Monday, 15 September 2014

Finding your local cuisine in London

Our latest guest blogger, Steph Hutchinson, shares her tips on finding your local cuisine in London as an expat…

Whilst one of the joys of living in a new country is getting to experience the local food, every now and again it can be very comforting to indulge in a meal that reminds you of home. For expats like me living in London, tracking down somewhere that serves home cuisine is not a particularly challenging task, especially once you know where to look (it’s probably easier than finding a restaurant serving bangers and mash). To help those of you with homesick stomachs, I’ve created a guide to some of many international cuisine hotspots I’ve come across since living in London:

Brixton is particularly known for its Afro-Caribbean food, including the low-key but delicious Eritrean Asmara (famous for its traditional coffee), popular jerk-chicken takeaway Refill and legendary Caribbean restaurant Negril. However, in recent years it has become a haven for all cuisines, with the very popular no-reservations Neapolitan restaurant Franco Manca, Osakan Okan and the cheap and authentic Thai KaoSarn. Wander round Brixton Village and you’ll be spoilt for choice.
 Image source: Flickr/ itsbruce

Brick Lane:
Famous for its Indian restaurants, the difficulty with Brick Lane is often deciding which one to go to! Do some research beforehand or have a wander and see which takes your fancy – however, don’t be pressurised by the people outside the restaurants trying to tempt you in! Also keep an eye out for Beigel Bake which does some of the best bagels in London and, a few minutes’ walk from Brick Lane in Whitechapel, the much-loved Tayyabs (be prepared for a bit of a wait). Finally, as a Canadian, I have to recommend poutine purveyor The Poutinerie for all Canucks missing home – their stall is currently located in Brick Lane Food Market! 

Image source: Flickr/ James Cridland
There are few cuisines you can’t find in higgledy-piggledy streets of Soho: goulash galore at the Hungarian restaurant The Gay Hussar, Lebanese street food at Yalla Yalla, udon noodles at Japanese Koya and Italian restaurants left, right and centre. The stalls at Berwick Street Market serve a world of street food and you’ll also find an overflow of Chinese restaurants from nearby Chinatown. However, as an expat I have developed a taste for British cuisine and perhaps my favourite restaurant in London is 10 Greek Street for classic British fare done right.

Image source: Wikimedia/Spolloman
These are just a smattering of the many restaurants, cafes and street food stalls serving international food in London. 

About the author:
Steph Hutchinson has lived in London for nearly three years but is originally from Toronto, Canada. She misses her family, friends and the outdoor lifestyle and pursuits back home, but certainly doesn’t miss the winter weather.  London is a hotspot of activity and Steph never fails to find something fun to do – day or night, Monday or Saturday.  Often found eating her way through Brixton Village, it’s hard to imagine returning to the great north anytime soon (except for visits of course!).

Are you an expat living in London? Let us know your favourite places in London serving your home cuisine by tweeting us @expatexplorer 

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.

Friday, 12 September 2014

“I’m off!” – How to tell people that you’re moving abroad

So… you’ve decided that you are going to make the move abroad. You’ve been thinking about it for a while, but now you’re actually going, and that means you have to tell everybody…

While every situation is different, and should be approached as such, there are some key points that everyone should bear in mind when breaking the news.

Image source: Flickr/ Latente

Plant the seed

Don’t just drop the ‘I’m moving’ bomb two days before you head to the airport. As soon as you start thinking about moving abroad, tell your family and friends. Keep them updated on where you are with the planning process, and get them involved wherever possible so that they don’t feel cut off. Having someone to help you do the research and planning will be useful too, so ask for their input wherever you can! 

You’re coming with us

This isn’t just something to bear in mind for those you are leaving behind, and in fact, it is even more important for those you are taking with you. If you are moving with a family, breaking the news to children can be difficult, so keeping them involved and excited is crucial. With young children, get them to think about how they would like to decorate their new room and plan some fun excursions for them to look forward to. For older children who are more settled, encourage them to talk to you about any concerns they might have, and ask them for their input on schooling. These small gestures will show them that you care and are considering their future, as well as your own.

I’ll be back…

Although you never know what the future holds, the idea of ‘forever’ can be a bit too daunting for those close to you. Unless you’re certain you’ll never move back, it may be worth presenting your move as something a little less permanent. Say that you will keep in touch and vow to do so – put a recurring invite in the diary for you both to catch up and tell them when you next expect to be coming home so they have something to look forward to.  

It’s not you…it’s me

You may not be breaking up with everyone you tell, but you’ll be surprised at how emotional some people will get. Ensure that they know your decision to move abroad is about you, not them, and that you will miss them. The reality is – you will.  Ensuring that they know how much they mean to you and keeping your support network close will be crucial as you make the transition.

