Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Career prospects for the trailing spouse

How did you become an expat? Perhaps your husband or wife was offered a big promotion, or a career move came up that your partner just couldn’t resist. Faced by the prospect of taking a step into the unknown or dealing with a long distance relationship, you chose to give it a go too… If that sounds familiar, no doubt you’ll be already firmly strapped into the expat rollercoaster! 

Moving was a new (and very busy) adventure - from visas, packing and goodbyes to finding a property, settling in, maybe even placing the kids in school – but what are you doing now? Below are a few suggestions for how you can kick-start a career in your new home, make the most of the opportunities there. 

Creative commons/Flazingo

Use your language skills: Living somewhere with a different native language? Why not look into teaching your mother tongue as a foreign language? There are plenty of courses to get you started and private arrangements for language lessons can also lead to friendships too! Alternatively, if your destination country is popular with those back home as a holidaying spot, why not check out any opportunities in the tourism industry? Even if you’ve never done anything like this before, your language skills could well be in demand and seasonal working could offer flexibility if you’re also juggling a young family.

Work remotely: Who says moving needs to entail giving up your old job? Many careers allow you to work remotely, so explore the possibilities before you go. You might have a few late night or early morning conference calls, or have to take the occasional jet setting business trip, but, if you’ve moved abroad for a partner, your career doesn’t have to suffer.

Make a difference: Maybe your move has brought you to an emerging market, where growing prosperity hasn’t eradicated all problems for the local population. Maybe you can help – volunteer, support an NGO on the ground and see a different side to your new home! Volunteering can be a wonderful way to get back into working after a career break, wherever you’re living, so ask around and use your skills to support a cause.

Launch a digital career: Guess what? It’s not just friends and family who are interested in your expat life! Why not blog about your experiences? It could be just for fun or it could become a fulltime job. And the best thing is, you just have to be yourself. Why not check out the stories of our expat guest bloggers?

How has your career fared since moving abroad for a partner? Let us know – by commenting below or tweeting @expatexplorer!

Friday, 22 August 2014

Guest Blogger Series: Introducing… Rutger Ahlerup

Our latest guest blogger, Rutger Ahlerup, reflects on his home city of Stockholm and fills us in on the things to do if you want to go from being a visitor to a local.

Image Source: Creative Common/Michael Caven
Sweden is an exciting destination for any tourist, with a capital that is often considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. There are popular tourist attractions a plenty, and these are all worth a visit, but there is also a lot more to do. As a born and bred man of Stockholm, I take a bit of a deeper look into what local life would look like for an expat living there.  
A big part of being an expat is about having opportunity to go beyond the tourist traps and really get to know a new place. Having the time to experience cities during low season and finding the local hideouts, not written about online or in the tourist guides, is key to the expat experience. Here are some tips to get you started finding the hidden gems of Stockholm.

      Sodermalm (Södermalm) is currently the “hippest” part of Stockholm where both parks and night clubs can be found. Don’t be afraid to turn down a small alley, because it is by doing this that you find places like Montelius Road. A view over almost half of Stockholm appears as you descend this path, and it is a popular place for locals to come and watch the sunset.  

Image Source: Creative Commons/Kurt Qvist    
Djurgarden (Djurgården) is an enormous park in the central of Stockholm, and is not only ideal for walks on a sunny Sunday, but also has amusements parks and an open air museum. Large numbers of tourists go here each year to visit the attractions, but a few minutes away, and you find green open fields that are ideal for having a picnic, or playing a game of kubb.

Image Source: Creative Common/Ulf Bodin
Sweden has always been a country of many flavours. After WW2, people from all over the world moved to the country, and as a result the food culture has developed to become truly diverse and international. In recent years the culinary scene has flourished and one-off restaurants have popped up all over the country. Here are three places where the locals go to eat.

1.       BarBro – Located on Sodermalm under a bridge, this restaurant might be hard to find without directions, but trust me, it is worth it. Here, you can experience Asian food done in a whole new way and even head one floor down to enjoy your meal in the restaurant’s own movie salon!

2.       Sturehof – In the middle of busy, central Stockholm, right at the door step of the fashion boutiques, lies Sturehof. Opened in 1897, Sturehof has built its reputation on its brilliant sea-food menu, but also offers a grade A steak. This restaurant is a bit on the pricey side, but is really special – so try to head there at least once if you can.

3.       Calexicos - Also found on Sodermalm, this is Mexican food at its best. The affordable menu means you can indulge in a few more margaritas and tequilas, and if you decide to extend the night, you needn’t go far as there is a nightclub right next door. 

Must dos
Even though some of these are the most famous tourist attractions, you do really have to tick these off to be able to call yourself a local. 

