Monday, 9 May 2016

The Road to Local: Nine Nearly-Native Expat Moments

Settling into a new life abroad is one thing, but for some it’s a case of shedding the expat label altogether and making like a true local. In our 2015 Expat Explorer survey, almost one third (31%) say they felt at home within six months of moving. For others the transition takes a little more time, or may never come: one fifth (20%) say they think they will always feel like an expat.

Bahrain tops the list of places where expats are most likely to settle fastest, with 47% of expats reporting that they felt at home within six months, followed by Malaysia (43%), Mexico (42%), Russia (41%) and Thailand (38%). Expats agreed that certain milestones such as forging new friendships, getting involved with the local community and knowing that their families were enjoying life abroad all played a key role in helping them feel a strong connection with their new home.

In Bahrain for example, over half (51%) of the expats we spoke to say that making friends or developing their social lives plays the biggest part in helping them to feel a like a local. Whereas two in five (43%) expats in Malaysia say that it’s starting to understand the local culture and etiquette.

We’ve asked our expat network to share with us the times when they felt as though they were on the road to becoming a local - here are our favourite nearly-native moments:

  1. You’re fluent in the local language
The first time that you manage to hold a conversation or realise that you’ve been dreaming in the local language is an important first step. Almost one third (28%) of expats in the Expat Explorer survey say that successfully using the local language made them feel a strong connection with their new country.

“Insist others speak to you in Dutch when you're learning the language. Most are fluent in English and they love to talk to you in your own language rather than drop the level of communication to your learning level.” – UK expat in the Netherlands

  1. You’re becoming a foodie in your new country
Over half (58%) of expats in the 2015 Expat Explorer survey said that they enjoy eating and cooking the local cuisine in their new country. While it might have taken you a while to try some of the more adventurous dishes – you’re now finally there. And the comfort food you craved from home has been replaced by local delicacies.

  1. Cultural quirks start to feel normal
Two in five (38%) said that understanding the local culture and etiquette played the biggest part in helping them to feel like they belonged. These little quirks will vary wherever you are but a little research can go a long way; whether that’s understanding exactly when to use the ‘bisous’ greeting in France, or knowing that a burp during a meal in Hong Kong is considered by locals to be a sign of appreciation.

“Immerse yourself in the culture and don't be afraid to step out of the expat corner - enjoy sharing your experience with locals.” – UK expat in China

  1. You know exactly how to navigate the local transport
The metro arrives and it’s completely packed. Rather than wait for the next train you get on without a second thought. Becoming a local is more than just managing to find a space; it’s knowing where to stand on the platform or being able to navigate your new home without having to read the signs.

“Take advantage of the excellent public transit to see the whole of the UK. It's teeny tiny compared to Canada; you can do it! In particular, Scotland is amazingly beautiful the farther north you go. The Isle of Skye is a big favourite.” – Canadian expat in the UK

  1. You can give as good as you get with the locals
You have no hesitation bantering with the locals and being able to order a coffee using the same casual shorthand as the natives means that you fit right in. This can lead to making new friends too: over half (51%) of expats we spoke to in our survey said that making friends and/or developing their social life played a key role in helping them to feel settled.

“When you get there, accept every invitation even if it's for something you would never normally do. It helps you get a social life as quickly as possible, and also get the most out of moving to a new country.” – UK expat in Bermuda

  1. You know what to do when the unexpected happens
The ability to deal with whatever comes your way is a definite sign that you’re well on your way to becoming native; be it your social plans going unexpectedly awry or a communication victory during a meeting. In our survey, one fifth (20%) of expats said performing well in a strange or unusual situation at work was when they started to feel like a local.

  1. You defend the things that annoyed you to start with
Sometimes these little things can grow on us: whether that’s getting used to eating an unusual breakfast, like tofu in Japan, or having to walk a really long way to change tubes on the London Underground. And once we’ve understood and embraced them, they can play a big part in helping us feel as though we belong.

  1. You really know your way around
One in five (19%) expats said that when someone asked them for directions and they could help, it was a defining moment which helped them to feel a connection with their new country. And when you take out-of-town friends to see the local gems rather than the tourist hotspots, you realise you know the place far better than you think.