Stay positive

While your friends and family will be happy for you, they might also be concerned. Remember that if they seem slightly less than ecstatic, it is just because they care. Make sure you stay positive when telling them and let them see how excited you are about the opportunity. Have answers to all the questions they might ask ready (the “Why nows?” and “What ifs?”) and make it clear that you are not jumping the gun and have really thought about the implications of moving abroad.

Do you have any top tips for breaking the news that you’re moving? Let us know – by commenting below or tweeting @expatexplorer!

Thursday, 11 September 2014

The highs and lows of expat life

Moving abroad is a huge change, and with this change will come ups and downs. Yes – moving abroad is likely to be one of the most enriching experiences you will ever have, but it can be difficult too, and as an expat you must be prepared for the bad times, as well as the good.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Being treated like a foreigner
Initially, the idea of being a foreigner can seem quite fun – you feel exotic, different, and people are interested in you…but after a while the novelty can wear off. It can become tiresome when people assume you don’t know what you are doing, charge you the tourist prices, and ask you to pronounce words for them (and then laugh when you do). But…as you get more and more settled in your new home – prove to yourself that you are no longer a tourist by knowing the shortcuts through the city, being able to cook the local dishes, and embracing locals as old friends. If you think of yourself as a local, soon other people will too.

Missing friends and feeling
Leaving family and friends behind is always going to be part and parcel of moving abroad – but this doesn’t make it any easier. You have to come to terms with the fact that you will not be there for some birthdays, graduations and weddings and that life back home will have to go on without you. When you are having a bad day all you will want is to see a familiar face, and even in some of your best moments you might find yourself saddened by the fact that your loved ones are not there to share in the experience. But in these moments, find other ways to connect with them. Take photos or write a blog about your experiences for those at home to read. And remember, distance really isn’t as much of an issue as it used to be. Your family and friends are only a flight away, and nowadays you can hear their voices and see their faces at the push of a button.

 “No comprendo…”
If you move to a country where they speak a different language, and you are not fluent, then you can feel quite isolated. You will find it difficult to have genuine conversations and feel close to anyone if your vocabulary is limited to asking for the bill, and there is nothing more frustrating than being unable to communicate even the simplest things. But  when you make mistakes try to see the funny side, and use your frustration as positive motivation to learn more of the local language.

It’s worth it!
Any expat should expect to have some bad days, and this is totally normal, but settling in takes time. Soon the highs (the travel! the people! the memories!) will far outweigh the lows. Think of expat life as having a spring clean of your wardrobe – it has to get worse for it to get better. Yes, expat life can be chaotic, disorganised and difficult, but the more you commit to it and the more time goes on, the better it gets!

What have been your highs and lows of expat life? Let us know – by commenting below or tweeting @expatexplorer!

Friday, 5 September 2014

“Food is a religion” - top tips for getting used to the American way of life

Planning a move to the United States? There's a lot to think about before you go but what about when you arrive? Getting used to a new culture and way of life can be daunting so read up as much as you can and try to make a few visits before the move. We've talked to a few of our expat friends who did exactly that - here are their best tips for landing on your feet and becoming accustomed to the American way of life.

Food is a religion
Although this isn't in any way exclusive to the States, it's fair to say that eating well (and often being faced with larger portions) is a big part of day to day life. Whether you're after Chinese, vegetarian or traditional American fare, the odds are that you'll be able to get your hands on it. If you're heading to a larger city, we’d recommend sussing out your local deli, which could turn out to be one of your new best friends - often serving fresh food in generous quantities at a good price and often open 24 hours, or at least till late. The variety on offer means that there’s only really one option: to tuck in and enjoy - just be aware that some American hosts may be affronted if you completely clear your plate, as it's considered good manners to leave a little food to show appreciation!

Image source: Creative Commons / Kostia

Get ready for work
Broadly speaking, work culture in the States is often perceived by expats (particularly those hailing for the UK) as being a little more formal than elsewhere. You may find that hierarchies are more clearly defined than what you're used to, and that there are more levels of seniority – which is good to be aware of, particularly if you’re coming from somewhere which has a flatter structure. It's also worth thinking about how this sort of culture translates to how you communicate and also how you dress for work. Some expats have told us that they found Americans much more assertive and straight-talking than their colleagues at home, but don't let it be intimidating. In the states it’s also worth sounding out the office dress code before you arrive to avoid any style faux pas. Check out more suggestions here.

Get to grips with small talk
One expat told us that one of his steepest learning curves was that people tend to talk politics and personal finance a lot - everyone has an opinion and it's a common topic of small talk. Politics, money and even culture can be uncomfortable topics in other parts of the world so remember – it takes two to be offended! Ease your way in and if you feel uncomfortable, you can always take a back seat by pleading ‘expat’..!

