not the point, Penny. What Anna said (and I agree with) is, “You don’t get to decide how other people feel about travelling to any country where their beliefs have been marginalized or where people identified as being members of their group have been attacked.” Not “you don’t get to decide how other people feel about it unless you’re also a member of that group.” You don’t get to decide how other *individuals* feel about it, regardless of what you are, unless you are *that person*.

                Different individuals have different risk tolerances, and for different topics. I’ve been to France and loved it, but I’ll pass on going right now, thanks. That’s a personal decision. Nobody is saying you have to agree with it, but can you please just make your own decisions about your life and leave other people to make theirs, without anyone having to disrespect each other over it? It’s not really your business where other individuals, Jewish or otherwise, decide to travel to or why.

        8. Lara*

          If the Christian country imposed unreasonable restrictions including preventing the employee from practising her own religion, then of course it wouldn’t be OK.

        9. RUKiddingMe*

          Let’s stipulate that LW was referring to Saudi Arabia. All of those rules apply there, particularly the practicing of any religion that isn’t Islam. Most Christian countries don’t have such a rule. I don’t think even Vatican City would arrest someone for practicing Hinduism while ‘in town.’ Also, France is a secular not religious government. Just, yanno, saying.

        10. Smithy*

          Taking issues of why KSA would be better or worse, safer or more dangerous off the table – I think it highly depends on the type of work you’re in.

          I work for an international humanitarian ngo – so refusing that kind of travel could easily harm my professional prospects. Now for the type of work I do, the chance of being asked to relocate for 2-9 months wouldn’t be super common but also wouldn’t be unheard of. And if I said no for reasons as basic as “I have commitments I cant leave” – it don’t think it’d actively hurt me, but I could see receiving pressure to go or that by not going that others were able to be in preferred positions for promotions.

          This may very well be a case of “know your industry”. Where for some it could be quite frequent but completely unheard of for others.

          1. Xay*

            I agree. I work for a global health non-profit and turning down that kind of travel probably would negatively impact my career. That said, the positions that require that kind of travel are described up front to identify staff that are comfortable traveling to places that are more restrictive than the US.

          2. RR*

            And even within your industry, it can be a matter of know your company, and even your particular department within your organization. I’ve worked for international humanitarian and health NGOs, and while it is generally understood that a fair amount of travel is typically required, and often to more challenging locations, including conflict areas, every single organization where I have worked has allowed for individuals to turn down specific assignments. Turning down multiple locations might hurt one’s professional standing, but turning down an extreme example such as LW describes would not. For roles where travel to places many might veto is required, we are explicit about that when recruiting.

        11. RVA Cat*

          The only way a Christian country would be comparable to KSA would be if there were similar restrictions in place – think Gilead from the Handmaid’s Tale.

        12. Tricksy Hobbit*

          The issue is that her boss wants to live in a place where her religion is oppressed. She could be imprisoned for reading the Bible. If you were visiting France you would not be arrested for practicing your faith. As must as I would love to visit those countries as a Christan American woman I would never travel there. I would not have any human rights. It would be dangerous for me on so many levels. Sansa is right to refuse. If she quits over this, I would support her.

        13. Mara*

          The different between sending a Jewish person to France and a Christian person to Saudi Arabia (I am assuming given the description the OP gave that the country is Saudi Arabia or else a very similar country) is that a practising Jew would not face limitations in practising their religion in France but a practising Christian would have limitations on how to practice their religion in Saudi Arabia (as would a Jewish person or anyone not Muslim I believe).

          Also sadly I think religious freedom is given greater weight than the fact a woman in such a country would be in danger. If she stepped a toe out of line (intentional or not) she could end up in serious trouble and there have been cases of women who were raped being imprisoned for adultery. I love to travel and have been to many different countries including Muslim countries where I have had no problems at all but I would avoid Saudi Arabia.

        14. Kate 2*

          Well, in some countries you get killed for practicing the “wrong” religion, so . . . it matters a lot really. Her religion vastly increases her chances of being murdered, and she won’t be able to practice while she is there.

          As some very smart commenter above aptly put it: Asking a woman to go there is like asking an African American person to move to South Africa during Apartheid. To ask a Christian to go there is like asking a pagan to Salem during the witch hunts. Or a Jewish person during the Inquisition. Or a Jewish person to Germany during the Holocaust.

          The company is asking this woman to move to a country where she is seen as a useful lower life form, like a dog, and where people of her religion are being killed when found out.

          1. RVA Cat*

            Very smart commentator here ;)

            I actually thought this through a bit further on another post – asking a woman to move to Saudi Arabia is like asking *anyone* to move to North Korea.

        15. theletter*

          The issue is that the country in question does not offer protections for religious freedom, not that, culturally, they discriminate against one or some religions, but that the government prohibits public practice of religions other than the official government of the state. The visitor would not be able to attend a service if they desired, which may be a deal breaker if she prefers to adhere to holy days of obligation, which is common across many religions.

      2. Fergus, Stealer of Pens and Microwaver of Fish*

        So if you’re not religious, you don’t have a leg to stand on? The bible thing is not even remotely the biggest problem with this situation.

        1. Tally*

          No. That’s not what I meant at all. I don’t know what specific protection atheists have but I doubt that an employer can force an atheist employee to participate in a religious act that they disagree with.

          1. Fergus, Stealer of Pens and Microwaver of Fish*

            My point is that you shouldn’t have to pull the religion card at all. Head to toe clothing and not speaking to male colleagues is freaking absurd on its face, and you don’t need to claim allegiance or non-allegiance to the sky fairy to have standing to avoid it.

            1. Tally*

              Sure you shouldn’t have to, but if the boss keeps insisting then it would be beneficial to do so since it’s such an obvious red area that employers really shouldn’t involve themselves with no matter the beliefs

            2. Tally*

              To be clear I would support the employee if she had no religious beliefs at all, but I think this would be a sure way to shut down the conversation since the boss is so persistent about it

              1. Fergus, Stealer of Pens and Microwaver of Fish*

                I guess I’m just stuck on the principle of the thing, which is admittedly easier when I’m not the one in the situation.

                1. KAZ2Y5*

                  But Sansa is a Christian and that is one (of many) reasons why she doesn’t want to go. I don’t understand why you have such a problem with this being one of her reasons.

                2. Jesca*

                  But atheism is a belief. And it would still be completely acceptable to say “I cannot move to a country that will persecute me for my beliefs and no job is worth that.”

                3. Observer*

                  What principle? Are you saying that is Sansa were Sam it would be ok to force him to go, even though he could go to jail for his religion?

                  Sansa has two essential arguments. 1. She’s a female who is going to be put a extreme risk and will be treated like garbage. 2. She is a person of faith who will be banned from practicing her religion AT ALL.

                  Each of these issues is sufficient on its own to be a hard no. For Sansa, pointing out the religious aspect might be more useful, so she should absolutely bring it up.

              2. theletter*

                I think of it more as icing on the cake – her civil rights are violated in X, Y, and Z, and Z is a basic protection we’ve had since about 1776.

                It’s not that she’s a Sky-fairy worshipper in a land of water-gods, it’s that the theocracy doesn’t allow ANY worship of anything other than their state religion and we’ve already accepted that as against our values of freedom. She could, for example, follow no religion and find herself in hot water for making a joke about Pastafarianism and have no legal protection there. That’s the safety concern.

            3. Detective Amy Santiago*

              It’s not “pulling the religion card”. There are legal protections in place in the United States that forbid employers from discriminating based on religion (with exceptions for religious organizations). Insisting that a Christian employee go to a country where a bible is illegal is no different than forcing Jewish employees to participate in a pig roast.

              1. Alton*

                Exactly. Yes, it’s ridiculous in general to try to force an employee to make such a huge decision when it presumably wasn’t part of the job when they signed on, and I’d be sympathetic to Sansa even if there wasn’t a discriminatory element. But the discrimination aspect isn’t irrelevant. Trying to force an employee to enter into a situation where they can’t practice their religion even on their own time is shaky ground at the very least. Unless relocating to this country is an essential part of the job, Sansa has some rights, at least under US law.

              2. Annie Moose*

                Yes, absolutely. You would be effectively telling a person, “you cannot openly practice your religion, even outside of work, if you want to keep your job”. Does that not violate EEOC religious protections??

                1. Ex-Humanities student*

                  Maybe “technically” because in the country in question, there would not be EOC religious protections ?

                  I agree it is strange to think that religious carries more weight as an argument than saying “I won’t have any right as a woman”.

                2. Observer*

                  Actually, I suspect that legally, it doesn’t. It’s just that the boss isn’t thinking straight and this is easier to see.

                3. Ex-Humanities student*

                  This boss is really of piece of work if you have to put to fear of (not God) HR by bringing religious discrimination on the table before she understands how wrong her insistance is.

                4. Observer*

                  Ex, I think everyone agrees with you. The question people are trying to address is what is the most effective way of dealing with it.

                5. PersephoneUnderground*

                  Legally, it totally carries more weight in the USA. Religious discrimination is prohibited in the US Constitution, while sex discrimination is not- this is why there is still a movement to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. That fact has a real impact on the weight given to discrimination claims and the level of legal scrutiny something receives when it’s in the courts- “strict scrutiny” in cases of potential racial discrimination (b/c that’s covered in the 14th Amendment), versus “intermediate scrutiny” in cases of potential sex discrimination. (IANAL but I’ve studied up on this).

            4. Specialk9*

              That’s fine. We agree on all of that! I also think we women, and all humans, should have human rights. But you don’t have to denigrate all religions in order to do that.

            1. AnonEMoose*

              A number of years ago, I was working as the assistant to an executive coach, and had to fill out the visa application for him to travel to Saudi Arabia. He had me put “none” in the space for “religion,” and there was no problem. So maybe not? Or if so, maybe it doesn’t apply to foreigners?

              1. Ramblin' Ma'am*

                But that could be interpreted as not following a particular religion, not necessarily atheism.

                A few years ago, I read that there were 13 countries where atheism was punishable by death. I’m not sure if that number has changed.

                1. AnonEMoose*

                  I have no idea how whatever officials reviewed the application interpreted it…or if they even read it that closely. Just that putting “none,” didn’t cause then-Boss any issues.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          People are allowed reasonable religious accommodations in the US, including to have a beard in the military, perform daily prayers, and wear religious garb. I know people who arrange their work based on it allowing a day of rest as required by their religion, who would not go along with “Yeah but we need you to work Saturdays for this project.” Not being allowed to practice her religion–she’s banned from bringing the book–is a real problem. Even if it’s not for other people. That’s how “accommodations” work, that they affect some workers but not all.

        3. LKW*

          Adding religion as a reason to stop this nonsense is a tricky thing. You can make the employee’s case that this was one of several factors that led to her dismissal or harassment. So if this ever came to litigation – boom, there it is.

          However, adding this to an email now, with some careful understanding on the part of HR should effectively end this nonsense. If you copied HR on this, they would be alerted to the issue and if they are smart, would be running down the hall, with one of your company’s litigation attorneys in tow to the boss’ office to make it clear that this stops now.

          But your boss isn’t going to stop until someone higher up says she needs to -she sounds either dense or laser focused or both.

        4. Seriously?*

          I don’t think the was the point. If her primary concern is the ability to practice her religion, then she should say that. Someone else could have a different primary concern and would use those reasons. Just because her reasons for objecting are not universal to every employee does not make them invalid.

        5. Observer*

          If you are not religious it is not a problem at all, of course. But, if you ARE religious, you are simply incorrect.

          And, from a legal POV, it’s a major issue since forcing someone to not practice their religion is religious discrimination, which happens to be illegal in the US.