“Park your car somewhere and start to walk. You will be amazed at what you'll discover.” – New Zealand expat in Jersey

  1. When you go home, and you’re homesick
You return to visit your native country and feel homesick for your new country. Each time you go back, your family and friends comment that you’ve ‘picked up an accent’; and sitting on the plane flying back after the visit you find yourself looking forward to getting ‘home’.

When did you first start to feel like a local? Share your nearly native moments with us on Twitter (@expatexplorer) or on Facebook (HSBC Expat).


Discover more shortcuts to becoming a true local with the HSBC Expat Explorer Country Guides and Hints & Tips. Visit the Expat Explorer hub to find out more: https://expatexplorer.hsbc.com/

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Five things for expats to consider when buying a property to let in the UK

Becoming an expat opens up many new avenues but one way that life is almost certain to change is from a financial perspective. A move abroad therefore often means a whole new approach to managing your personal finances. In our 2015 Expat Explorer survey, over half (52%) of those surveyed say that they are now able to save more money than they did at home. We know that people save for a variety of different reasons and, for many it’s often about raising the funds to secure a property.

 For expats it can be more difficult to secure a mortgage while living overseas. However, that shouldn’t mean getting onto the property ladder is out of the question. Buy-to-let is one option for expats but there is a lot to consider. From costs to location and the practicalities of managing the property, plus the taxes and fees you will need to navigate. Buying a property is one of the most significant financial commitments you’re likely to make so it’s important to be as informed as possible.

1. Why buy to let?

Buy-to-let could be an option for many expats to get a foot on the UK property ladder. 

“It can be worth keeping your UK house in case the expat lifestyle doesn't turn out the way you’d expected.” – UK expat in Cyprus
The UK has seen gradual growth in buy-to-let over the last ten years, which has coincided with house price growth outpacing income growth, and an evolving mortgage market. This has gathered pace in recent months, with the Council of Mortgage Lenders reporting a 22% year-on-year increase in the number of loans taken out by landlords in January 2016[1], ahead of tax changes. From April 1 2016, people buying second properties above £40,000 will face a three percentage point stamp duty increase on current rates. Getting up to speed on the rental landscape and understanding key developments in law and regulation is vital for would-be landlords.

2. Do your research
Start with some thought about what’s right for you, research on the rental landscape, and the type of property you may want to buy. The National Landlords Association is a good place to start to find out more about the different things you’ll need to consider.
You’ll also need to think about the sort of tenant you may want to attract and what their requirements will be. For example, if you’re planning to rent a property to students, they will have a different set of needs to professionals. Think ahead so that you can shape your property search accordingly.

“Pay attention to property: it can be worth keeping a home of your own in both your home and host countries. Only sell in the UK if you feel you have to, or if the house prices in your area are on a downward trend. It could be worth employing a management company for your rented home in the UK.” – UK expat in Spain
3. Location, location, location

Finding the right buy-to-let property is different to choosing a new home for yourself. Try to avoid letting personal taste cloud your judgement, and look instead at the market requirements .

Spend some time looking at the local area for recent or planned developments which could impact on the property. Think about other elements that could be attractive to renters such as proximity to shops, leisure facilities and transport links.

“It’s important to focus on locations where rents have outpaced house prices,” says Tracie Pearce, head of mortgages at HSBC. “This means not just looking at large towns and cities, but also at commuter areas, and those with high rental demand and concentrated employment nearby.” 


 4. Navigating costs, taxes and fees

There are many financial implications of becoming a landlord but it is important to be aware upfront of the costs you will encounter, and to consider whether these will be offset by the financial return that you are likely to see.

A 2015 study put the average total cost of a UK buy-to-let property at £8,359, including the cost of fees, maintenance, letting agents and repairs. The same study showed that many landlords were significantly underestimating this cost, with more than half failing to factor in any sort of repair costs to their budget[2].  

In addition to running costs for the property, you will also need to be aware of the different sorts of taxes you’re likely to encounter. In the UK, this will include Stamp Duty Land Tax, Income Tax and Capital Gains Tax.

There’s also the question of property value and fluctuation in the market which could impact house prices in the region that you buy. Consult property websites for information on how prices change across different locations or recent trends in price rises or drops.

5. Becoming a landlord

Managing a property from overseas can be complicated so you could consider using a third party letting agent. For a fee (usually between 5 and 15% of rental income), agents can handle things like tenant selection and referencing, rent collection and property management.