Explore the Royal Palace
Visit the Natural History Museum and the Nobel  Museum
Take a boat tour
Visit the old town
Channel your inner ‘dancing queen’ at the ABBA Museum

Are you an expat in Stockholm? Tweet us what you discovered at @expatexplorer
About the author
Rutger Ahlerup is currently living in London but is originally from Stockholm, Sweden. He has previously lived in Salt Lake City and has traveled all over the world. In his free time he enjoys skiing and other outdoors activities, and he always tries to visit one sporting event at each place he travels.

The content of this post is the opinion of the guest blogger and not of HSBC. We cannot check and verify any information contained in the blog post, nor accept any responsibility for it

Monday, 18 August 2014

Seven signs that you’ve been an expat too long

As we all know, every expat has different plans for how long they’ll stay aboard. Some people decide to dabble for a year or so, while others spend decades travelling from country to country. Many find the place that they call home. But how do you know when you’ve become a truly seasoned expat?  To help, we’ve created the following list of the 7 signs you’ve been an expat too long… 

When you email visiting family members a two page list of all the snacks they have to bring from home
Although you don’t want your family to think you’ve only invited them as a courier, you tell them to fill their bags with all the food and drink you’ve missed.  Don’t forget to return the favour and take them to the best places to get local treats.

Image source: Creative Commons / Himeji Karinto
You think in two languages
If someone had told you this a few years ago, you’d never have believed them but you find yourself thinking in your local language. Not only is this very impressive, but it’s a true sign you’re completely immersed in local life.

When it takes 10 minutes to say where you live

‘My parents are from France but I was born in Hong Kong, studied in Switzerland and spent the last ten years living in India…’ As an expat, people often ask you where you originally came from – when you’ve been globetrotting around the world that’s not always straight forward. Just tell them you’re a citizen of the world!

Having tasted the real deal, you can’t stand the copycat restaurants back home
Whenever you go back to your homeland, your friends suggest an ‘amazing’ restaurant that serves your new ‘local’ cuisine. Unfortunately, you’ve spent years eating the real deal, so it just doesn’t compare and pointing out it’s not like the real thing is rarely a welcome insight...

You’re an expert at juggling your local social life with your international one
It’s tricky trying to balance your day-to-day social life with keeping in touch with old friends but after years abroad you’re a pro at scheduling Skype calls between dinners, bashing out emails on your commute and remembering to send postcards to your family whenever you visit somewhere new.

All the newbies come to you for local tips

It’s a proud moment when you’re the go-to person for new expats. The hidden restaurants, beautiful vantage points and the most interesting places to live – you know it all. If this is you, think about sharing your pearls of wisdom with other expats: visit our  Expat Hints & Tips tool and upload your best ones now!

Image source: Creative Commons / David Iliff

The country you live in is the place you call 'home'
The moment you first realise that the place you’re living now is the place you call home is pretty special – be sure to savour it.

Friday, 15 August 2014

The expat way to furnish your new home

Image source: creativecommons/Christopher L

When furnishing your new home, as an expat, it’s important to create an environment where you can relax and release the stress of the outside world. Including those small things which give you a sense of home can make a big difference – whether that’s a British flag on the wall or German beer glasses in the cabinet. But you may also want to reflect your new expat life and sense of adventure! So here are some things you may want to keep in mind when furnishing your new expat home.

Ambition - The first thing you should do is to decide the ambition of your project. Will you be tearing down walls or just painting a few? It’s important to set the right ambition level from the start so that this project won’t consume all of your time – especially since you’ll have so many new things to discover!

Dining spaces – Dining rooms and eating spaces are the heart of your home, where you can sit down with your family, or invite new friends over. Wherever you are in the world, the need to eat will always be there, so take time to make this a place of comfort. A steady table with several seats gives you the opportunity to host guest dinners with new acquaintances.

Culture – As an expat you travel the world and discover new cultures and ways of living. Let yourself be influenced by the flavours and colours around you and use them in your new home. Put bamboo on a wall or use the sunset over the Sahara as an inspiration for the eye-catching wall in your bedroom. By doing this, the expat experience of being an explorer in a new culture will now extend into your home. 

Novelty – You’ve arrived at a new place so remember not to fall into the same patterns as before, and enjoy new influences. Change it up from your previous home - it might feel risky at first, but the sense of something new is a big part of being an expat. Take a daring leap and it will be worth it in the end.

Furnishing a home in a new country will always be hard. You have to deal with new stores, new currency and sometimes even a new language. However, by incorporating the new, with a nod to the old, your home will soon start to reflect your new expat identity!