      3. MatKnifeNinja*

        There is a big difference between my lapsed Catholic, practicing Buddhist behind, and a Christian woman who may go to Bible study three times a week, is active in her church and her religion is probably huge part of her life. KSA is a hard hell to the no.

        I knew family members who could deal with all the restricts that women have in KSA, but not being able to have a Bible was a total deal breaker.

        The boss needs a reality check. If Sansa is like my family member, she’ll walk. Any threats won’t matter, because usually a person like Sansa totally puts her trust in God, and he will provide.

        No is a complete sentence. I don’t understand why the boss is still fooling around.

        1. Chinook*

          I would be one of those women who would be able to deal with the restrictions placed on women (even if it bugged me) but going 6 months without going to mass AND not even being allowed a bible or prayer book or even a rosary as an alternative would be too much. Heck, I would probably being tieing knots on string within a month and them possibly caught with a homemade rosary. I can’t see a long-term job being worth it.

          1. nosilycuriously*

            While a lot of what is being said in this thread is inarguably true, there is an extreme tone that is baffling to me, given the usual level of discussion I’m used to on AMA.

            For example, you absolutely can bring your bible and rosary into KSA, you just can’t bring in large number of bibles and evangelize.

            It also feels like this got way too off topic for what the OP was asking. No one should be coerced into going to somewhere they do not want to go, especially when they have perfectly valid reasons not to go.

      4. Wintermute*

        I wouldn’t leave out religion either because religion is a protected class. they are required to accommodate, within reason, the religion of their employees and “not sending them to a place where they could be executed for apostasy” is fairly reasonable as far as accommodation goes

      5. Ann Nonymous*

        Yes, you can read a Bible in KSA. And you are not *forced* to follow Islam in Saudi Arabia. That is just a ridiculous assertion.

    3. Meow meow*

      I would definitely mention the religious aspect, actually. I think it’s important. An employer can’t force an employee into a situation where she is prohibited to practice her religion. First of all it’s unethical, and second of all it creates a liability as Sansa could probably take legal action.

      1. Specialk9*

        I’m annoyed enough at this boss that I kind of hope they do get sued. I don’t think it’ll happen, but if anyone deserves it, it’s the powerful male trying to force a subservient woman into a an actual burka and gender/religion based oppression against her will.

        1. Specialk9*

          I missed that the boss is actually a female. It does remove that gendered ick factor, but the situation is still abuse of power to try to force someone into gender and religious discrimination.

          1. Observer*

            I agree. And I suspect that if they ever DO get sued it won’t be just on the religious discrimination aspect.

            1. Decima Dewey*

              If Arya thinks Sanya should be content to live like that, she should be the one to go live there.

    4. Beth*

      I think the religion aspect is actually good to mention, because there are legal protections for religion that don’t necessarily exist for other parts of personal life. It’s not that there aren’t other valid reasons to refuse an international move, but that it’s much more serious to be pushing an employee to do something that goes against their religion than to push them to, for example, give up watching movies in theater. That makes it a more solid point to say “I’m concerned that continuing to push on this will put us in an iffy spot legally,” which is a really solid and difficult-to-refute objection.

      1. Fergus, Stealer of Pens and Microwaver of Fish*

        It’s total BS that religion gets the legal hackles up when regular human rights don’t. Don’t get me wrong, I could muster up some Jesus love for the lawsuit, but I shouldn’t have to.

        1. Matt*

          I don’t know what country we are talking about, but even as a non-religious person I would have quite some reservations against moving to and working in a country in which, e.g., I could be arrested / whipped / whatever for inadvertently breaking the religious laws in effect there …

          1. Matt*

            and I’m a man – as others already wrote, even more so for a woman who virtually has no rights in certain countries and could even be punished for being a rape victim …

            1. Dinosaur*

              Women are punished for being rape victims in America/The West, too. Here’s just one example, where an 18 year old reported her rape to police and they charged her with making a false report due to small inconsistencies in her story that are attributable to trauma. She was finally vindicated when a man was arrested for rape and they found a picture of the 18 year old that he took as a souvenir. https://www.propublica.org/article/false-rape-accusations-an-unbelievable-story

              Can we evaluate the “badness level” of these situations to ones found in other parts of the world? Yes. But the point is that 1) rape victims aren’t treated well pretty much anywhere and it comes off as insensitive to survivors to act like America has its stuff together on this and 2) using the “OMG it’s just SO dangerous and horrible and misogynist over in those other places” might get Ayra to back off, but at what cost?

              1. Observer*

                Can we stop equating occasional bad behavior from an entire legal system?

                The case you mention is an outlier – it’s not illegal to be a rape victim anywhere in the US, and the story you mentioned is an outlier. She also wasn’t being punished for the rape but for (as the police believed) supposedly making the story up.

                In KSA, you get punished for a false report. But a woman is also liable to face a multi year prisons sentence for being raped. There is simply NOTHING comparable to that in the US. And trying to make that comparison is ridiculous.

                1. Specialk9*

                  Yeah. “But the laws are sometimes twisted by people” is WAY different from “the laws are twisted, really really twisted”.

              2. Millennial Lawyer*

                No one is saying America has its shit together or is devoid of sexism. Commenters are saying that *you can literally be imprisoned for being raped and are not able to freely move around as a woman* in this country. There’s nothing illiberal about saying that. That is actually a very important consideration when moving to a country!!

              3. Max from St. Mary's*

                In the west there are individual cases that are badly mishandled. In several countries–presumably one of which the OP refers to–there are legal and institutional norms that punish women who have been raped. All countries are not equal in this regard and it’s perfectly reasonable that a western woman would refuse to work in a place that really is misogynist.

                1. Leslie knope*

                  This is absolutley not true, sorry. It is very much a systemic issue and it’s reallt quite upsetting that people are pretending it isn’t.

                2. Observer*

                  Are you claiming that a woman can be convicted in court for the “crime” of being raped, in the US?

                3. Totally Minnie*

                  @Leslie Knope, rape culture in the US is definitely systemic, and that’s a problem. But it has nothing to do with solving the OP’s problem. It’s not really helpful to the OP to talk about how rape cases in the US have gone wrong. But talking about how rape victims are prosecuted and imprisoned in certain middle eastern countries may be helpful, because it could give OP some talking points to use with her boss.

              4. Someone*

                Matt meant “be punished for being a rape victim ACCORDING TO THE LAW”.

                HUGE difference! The girl in your story was (falsely) accused of making a false report, not of being a rape victim.

              5. Observer*

                I’m not sure what happened to my original reply, but try 2.

                The comparison you are trying to make is absurd. There is a major difference between not treating victims well and actively severely punishing them. And there is a major difference between the occasional misbehavior of a police department and a legal system that enshrines explicit severe criminal penalties for the victim.

                Lastly, the story you link to was not a case where the victim was being punished for being a victim. She punished because the police didn’t believe her, and she (falsely) confessed to making up the accusation. That’s not the issue in KSA – there, the fact that the accusation is TRUE is what gets you into prison.

              6. Leslie knope*

                Thank you. This entire thread is riddled with racist fearmongering, and it’s laughable people want to downplay how systemic this is in the wake of #metoo. You can get your point across without rewriting history to make it sound like it’s an “occasional” issue. It’s not.

                1. Jessie the First (or second)*

                  It’s laughable you want to claim the difficulties women face here are analogous to the difficulties women face in Saudi Arabia. That’s some next-level denial.

          2. Flowey*

            That’s not really what it’s like there at all, especially for expats. But all of the restrictions mentioned in the letter are accurate and no one should be pressured into that kind of work environment.

          3. Ann Nonymous*

            Except that doesn’t happen. Punishment is not meted out for ignorance but for blatant and purposeful illegal activity.

            1. LS*

              Saudi Arabia, for one! Indonesia is another – you have to register as one of the six official religions or you can’t get an identity card.

              1. Mara*

                I doubt its Indonesia. Assuming Sansa is a Christian both Catholic and protestant are among the official accepted religions (though if Sansa was Jewish she may have a problem) The official religions according to the Indonesian government (I believe) are Islam, Buddhist, Hindu, Confucian, Catholic and Protestant. So Sansa would not be prohibited from practising her religion.

                1. Mara*

                  No. I think most areligious/atheist/agnostic people put what religion they would be most likely to be culturally e.g a Brit like me would put Protestant, an Irish person might put Catholic, a Chinese person might put Buddhist or Confucian, you don’t have to prove you practice the religion I don’t think.

                  Unless someone is a very vocal atheist (or a practising jew) I think people can generally work around Indonesia’s restrictions.

            2. Nephron*

              Head scarfs, hijabs, and the other coverings are all supposed to be demonstrations of faith like wearing a cross, or when women all wore hats to church because they were supposed to have their heads covered. Legally requiring me to wear clothing to demonstrate a religious faith when I am not religious is preventing me from being agnostic or atheist as I am being forced to take part in demonstrations of a faith I in no way wish to follow.

              1. Filicophyta*

                ” Legally requiring me to wear clothing to demonstrate a religious faith when I am not religious is preventing me from being agnostic or atheist as I am being forced to take part in demonstrations of a faith I in no way wish to follow.”

                The requirement to wear abaya is not about demonstrating a religious faith. They know not all the foreigners who wear it by requirement are muslim. The purpose is to follow conventions of modesty (which are closely tied to that faith). You aren’t pretending to follow the faith. They are not asking you to pretend. It’s not the same as choosing to wear a cross or star of david demonstrates Chrisianity or Judaism (people who wear them for fashion aside for now)

                1. Ann Nonymous*

                  Exactly. Not equivalent. Requiring a certain level of modesty (whether that is wearing clothing on a beach or covering one’s arms and legs in a church) is not forcing religion on a person.

            3. Ex-Humanities student*

              In the US, it is basically unthinkable (or very rare and difficult) to be an atheist and still be elected…
              And pretty much everything in the culture heavily implies that atheists are not welcome.
              But it is not… you jnow, technically unlawful, as long as you keep it to yourself or live in a liberal city.

              1. Lindsay J*

                I don’t live in a particularly liberal city, and I grew up in a small town. I have never felt the implication that atheism or atheists are not welcome. And I am an atheist.

                Your experience does not equal everyone’s experience, or the truth about how the United States is.

                (Though I was surprised when I just looked and saw how few openly atheist elected officials there are in the United States! It is 2018.)

                1. Perse's Mom*

                  As a young atheist, I specifically remember hearing about George Bush Sr rendering his opinion that atheists are not citizens nor patriots because “one nation under God.” That made me feel pretty damned unwelcome as a teenager in small town.

                  It’s great that you don’t feel that way. You don’t speak for all of us either.

              2. Observer*

                Don’t you thin that there is a difference between “probably can’t get elected and some people will be nasty” and “you could go to jail of someone finds out”?

            4. Wintermute*

              In Saudi Arabia, for one, it’s considered blasphemy and can attract very serious punishments

          1. Alton*

            I’m not sure that they don’t, technically speaking. I’m pretty sure that requiring people to participate in religious practices or discriminating against them because they don’t belong to a religion can also fall under religious discrimination. In this particular case, I think it’s more complicated because things like wearing a headscarf are based in religion but are also seen as cultural norms, whereas it’s harder to justify outright banning someone from practicing their religion even in private. But if we were talking about a company based in the US forcing female employees to wear hijabs, I’m pretty sure atheists would have just as much right to protest as Christians or Jews (or even Muslims who don’t want to wear hijabs) would.