And one last tip...
Don't forget to leave one! Tipping is big in the States and you'll generally be regarded with disdain if you don't jump on the bandwagon. Tips form an important part of wages in the US, leaving anything less than 15% for a bartender, cab driver or even a manicurist will get you short shrift and they will often assume that you’re unhappy with the service that they’ve provided.

Are you an expat living in the United States? Share your best tips for settling in with other expats here:

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Why did you become an expat?

We’re currently analysing the results of our annual Expat Explorer survey (we’ll have the full results for you later this year!) and so far one thing really stands out: the wide variety of reasons why people choose to become expats. Whether it’s for work, to follow a partner, to find a new challenge or in pursuit of a better quality of life – the reason you’re moving will have a clear impact on your expat experience. Whatever took you there, here are a few of our top tips for getting the most from expat life while you are one!

If it’s for work…
Settling into a new country and a new routine is always a challenge – and the same goes for work culture. Your new office may look similar but and what worked at home may not be quite right for where you’re heading next. For instance: in a London office, the ability to make a good cup of tea is a big part of the culture – even more so, offering to make it for other people – regardless of how senior you might be. On a more practical level, knowing the dress code and etiquette will stand you in good stead. If you don’t know anyone in your new team, it’s a great reason to initiate contact before you head out there. Ask around your network or even tweet @expatexplorer to gather some helpful tips so that you can hit the ground running when you arrive.

If you’re following your partner or family…
Expect it to be difficult: everyone deals with change in their own way and it’s likely the move could add a little extra stress, however solid your relationship is. At its best, expat life is an adventure that you’re sharing together – and at its worst, you both have someone to reminisce with when you feel homesick and it’s important to remember you’re both in it together! One thing which shouldn’t be underestimated is the power of communication. Being able to voice concerns and talk over any problems that you’re having (either together or separately) might be difficult at the time, but being open with one another will pay off in the long term. The same goes for your family and helping children to adjust, particularly with older children: try and be balanced, take the rough with the smooth and encourage them to do the same. 

Image source: Creative Commons / Adrian Scottow

If it’s for the challenge...
You’re making exactly the right decision! Expat life is nothing if it’s not a challenge. But, as is usually the case, it’s the things which don’t come as easily that prove to be the most rewarding, exciting and exhilarating. Our advice: jump right in, say yes to as many things as you can and push yourself well and truly out of your comfort zone!

Why did you make the move abroad and what posed the biggest challenge when you got there? Let us know – tweet @expatexplorer!

Friday, 29 August 2014

What do expats miss the most?


The one thing all expats have in common is that they have left an old “home” behind to find a new one. But when it comes to listing what expats miss the most there are as many answers as there are expats; is it the northern lights from the coast of Scotland or the street food of Bangkok?  We’ve turned to our fantastic expat community to find out what expats really reminisce about when they think of home.

All expats miss their friends and family from time to time, but sometimes the most important companions are of the four legged variety.  With quarantine rules keeping pets locked away for months, deciding whether to bring your pets with you can be a major worry. Not to mention the health risks of taking animals on long haul flights and the reams of paperwork at either side.

Pixabay / RalfBeck

If you don’t think you could take the trip without your pooch, check out our guide to “pets and passports”.

“You will miss your home country food a lot so bring snacks with you”
– an expat from India living in the UAE

Our 2013 Expat Explorer survey asked thousands of expat for their tips and there was one particularly common theme – food.  As another expat living in Ireland said “Make sure you have a steady supply of food or other items you might miss from home”. Hundreds of miles away from family, expats are just a little susceptible to comfort eating, but how to get hold of some home-made grub? Mum’s pad thai is difficult replace for Thai expats living in Brazil and there are few places outside of Germany you will find the delights of sauerkraut (that’s fermented cabbage to the rest of us).

Expat Explorer guest blogger Dana Newman

That’s why you will always find expats returning from visits back home with backpacks full of sweets, suitcases of homemade meals and sometimes even boxes of peanut butter…

Queuing. Perhaps the most unusual reminiscence we’ve come across @expatexplorer, but it also reflects one of the most important – culture. Social media and the internet make staying in touch with your religious roots, finding people who speak your language and simply keeping up with your old sports team easier than ever. But what about the little things, you don’t appreciate until you make the move? Perhaps it’s the constant murmur of Bollywood tunes in New Delhi, the occasional siesta in Madrid or maybe even the great tradition of queuing in Britain.

Is there anything quirky you miss about home? Tell us @expatexplorer, but before you go, keep these inspirational words in mind from our 2013 expat explorer survey:

“Enjoy it while you're out here. There may be things or people you miss from home or even have to give up to live the 'expat' lifestyle. It's a choice you have to make. But you only live once. Make it a good one!”

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!



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