In the UK, landlords are required by law to keep the property safe, meet reasonable tenant requests like occasional redecoration, maintenance and improvements to energy efficiency. Tenants will need to pay agreed rent and bills, allow access for repairs and to ensure the property is properly cared for.

Organisations such as the Association of Residential Letting Agents and the UK Association of Letting Agents can provide more information about the accreditation or licences you may need to secure.  

You should always think carefully before purchasing a buy-to-let property. The value of a property can fluctuate, and not all properties will grow in value or provide sufficient income to cover all your associated costs. You will be responsible for your costs even if you do not have a tenant. Property can also be difficult to sell quickly if you need to do so.

The content for this article has been inspired by HSBC Expat’s guide on buying to let in the UK which was written by a team of contributors with experience in property and finance. If you’re looking for more information, you can find more detail in HSBC Expat’s guide to buying to let in the UK

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Climbing the expat career ladder: the best places to work abroad

Take part in our 2016 Expat Explorer survey here.

Moving abroad can change your life in a number of ways, particularly when starting a new job. New offices, new colleagues, a new environment and a new work culture; the list of things to consider is endless.  There may be challenges along the way, but often these bring their own rewards:

“The work is hard, the hours are long and the pace is crazy, but I have loved adapting to the culture and understanding the difference in approach to different tasks.” –UK expat in Hong Kong


Our 2015 Expat Explorer Survey asked over 20,000 expats about different aspects of life abroad, including careers and the best places in the world to work. Based on the responses, we have compiled the top destinations for expat careers and created a new tool to help expats find the best places to flourish. 


At the top of the ranks is Switzerland, where expats comment on enjoying an excellent work culture coupled with strong levels of job security. Notably, almost two-thirds of expats say the country offers higher salaries than at home – perfect for expats looking to increase their pay packet whilst enjoying and adapting to a new professional culture.

“Switzerland offers a great work/life balance – it feels like a proper break when I leave work on a Friday” – British expat Switzerland

Europe stood tall among the rest of the world in the rankings, with Sweden and Germany taking second and third place respectively.

Sweden led the way on work/life balance, with the highest number of expats reporting an improvement compared to their home country. A report released by the Swedish Institute reinforces this principle. ‘The Swedish Approach to Fairness’[1] highlights several ways in which the country’s welfare system is geared towards encouraging a balanced lifestyle, notably through generous parental leave and equality at work.

Europe ranks one of the top places for job security – with four of the five of the top countries located on the continent. Expats in Germany say they feel secure in their role following their move abroad. This is to be expected considering Germany is the fourth-largest economy in the world – a thriving source of innovation that dominates European economics.

“Life is Germany is exciting and interesting, opening up new possibilities and opportunities” – British expat in Germany

Countries from Asia and the Middle-East rank from fifth through to ninth place – led by Singapore and followed closely by the UAE, Bahrain, Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia. These countries offer an appealing combination of strong earnings prospects and sought-after benefit packages. Over two-thirds of expats in Qatar earn more than they did at home, and nearly every expat in Saudi Arabia receives at least one benefit from their employer. Expats in the Middle East are also encouraged to visit friends and family back home, with twice as many (67%) in the region receiving airfare allowances in comparison to the global average (33%).



“A great opportunity for growth and challenges” – Australian expat in Qatar

At fourth place in our league table is Russia, where sixty-two percent of expats said there is a better opportunity to acquire new skills and find more fulfilling work. Over two thirds (69%) said they found it easy to form new friendships since moving to Russia, which can help a new country feel more like home both professionally and personally. 


Did you agree with our 2015 careers ranking? Have your say in next year’s results by sharing your views in our 2016 Expat Explorer survey today: https://start.yougov.com/refer/vysfh7HYcJdChF?&source=1 

The Expat Explorer survey, now in its eighth year, is the world's largest independent global expat survey. Commissioned by HSBC Expat and conducted by a third party research company YouGov, 21,950 expats based in over 100 countries were questioned between March and May 2015. In order to be included, each country had to reach a minimum sample size of 100 expat respondents.


This information does not constitute advice and no liability is accepted to recipients acting independently on its contents. The views expressed are not the views of HSBC and are subject to change.