          2. Wintermute*

            in the US they do, religious freedom covers your right to be athiest/agnostic. It’s just that people don’t usually require accommodation for their atheism; they don’t need a special diet or to take certain days off for observances or other things an employer would be required to accommodate. That isn’t to say that you couldn’t find some circumstances that would create a legally hostile environment to atheists, but it’s not often seen in law.

        2. Specialk9*

          Fergus, you clearly have some sweeping objections to those of us who are religious, and frankly your saying that she doesn’t get to object to this very sketchy situation based on religion, because of your objections to her believing in a sky fairy, is problematic. You don’t get to make that call. Sorry but no.

          1. TL -*

            I think Fergus is saying that Sansa shouldn’t be forced to move internationally for her job if she doesn’t want to, regardless of what religion she practices, and regardless of what the country’s views on religion are. Fergus isn’t saying religion isn’t a reasonable objection; they’re saying the issue is being told to move internationally for a job that wasn’t sold as an international opportunity.

            There’s a whole lot more to this than Sansa is a practicing Christian – heck, I know observant Muslims who I’m 99% sure wouldn’t want to move to Saudi or a similarly restrictive country.

            1. KAZ2Y5*

              You know, I could believe that except for Fergus’s comment about the sky fairy. At the very least, that is not the type of kind comments that I think Alison wants here. I may have missed it, but I haven’t seen anyone saying that religion is the only reason for Sansa to not go. But for her it is one of the reasons she doesn’t want to go and I don’t see the problem with adding this to her list.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                Yeah, I am a little lost on where the idea came from that was her only talking point. Sansa has many talking points and they are all strong points. I think the points need to be presented as a group, as opposed to using just one point and hoping for the best.
                Plus the fact that using all these points will make the boss look pretty foolish and small thinking. Right now I am having a tough time to think of a shallower thinking boss than this one. “I want to send my employee to a country where she could end up dead. I am okay with that.” I hope someone fires this boss.

                1. Michaela Westen*

                  And if she doesn’t end up dead and nothing physically bad happens, she’ll still be miserable!

                2. Like, Really Smart*

                  Okay, the possibility of her “ending up dead” because she’s a woman living in Saudi Arabia is ridiculous. I say this as someone who thinks Saudi Arabia is a horrible place for women, with significant problems (many of which have been listed here). But merely existing as a woman in the country doesn’t mean that she’s going to “end up dead.” Good grief.

                3. Ann Nonymous*

                  So right, Really Smart. People on this thread seem to like to assert as truth things they literally know nothing about. But they read it on the internet or heard it somewhere so it must be true.

                1. tangerineRose*

                  Is it also funny to make fun of other religions? I get it, in many countries Christianity is the dominant religion, and some people who call themselves Christians don’t really act like it. But there are plenty of people who are Christians and treat others decently. I agree that you have a right to make fun of my religion if you want to, but personally I get tired of it.

          2. Fergus, Stealer of Pens and Microwaver of Fish*

            No, I have sweeping objections to treating religion as a more legitimate reason than others. This whole situation is absurd, and she can and should object with whatever she’s got, including religion. And if I object because I like to wear tank tops and drink beer on the weekends, or (((gasp))) that I think women should be treated like human beings, then that should be taken equally seriously.

              1. Wintermute*

                A lot of people here are, because religion is a protected class and drinking beer or wearing tank tops or believing women have rights are not (being a woman is! but political beliefs about women’s rights are not). As a result, it does get greater protection in this situation: employers are required to accommodate religion, and not sending you someplace you are forbidden from practicing your faith under penalty of law, and may face extrajudicial violence or official harassment because of your faith is a fairly basic accommodation. It is unclear if mere objections to human rights abuses and the restrictions on the rights of women would qualify for the same level of protection so in this case religion is “more legitimate”

            1. Totally Minnie*

              It’s not more legitimate, but it’s equally legitimate. And if this is the particular issue that gets Arya to back off, there’s no reason not to use it.

        3. Anon For Always*

          Freedom of religion (specifically, “the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion,” so it includes non-religious/atheistic beliefs as well) is included the U.N.’s Universal Delclaration of Human Rights. You may think it’s BS, but it’s BS backed up by 70 years of international policy.

      2. Scarlet*

        Agreed. I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t know how that would work, but isn’t there a discrimination case to be made here? They’re trying to push the employee in a situation where a) she wouldn’t be allowed to practice her religion and b) her rights would be severely restricted because of her gender. Both aspects would be illegal according to US law, if I’m not mistaken.

        For example, if she was gay and she was asked to travel to a country where homosexuality is still illegal, would it be remotely ok? Would a boss feel it’s fair that someone be put in a situation where their very identity puts them at risk?

        (Of course, not wanting to spend time abroad for your job is a perfectly valid reason in and of itself, but the boss is obviously unreasonable – and pretty dumb if they think badgering someone who’s ready to quit over something is a good idea)

        1. Dr Wizard, PhD*

          >For example, if she was gay and she was asked to travel to a country where homosexuality is still illegal, would it be remotely ok? Would a boss feel it’s fair that someone be put in a situation where their very identity puts them at risk?

          She wouldn’t have any legal protection in that case, regrettably, unless her state specifically had LGBT employment protections.

          Mind you, this happened to me and an ex of mine (I don’t live in the US). They politely explained to their boss they wouldn’t feel safe going to a conference in Moscow, and I politely took myself out of the running for a work trip to Oman.

          In both cases, the response was a moment of ‘huh, why … oh! of course, sorry!’ and no further issues. So people can be very reasonable about things like this, which makes the boss’s obliviousness in this situation even weirder.

        2. Doe-Eyed*

          If there isn’t a discrimination case (and that’s a big if), I think this is cuddling up so close to it that I wouldn’t want to tempt fate by taking it to court.

            1. Doe-Eyed*

              Also that – the optics of this are so awful that even if they’re technically right they’ll tank their ability to recruit most women and a good chunk of men.

            2. Perse's Mom*

              Yeah, that’s a story that’s just waiting to go viral and get the company lambasted by the press.

    5. Nieve*

      I agree this sounds like a terrible pressure to put on someone, especially because in this situation I think there would be a safety issue! If I had to go to an oppressive country like that, I would genuinely be afraid that i wouldnt be able to leave the country alive… What if the building has a fire and I need to run outside and my hair isnt covered up? Will I be arrested and be stoned to death…

      1. Penny Lane*

        It’s a real fear. I was never so glad as when I left. Moreover my client who sent me is a huge multinational who had done this before. I get the sense this is a small company with a lot of naïveté about what KSA is really like.

      2. March Madness*

        This is a very real concern.

        In 2002, a girl’s school in Saudi Arabia caught fire and a dozen young girls burned alive because the religious police stopped them from leaving the building and stopped the rescue workers who wanted to help them. (The girls were not ‘properly’ covered up).

        A compound sounds nice in theory, but if I had to go there… there’d be some real danger of panic attacks and/or claustrophobia. No employee should be force to work in conditions like that!

        1. Specialk9*

          This is the mind of situation in which I wish there really were a ninja going around making vigilante justice happen. Start with those police officers who blocked the doors and listened to girls screaming as they burned to death.

          1. Lehigh*

            Don’t most of our fictional vigilantes essentially agree with our law systems, though? Batman, or the Green Arrow, goes after people we would see as evil criminals (in accordance with our Western laws) who just haven’t gotten caught or get an exception for being rich.

            In that case wouldn’t the Saudi Arabian vigilante be breaking into those Western compounds to start enforcing “normal” laws on the rich foreigners?

            1. Wintermute*

              Now THIS is an interesting idea. They did something like that with “red son” where Superman fell in the Ukraine not America and became a defender of the SOVIET ideal instead of “truth, justice and the american way”

              Imagine what a Saudi superman would look like? or a batman?

      3. Flowey*

        No. They don’t arrest people or stone them to death for not having their hair covered up. Please don’t just assume things like that.

        1. Kate 2*

          Um, yes they do. See March Madness’s comment. A group of men let a bunch of children (children! But they were female so I guess they don’t count) burn alive because they did not have their hair covered.

        2. Penny Lane*

          They most certainly do arrest women for uncovered hair in KSA. The religious police have the power to do pretty much anything including entering your home.

          1. nosilycuriously*

            Again, this is not true. The religious authorities are sometimes accompanied by police, and ‘breaking in’ is not normal (though obviously not unheard of). I’ve been in Saudi for over 30 years, I’ve never covered my hair, though I do wear the abaya. Customs and expectations are not laws.

            A lot of things mentioned in this thread as laws are customs. Please don’t take this as a defense of KSA. Human rights violations, including women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and much more occur constantly. But to address those violations, I feel that we should ground conversations with nuanced discussion.

            Aaaaand back to lurking.

            1. Ann Nonymous*

              Thank you, Nosily. I lived in Jeddah for 20 years and wholeheartedly agree with you. No one would dare set foot in the supremely dangerous U.S. if all the stories of Really Bad Stuff That Goes On Every Single Damn Day were all they were told.

    6. BTDT*

      I completely agree Sansa shouldn’t be forced to move and that the boss needs to back off, but it also sounds like the job’s living situation may not have been explained to Sansa well. I have American colleagues, incl females, in SA who live on a compound. It’s huge – like a small city unto itself. They can celebrate Christian holidays, don’t wear black robes, etc. If they go off the compound then they have to follow the strict laws there, so they mostly just stick to their “base.” It’s challenging and certainly not for everyone. But it’s not nearly as repressive as living off-compounds or being a tourist. If the boss wanted Sansa to move there she should’ve found a current expat over there to give Sansa a real picture of what it’s like, and then let Sansa decide. And then of course back off if she says no.

      1. March Madness*

        It seems Sansa is better informed than we give her credit for. She describes the compound as “small”, so it’s safe to say it’s not a city unto itself. And besides, the principle of the thing (i.e. voluntary confinement) might just not agree with her at all, and that is fine.

        1. Specialk9*

          “She would have to live in a building or compound with other foreign workers. She wouldn’t be in one of the main or large cities so the compound and her living space would be small. She would have to wear black robes and covered hair every time she went outside. She wouldn’t be allowed to speak or be alone with any man, including colleagues. She wouldn’t be allowed to have a bible or practice her religion. She would be restricted on where she could go outside the compound. Things for entertainment like movie theatres are banned and don’t exist there and her internet use would be censored and monitored.”

          Sounds like they have a really clear picture of the situation.

          1. Ann Nonymous*

            No, that is what LW is reporting. If she’s talking about KSA like she’s implying, then she’s very wrong about the restrictions Sansa might be under. Anecdotes are not the totality of reality.

        1. Anonymous Poster*

          No. No it does not sound like that at all. Let’s stop the hyperbole please.

          She doesn’t want to go for a variety of reasons, including that she legally is not allowed to practice her religion. But she isn’t going to a prisoner of war camp.

              1. Ann Nonymous*

                Just like they do in KSA. I’d appreciate it if both the LW and the commenters would stop being ridiculous.

      2. Smithy*

        In addition to this, if Arya really sees a business asset to having Sansa alone do this project there could potentially be perks that could be offered. I know some industries that for people in “hardship locations” (I use quotes because depending on the industry/company how much of a hardship those locations are could really raise an eyebrow) will offer extra pay but also offer paid vacations. So in some cases every quarter or 6-8 weeks, a vacation out of the area is partially paid for by the company. Both the vacation time as well as plane tickets and hotel costs.

        If Sansa does want to go, I’m not saying she should be forced to. But if this is something Arya really wants – I think there are more carrot options that could be explored vs sticks.

        1. What?!?*

          Sansa said no amount of money could entice her to go. Arya needs to respect that and look elsewhere.

