Saturday, 14 November 2015

The Universal Candidate

 “The key to becoming internationally employable is an open mind – you need to be ready to accept different cultures and to prove that your personality is able to adjust to what is likely to be a very challenging disruption to your usual way of life.“
Alison J. Morgan, Director, Global Recruitment Solutions (UK) Ltd.
Specialised global recruitment agency

Of the 21,950 expats surveyed in our latest Expat Explorer report, more than 10,000 moved because of their careers. So if you’re looking for a job abroad – you’re in good company.

But finding work overseas can be tough. It is important to remember that your pool of competition expands to the entire planet - not just your local area. To stand out in a crowd of worthy candidates, you need to ensure that your CV is the best it can be by globalising your employability. You need to maximise your international desirability so employers are eager to hire you, regardless of where you’re from.

Be careful not to suffer from tunnel vision when putting together your portfolio for applications abroad – work experience is not the single defining characteristic. A number of factors come into play including personality, enthusiasm, a track record of hard work and a willingness to adapt to foreign cultures. Employers will be looking for a candidate with the perfect character match just as much as (if not more than) a candidate with all the right skills.

Creative Commons | Unsplash

Some crucial characteristics include the ability to demonstrate a mature open-mindedness towards embracing new cultures, as well as being ready to enter a new country with a clean slate. You mustn’t base expectations on your place of origin – especially in a new business environment. Employers will be wary of importing staff they think might clash with their current team. Being a ‘cultural chameleon’ is probably the most valuable skill to have when considering a life abroad.

Digging a little deeper into the specification of the ideal global recruit – the feature which stands above the rest is adaptability. You must be able to make any zone your comfort zone regardless of country, culture or language. Of course language may prove to be a barrier at first so employers will be looking for applicants who won’t be fazed by such a challenge, whilst also providing the assurance that learning the language will be made a priority upon arrival. The perfect candidate will be able to communicate their thoughts and ideas through a variety of intuitive visual and interactive mediums.

67% of expats who moved to improve their job prospects now have more disposable income.
-          Expat Explorer Survey Results

Naturally it is also important to be able to back up your application with a CV that represents a wealth of experience in the field that you’re applying for. You need to persuade someone that bringing you into their business from a different country is the best option– if your skills and professional experiences tick every box of the criteria for their role you’ll already have one foot in the door. All that’s left to do is prove that you’re able to apply those skills in a fresh cultural setting. 

Creative Commons | Pexels

Experience of travelling around other countries will stand you in good stead when promoting yourself as a universally desirable candidate. The ability to say that you’ve already worked in another country is second to none. Even demonstrating that you’ve travelled around the world and experienced different ways of life will show that the process of adopting a new culture won’t take so long, because you already have an enlightened perspective of the world.

If you can’t support up your application with international experiences then give examples of when you’ve been able to adapt to new environments or places of work. Perhaps you moved away from home to work in a new city, or maybe you went through an interesting career change.

Ultimately, to become internationally employable you need to show that your personality and skill set is not confined to the borders of your home country. Once you are able to do this, you will be ready for the process of finding the right location to start your new life abroad.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Guest blogger series: Introducing… Allison Furlong

My new Middle Eastern routine

I left the cool shores of Canada for hot and sandy Doha, Qatar in January, 2014. Nearing two years in the Middle East, I thought it would be a great time to reflect on some of the changes that, while seemingly different in the beginning, have now become routine while being an expat in the Middle East.

C’mon Thursday

Friday is the Muslim day of prayer, meaning the weekend begins on Thursday evening, consisting of Friday and Saturday, returning to work on Sunday. When you spend your whole life adhering to a different weekend, it initially plays havoc on your brain. You start mixing up the days of the week when telling stories, booking appointments, etc. I’m now happy to report that I think my brain has now adapted to the change (but it takes a while).

9 am? That’s sleeping in

Back home, the majority of people stroll into the office around 8:30 or 9. But in Qatar, most are awake before the call to prayer at sunrise (around 5:30am this time of year). What does this mean for expats? Everything starts earlier. Rush hour begins around 6 am and I’m sitting at my desk by 7:30.

Cold shower, how I miss thee

Most water in the Middle East is desalinated from the Arabian Gulf and then pumped into water storage tanks. Individual tanks are located on the top of buildings, warming in the desert sun. When you turn your cold water tap, it’s nearly always warm, and always piping hot in the summer. 

All the wonderful smells!

At home, most people skip perfume and scented products, with many workplaces being scent free. Here, wonderful aromas are part of the culture, not only celebrated but deemed mandatory in certain situations. I actually love the wonderful smell of wood chips burning (oud) filling malls, hallways and workplaces. And because it’s natural, you certainly won’t hear any sneezes from allergies.

