Friday, 28 August 2015

A glimpse into the mind of a seasoned expat: As told by the expat community

The difference between seasoned expats and first timers is often more than just the amount of times that they’ve lived abroad. It’s often the mind-set they adopt in their new location. Whether it is the enthusiasm shown when learning about new customs, the charisma shown when networking or the willingness to practice and be corrected in a new language, an experienced expat’s mind-set is just that little bit different.  

Everyday life


Whether you’ve been taught to eat your food using stainless steel cutlery, or been instructed to eat with chopsticks, letting go of cultural norms that have been drummed into you since the day you were born is not easy. As you step off the plane and feel the breeze of a new land brush your past your face, you should prepare yourself for the experience that is to come. One part of this is accepting that life will be different, but that is what makes life as an expat so exciting. Seasoned expats don’t grimace at the thought of burning their tongue on an unexpected spicy local delicacy or cringe at the thought of joining their colleagues at a karaoke bar, they join in. Expert expats are often more worried about missing out on these cultural quirks as they make for the most interesting stories. 

Accommodation



The chance to live and work abroad is a truly amazing occasion. You’ll get the opportunity to have new and varied experiences, meet new people and maybe even migrate to a better climate. With that said it is not a holiday and for that reason requires a lot more preparation. Many veteran expats make sure to research costs, find appropriate accommodation and budget wisely. Treat expat life like a marathon, pace yourself properly and the rush of endorphins will carry you to new highs!

Networking/Making friends


When starting from scratch in a brand new place friends are vital. They can help you with settling in and adapting to the new culture. For this reason it is easy to be in a rush to make as many friends as quickly as possible, but it is vital to be patient and loyal to those who help you in the early days. An experienced expat remembers that patience is key when communicating through language barriers and cultural differences. Little things such as the inflection of the voice can mean very different things when communicating in a language that either you or the person you’re talking to is not familiar with.

Transport


Whether it’s walking in London, the funicular in Switzerland or a motorcycle in Vietnam, changing up your mode of transport can really do a lot to inform you of what’s is currently available to you and educate you on the country’s rich history. By adopting the local form of transport you become attuned to the rhythm of your new home and gain a greater understanding of the locals and their experiences.

Language learning  


The best way to learn a language is through immersion. Being constantly surrounded by the dialect and people fluent in it allows you to learn much more quickly than any audio book or classroom experience.


How many of these philosophies have you adopted in your approach to expat life and how many additional thoughts do you have to share? Tweet us @expatexplorer with your mantra. 

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Preparing for Repatriation: A Masterclass

As an expat, it’s unlikely that you’d consider moving abroad without doing your research. The beginning of an expat journey can often feel daunting, so doing some reading on what life will be like abroad, how hot or cold the weather will be or even looking up key phrases will always be useful.

However, it’s not just a case of preparing for the start of an expat journey. There’s also plenty of value in thinking about how you’ll approach the end of your expat life as well, and the prospect of repatriation can bring a lot of things to consider. If you’re heading home, it’s worth being ready for the prospect that things may not be as familiar as you remembered – here are our top tips for getting ready to go and making things easier once you’re back:

Lesson 1 – The same, but different

Although it may feel as though repatriation is a return to the familiar, it is worth preparing for the once familiar to feel somewhat peculiar. We all understand that the bustling cities we left behind did not cease to exist in our absence. However; you may be startled by how much has changed as you send an invite for a reunion brunch at your favourite restaurant, only to have your friends and well-wishers inform you that the bistro relocated shortly after you’d left.

Be ready to accept the idea that things might not be exactly as you left them – embracing change and trying to maintain a positive attitude will help you to get to grips with returning home, even if it’s not exactly what you’d expected.    



Lesson 2 – Read, read and read some more

When returning home, the preparation you need to do might not be as extensive when you first went abroad but it does help to keep up with conversations about your local area. Ways of doing this are numerous, but mostly it helps to focus on doing your reading; whether that’s through news, participating in discussions on social media groups, setting up alerts to keep you posted on events at home, or keeping in touch with a network of friends and family – you’ll need to have an idea of what to expect when you arrive. These are some unique and meaningful ways to catch up on pop culture, legislative changes and maintain connections with loved ones, because as we mentioned in the previous point, life has, to some extent, gone on without you. By doing this the return home will feel much more comfortable, as you can return knowing that you’re a clued up local once more. 

Creative Commons – Wolfgang Lonien

Lesson 3 – Homesickness

For many touching down at the airport it is likely they’ll receive a hero’s welcome; family, friends and well-wishers may wait with baited breath at the arrivals lounge as they look forward to welcoming you home. But after this newly acquired celebrity status fades away, and you process the excitement that follows the reunion, you can expect a mixture of emotions – there’ll be highs, but you might also find that there are lows, for example homesickness for the life that you built for yourself and your family abroad.