          1. Smithy*

            I get that – but I would say that one of Sansa’s concerns (not being allowed a Bible) doesn’t strike me as applying to foreign worker compounds that I’m familiar with in KSA. Maybe their compound is different – but I feel like some of her concerns could be discussed openly (i.e. what opportunities she would have to practice her religion). And while the money alone might not be tempting, having the business engage around those concerns and explain how they’d address them would likely be good practice for Arya and the company.

            I work in a humanitarian field and as such have a different travel expectations than other industries. However being asked to temporarily relocate can throw up all sorts of stressors depending on what’s going on in your life. And the company taking a more holistic and compassionate approach to the process will only help them – regardless of Sansa’s decision for this request.

            1. Observer*

              How is she bringing that Bible in? Unless she’s flying on US military or diplomatic aircraft, she can’t bring in any religious objects because her luggage will probably be searched.

              1. Filicophyta*

                How is she bringing that Bible in? Unless she’s flying on US military or diplomatic aircraft, she can’t bring in any religious objects

                This is not accurate. One bible is allowed per person for personal use. Just don’t share it with the purpose of conversion.

                As I’ve said in other comments, I’m not saying what they do is right or wrong, or that she should go. But she should decide based on facts, not rumours or out-of-date info from people who were there decades ago.

                1. Observer*

                  One bible is allowed per person for personal use. Just don’t share it with the purpose of conversion.

                  The religious police have pretty much full scope to decide how to enforce these laws, and they have been known to decide that having that bible MUST be for the purposes of conversion. And how could you prove otherwise, even if you got to the point of even being allowed to challenge them – which is not going to happen.

                  That assumes that ALL she needs it a Bible, and that it’s a standard version used by a mainline Western sect of Christianity. And STILL leaves her without the ability to bring in any other religious items.

            2. Observer*

              On a more general note, it doesn’t sound like you really understand the reality of religious freedom (and the lack thereof) in KSA. The reality is that she actually won’t have any opportunities to practice her religion at all unless her company’s client is VERY influential and is able and willing to pull a lot of string and shelter her. But that will restrict her even more. And even then, there are going to be significant limits.

              1. Chinook*

                Exactly. I know of one US chaplain in KSA who talked of only being allowed to say mass for his military unit and the heartbreak of seeing a Filipino walking by and stopping to watch the consecration through the window. The chaplain was banned from letting him in. For a Catholic to be so close to this sacrament but not allowed to participate is spiritual torture.

            3. Genny*

              Even if she could bring a Bible in (say she as a Bible app on her phone), the fact that she can’t go to a religious service is also a huge thing. I spent a couple months in a majority Muslim country. Their work week was Sunday-Thursday, so I working on what I would normally observe as my day of rest. That wouldn’t have been such an issue, but westerners were under a lot of movement restrictions due to security concerns, so I couldn’t go to church (and even if I could somehow apperate to one, my presence would put everyone else there in grave danger). I’m glad I could have my Bible, because that was one of the things that kept the tense security situation from getting to me.

        2. Lindsay J*

          Vague colleague had these things. Left about once a month on weekend just to go somewhere else in the area where he could go have a beer, relax and do some water sports and stuff, and probably once every two months on a longer leave to see family and stuff in the States.

          He still didn’t last long in the position.

      3. What?!?*

        No American should be asked to go to a country where they don’t have the decency to treat women and men equally. That sounds like a nightmare to me too. I’d be throwing my robes over men and telling them to wear this trash until I was jailed and executed. Who wants to live on a compound no matter how big? It would be like being a cared animal.

        1. Smithy*

          While telling someone that they’d lose their job or go to KSA would be incredibly harsh – a huge part of the creation of foreign worker compounds was so that women wouldn’t be penalized in their careers of they are in an industry that has KSA business. Be it the military, gas & oil, auditing firms, etc – women can have the same opportunities to work in those markets as their male counterparts.

          Now is that life for everyone? No. But the same can be said of all sorts of jobs that have excessive travel demands, physical safety risks, etc. But taking away the ask from women doesn’t help them have equal opportunities in a number of industries. They may pass on those opportunities, but they should have the opportunity.

          1. Nesprin*

            If you’re arguing that women deserve the choice to accept these postings, doesn’t this also necessitate the ability to say no to these postings?

            1. Smithy*

              Completely.

              If Sansa does not want to go, I don’t think she should. And I don’t think that she should be pressured to go the way that she is. I think that Arya would be better served to approach this conversation in a different way. My response was largely directed to the comment that no American woman should be asked to go.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            He did ask. She said no. He keeps asking. If a man said no, would he keep asking?

        2. Katniss*

          “No American should be asked to go to a country where they don’t have the decency to treat women and men equally.”

          So I guess all us Americans should leave America, then.

          1. Angela Ziegler*

            I’m not denying there are issues in America, but to say it’s just as bad as these other countries where woman can literally be killed because a headscarf falls off is a pretty big stretch. There’s a difference between unfair pay and the possibility of imprisonment or death for the smallest infraction.

            1. Flowey*

              >woman can literally be killed because a headscarf falls off

              That’s literally not true. Please stop.

            2. Specialk9*

              Come on, Katniss was being snarky. I’m pretty sure she comprehends the differences between the US and Saudi Arabia.

      4. blackcat*

        Yeah, I made a similar note about compound living. It’s more like the Truman Show than Reading Lolita in Tehran.

        I still wouldn’t do it! But it’s not the same as sending someone to the corporate office in Riyadh,

      5. Yvette*

        But a bird in a gilded cage is still a caged bird. I don’t care how nice it is. The notion that is is OK because it has amenities does not change the fact that she would have no real freedom outside the compound. She has said she does not want to go, and that should be that. “No” is a complete sentence.

      6. Lindsay J*

        A vague colleague lived in KSA for awhile. I don’t know details, but he said that his compound was gone through a few times while the employees were out working, and that he felt like there would have been bad consequences if anyone had been found with any illegal materials like beer or Christian paraphernalia. It might be a YMMV thing where larger companies or those better set up and connected have good compounds and other companies try to give the appearance of a secure base for foreign workers but really don’t offer the same protections or sense of home.

      7. Genny*

        Specialk9 covered a lot of this already, but as someone who’s lived under movement restrictions required for my personal safety, it really gets to you after awhile. I couldn’t walk anywhere (and that’s usually how I get around in cities) or take any other form of transit except the on provided by work. There were only a couple place we were approved to go, so you saw the same people at the same places all the time with the same general activities and the same food. Compound life can be really hard even in the best of circumstances.

    7. Parenthetically*

      I wouldn’t leave the religious aspect as a last resort at all — it certainly would be at the forefront of my mind as a religious person, that I would be left unable to practice my religion for the duration of the posting at the behest of my employer, which seems, if not technically discriminatory, at least really crappy.

      I think OP should do whatever she reasonably can to drive home that pressuring Sansa to take this post is really inappropriate. I see what you mean about dealing with this for future Sansas, but ultimately OP only has responsibility for this particular Sansa.

    8. Artemesia*

      But if they want to fire her over this, it does seem like the religious issues come into play. I have worked in a Middle Eastern country but as an American woman, I was not required to conform to any of these extremely denigrating sexist expectations. I dressed modestly (it was the time of those corporate ‘dresses’ that were high necked and long sleeved, and fairly long skirted — usually paisley) but didn’t wear a head scarf and many of the women I worked who were locals also did not wear this type garb at work. When we ran into male colleagues in public however, their wives were in burqas and they did not talk to us; it was a weirdly bifurcated experience. Not unlike the US workplace at work but very much separate outside work. It sounds like the OP’s situation involves Saudi Arabia or other more strict country than where I was. Expecting someone to live like this is not really reasonable unless they choose to do so.

    9. Chinook*

      I disagree about religion being the last reason to use. I would use it as my first reason because, if I have to hide my faith (And here I mean not wear a cross or icon, not keep religious materials on my phone or my bag, not be able to attend religious services for an extended period of time, etc.) to keep my job, that would be the hill I would choose to die on.

      I have chosen to travel as a visitor to such a place and chose to make such sacrifices and respect theie laws and customs because I wanted to, but no one should make my livelihood dependant on it. It is one of the reasons I choose to return to Canada and not work abroad.

    10. Nesprin*

      My boss is a noted Irani-American scientist. She’s been invited to Saudi Arabia multiple times and every single time, she has said ‘f**k no, I’m not going to a country that denies human rights to women’.

    11. Michaela Westen*

      They need to hire a Saudi native for the project, or someone who already lives there. So much easier for everyone.! If my employer was putting this pressure on me, I would already have started looking. I don’t even like going to the suburbs, and those oppressive Arab countries are the very, very last place I would choose to go. Well, except maybe for the more violent African countries. Yikes!

  2. Bigglesworth*

    Op #4 – I am so sorry to hear what you’re going through. I have been the cater for my husband the entire time we’ve been married (over four years now) and have seen what anxiety and depression can do for a person. My mom is a life coach for carers and has told me I fit in that box as well. Please don’t forget to take care of yourself through all of this. It’s so easy to forget to take care of yourself when you have to care for another. If you can, take vacation or sick leave like Alison suggested. There’s also other resources out there for partners of those dealing with mental illnesses. I don’t have my list handing, but I think NAMI is a good place to start.

    I’ll be thinking about you.

    1. #OP4*

      Thanks so much, an incident happened the other night where I couldn’t take it any more and we broke up. I was willing to give it my all, but not if he wasn’t taking equally good care of himself and following doctor’s advice.

      I’ve taken off two days and will work from home for two days before going back to the office next week. I’m not sure what kind of leave my manager has recorded it as yet.

      Over the past 18months I’ve leaned a lot on family and friends, and seen the work councillor. I’d definitely advocate for anyone in a caring position to reach out to their support network and any services available.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        I’m sorry to hear it’s been such a difficult time. My husband struggles with depression and OCD and who had a major mental health crisis a few years ago and had to go on leave from work for six months. It was (and is) very difficult but he follows his medication regimen and therapist appointments/assignments to a T and that made it so much easier in the moments where I thought “I don’t know if I can keep doing this.” I wish you all the best.

      2. Specialk9*

        You may well have been struggling mightily with guilt, but this sounds like the right call. You can’t make someone else if they won’t help themselves. And at age 26, unmarried, you’ve put up a good long attempt to support him, more than most would’ve done by a lot.

        And I’m saying this as someone dealing with 2/3 of his issues. Chronic illness sucks, and makes it so hard to get help, but being an adult means owning the stuff you can manage.

        I hope you can take some time to recharge.

        1. Specialk9*

          Also, folks, if you haven’t read down-thread, OP#4 clarified that the leave they were hoping to get (and actually did get after the break-up happened) was a bucket of general compassionate leave, of which bereavement is one. She phrased it that way bc she thought it was the term used at other companies. I think OP is feeling piled on, but she did actually have her company’s leave bucket figured out properly, and wasn’t calling her breakup a bereavement.

        2. Artemesia*

          This. There is a big difference in dealing with what comes after years or decades of marriage and with taking this on in the early stages of a relationship. It sounds like you have made the right choice for yourself; hang in there and take care of yourself for awhile.

      3. HarperC*

        I have a very close friend who went through something similar and she is still feeling guilty, but PLEASE DO NOT. I know I can’t really make you not feel guilty, but the thing is, you can not always help another person. Sometimes they are in a state where they can not be helped and it is OKAY to remove yourself from that situation. It is often the only thing you can do. I wish you all the best.

      4. Is it Friday yet?*

        A word of caution about going to NAMI in this situation. To be clear, NAMI does a lot of good work. However, their goal is to advocate for and assist individuals with mental illness.