Sand, sand, everywhere sand

I love going to the beach, desert and everywhere there’s sand! But sometimes it actually comes to you in your apartment. The air always has trace amounts of sand in it, meaning your floor, furniture and apartment sometimes has a fine layer of sand.


Broadly meaning “influence” or “clout”, wasta is a cultural phenomenon that controls many aspects of life in the Middle East. If you can’t be bothered to wait in line like the average person, just flex your wasta and sometimes magical things appear. While I don’t think I actually have wasta, a girl can dream.

Allison Furlong is originally from Newfoundland, Canada and is now living in Doha, Qatar. She regularly blogs about her exciting travels around the world and is always interested in hearing from other travelers and expats. To find out more about Allison’s adventures, subscribe to her blog – Where ya to – a wanderlust blog or follow her on Twitter @AllisonFurlong

Friday, 30 October 2015

Expat Explorer behind the numbers: Why do expats get stuck into Mexico?

In the first of a new series, we look behind the numbers of the latest HSBC Expat Explorer survey. This month: why do expats get stuck into Mexico?

Two months to go. The one-way ticket perched on the living room shelf becomes harder to ignore and every expat starts to wonder: “Will I fit in with the locals?”  

There’s no shortage of advice. Family, friends and colleagues all delight in sharing insights gleamed from South American gap years or long weekends in the Mediterranean. Everyone seems to be an expert on your new neighbours. Yet, as experienced expats know, the national clich├ęs trumpeted by casual sightseers barely scratch the surface.

When it comes to fitting in with the locals Mexico is the stand out performer, where according to the latest Expat Explorer survey, 78% of expats feel they are integrating well with the local people and culture. A carnival of colour, spice and sun, Mexico is easy to love, but it’s the country’s contagious family values which endear the people to expats.

Which are the easiest cultures to integrate into?

Mexican families are usually big and it’s not unusual for aunts, uncles, grandparents and in-laws to all share the same neighbourhood or even the same home. Getting to grips with these values can be tricky for any outsider. The rules and mores have been passed down through centuries of folktales, often retold but rarely written down.

Creative Commons / Wikimedia commons (anonymous)

One such story is “El Principe Oso”, the tale of a young daughter who marries a ferocious bear to save her family. Realising the beast is a bewitched prince, she consults wizards, tricks the moon, narrowly escapes incineration by the sun, hitches a ride with the wind and finally defeats a wicked witch – all to free her grizzly husband. If the characters are fantastical, the fierce loyalty of the courageous girl is far from fictional. In fact it’s this very sense of loyalty which helps to keep Mexico’s ancient traditions and 68 different languages alive and well in the modern world.

Luckily for expats, Mexican families are always welcoming and it’s the workplace where this is most striking. One expat from over the border in the USA shared his experience of just that with us:

“Go with the flow - things move in a different and somewhat slower pace. Be prepared for more social interaction. Family is very important and you have to engage with your team on a personal level - get to know their family.”

Becoming part of the family is an important milestone to integrating with the Mexican people, but every country offers something unique.  In our latest Expat Explorer survey, expats also celebrated New Zealand, Australia, Brazil and Canada as some of the easiest countries in the world to integrate into. Expats in Canada say they are liberated by their new home’s approach to diversity, with a government policy of multi-culturalism and one of the most celebrated gay pride movements in the world, it’s no wonder four fifths of expats quickly make local friends. In Australia and New Zealand, meanwhile, expats are welcomed as much by their local sports teams as their work colleagues, while those in Brazil find themselves greeted with kisses from the moment they step off the plane.

Creative Commons / Neal Jennings

So don’t pay too much attention to those armchair explorers, the only way to truly integrate is by getting stuck in and making friends. Embracing a new way of life is a process of discovery that must be lived, not just learned.

Are you striving to integrate with the local way of life or do you want to enjoy expat life without losing sight of your roots? Let us know in the comments or tweet @expatexplorer

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Culture shocks from around the world, and what we can learn from them

Adapting to the local culture is a central element of life abroad. For many expats experiencing and learning about new cultures is one of the most enjoyable aspects of moving abroad. 

An inevitable part of transitioning to a different cultural environment is experiencing culture shock of some kind. Culture shocks can be anything from a small change in our daily routine, to something which might force us to dramatically change our behaviour. What might seem slightly amusing or unusual to us at first however, is often symbolic of long-standing cultural traditions and customs.