Expats may experience a rollercoaster of emotions after leaving a country they truly immersed into. Although emotions can sometimes feel a bit mixed after a return home, it’s worth keeping sight of the fact that even if it’s difficult – you’ll overcome these difficulties in the same way that you did at the start of your journey. Settling back in, reconnecting with friends, progressing a career or helping your family to grow and develop; these priorities will usually stay the same wherever you are in the world.

Above all else, it’s worth bearing in mind that sometimes more than one country can become ‘home’ – and settling back into life in one country doesn’t mean you need to sever connections with other places that you’ve lived. Keeping track of your expat memories, as well as thinking about how you can keep these alive for you and your children is one way to make sure that you keep close to your experiences – however your expat journey ends! 

Creative Commons -Darriel Street Photography

Friday, 21 August 2015

The top 10 beach getaways for expats

We understand that life as an expat can be stressful at times but relocating can unlock a world of opportunities to explore. If you’re in the UK, why not take a long weekend trip to Europe; or in the US, explore the different states around you? If you’re feeling a bit short on inspiration, never fear; we’ve put together just ten of our favourite beaches around the world to guide you the next time you’re looking for an escape from the daily grind….!.

Australia – Whitehaven Beach

If you are residing in Australia, Whitehaven Beach needs to be on your list of things-to-visit! It is a 7 kilometre stretch of pure bliss running along the east coast of Whitsunday Island – just a boat’s trip away from Airlie Beach and Shute Harbour. Many argue it’s the best beach in the world, and we can guarantee you will not be disappointed by its awe-inspiring beauty.

Creative Commons | Flickr

Thailand – Ko Pha Ngan
Ko Pha Ngan provides a vast array of different style beaches – whether you want to party or watch some of the most beautiful sunrises in the world – Ko Pha Ngan has a beach that will blow you away.

Japan – Aharen Beach
Tokashiki Island is home to a number of spectacular beaches, but Aharen offers an intensely distinct special feature – marine life. Its clear blue waters are home to a number of different sea creatures, including whales, manta rays and five different types of sea turtles - an unforgettable experience that also gives you the opportunity to snap some envy-inducing photos to share with people back at home

Wales, UK – Rhossili Beach
Rhossili beach is the first UK beach to be named in the world’s top 10 beaches*. With a 3 mile stretch of sand and great waves for surfers – you will not find a better beach in the UK! Surrounded by beautiful country side, the area offers plenty of camping spots so that you can catch the sunrise or sunset with ease. The biggest decision you’ll have to make is whether to go for a caravan or a tent!

Italy – Rabbit Beach, Lampedusa
The Island of Lampedusa is home to a number of fantastic beaches, but Rabbit Beach is unquestionably the front runner. The U-shaped cove is lined with bright white sand and sky blue water, perfect for anyone that wants to top up their tan or just relax in the sunshine. It can get busy, so heading there earlier in the day means you’ll bag a top spot while also avoiding travel in the heat of the midday sun.

Creative Commons | Wikimedia


Brazil – Baia Do Sancho
Baia Do Sancho was voted the best beach in the world*, and it is - quite simply - a sandy paradise. The experience begins when you’re climbing down steep ladders between cliffs, following narrow paths until they open out into stunning gold sand. Relax in the sun whilst the waves crash onto rocks that enclose the seaside utopia.

Philippines – El Nido, Palawan
El Nido offers a great blend of a vibrant town atmosphere with gorgeous white beaches. There’s plenty to do at night time and the world renowned sunset lover’s beach is just a short walk away!

Mexico – Tulum Beach
Tulum offers a unique blend of history, culture, cuisine and fun. With fascinating ruins right around the corner and delicious restaurants never more than a stone’s throw away; it is the perfect spot to soak up a bit of history whilst capitalising on the ever-expanding list of activities available on the picturesque seafront.

Creative Commons | Flickr


Cephalonia – Myrtos Beach
Though the island of Cephalonia might be more popular with tourists, we couldn’t resist including it in our list because of the incredible Myrtos Beach. Surrounded by typically-Greek Mountains, the natural beauty will send you into the deepest state of relaxation – a perfect destination to chill-out.  

Malaysia – Pantai Tanjung Rhu
Finally, the Tanjung Rhu beach located on Langkawi Island presents itself with a delightful white-blue-green landscape from the sand to the ocean to the surrounding trees. The water is so breathtakingly transparent that the extravagant arrays of fish are clearly visible swimming near to shore. Bring your camera!

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Techno-Expats: How Do You Communicate?

There’s no question technology's been a game changer for expat life, particularly when it comes to keeping in touch. Moving abroad means you're not cut off or separated - if anything, you're more likely to stay in touch due to all the new channels which have been created to keep people connected.