        While they would have been a good resource to you as a carer, and are a good resource for your partner to find ongoing support, assisting someone who is no longer a carer is not what they are set up to do.

      5. queen b*

        Hi OP4!! I went through a rough breakup in college and I had to take time off. I wanted to let you know that it’s a totally normal thing and that if you don’t feel comfortable continuing at work for a few days, it’s good for your mental health to recover. Sending you good vibes!

        1. LJL*

          Hello OP4…I’ll be sending good thoughts your way. It’s never easy but often you need to do just what you did.

      6. Bea*

        The initial break is the worst. I was there at your age and it was a terror for awhile but you will bounce back. I’m so glad you have a support system to help you.

      7. Allison*

        OP, I went through a similar situation recently. I see lots of “take care of yourself,” so I wanted to offer specific advice that worked for me: 1) I found a great therapist that I could see consistently (I was going twice a week for a while); 2) Exercise was magic for me (Barre, although I’m pretty unathletic); 3) Go easy on yourself. My three priorities during that time were sleep, eat, exercise, and if I didn’t hit all three, that was okay, but usually if I was feeling terrible one of those three really helped. And I did everything I could to keep a regular schedule. Sheryl Sandburg’s book on resilience (Option B) is also really good. It will get better.

      8. RestlessRenegade*

        Please keep taking great care of yourself, OP#4. It sounds like you’re doing an awesome job so far.

        Our stories are eerily similar. I’m 27, just broke up with my SO of 5 years, primarily because he refused to take care of himself. He didn’t have as serious medical issues as it sounds like your ex did, but it came to the point where I wasn’t his girlfriend, I was his mother, and I didn’t want to do that anymore. It was so hard because he was so dependent on me, and I still loved him, and all that was compounded by the fact that our lease ended so we moved out and my boss was out on an injury so I didn’t get to take any time off, at all.

        I hope your journey is easier than mine has been and I know there will be good things in both our futures.

  3. Bigglesworth*

    Hey Alison! I think the title to Question 1 is supposed to be “camping trip”, not “campaign trip”.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I reread the title 3-4 times because I was waiting for the part where folks go electioneering or undertake a biathlon-style Nordic quasi-military campaign!

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        That second one is no doubt the next trend in corporate team building retreats.

      1. JamieS*

        One of the lesser known laws of the universe is that if you write about typos then inevitably your very next writing will have multiple. It was discovered at roughly the same time as the law that states that if your computer isn’t working as expected, it will work the second you ask someone for help and they watch you do the exact same thing you did 100 times before asking for help.

        1. Quoth the Raven*

          Or, as my parents would tell me, when you take a kid to the doctor because they are very sick, only for them to be perfectly fine when the doctor sees them.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            I’m honestly still embarassed about a time in like the first grade when I asked a teacher for help opening the straw on my juicebox and then it opened just as I finished explaining my issue.

          2. Tricksy Hobbit*

            Or like when you take your car to the mechanic, and it stops doing “the thing” or making that noise.

        2. Liane*

          The computer one is known as “Technician Syndrome” and there is is very similar phenomenon that occurs with vehicles and mechanics.

          1. Admin of Sys*

            This is actually because computer techs emit a field of energy that causes random issues to not happen. However, the field often interferes with other Tech’s fields, so if you call another tech over, the computer will sometimes break again. ;)

            1. Annie Moose*

              Good ol’ tech aura. I can confirm I have it–for example, my dad’s laptop will be having terrible problems, but the instant I get within fifty feet of it, it works perfectly fine. Until I leave again.

              I think that’s why people in my office have such weird computer problems sometimes… all our auras interfering with each other.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            The machines “know” if they do not behave the tech will rip their guts out.

        3. Artemesia*

          And if you publish a book, you will eagerly get the first copy and open it randomly and your first glance will land on a typo.

      2. LouiseM*

        LOL! Watch out, it turns out that some (luckily not most) commenters will think less of you now ;)

  4. LouiseM*

    Sorry to hear about this, OP4. What a difficult situation you must be in. As a general note, “bereavement” leave is sort of a misleading term. At most places I’ve worked, the time off is really just to do practical things like attending the funeral, dealing with the deceased’s personal effects, etc. Any further time off for the actual grieving tends to come from PTO or sick leave (and truthfully, I’d avoid making this comparison to others–you never know who has lost someone to actual death and will be offended by the comparison).

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes, this is a really good point! It’s not for the actual grieving (no one expects you to finish that in a few days) as much as it’s for logistics.

    2. Marzipan*

      Since #4 mentioned ‘annual leave’ this sounded like it might be in the UK – if it is, then I’d add to Alison’s answer that you generally can’t take ‘sick leave’ in these circumstances, because in the UK that’s pretty much just for when you’re actually sick, not part of your general allowance of time off. It would be worth looking at your company’s policies to see if they have any sort of ‘compassionate leave’ policy in place, though, as this might cover it.

      1. Not Australian*

        Yes, ‘compassionate leave’ is the term to use, although if I were the OP I’d be emphasising the practical aspects when asking for the time – i.e. the need to move furniture and effects around, reorganise things at home, etc. – rather than the emotional side of things.

      2. Anonymous Ampersand*

        I took two months off sick after leaving my husband and my GP put “stress at home” on my sick note (in the UK). It can be done.

      3. Dr Wizard, PhD*

        There is also a concept of ‘force majeure leave’ for family emergencies in the UK and many UK-law-derived countries. But that would generally be for something like ‘my partner is suddenly in the hospital’ rather than specifically to deal with a breakup.

      4. Specialk9*

        Yeah, as a boss, I would be very skeptical of someone trying to deal with a breakup by applying bereavement or sick leave. Handling a breakup professionally is a big part of being professional. (And yes, most of us have done so, and yes it sucks.)

        As someone who gets chronic illness and how draining it is for family members, I’m sympathetic and hope OP gets some annual leave to recover.

        1. Justme, The OG*

          Sick leave doesn’t have to be for a physical ailment. If I can use sick leave to visit my psychiatrist, someone should be able to use it for times of emotional distress like a breakup.

          1. Elemeno P.*

            This. I took a sick day for a breakup once, and informed my boss about the reason. I was fine to come in the next day, but I needed to gather myself a bit. He was fine with it. Mental health is important too.

        2. CheeryO*

          What’s unprofessional about taking a sick day or two to be an emotional wreck at home instead of at your desk? Doesn’t seem any different than a mental health day, which people here seem to be fine with as long as it’s not a frequent thing.

            1. Not a Morning Person*

              This. It reminds me of a coworker who put her beers on her expense report. When her manager called her in to discuss her expense report, she told him, “It’s what I had for dinner.” He replied, “It was dinner.” He didn’t care that she’d had beer for dinner, but she needed to recognize that the optics of beer on an expense report was not a good look. So she could get it reimbursed, but she needed to call it dinner, not two beers. Maybe not a perfect analogy, but calling your leave a mental health day is likely better than being really specific and calling it time to recover from a breakup, It will obviously depend on your manager. I’ve had managers that would have encouraged time off in that situation and others who would have decided that I was out of my mind for thinking that was an appropriate use of my time…I hope your manager is the former and is compassionate and understanding while you work through the mechanics and the emotional fallout from the break up. It’s a hard thing to go through. Take care of yourself and be kind to yourself.

              1. Elemeno P.*

                Somewhat related, I’ve always wondered if it’s entertaining to audit those expense reports sometimes. I once had a bag of Goldfish and a soda for dinner on a business trip, and wrote “don’t judge me” on the receipt. I hope the auditor was amused.

        3. Observer*

          Sure, you need to be professional (see yesterday’s letter about breakup drama.)

          But any time someone goes through a major upheaval- and a breakup like this counts – a few days to catch a breath and get your bearings makes sense. And it makes it much more likely that when you go back to work you WILL be able to maintain your professionalism. Not because you are “over it”, but because you’ve gotten over the immediate acute stage.

    3. Pickle Lily*

      Yes OP4, it’s a really horrible time for you, but please don’t use the term bereavement leave. I lost my Mum four years ago and ended a six year relationship three years (both around April time ironically). I’m still grieving for my Mum, but not the relationship. They’re just not the same. I would find your wording upsetting if I heard it in my workplace.

        1. #OP4*

          #OP4 here, Marzipan was correct – I’m in the UK. We have annual leave, sick leave and my work has a separate classification “discretionary – compassionate leave” (determined at the discretion of the manager).

          Around 2 years ago, 2 of my grandparents died in quick succession and I was offered this type of leave immediately after their deaths in case I didn’t feel I was capable of being in work (then one day on top a week later for the funeral itself). My Dad also died when I was younger – I have had plenty of experience in grieving and didn’t mean to imply that it only lasts a few days or that breaking up was entirely comparable (just that initially, it’s also emotional pain resulting from a loss).

          I actually ended up breaking up with my boyfriend the night before last (after a particular incident and I just told him that I couldn’t cope any more). I called my manager in the morning in tears, and she was lovely – telling me not to worry about coming in to work, and reminding me of the staff councillors / employee helpline.

          Yesterday was then mostly spent helping my boyfriend (I still can’t bring myself to say ex) to pack and get home to his parents, while both of us were emotional wrecks. I’ve come back to my parents for a few days and am hoping to have one more day off, then work from home the rest of the week – going back to work officially on Monday. I know that’s a significant amount of time for a break-up but I’m worried if I’m overly emotional in the office I could disrupt other people’s work too. (Wednesday morning here – currently waiting to see if my manager agrees)

          1. Mad Baggins*

            I’m sorry you’re going through this. I’m glad your manager was so supportive. Please take care of yourself and remember health>family, etc.>work!

          2. Specialk9*

            Oh that’s good to know! A discretionary compassion leave bucket sounds like a perfect match to this situation then.

            I’m glad your manager was supportive, and that you were able to physically separate so soon.

          3. Detective Amy Santiago*

            Please take care of yourself. I’m glad your employer provides this type of leave.

          4. Marzipan*

            Compassionate leave sounds ideal, and I’m glad your manager is being so helpful and understanding. Sorry you’re having a tough time and I hope you’re able to move forward now.

      1. Ace*

        Yup! My husband died and it really offends and hurts me that anyone would use the term “bereavement” for a break up. You are choosing to break up. You are not choosing the death of a loved one. Stop.

        1. A*

          The OP never used the word bereavement, but just inquired more generally whether it’s appropriate to take leave following a significant emotional event and how to ask for it. I am so sorry for your loss, and I only comment because you said it hurt you to think that the OP had referred to a breakup as a bereavement. Since that didn’t actually happen, I thought it might be comforting to know that.

      2. FowlTemptress*

        Why do we even have the “no nitpickng word choices” rule here? So many people here think it applies to everyone except themselves.

        1. Eye of Sauron*

          To be fair when I first read the question I was wondering why the LW wanted to take bereavement leave for a breakup. Maybe I’ve just come across, shall we call them, creative people who push the limits on things like this.

          My answer/advice would have been totally different if I hadn’t seen the updates from the LW that they were actually referring to a different type of leave that includes bereavement and other situations.

          It’s tricky when you’re not supposed to nitpick and at the same time take the LW at their word :)

          1. FowlTemptress*

            The reason this is nitpicky is because the commenter thought it was offensive to her own grief. She understood what OP meant just fine.

        2. Seriously?*

          In the US, bereavement leave tends to be a very specific thing. It isn’t nitpicking when the word choice is causing legitimate confusion. It is nitpicking if people understand what the OP was trying to say but think another word is better. In this case, many people did not understand what the OP was saying, including Alison.