Do you have any suggestions on how to furnish a home in a new country? Comment below or tweet us your ideas at @expatexplorer

Monday, 11 August 2014

What They Don’t Tell You About Being an Expat

Our latest expat guest blogger, Ryan Neal, tells us all about his experiences of moving abroad…and then coming home

Image Source: creativecommons/Flickr

By far the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life is to move to a new country. The second hardest thing I’ve ever had to do is move home again.

I moved to Brussels, Belgium in May of 2012 at the age of 23. Arriving alone at Gare du Midi train station with nothing but a rucksack and my guitar, I didn’t know a single person in the entire country. With my level of French, communication with the locals was difficult unless I wanted to know where the nearest library was, or perhaps tell a passing stranger that my dog is brown. The only prior time I had visited the city was one month before, for a meagre two days while I desperately hunted for accommodation. In retrospect, it’s safe to say that I was in way over my head.

My first month in Brussels was the hardest month I’ve ever endured. My days were long and exhausting as I tried to establish my new life; opening bank accounts, setting up telephone, internet and electricity contracts, registering with the local commune, even trying to figure out where the hell to buy a damned smoke detector and all in a language that I could barely comprehend. When you live abroad in a foreign speaking country, you have to accept that the simplest of tasks are going to take you at least twice as long as they would in your native country, and require thrice the mental energy. My evenings were mostly spent alone, recuperating from the long days, and the immense mental exertion.

But all of this was okay, because it was what I had been prepared for. What I had not been prepared for, was the jolt of moving back to the UK a little over two years later. 

When you move abroad, it’s a complete culture shock. There’s so much to adjust to, whether it be the language, driving on the other side of the road under unfamiliar road rules, or simple things like where to do your grocery shopping. When you move home again, it’s exactly the same.

One of the most noticeable things for me, obviously, was the language. In Brussels, heart of the EU, I was submerged in a melting pot of culture. A short ride on the Metro could expose me to half a dozen languages, none of which I’d be able to understand. On returning to the UK I suddenly found that I could understand everything that was going on around me, and it was exhausting, much like my first days in Brussels had been.

Add to that the re-adjustment to a completely different style of communication – making small talk with cashiers, deciphering local colloquialisms that had sprouted in my absence – and it was a little overwhelming.
On top of the language there are so many other things in my day-to-day life that require constant conscious effort and attention. If I had a penny for every time I have ordered a beer in French or looked the wrong way before crossing a road then I would be a rich man by no means, but I would have enough small change in my pocket for it to be a vague nuisance.

And that’s not even to mention the logistical difficulties in coming home. Over the last week I have been refused credit cards and telephone contracts due to a two-year period of inactivity and the risk that I may up-and-leave the country again. Of course, this is completely understandable from a business perspective, but I’d be lying if I said that I anticipated this much difficulty in coming home. Where is the big welcome mat and all of the ‘welcome home’ banners and party poppers that I was expecting? Not here.

So far, all minor grievances. But the absolute hardest thing about coming home? Realising that, in the time that you’ve been away, life has changed. People have changed, friends have moved on and, most of all, you have changed.

Somewhat naïvely, I had expected everything to be more or less as I had left it. The completely alien shop fronts and bar names that lined the high street of my hometown were a welcome surprise compared to the changes I found in the loved ones that I had left. Relatives seem suddenly much older than when I last saw them – from the lines in the faces of the elderly, to my youngest brother who has learnt to walk and talk in my absence – and friends have less time than two years prior, now committed to girlfriends, careers and the lives they have built in the time I’ve been gone. The realisation that life moves on without you can be hard to come to terms with for the egocentric traveller.

Much greater, however, was the realisation that I have changed. I no longer value the same things that I did before my voluntary exile, I no longer seek the same things from life that I had always thought were important to me, and I no longer search for the same qualities in friends and companions. I’ve spent the past few months looking forward to coming home and, now that I’m here, I’m not sure that it’s quite where I belong anymore. With new horizons to conquer, places to discover, people to meet, and an insatiable hunger to satisfy, the beaten path seems little more than a dingy, narrow side street; the most direct route to a dead end.
I’m going to give this whole living-in-the-UK thing a go for a while. I’m going to give myself a chance to adjust to this alien culture. But, in the meantime, I’m keeping my rucksack and my passport next to the front door because here’s what they don’t tell you about being an expat: it changes you. What you make of that change is up to you and that alone is the most exciting thing about being an expatriate.
Would you like to guest blog for us? Let us know in the comments section below or by tweeting @expatexplorer

About the author

Ryan is a freelance writer, musician and globetrotter. Having spent two years as part of the thriving expat community in Brussels, he has trouble keeping his feet in one place and is currently looking forward to his next adventure. When he's not in an airport he can usually be found blogging about travel and music. Follow him on Twitter or check out his blog.



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