Tuesday, 22 December 2015

An expat Christmas: festive family traditions

When a family embarks on their expat adventure, the move shakes up their lives. With a new location comes a new language, food, culture and weather. And as a result traditions a family once knew may change. A well-established habit of staying in with close family on the 25th can suddenly turn into a day for visiting friends and entertaining well-wishers. When we asked our community which customs they’d discovered and incorporated into their own celebrations, the responses highlighted many delightful customs from around the world. 

Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market)

For expats new to Christmas in Germany the fabulously festive street markets can become an essential part of the season. This age-old tradition has been popular since the days of the Holy Roman Empire[1]. Weihnachtsmarkt gives shoppers the opportunity to purchase handmade crafts for their loved ones from quaint but well decorated stalls. While basking in the lights that many of the major markets are known for, patrons can treat themselves to sizzling bratwurst sausages, soft gingerbread cookies (Lebkuchen) and warm mulled wine (Gl├╝hwein) to stave off the winter chill.

Dana Newman - @WantedAdventure
O (Canadian) Christmas tree

With locations like Reindeer Station, Christmas Island, Sled Lake, Holly, Turkey Point and Snowflake it might well feel like it’s always Christmas in some corners of Canada. But when the season is in full swing Canadians go big with their trees. Instead of buying artificial firs, families drive out to tree farms and collect their timber directly from the forest. When surrounded by other towering trees in the forest, the trees can look a lot smaller than they are. It’s often not until the last bauble is up that people discover their mighty Douglas fir is not the little sapling they thought it was.

Flickr - Steven Depolo
Tropical Christmas trees

From the snowy winter wonderland that is Canada to humid subcontinent of India, the festivities bear some core similarities but take on a new form in a different climate. As the types of trees available during the celebrations are more tropical, families decorate mango and banana trees in place of firs and pines. And even though December is one of the coldest months of the year in India, expats are unlikely to see striking Christmas jumper patterns dotted about, as temperatures are still around 20 degrees. 

Google Images - Pixabay
Stir It Up Sunday

Christmas comes to a very sweet end in the UK as families wrap up the festivities with a hearty pudding. The dessert, which is made up of dried fruits, suet, cinnamon, nutmeg cloves and ginger, is aged for at least a month before it’s served. The deadline for this process is called Stir It Up Sunday. On this day families gather in the kitchen so each member can take their turn to stir the pudding and make a wish for the year ahead. Some people even plant a coin within the mixture as it is said to bring good luck to the person that finds it. The pudding is doused with brandy set alight before being presented to the table. 

Flickr - James Petts
Risalamande

A British expat relocating to Sweden will see their Christmas pudding take on a different form, as Risalamande. After enjoying the delights of a Smorgasbord, a rich creamy vanilla rice pudding with chopped almonds and cold cherry sauce is served. Although the dish doesn’t need to be prepared nearly as early as a British pudding, it is not uncommon to make a large batch a couple days ahead of the big day. In this scenario the coin is replaced by a whole almond and the lucky person to find it wins a small prize. By concealing the discovery for as long as possible a host can get their guests to eat through more - if not all - of the dessert. 

Flickr - Pille

As you prepare for the holiday season, have you noticed any new traditions that you’ve taken on since embarking on your expat adventure? Leave us a comment below or tweet us @expatexplorer


[1] http://www.xmas-markets.org/category/germany-christmas-markets/

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Making the most of your expat finances: five things to know before you go

The decision to move abroad is one which brings with it many considerations and opportunities for everyone involved; whether you’re flying solo or taking your family and partner along for the ride. There’s no doubt that it’ll be an adventure, but it’s also likely to mean some important changes for the way that you run your life, especially when it comes to your personal finances.

In the 2015 Expat Explorer survey, over 22,000 expats globally who shared their views on almost every aspect of life abroad. And a great number noted the intricacies of managing their money while living abroad, underlining the fact that a new life in a new country can often mean a new set of challenges when it comes to money.

Among this group, nearly three quarters (74%) agree that they find their finances more complex than they did at home. Some of the most common challenges experienced by these expats include dealing with multiple currencies (37%), navigating a more complicated tax situation (27%) and moving money between countries (22%).

Given these challenges, how could you approach your finances? And, above all, what do you need to know before you make the move?

To help answer these questions, and support you in getting the most from your experience abroad, we’ve put together a list of important things to know about your expat finances – sparked from tips shared by real-life expats on our Hints & Tips page.