          1. Specialk9*

            Yeah, it’s a technical term and we thought she was asking if she could do something outside of that technical term’s scope. It’s not nitpicking at all to say, nope, and btw here’s the bad optics of that.

            But she wasn’t saying that after all – but it’s legit that we answered the way it sounded until she commented and clarified

        3. Boo*

          Agreed, I think some people here have been taking their own life experiences and applying them to OP both unnecessarily and unkindly.

          FWIW I think we should be able to take mental health days for breakups the same as we do when we’re otherwise stressed/anxious/need an unexpected break. There’s no point coming into work if all you’re going to do is humiliate yourself by crying at your desk anyway. Take a day or two to rest ans recharge and come back stronger.

  5. Zip Silver*

    #1 – sounds like fun to me. If it doesn’t sound like fun to you, your higher ups have already promised no fallout from not going. Why bother mentioning all the reasons you’ve listed? Just say you don’t want to go.

    1. It's-a-me*

      Because “higher ups have already promised no fallout from not going” and ACTUALLY “no fallout from not going” are not necessarily the same thing.

      I feel like OP is just trying to get an idea of what the response might really, actually be if 90% of their staff don’t go.

      1. paul*

        If they’re not totally tone-deaf, they won’t schedule a work retreat like that again. That’s the hopeful fallout. And without other contexts, I think its generally better to assume incompetence vs malice if it’s reasonably possible.

        1. Specialk9*

          Yeah but I’m just imagining all the European colleagues making smug little comments about Americans. (Actually, no, that’s memory, not imagination.) Anti-Americanism is a sport that many people just can’t let go. (And to be fair, in 2018 it would be hard to resist.)

          1. Naptime Enthusiast*

            Especially if they latch onto the “we don’t own sleeping bags” as anything more than “there isn’t a need for them or space in my home”. I admit I started to raise my eyebrows until I remembered my friends shoebox apartments in NYC with barely space for a bed, forget about real storage.

            1. Sam.*

              I’m confused – are you saying that lack of storage is the only valid reason for not owning a sleeping bag…?

              1. Naptime Enthusiast*

                Nope that’s not what I’m saying at all but I’ve always had one and never thought about not having one, and that was something that LW specifically referenced. I’m sorry I didn’t list every reason why someone wouldn’t have one.

            2. Phoebe*

              I’m genuinely curious. Why would you “raise your eyebrows” over someone not owning a sleeping bag??

                1. pleaset*

                  It’s an easy form of bedding to take to sleep on a couch or floor.

                  I’ve never camped outside, but owned a sleeping bag for at least 10 years.

            3. Jen S. 2.0*

              Baffled by the raised eyebrows as well. I don’t have kids (so no kid-sleepovers) and am not outdoorsy, so I don’t go camping. Why would I have a sleeping bag? The last time I needed a sleeping bag was the last time I did go camping, so … 1988?

            4. Specialk9*

              A good sleeping bag is wicked expensive! Why buy one if you don’t need one? (Other than the zombie apocalypse of course.)

              1. Perse's Mom*

                If you’re in a colder climate and own a car, a good sleeping bag seems reasonable as part of a car-kit for emergencies (I don’t have a sleeping bag, but I DO have a very large quilt in my trunk).

                A breakdown in cold weather isn’t so risky nowadays with cell phones and (mostly) reliable coverage, but depending on which part of the country you’re in and when and if you can afford a tow, it could be an actual life-saver.

                1. Observer*

                  In real life most people don’t keep sleeping bags in their cars in case of a break down. And, if you primarily live / drive in towns and cities, the chances of being stranded so badly that the sleeping bag is your life saver are pretty low. Low enough, I would say, to make this a rather over the top precaution for most people.

        2. Observer*

          I would hope you are right. But, in that case spelling it out can be helpful. Instead of the higher ups thinking “Huh? What just happened here?” they actually now know what happened and can try to avoid it.

      2. LS*

        And since it’s all new, the OP doesn’t have a good way to assess what the fallout might be.

      3. Pollygrammer*

        Hopefully if higher ups themselves are going, they can explain in person how much the new group would have liked to meet their new colleagues, but the logistics were just not going to work.

      4. CoffeeLover*

        I highly doubt there would be any fallout. If this company is a Scandinavian company, it’s extremely against the culture to enforce a voluntary group trip. The same is true for many other European countries. And of course, it’s illegal to fire someone for such a thing. I think you can take them at their word on this one.

        I do think it’s worth mentioning what kept you from going in broad terms though (i.e., camping isn’t something I feel comfortable doing), since that helps them plan future trips to better suit your office as well.

        1. CoffeeLover*

          Otherwise they may assume you didn’t attend because it was too far or too much time to go to Europe. Who knows… maybe they would end up scheduling a camping trip in the US next. Harder to get out of that one!

          1. paul*

            which could also be very true. that’s a lot of travel and for those of us without passports, a PITA

            1. Penny Lane*

              Well, then, you get a passport. Let’s not pretend it’s some kind of onerous thing. You fill out a few forms and get your picture taken at Walgreens, done.

              1. Harper the Other One*

                Perhaps getting a passport is a bit simpler in the US, but in Canada, where I live, you have to provide some specific types of ID, provide a guarantor plus several references, and of course pay the passport fee. There’s also several weeks of turnaround time unless you pay an fast processing fee. That’s a lot to go through for a non-mandatory trip that you don’t really want to go on! If this were a conference or meeting I would agree, passports shouldn’t be an obstacle, but for a non-business focused retreat, I think passports can be a valid additional obstacle.

                1. Quoth the Raven*

                  From Mexico here. Getting a passport is pretty straight forward down , though getting an appointment to get one, and then getting all the right documentation, can be a pain in the ass.

                  But in my case there are a lot of countries (including the US) require a visa or travel authorization, which can be both expensive and, depending on the circumstances, pretty hard to get. You also need an appointment which can take weeks or even months.

                  In all events, if you don’t have a passport/visa a retreat like this just not worth the additional hassle.

                2. Rusty Shackelford*

                  No, it’s *not* simpler in the US. You don’t just wander into Walgreens and fill out a few forms. You pay a chunk of money (and this is after buying your new sleeping bag and possibly other camping supplies and in my case a CPAP with a battery back-up). More importantly, perhaps, you have to apply in person if this is your first passport, or if your previous passport is more than 15 years old. Which means you might have to take off work to get to the passport office/post office during passport hours (which in my town are NOT the same hours that the post office is open).

                3. Justme, The OG*

                  No guarantor in the US, but multiple original forms of identification plus a processing fee. And unless you pay more money to get it expedited, it takes some time.

                4. Stone Cold Bitch*

                  But since the company is now a part of a multinational company I’m assuming employees would still need passports for other work travel or for next year’s retreat?

                5. Eye of Sauron*

                  Well it is a business focused retreat in that it’s business sponsored and there will be coworkers there.

                  As for the passport, most companies will pay the fees as a business expense and it would probably be a good idea for employees to go ahead and get one if they think that they will need to travel to their new owners.

                  Personally I think this is a red herring.

                6. Penny Lane*

                  Getting a passport isn’t really an “obstacle,” though. It’s just part of normal adult professional life with a multinational.

                7. Rusty Shackelford*

                  Do most people who work for multinational companies really have work-related international travel? I’d assume not.

                8. Eye of Sauron*

                  @Rusty

                  Most, not sure, but I’d say a fair amount of them do (I work for a multinational and I’d say ~25-30% travel internationally). It’s also reasonable to think that the people being invited on this trip are people who are more likely to be doing other international travel for the company.

                9. Oranges*

                  @Rusty To elaborate on the CPAP issue: I get horrible migraines if I don’t use the CPAPs humidifier. Batteries will not work for me in this instance because of the huge drain the humidifier puts on them.

                  I figured out 3 years ago* that I’d need 1.5 batteries for every 8 hours of sleep (won’t even touch how getting up in the middle of the night to swap batteries is a bad thing). This basically put the kabosh on any camping sans electricity for me.

                  *Batteries might be better now. But still… I’m not gonna bring more than 2 batteries on a camping trip.

                10. Specialk9*

                  @Rusty Shackleford “Do most people who work for multinational companies really have work-related international travel? I’d assume not.”

                  Most don’t at my US based multinational. I have traveled abroad for work, and executives do frequently, and the fraud investigation guys do. But the average worker, nope.

                  But intl travel in Europe or Asia is much less a big thing, due to the smaller distances and/or need to travel to get work. In both regions, I’ve popped a country or two over for the weekend.

                11. barlowstreet*

                  For me that also involves at least one if not more 50 mile (both ways) trips because there’s not a place any closer that can take the photo.

                  I don’t drive.

                  Also I can’t personally just scare up, what is it, 90 dollars?

              2. Specialk9*

                It’s over $100 and takes a fair amount of work and time. I did it recently for my newborn and it was not easy. Personally I can float $115 without trouble, but for many people that’s a month or two of groceries for the whole family.

                1. Judy (since 2010)*

                  In my experience, if you’re required to travel for work, the company pays for the passport. And if you’re required to have a visa, the company pays, it’s on the company time when you have to go to a consulate to get the appointment. The company even pays for the travel to get the visa.

                2. Judy (since 2010)*

                  Also, in my experience, if a company has global locations, or if a really big company, your function exists in global locations, they expect everyone to have a current passport, at company expense.

              3. Liane*

                And it is expensive, especially if you pay the fees to get it expedited. And there is enough backlog that paying the fees may not shorten the time much.

                1. Falling Diphthong*

                  My children needed to renew their passports at the same time, in different states. We did not pay expediting fees, on the grounds that it was 4-6 weeks and 6 weeks was fine. One passport arrived in a week and a half. The other took about 9.

              4. paul*

                For a voluntary work trip? Nah, I’m good thanks. But it’s a process that takes time (six weeks apparently) and money.

              5. Jessie the First (or second)*

                There are all sorts of valid reasons to dislike the company’s planned camping trip, and all sorts of valid reasons to not go or to have issues with why it was chosen, but “I don’t have a passport” is an odd one to argue. The first passport is a (honestly fairly mild) PITA because you have to go in person, sure, and it costs $100+ and turnaround time can be a while, but this employer is a multinational, so getting a passport seems like an important thing to do regardless what happens with this one specific camping excursion.

                1. tangerineRose*

                  In some cases, it sounds like a person would have to take a vacation day or a half day off of work to do this plus the 100. Plus, just because an employer is multinational, that doesn’t mean that everyone who works there will need to travel to a different country for the company.

              6. Observer*

                And you spend time and money. On top of the time and money involved in all of the other items that a trip of this sort would cost.

                Without knowing the kind of salaries this place pays, asking people to spend money of a “treat” is not a great idea.

            2. pleaset*

              If I worked for a multinational company that asked me to travel, even optionally and rarely, I’d get a passport.

              My kid is on his second passport and he’s six. It’s a good thing to have, and an annoying thing to have to get in a hurry. And insofar as this board is about, to some extent, professional development, it’s a good thing to have from a work standpoint. Oh, and I hate traveling BTW.

              But hey, if you’re certain you’ll never want or need to travel outside the US, don’t get one. Save the money.

      5. Nico M*

        I’m staggered how they decided on the Nordic camping trip.

        I’d have guessed Scandinavians would be desperate for Vegas sin, Caribbean sun, or London/Paris shopping spree . Not being eaten alive by midges in their own back yard.

        1. Caro in the UK*

          I’m not sure the company is Scandinavian, just that they’ve chosen to go camping there. The letter writer only says that her new firm is multinational and they’ve known that the trip would be held in Europe for some time.