To reduce the magnitude of these shocks, learning about the heritage of your host country can help you to build your understanding of local customs. Over a third of respondents in this year’s Expat Explorer survey, stated the most important thing for them to feel at home was being able to understand the local culture and etiquette.

Here are some of our favourite cultural shocks expats submitted in last year’s Expat Explorer survey, and the stories behind them. 

Culture shock: “The pub culture” – French expat in UK
Creative Commons / DncnH
Background: The sight of a packed-out pub sprawling onto the road is no shock to those who have lived in the UK for a while, but can be slightly intimidating to newer residents. Pubs have been central to the culture of British socialising for centuries. Having first appeared in the Anglo-Saxon era, by the 16th century pubs were established as important spaces for people to converse, debate, and most importantly – drink beer in. With 57,500 pubs across the UK, and around 15 million people visiting them each week, pubs remain as popular as ever.

How to get involved: If you have just started a job in the UK, it is pretty likely that on a Friday after work you will be asked to go the pub with your colleagues - say yes! It is a great opportunity to talk your colleagues in a non-work environment.

Culture shock: “Kissing as a form of greeting” – British expat in France

Background: The French greeting of kissing on both cheeks, known as “faire la bise” locally, can be a bit of a shock to those with a general fear of PDAs (public displays of affection). However, this ritual is very important to French people, and holds a long-standing place in French culture. The number of kisses specifically given varies regionally across France and among different social classes, so be prepared for this change if you are travelling around!

How to get involved: Don’t be shy! However awkward you may feel at first, this practice will soon become the norm. Holding back on this ritual and not taking it seriously can be interpreted as a sign of insincerity to locals.

Culture shock: “Camel racing using robots” - Indian expat in Oman
Creative Commons / Flickr / Jane
Background: For a lot of us, robots and camels do initially seem like an unusual pairing. However, across Middle Eastern countries, it is symbolic of the coming together of older traditions and new technology. It is thought that camel racing has been a prominent part of Arabian culture since the 7th century as a national sport enjoyed by individuals from all walks of life. To address increasing safety concerns for camel-riding jockeys, after 2007, robotic jockeys took their place. 

How to get involved: Similar to horse racing in the UK, camel racing events are a big deal in Middle Eastern countries, and are a great opportunity to get to know some people living in your local area. Organise a trip with friends and join in the fun!

Culture shock: “Queuing” – Expat from Hong Kong in the UK
Creative Commons / Wikimedia
Background: Britain is renowned for its diplomatic and largely reserved culture; perhaps the essence of this comes in the form of queuing. Queuing is something Brits pride themselves on doing especially well. The Industrial Revolution, which brought a huge influx of people to cities and forced them to establish informal structures, is said to have sparked Britain’s ritual of queuing – and it something the country has been obsessed with ever since. It has been estimated that Brits spend as much as 6 months of their lives in a queue!

How to get involved: The golden rule of queuing is: don’t ignore the queue. Whether it is queuing for Wimbledon or the London underground, do so with style and grace. Cutting in will not make you any friends!

Allison Furlong told us in her guest blog post about the culture shocks she experienced when she moved from Canada to Qatar. Here are her thoughts on overcoming culture shock: “All in all, culture shock, in all its forms, is a fundamental part of international travel. And while it may cause a little frustration at times, the amazingly positive benefits of traveling and living abroad far outweigh the negatives. Have positivity and perseverance, and take the time to do a little research”.

Visit our hints & tips pages for more insights from other expats. To see how countries are rated by expats in 2015, visit our interactive tool.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

These are the top 10 countries for expat economics in 2015

We’ve just released the results of our latest HSBC Expat Explorer survey, this year covering the views of over 20,000 expats from around the world.
The responses we received have been  used to create three key league tables that together make up the picture for a balanced life abroad: Economics ,Experience and Family.

For the Economics league table, a number of different factors go into the rankings. These include expat’s views on their personal finances, confidence in the local economy, views on political stability, the ease of setting up a business and working life aspects such as career progression and job security.

Below is a ranking of the top 10 countries for expat Economics in the world, as revealed in this year’s survey starting at number 10…

10. Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a strong economic destination and particularly attractive to expats working in financial services (39% of expats surveyed in Hong Kong work in this industry). It has the best career progression opportunities of any destination with 68% of expats stating it is a good place for this and 86% saying that the chance to acquire new skills is better than or just as good as at home. As well as employees, entrepreneurs can benefit, as 54% say Hong Kong is a good place to start a business.

9. Oman 

It seems that Oman offers the best of both worlds when it comes to expats enjoying increased disposable income and a better work life balance. Our survey reveals that 72% of expats there say they have more disposable income compared with the global average of 57%. Meanwhile 65% say they enjoy a better work life balance (compared with the global average of 50%).