Whether you’re about to leave or you’ve just arrived, here are five important things to consider when it comes to managing your money as an expat:


1. Plan ahead
 
Expat in United Arab Emirates

As this expat notes, it is hard to overestimate the importance of preparation and planning before you move, especially when it comes to completing the right paperwork at the right time. Before you go, remember to consider for any unforeseen eventualities, such as an accident, legal trouble or unexpected repairs, as well as any arrangements that need to be made in the country you are leaving behind.

Are there any running costs at home that still need covering after you have left? Which companies and authorities should you inform of your move? Is there someone who you can trust to give copies of important documents for safekeeping? Who can inform you of anything important that may require you to take action? Make sure you remember to update these people if your contact details in your new home change, as they so often do.

2. Balance your new income and your new outgoings

 
Expat in Bahrain

Monitoring your income and expenses may seem like an obvious rule of adult life, no matter where you are. But it can be something that’s easily overlooked when we’re busy and under pressure – so take the time to think about this in your new home and be mindful of the things which might differ from what you’re used to.

For instance, living in a hot or tropical country will probably drive up your electricity bill due to a need for air conditioning or fans. Similarly you may find yourself driving a car significantly more depending on the availability of public transport and your new day-to-day routine. So fuel costs and regular maintenance would need to be considered. A high gross salary can also diminish when tax payments are factored in. But high rent may be offset by lower utility costs.

Think about the future and how you might want to spend your money. Will it be a case of investing it as savings, supporting your current lifestyle or a combination of both? Setting your expectations from the outset and doing your research will make it much easier to gauge how your new income and outgoings stack up against your finances at home.

It’s often worth contacting locals or other expats to get a realistic assessment of what running costs you should expect. If you’re moving abroad with your employer they should be well-placed to help you with this too. Based on this information, you can then make a solid financial plan to help you to find the right balance between your standard of living and savings goals.

3. Move money swiftly

Expat in Canada

Depending on how long-term your move will be, maintaining accounts and investments in your country of origin may be important. Also, if you still have family and friends “back home” you might need to make occasional payments to them. When you’re considering which banking arrangement is right for you, look at what is going on at home and think ahead. Will you only be making the occasional transfer or do you expect to be moving larger amounts like mortgage payments and school fees between borders on a fairly regular basis? Seek guidance on any restrictions regarding frequency and the sum of outgoing and incoming payments in all countries that you will be making payments to and from. Ask a financial expert with experience in expatriate finances about which setup will be best suited to your needs – especially if you’re planning to travel and move fairly frequently.

4. Familiarise yourself with the regulations and requirements

Expat in Italy

Even if you have lived in a country for many years, speak the language fluently and know your way around, tax regulations and requirements can be confusing. This feeling can be exacerbated in a new country, especially as you may well be required to submit a tax return both in your “home” and new countries. But understanding where and how your earnings need to be reported, which taxes to expect and how to manage their impact on your finances, is crucial to wealth management. This should play a vital role in your financial planning before you move and in negotiations regarding your expat package. So seek information about your new country’s taxation system as early as possible in order to be well prepared for your negotiations.

5. Plan your saving and investments – in multiple currencies

Expat in Turkey

Earning in a different currency than you are saving or investing in could make financial planning complex. It can be hard to predict how currency fluctuations might affect your savings, especially when it comes to things like pensions. Again, a trusted adviser may be able to assist you in deciding which currency is likely to give you the best return on investment and the most security.

Small elements of your living costs can compound to make a significant dent in your budget and potential savings; so speak to your employer and don’t be afraid to negotiate when it comes to your expat package and salary.

You may also want to explore with your employer the option to receive your salary in the currency that makes things easier for you, e.g. your “home” currency, rather than the local currency. Or it could be a case of having the flexibility to access your money in several currencies. Your savings and investments may also be impacted by a weaker or stronger currency or exchange rate in your new home, so it’s worth checking back with your financial planner regularly and staying as informed as possible when it comes to the local rates.


What’s your top tip for managing your finances as an expat? Share your views with others using our Hints & Tips tool.


All rankings, figures and quotes are from HSBC's Expat Explorer survey.   The Expat Explorer survey, now in its eighth year, is the world's largest independent global expat survey. Commissioned by HSBC Expat and conducted by a third party research company YouGov, 21,950 expats based in over 100 countries were questioned between March and May 2015. In order to be included, each country had to reach a minimum sample size of 100 expat respondents.



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.

Wasta

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

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