          Not that this changes anything about it being a horrible choice for a work trip!

        2. Violet Fox*

          I’m in Scandinavia, and we are actually pretty big on nature and our own outdoors here, but more typical work things in the woods involve cabins with indoor plumbing or nice mountain hotels (which there are a lot of around here).

        3. Jaz*

          I’m in Scandinavia, and for a three day trip is prefer camping in my own country over all those other options. And I hate camping.

        4. Autumnheart*

          Because it would cost a ridiculous amount of money to send an entire company to Vegas or the Caribbean from Europe? Not to mention who the hell wants to be in Vegas or Jamaica in JULY? You can roast to death and maybe enjoy a nice Cat 4 hurricane if you’re lucky. That would make zero sense compared to simply sending a handful of people from the US to Europe.

    2. Penny Lane*

      I agree. If your higher ups promised no fallout, why aren’t you just taking them at their word? Why all the “what ifs” and hypotheticals about how everyone can’t eat sandwiches? Just don’t go.

      1. Liane*

        Because it isn’t unheard of for bosses to say there won’t be fallout for not doing X, but it turns out there is, and it may be pretty severe. OP and her colleagues and local management haven’t worked for the new parent company long enough to know if it operates that way.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Penny Lane, you’ve had an ongoing pattern of being aggressive here when you think people are being too delicate, and it’s getting too hostile once again. Please rein it in.

        1. Phoebe*

          I don’t know, I think you’re being a bit hard on Penny Lane. I’m also flummoxed by all the “what if” when management has been pretty clear about being able to say no without repercussions. Yes, it’s possible they’re not being honest, but why would you assume that and not just take them at their word??

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            There’s a history here where Penny’s comments have been super aggressive and contemptuous in the past, and I want to stop it before it goes back to that point (which is the way it seems to be trending).

      3. N.J.*

        This isn’t an everyone can’t eat sandwhuches situation, give me a break. The United States takes durability rights and disability accommodations seriously within the public sphere and workplace sphere. I have no clue how that goes in Europe or wherever the new multinational owner is located, but the whole point is not to marginalize those with disabilities by not even taking into consideration common scenarios in which a team building activity may cause very real issues to disabled participants. And yes, the bosses in the US said there would be no pressure or repercussions, but as someone else here said, since when does that stop a boss from going back on their word? And even if there weren’t formal repercussions, a disabled employee would have to decide between participating and possibly endangering their health or skipping the trip and missing an important opportunity to build relationships with new colleagues, develop mentoring opportunities etc. Why is it so hard for you to understand that making no effort to accommodate physical disabilities or other needs of marginalized groups when planning workplace activities is possibly illegal if it leads to discrimination, morally suspect in many cases and well, just plain rude and lazy?

        1. Tuxedo Cat*

          I’m just thinking about my allergies. I’ve had instances where I’m incredibly allergic to something native in x part of the world, that I don’t encounter in y part of the world. I found that out the hard way. If I were going out in nature camping, I’d probably want to get tested. I’m not sure what I’d do if I turned out to be highly allergic to some plant that’s prevalent in the area.

        2. Wintermute*

          Fair warning, I’m abled, and I can’t give a personal account of difficulties but I have travelled in Europe and I stayed with an exchange and I can speak to my perceptions, and my perceptions alone.

          In my experience in Europe disability accommodation is taken seriously, but the culture in *some places* puts more of the onus on the disabled person not to be a hindrance than on the company to close the gap from there end where in the US the onus is more heavily on the company to close the gap. What US courts have called “reasonable” exceeds what it would be in many cases in Europe. Despite what most people think there *IS* an obligation to accommodate disabled workers in Europe, but it was only created in 2000 by the EU, before then there was no such law in many European nations, and the US had the rehabilitation act even before the Americans with Disabilities Act existed.

          as far as public accommodations I can only speak anecdotally, for instance instance, disabled ramps are often far steeper (and on occasion consist not of a solid path but a pair of “rails” about 4″ wide for a wheelchair wheel) than the US would allow. Also unlike the US in many countries if they have to make the choice between full disabled access and preserving a historical building, they’ll preserve the building in most cases, whereas in the US they’d be legally obliged to ensure access if it’s a public area (some places, have done a lovely job matching the two goals entirely, some other castles and palaces, and especially french-style gardens are effectively impassible to a wheelchair without a very roundabout path and offroading wheels).

          But this has to be understood in the context of a far MORE comprehensive disability insurance and social safety net. There are many people in the US where Social Security basically looks at them and goes, “well I’m sure someone would hire you for something if they pay little enough” and despite very serious disabilities doesn’t declare someone 100% disabled, obliging them to try to find some kind of employment (or they earn so little on disability that they need to earn the maximum allowed to supplement their disability in order to survive. In Europe these people would be just on disability insurance, they wouldn’t be in the workforce unless they felt very strongly about it. Likewise, in Europe thanks to socialized medicine they don’t have the same issue with preventable disability (especially diabetic amputations), lack of access to medical devices for financial reasons (people without access to wheelchairs or using improper ones, people that should have a motorized wheelchair using manual ones, people, people without access to disposable medical goods), and lack of access to specialist treatment.

  6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#4, I’m so sorry you’re in this difficult position. As Alison noted, bereavement leave (when it exists) isn’t typically granted for breakups, and unfortunately a good number of employers often request documentation related to a person passing away. You may find you have more privacy if you take PTO, sick leave, or vacation leave (depending on your employer’s policies and what makes sense for you).

    1. #OP4*

      Thanks for your kind words. My work has a catch all term “discretionary leave – compassionate leave”, this includes bereavement leave, but can also be used at the manager’s discretion for other things. I thought it was probably specific to my company though so used the more catch all term “bereavement leave”

      1. Bagpuss*

        I think ‘compassionate leave’ is the usual term in the UK – that’s what my organisation calls it, and we would typically use it for someone who has suffered a bereavement, but also for other things – for instance, we recently had a staff member whose dad was diagnosed with a terminal condition – we gave them some compassionate leave to spend time with him, and to give them some space to deal with the news, when he was first diagnosed, and then later some more around the time of the funeral etc.

        Obviously it will depend on your company, my experience is that a lot of places , the amount of paid time as compassionate leave is usually fairly low, and that you would normally then have the option of taking any extra you need either as part of your annual leave entitlement or as unpaid leave.

        Also, although it is discretionary, many managers swill be concerned about ensuring that they are, and are perceived to be, fair, so while your own manager may be very sympathetic, she may feel that she can’t give the time to you as compassionate leave if the norm is that it is for things like bereavements or dealing with a family member’s serious illness.

  7. sacados*

    OP3: Yeah, I think you do need to make a decision about how important this opportunity is to you.
    If you think there’s a good chance this job would beat out any other upcoming interviews you may have, it would be wise to write them back and say something like “Based on your timeline for hiring, if you decide to extend an offer to me, I am prepared to give you an answer within a week of receiving the details.” And then just go with it.
    Otherwise, you’re basically deciding that the other interviews you have coming up are more likely to be what you want, and you are willing to potentially lose out on this offer in order to hold out for those.
    Which is also fine!

    1. snuck*

      This is how it feels to me too!

      It sounds like they want to make an offer BUT you have said you don’t want one until the end of a process with others… so they are thinking “Hrm… we like her, we want her… but she wants to date others first before deciding whether to commit to us”…. You are risking this offer, and they are saying “Look, either you want to be with us, or not. We’re not waiting” basically.

      They want someone, they want them sooner rather than later…. they know that if they wait another three weeks to make an offer, and then ?two? four? weeks notice etc.. they want someone sooner than that. They’d like you, but they won’t wait for you.

      And it’s kind of… off putting for them… to think you are courting other processes, it might make them feel like a backup plan. No one wants to be the back up… and I personally wouldn’t employ a person who was treating me as a back up unless they had some amazingly hard to find anywhere else skills (which doesn’t sound like the case here if there’s a raft of internal applicants too).

      Do you want the job? If you do… just email them and tell them! Say “I’m keen, please let me know the offer details so I can take a look. I’m happy to stop dating around!”

      1. Specialk9*

        It sounds plausible. But they’re definitely not committing to her but demanding she commit to them. They could extend a written offer and require a start date within their timeframe. They’re not doing that. I’d give them side eye too.

        1. Viktoria*

          Well, they are committing to her though. If they make her an official offer, they are presumably committing not to turn around and offer that job to someone else while they are waiting for OP’s answer. It seems reasonable to me that they might be willing to wait a few days or a week, but not a month. Basically in the scenario OP is hoping for the company is committing to her for 1 month, but she’s not committing to them. At least, that’s how I understood it.

        2. Seriously?*

          I don’t think that is what is going on. They are willing to extend an offer but need a faster turn around than she said she was willing to give. They decided that they would keep looking and if the position is still open when she is ready, they will extend an offer. That doesn’t seem unfair. Basically, both parties are keeping their options open.

          1. OP 3*

            Definitely, I understand the hesitation in terms of committing to me since I’m not exactly doing the same for them. I just think it’s weird that they haven’t extended an offer/ timeframe, given that it was agreed upon during my interview with the head of the group with no problems, which is why I asked the question.

      2. OP 3*

        Agreed with both of you, Snuck and Sacados! I feel terrible for making them feel like a back up as well, but the other problem is… I am more interested in the other job that I’m currently interviewing for. Job 1, that I have an offer for, is amazing don’t get me wrong, and I would accept it in a heartbeat over any other job than… the one I’m currently still interviewing for ha. So that’s why I haven’t accepted yet, since Job 2 is my dream job. The other big thing is that job 2 is really, really competitive so I’m terrified of accidentally losing Job 1 (which, like I mentioned, is my would-be-dream-job-if-not-for-job-2) while trying to get Job 2! Trying to optimize this situation in the least stressful way possible, and of course trying really hard not to lose out on both great jobs accidentally :(

        1. Where's the Le-Toose?*

          OP, you should just tell them no. I’m in the public sector and we get this all the time. We are looking to extend an offer and then someone wants 4-6 weeks to think it over. About 70% of the candidates who do this go with some other employer. The remaining 30% say yes and then are usually gone in 2 years when something better comes up.

          This employer sounds pretty gracious in keeping you in the running unless they find someone better. If you’re not motivated to work for them, you should just say no and focus on your other prospects.

          1. OP 3*

            That definitely makes sense. I do really like this job though! As well, I’m simply not in a position to turn down this job offer unless I know I have the other one, and like I’d mentioned, this is a great job that beats out every other job someone in my field would apply for other than the one I’m interviewing for.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      OP3, flip the situation. Would you be willing to wait 6 weeks for an offer because they were waiting to see if a better candidate came along?

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I’m surprised all around here.

        Surprised that the company would work with “I can’t make a decision for 5 weeks.” Surprised that OP is then surprised they are not making her a solid offer and giving her 5 weeks to mull it over.

        1. OP 3*

          I suppose I technically am waiting those 4 weeks anyhow :) Yes, I definitely see your point, and I agree with it in that since. My big issue was just that, during the actual interview with the person who would be my boss’s boss, there were no concerns raised about the timeline I’d asked for, and now there seem to be some big issues, so I’m facing a little bit of whiplash. Incidentally, I am a recent grad, and the only hiring processes I’ve heard of/ experienced so far are all campus recruiting, where a month is pretty common, so I had no idea the standard was a week! Thank you all for this useful info, I will keep it in mind for the future!

          1. H.C.*

            Your potential boss’s boss may not have an issue with the extended timeline, but your actual potential boss and/or HR may need someone sooner, especially because they need to send “sorry” notices to the other candidates.