8. Bahrain 

For expats in Bahrain, this small Kingdom in the Persian Gulf offers a place for expats to both save more and enjoy higher disposable incomes. Expats in Bahrain are nearly one and a half times more likely than the global average to say they are able to save more and 72% say they have more disposable income compared with 57% of the global average.

7. Saudi Arabia

More than any other country in the league tables, expats associate Saudi Arabia with the financial side of life. Nearly three-quarters (73%) say this is the most important aspect of life when making the move. The country offers expats strong contractual benefits, a lower cost of living and a strong economy (68% say this is the case).

6. Sweden

Flickr - Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho
With Sweden’s more relaxed workplace culture and flexible working practices, it is no surprise that over 72% expats say their work life balance has improved since moving there. Despite earning less than some of the other countries in our top 10 list, expats enjoy the working culture and making the most out of the free time they have. One thing our survey clearly highlights is how 60% of expats in Sweden say they have seen their relationship strengthened since relocating.

5. Qatar

Beyond the country’s mesmerising sand dunes, many expats in Qatar gain from generous expat packages that help them to settle into their new surroundings. Three quarters of expats say they receive a relocation allowance from employers, which helps them to acclimatise to their new home and settle in quicker. You can also take a look at our Qatar Expat Country Guide for more great tips on moving, living and working in the emirate.

4. United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates, and more specifically Dubai, offer budding entrepreneurs a promising location to realise their business dreams. 86% of expat entrepreneurs in Dubai say it is a good place to start a business.
As well as entrepreneurs, expats working in the UAE also benefit from increased disposable income and workplace benefits such as travel and healthcare allowances – 88% of expats in Dubai say they get allowances for annual trips home compared with the global average of 33%, while 72% say they have medical allowances as part of their employment contract (compared with 52% elsewhere).

3. Germany

Germany ranks third in this year’s Economics league table. In a country known for its strong financial and manufacturing industries, four in five expats are confident about the German economy. Not only do expats feel secure about the country’s prospects, it also stands out as a place for career progression. Around half say they’ve been able to advance their career since moving there.

2. Singapore 

Expats heading to Singapore enjoy a combination of financial and career advantages. Our results show that three in five expats in the city-state have boosted their earnings. Over a quarter (28%) of expats there earn more than $200,000, compared with just 13% globally and over half believe the opportunity to acquire new skills is greater in Singapore than it is at home.
With Singapore as one of Asia’s key financial hubs offering robust economic and financial fundamentals, it is no surprise that 78% of expats there express high levels of confidence in the local economy.

 1. Switzerland

Switzerland is number one this year for expat economics. A strong local economy and wonderful opportunities for work progression make Switzerland an ideal destination for career-minded types. As well as the opportunity to progress careers and increase earnings, as noted by 53% and 65% of expats in Switzerland respectively, three in four expats also say they also have the chance to enjoy life outside of work.

Discover more about the best places to live and work abroad. Visit the HSBC Expat Explorertool to browse the 2015 survey data and see how different countries compare.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Expat entrepreneurs are drawn to the world’s financial hubs

Every move abroad brings with it a unique set of challenges and adventures, but for those who are relocating to set up their own business or expand into a new market, this is particularly true.
With start-ups growing in volume and scale across the world, the title of the best places for entrepreneurs is one that’s hotly contested. What’s most important to entrepreneurs? How does this compare around the world? And what truly makes for a great business landscape in 2015?

In this year’s HSBC Expat Explorer survey, we have looked into all of these topics and quizzed expat entrepreneurs around the world about exactly what drives them to set up or expand. Here’s what they told us…  

This year’s data reveals that the cities of London,Dubai, Singapore and Hong Kong are the four most popular places in the world to start a business, due to their strong economies, culture and business environment.

In Dubai particularly, there are twice as many entrepreneurial expats as the global average (9% compared with 4% globally). Over two thirds (68%) of those living there say Dubai offers political stability, a key factor in providing the right landscape for those who want to run their own business.
Throughout the survey, we heard from a number of respondents who praise the business environment in Dubai –particularly calling out the great potential for building networks, attracting new clients and reaping the benefits of an international business climate. But having belief and confidence in the local economy is also crucial; not only for establishing a business, but also for successfully maintaining its momentum.

Dubai scored positively in this respect, but it’s also a trend which extends to expats living in Singapore and Hong Kong (78% and 60% respectively), who say they feel much more confident about the local economy in comparison to the global average (48%). The data also supports a view from the World Bank[1]that these two places rank among the top places in the world when it comes to the sheer ease with which entrepreneurs can do business.