From video calling to video diaries; blogs; social media channels to digital messaging - there's always a way to stay in touch wherever you are in the world, be it a buzzing and connected city or a remote rural location. For some, the steady stream of alerts we receive notifying us of a new message or interaction can feel a little over-bearing – but even this can be managed through an array of settings to make sure you’re able to keep on top of who’s contacting you and when, however you choose.


The choices we have for communication are only set to grow, with experts working on new prototypes all the time. Who knows what this could mean for future expats - will we one day be able to beam digital versions of ourselves to different locations around the world, or arrange a virtual reality coffee with a friend overseas? Perhaps!

Creative Commons - Mark Ficher

Many expats recognise and embrace the benefits of this raft of communication options. After all, a move abroad brings with it a lot of things to consider, but one of the most vital questions is how we keep in touch with the people we leave behind; staying up to date and maintaining important relationships.

While digital solutions give us a fantastic outlet to do that, they also highlight the progression we've made from more traditional forms of communication, particularly the letter, which many consider a lost art. As our communication evolves, it feels like we’re at risk of losing sight of these more original forms. Who doesn't love receiving an envelope or parcel from someone they care about for example?

There's something about it which brings an element of mystery and warmth that just isn't delivered by email or messaging. This can be particularly comforting if you're feeling alone or isolated. There's also a sense of permanence which doesn’t come from emails or texts, and having something tangible that can be saved and preserved as a memory from your experiences abroad.

New communication technologies should be embraced, especially given the role they play in (most) expat journeys. Feeling completely connected is comforting for many; particularly when instant communication is needed to stem homesickness or see the face of someone you care about. However, as with anything in life there might be a case to make for striking a balance, this time between old and new.

So perhaps next time you hang up from your video call, or exit the family messaging group, think about how you can progress this with a nod to the old-school way of doing things. Grab a postcard, old menu, coaster, newspaper article or photograph - scribble a few words, and put it in the post. It'll probably make someone's day.

When it comes to keeping in touch, which do you prefer - digital or old school, or a balance of both? Tweet us @expatexplorer or leave a comment below. 

Thursday, 13 August 2015

A soundtrack for your expat journey

Life as an expat is a fast paced adventure, which is often filled with a lot of different emotions.  As with many experiences in life, music can work to enhance particular moments.  It can also be a powerful tool to record your experience, triggering feelings of nostalgia and enabling you to relive specific experiences.  By making a playlist of songs reminding you of key moment of expat life, you will be able to be transported back to an exciting time in your life in years to come.  Here are some suggestions of songs to be on the soundtrack to your expat journey!

Songs for moving:

Packing your life up into boxes is nobody’s favourite task, and leaving a place you have called home can be bittersweet.  Saying goodbye can be difficult, but it is important to remain positive – even if you’re sometimes unsure about what’s ahead.  Getting cold feet is normal; but keeping sight of what’s ahead and focusing on why you decided to make the move will help you to keep the nerves in check.  Becoming an expat will be inevitably be a rollercoaster of emotions – but the exciting times ahead will balance out the difficulties, and taking the rough with the smooth is all part of the adventure ahead.  If you need something to give you a bit of motivation to pack up the final few bits and keep things positive, try these tunes:
  • Movin’ On Up – Primal Scream
  • Pack Up– Eliza Doolittle
  • Shake it Off – Taylor Swift
  • Changes – David Bowie 

Songs to explore to:

Your first few weeks of expat life are likely to be a whirlwind of exploration, learning phrases of the local language, and finding your way around your new area.  Whether your exploring consists of a self-guided tour around your nearest town, trying out a new restaurant, or hiking up a mountain – it is a special time, and one that is likely to stay with you for many years to come.  Here are a few songs encapsulating the spirit of travel, adventure and exploration for you to add to your expat playlist - play them now and in years to come relive this exciting part of your journey:    
  • Around the World – Daft Punk
  • The Passenger – Iggy Pop
  • Ramble On – Led Zeppelin
  • Keep the Car Running - Arcade Fire



Songs to settle down to:

The first time you feel at home abroad will be quite a significant milestone; when things which for months seemed to be a daily challenge are now an established part of your daily routine, or perhaps when a second language starts to come naturally.  Songs that remind you of this time are likely to come from your own personal experience; the song you listened to the first time you sat in your now favourite cafĂ©, the time you watched a local band play, or even just spending quality time with friends – old or new.   Here’s our list of songs to get you started on the road to settling.
  • Home - Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes
  • Homeward Bound – Simon and Garfunkel
  • Sweet Disposition – Temper Trap
  • Sweet Home Alabama - Lynyrd Skynyrd

For more ideas on getting the best out of your expat experience, visit the Expat Explorer blogspot, or our hints and tips pages.  