            RE: campus recruiting, a month may be for the entire duration of the recruitment process (application – interview – offer – negotiation – acceptance/onboarding), not necessarily the window for considering an offer. Though this may vary depending on industries.

            1. OP 3*

              The group has a very flat structure, so whatever the director says goes in that sense. But I hadn’t considered that HR would have a different timeline (by the way, I believe they haven’t interviewed any candidates other than myself yet, fwiw). Out of curiosity, what are some typical causes for these 2 different timelines?

              In my particular industry, it’s at least 2 weeks, and normally a month+ for decisions after getting an offer with campus recruiting :)

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            What can be a month (or more) is the time between accepting the job offer and starting the job. If the delay is on the candidate’s side and it’s not an industry that expects two months’ notice, the delay could be finishing school, or already-planned travel.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              …. and my daughter is going to grad school, and I realize that that and undergrad admission ARE set up in this way–everyone gives you their offers at about the same time, and you have a month or two to weigh them. For regular jobs, it’s more akin to renting an apartment–you can’t ask them to hold the place for a month while you look at a bunch of other apartments, then get back to them.

              1. OP 3*

                I am realizing that! Like you’d mentioned, I only really have experience with the former, and didn’t realize the real world worked more along the lines of the latter. Thanks for the advice to a newbie! :)

    3. HRLSUTigah*

      I’ve been in Recruiting and HR for 10 years. I would never allow someone a month to make a decision on an offer. If a candidate asked for that long, I would rescind the offer…even if I didn’t have back-up candidates (though I usually do have back-ups for reasons such as this). I normally give anywhere from 24-72 hours to hear a decision. I gave someone a week one time. He didn’t get back to me, despite calling. He asked for another week at the 11th hour. I wanted to rescind, but the hiring manager gave him the benefit of the doubt. Six days later (nearly two weeks), he asked for more time, but I rescinded the offer right then (by that time, the hiring manager was in agreement). Since the “mishap” with that candidate, I stand firm on the 24-72 hours.

      1. Seriously?*

        That sounds unnecessarily rigid, especially if you do not give benefits information and exact salary until the offer is made. If that information is available sooner I can see expecting a quicker answer, but one week is not an unreasonable amount of time to think it over and make sure you would be happy with the position. One bad experience does not mean that everyone who asks for a week should have the offer rescinded unless you legitimately need an answer quickly.

        1. einahpets*

          Yeah – as someone who just went through a job search and got two offers — yeah, it would be a red flag if an employer told me that they needed an answer within 24 hours. Both times I was given a week, although I was able to get a response back before then.

          And yeah, one of the offers I obviously didn’t accept. But I used the 4 days it took me to decline the offer to make sure it was what I wanted to do, not just string the company along or anything.

      2. Observer*

        You are almost certainly losing good candidates. I would be extremely hesitant to work for a place that makes a big deal of giving someone 3 hole days to make a decision and routinely asks for one day.

        It sounds like you are hiding something. And if you aren’t then something else is definitely wrong.

        1. HRLSUTigah*

          I guess I need to add some qualifiers here to further explain my process (sorry…it made sense in my head, but I didn’t explain it all…)

          Every offer I extend, I ask, “Is this an offer that you’d like to accept now, or do you need time to think about it?” If they say they need time, I ask them how much they need. If they ask for a week, I have no problem with that. If they ask for two weeks or longer, I realize that they’re shopping offers and may turn us down, so I ask the hiring manager what they want to do. If they are wishy-washy on the time they need, I’ll offer them a range of 24-72 hours to see if that amount of time works for them. Usually, they’re good with that time range.

          A caveat to that the amount of time I give I give depends on a few things:

          1. The need for the role (is it immediate?)
          2. The level of the role (I will give longer for executives)
          3. Relocation

          However, if at the end of the time we’ve mutually agreed upon, they ask for additional time, I get antsy and will check with my boss and the hiring manager and make the suggestion that we give them a time limit to which the hiring manager usually agrees. THAT is when I stick to the 24-72 hours. I’ve never lost a candidate to that.

      3. H.C.*

        Agreed with others; 72 hours would be on the lower end of tolerable for me and 24 hours would definitely set off red flags and lead me to reconsider my candidacy.

      4. Specialk9*

        Whoa, that sounds so pressure-y, HRLSUTigah! It comes across as rigid and kinda ego-driven. I might back out just based on that.

      5. Bea*

        Ick. My partner had an offer rescinded when he asked for 3 days and they called him early on say 3 accusing him of not being excited enough for their job offer. Even though they didn’t hesitate to agree to a few days time to think about it since accepting a job is a big deal to most people.

        That kind of structure really does your company a huge disservice and you’ll miss out on killer employees for pushing them so hard before you even give them a paycheck!

        I understand your issue after that guy kept asking for more time. He’s a bad seed and shouldn’t poison you towards the rest of the potential out there. His actions are not the norm.

  8. Seattle*

    I assume the country under discussion in letter 2 is Saudi Arabia. A factual point—if the worker would be staying in a large compound with other Western workers, Saudi law effectively does not apply in those compounds. She would be able to read the Bible, wear shorts, and talk with men without a problem. I’m not sure if the living situation she’s describing is in one of these compounds but she should ask more detailed questions to find out because the conditions might not be at all what she is imagining. Yes, life could be culturally very uncomfortable for her if she wasn’t living in a compound but I mention this because it sounds like she would be.

    1. Lily*

      She already said she doesn’t want to go. Asking to clarify might give the impression she might change her mind. And in the letter, it also refers to the limitations of going outside. It would still be uncomfortable even if she was living in such a compound.

      1. Meow meow*

        Yeah, the idea that she’s free to roam about the compound doesn’t make this a better deal for Sansa. Bosslady need some to find someone who wants to go or else go herself.

        1. else*

          Yeah – it’s basically a wildlife preserve. A zoo. Is that what most people would want? I think not.

    2. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

      Even if that were the case, she would probably want to leave the compound eventually, and be subject to Saudi law in those instances.

      She’s still being asked to not only move halfway around the world, but also give up a lot of freedom in any case.

    3. TL -*

      Plenty of people aren’t really comfortable living in a “X Oasis” in an otherwise hostile country – we’ve got lots of examples of people being unhappy with that situation right here in the USA.

      Sansa doesn’t want to go and the culture of the country is a large part of that. Even if she has greater freedom in a compound, she’s still going to exist in the larger culture of the country which she is not okay with.

    4. LS*

      I have lived in such a situation (voluntarily, though!) and it was very stressful and isolating, especially as a woman – male co-workers could and did go out, but I wasn’t willing to risk it, and neither were most of the other single women in the group. It sounds like Sansa has considered the situation thoroughly and decided not to go, and that should be the end of that.

    5. Marzipan*

      “It’s OK, you’ll be living in a compound!” does not sound as reassuring to me as it evidently does to you.

      1. paul*

        I mean, I kinda want my own compound a-la Burt Gummer just for grins (right down to a stuffed Graboid head), but that’s…kind of different.

        On a more serious level, my dad got headhunted by Saudi Aramco when I was in high school; my mom absolutely killed that (as in, you can go but we’re not) and I’m pretty glad. I’ve had a couple of acquaintances who have worked over there and I’m glad I didn’t have to grow up in one of those compounds.

        1. Alienor*

          My family was nearly sent to Saudi Arabia for my dad’s job also. I was about 10 at the time and I remember I was interested in going–we’d already moved within the U.S. so many times that another move didn’t seem like a big deal–but his assignments were only 12-18 months long, not years and years. That company sent high school-age kids to boarding school in Europe, though, because they didn’t have access to appropriate educational options for them within the country.

          1. blackcat*

            My highschool’s boarding program had a fair number of kids of oil company employees for exactly this reason. The companies paid.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            My father-in-law worked in international development, and paying for a boarding school in Europe for any kids was a common perk.

        2. J.B.*

          Not that this would necessarily be preferable, but many highschoolers from those compounds go to boarding schools in the U.S.

    6. Fergus, Stealer of Pens and Microwaver of Fish*

      Oh, so basically you can be a normal person, as long as you stay in jail the whole time. Sounds perfectly normal.

      F that.

      1. Flowey*

        A jail that resembles wealthy parts of suburban America? There are worse things in the world.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          Yes. But evidently, for this particular person, quitting their job and having to look for another one from a position of being unemployed is not one of those worse things. To them, leaving their position is better than taking a job in the country in question — and that’s their choice to make; not their boss’s choice nor any of ours.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          I live in a wealthy part of suburban America, and if you confined me to the 5-20 acres around my house (small compound) I would find that pretty damn miserable. Not “like having to break rocks into gravel to feed my children”–one of those “worse things in the world” that exist–but enough to say ‘no.’ And I’m an introvert who freelances from home and has lived overseas.

          That something is officially not “the worst thing in the world” is not the bar most of us have for agreeing to do it.

        3. Specialk9*

          They already said it wasn’t that kind of compound.

          “She would have to live in a building or compound with other foreign workers. She wouldn’t be in one of the main or large cities so the compound and her living space would be small. She would have to wear black robes and covered hair every time she went outside. She wouldn’t be allowed to speak or be alone with any man, including colleagues. She wouldn’t be allowed to have a bible or practice her religion. She would be restricted on where she could go outside the compound. Things for entertainment like movie theatres are banned and don’t exist there and her internet use would be censored and monitored.”

        4. Not So NewReader*

          Some people might be okay locked in a nice house for a long period of time. Some people might find their minds/hearts/soul locked in a prison. If you can’t go anywhere or do anything, I would not find much appeal to nice surroundings. Pretty walls are not enough compensation for lack of freedom, to me.

      2. Michaela Westen*

        Damn, I hate the suburbs. So isolating. So boring. So spread out and tiring.
        Give me inner city! With people!

    7. LizM*

      I kind of feel like this isn’t the point.

      First, living in a compound and not having freedom of movement sounds terrible to me.

      Second, if she’s already given LW an ultimatum by saying she’d rather quit than go, I think it’s safe to assume she’s done the research and has a good sense for whether it’s something she would be willing to take on – she’s clearly told LW she’s not. At this point, LW shouldn’t continue to try to convince her she’s wrong.

    8. Bagpuss*

      The letter explicitly says it would be on a small compound and that the individual living space within it would also be small. It sounds as though Sansa is aware of what the living arrangements would be and has made her position more than clear.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        This. The letter says “small” compound, probably meaning a distant outpost from the large compounds.

        I’m thinking about the scattered Antarctic research stations that run through the winter. It’s stressful enough if you’re in the main complex, which has multiple buildings and a store, but for some scientists it’s you and 5 other people in a trailer for 6 months. And being forbidden from going outside by the weather is emotionally very different from humans telling you you can’t leave.

        (The documentary is Antarctica: A Year on Ice and it is quite fascinating. It had never occurred to me that there were stations, plural.)

        1. blackcat*

          One of my friends has worked at McMurdo for years. She loves it… during the summer when it’s full and she can go hiking. She’s done one winter there (no light! no going outdoors!) and one summer at the south pole outpost (so few people! sunburns in 2 minutes outside*!) and has said never again to both.

          *I never knew the south pole is actually at a high elevation until she told me about the high elevation + ice + ozone hole = sunburn problem.

          1. Emily Spinach*

            I just read a novel about wintering over at the South Pole Station, called South Pole Station. It was kind of darkly humorous, and I found it really fascinating.

        2. mrs__peel*

          From what I’ve read about Antarctic research stations (e.g., the vast quantity of condoms shipped there), there’s really only one main source of entertainment and it’s pretty frowned upon in Saudi Arabia.