Another key part of this which has to be considered by any global entrepreneur is inter-connectivity; not just from a travel perspective but also technologically and socially too. Hong Kong and Singapore are widely lauded as having some of the fastest broadband capabilities in the world – a no brainer for any start-up – and the international travel networks which exist in London and Dubai mean that almost any other country is within (relatively) easy reach.

Looking at the survey data for London, Dubai, Hong Kong and Singapore, we see expats also calling out other benefits like work/life balance as a key part of living in these places. Despite their social landscapes being somewhat different, cities like London and Dubai are among some of the most renowned when it comes to social life – the phrase ‘work hard, play hard’ no doubt rings true among many expats who’ve made the move to these hubs.

Starting a new business, wherever you are in the world, seems to bring about a level of balance between work and personal life. Wherever entrepreneurial expats decide to run their own business, doing so does not significantly affect their work/life balance. In fact, it seems that the majority (58%) of people who move to start a business are more likely to report an improvement in their work/life balance, and a similar proportion (57%) say they are more fulfilled than they were before moving.

We can’t neglect the importance of looking at opportunities for self-development – a key benefit of entrepreneurship, and something that many expats living in London remark on. Here, expats are particularly likely to comment on the benefit they’ve had from learning new skills, more so than any other location (64% compared with the global average of 43%).

So we see that for many expats, these locations can quite literally offer the best of all worlds – be it a stable economy, positive political landscape or opportunities to network or develop new skills. If you were choosing a location to start a business, where would you choose? Let us know your top tips for expat entrepreneurs in the comment box below! 

Discover more about the best places to live and work abroad. Visit the HSBC Expat Explorer tool to browse the 2015 survey data and see how different countries compare.

Find practical information, resources and guides about setting up your own business abroad with HSBC Global Connections.


Wednesday, 23 September 2015

One global survey, 22,000 expats and a whole lot of views about life abroad... The HSBC Expat Explorer survey results are out!

Living abroad can be exciting, challenging and occasionally daunting. There are many questions to ask before you go: what is it really like to live abroad? Where are the best places for my family to grow and develop? Where should I go to find fulfilling work, or develop my career?

These are big questions, and in our eighth annual study we heard from over 20,000 of you – our largest survey yet – about all of these things, and exactly what it’s like to live abroad.

This year’s HSBC Expat Explorer survey covered everything about expat life, from the most popular destinations for the career-minded to getting your finances straight; from finding the best lifestyles abroad to helping your children to adjust.

You’ll be hearing lots more from us on this in the next few weeks – but in the meantime, here’s a flavour of the places that top our league tables for expat life in 2015 and why they made it to number one.

Singapore is number 1 for a balanced life abroad

This year Singapore ranks first overall for a brilliant, all-around expatlife. As well as benefitting from increased earnings, expats living there praise the opportunities for career development and share their optimism about the local economy. But it’s not just a case of career and financial rewards. Expats also say they’re enjoying better physical health and feel safer in their environment since making the jump. Singapore is a big winner with expat families too, with three in five expat parents saying their children’s health and wellbeing has improved since moving.

Switzerland attracts career-driven expats

When it comes to finding career success and financial wellbeing, Switzerland is the clear winner, taking the top spot in our Economics league table this year. Over three quarters of expats there feel confident about the local economy and more than half say that it’s a good place to progress their career. The results also show that over half of the expats in Switzerland find work to be more enjoyable and satisfying compared to their home country. Combined with other perks like more disposable income, higher salaries and being able to save more, Switzerland’s benefits for career driven expats are very clear.

 New Zealand – The best place for experiences abroad

With its beautiful scenery and relaxed atmosphere, it’s no surprise to see New Zealand leading the way for a fantastic expat experience this year. Expats there say they find it particularly easy to settle into the way of life, with one in three feeling at home instantly or within six months. The country’s great outdoors is a particular draw: over half of those living there say they’ve become more physically active since relocating.

Sweden is the most family friendly country in 2015

Sweden, a new addition to this year’s league tables, takes the top spot for expat family lifeExpat parents in Sweden praise the childcare available – particularly saying that it’s easy to arrange their children’s education and at lower costs. A great number of parents also say that their children’s quality of life has improved since moving. What’s more, Sweden has a lot to offer to single expats looking to settle down or start a family: our survey reveals that two in five have found a long term partner in the Scandinavian country.  

Browse the 2015 survey results and see how different countries compare using the ExpatExplorer tool.

We’d also like to give a big shout out to all of you who shared their views and experiences with us this year. Thank you for taking part in the 2015 Expat Explorer survey!



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