Friday, 7 August 2015

Routine? What routine? We’re in the land of the least expected outcome

I live in Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria, with my husband. As with many expatriates, there’s a long story to how we ended up here; the short version is that we needed more variety in our lives. We were in Singapore previously—a posting I loved and a country I will always love—both working as journalists.

You don’t become a journalist for the money; you become a journalist for the variety, for the adventure, for the feeling of possibility about what might happen that day. For one reason and another, we had both ended up in jobs where those things didn’t feature.  So we moved to Nigeria, or as I call it, The Land Of The Least Expected Outcome.

This is supposed to be a post about routine. I can’t tell you a thing about routine. I don’t have one and I suspect I’d struggle to get one going even if I put my mind to it.

I wake up roughly at the same time every day, but it can depend on how many power cuts there have been during the night. A good night is one power cut, a bad night is six or seven power cuts. A really bad night is no power at all and therefore no air con and no running water, but these are thankfully rare.
I work from home, and my productivity depends entirely on whether my wifi is working or not. If it isn’t then I have a break of anywhere between five minutes and nine hours to read, to write, to exercise or to sit in the garden with a mug of tea watching the lizards fight.

In the evenings we might drive out of town to watch the sun set, assuming there’s enough fuel at the pumps. We might try out a new bar for quiz night, only to discover there’s never been a quiz there and it’s Lebanese evening. We might be at home, assembling a hotchpotch cold supper by candlelight during a power cut or making sorbet from the surprise delivery of 40 mangoes from a friend that arrived on the doorstep that day.

There is always something unexpected happening to change the course of the day. For instance, as I am typing, I can hear cheeping from the five peacock chicks in my garden that arrived earlier on. Some of this afternoon will be spent shooing them out again and trying to find their parents. Where did they come from? They escaped from the nearby zoo, of course.

Are there days where I’d like more predictability? Maybe, but only if there’s a deadline involved and circumstances conspire against me. Otherwise the lack of routine teaches me to be more flexible and more relaxed in a way I never was in London or Singapore.

Do I miss the feeling every day of knowing what will happen almost to the minute, from waking up to going to sleep? Never. This life is not for everyone, but it seems to be for me.


Clementine Wallop is a British writer and researcher living in Abuja. She blogs weekly for The Daily Telegraph, tweets @CWallop and posts pictures of Nigeria on Instagram @clemwallop

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

On the Move Again: Travel Tips for Serial Expats

How many times have you moved abroad? We know that plenty of you are serial expats, who are clocking up homes in lots of different places around the world and so have a lot of experience with the process of packing up, moving and finding your feet when you arrive.

But a move anywhere can always be a bit stressful and there are always new things to think about. With that in mind, we’ve created this list of top tips to help you keep stress to a minimum so you can enjoy the next step in your expat journey.

Know your commute options


Wherever you are, there is always a chance of travel disruptions so it pays to understand the local transport that’s on offer. Just recently, the London Underground closed completely for an entire day and workers from all over the city had to find alternative ways of getting in to work. Failing to prepare for such an occurrence can be disastrous so make sure you know the bus routes – or in the case of some cities – the ferry routes!

Creative Commons || Flickr

Bring entertainment for long layovers!
For the serial expats among you, you’ll know just how boring long airport layovers can be. It seems trivial but discovering which lightweight, travel sized games can keep you and the family entertained during hours of waiting will become an invaluable feature of live on the road (or in the air!). Whether it’s a simple card game, a PSP or even knitting – ensure you’ve got something to fill the waiting time and the entire transition will fly by.

Look for fun ways to get to know a new city quickly
 
There are a number of ways to discover the wonders of your new location – getting a city tour bus is a little clichĂ© and it’s not always interactive enough! Grab a few expat (or local!) pals and go on a city treasure trail – for a lot of large cities, you can find these games online. Follow hints and clues that lead you to the intricately beautiful details of the city that just can’t be seen from the open top seats of a trundling red bus. 

Creative Commons || Wikimedia
Embrace what it is to be local
Wherever you are – go out and find your local shop, restaurant, bar or pub and become a regular! You’ll soon start forming friendships with locals and it will undoubtedly speed up the process of making yourself feel at home which is crucial to those who know they’ll be on the move again soon. Befriending a nearby establishment is a quick way to familiarise yourself with local people whilst potentially enjoying some great food and drink!

Don’t forget the little things…
It’s easy to get lost in all the excitement of starting a life in your new host country, but it’s important you remember to plan all the little details which will undoubtedly save you a lot of hassle in the long run! This could be anything from checking which plug sockets the country uses, finding out about local phone contracts or bank accounts to finding out where your nearest convenience store is for your bread and milk on day one. Spare yourself the stress and plan ahead – we’d recommend writing a list!


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