Friday, 26 June 2015

Get out and explore - How to get the most out of your experience

So you’ve moved abroad – congratulations! Perhaps you’ve now established a pattern in your new home or immersed yourself in a new routine in your new surroundings, which is great news. However, feeling a little more settled sometimes means you might start to feel the initial excitement and curiosity wearing off.  While this is good – as it means you’re feeling more at home in your new country – there’s an argument which says there’s always something new to see or experience, wherever you are and however long you’ve been there for.

Here are some top tips for breaking out of your routine and exploring your surroundings to make the most of the experience whilst you have the opportunity to do so:

There’s no shame in joining the tourists…

Once you have established where to go for life’s essentials it is easy to then stop searching for more, but there is no reason to. When you first moved to your new destination you may have enquired about which sites to see and which areas to explore but as you’ve settled you might have lost that enthusiasm.  A way to snap out of your routine is with the help of a guide book. Committing to see the sites listed in a guide book is an amazing way to ensure you make the most of your surroundings.

….But don’t be afraid to stray from the beaten path!

When you’ve gotten more experience at moving around your new city you may want to be a bit more adventurous and search for some hidden gems. One advantage of moving away from the long lines of the recognisable tourist sites is that the places you uncover by chance are as equally interesting and (very often) less costly or crowded. Asking your colleagues or other ‘natives’ for their top recommendations of things to see and do is a great way to start – be it new shows to attend, restaurants to eat at or walks to take. 

Flickr - Toshlo


Remembering what you know can help to open new doors

During a move abroad there’s a lot to think about and some things can get left behind by mistake – particularly old hobbies or pastimes.
The good news is that you’ll quite often find new things which can fill that gap – and discovering new local sports is one example.  Whether that’s cricket in Australia, netball in the UK or hockey in Canada watching or even participating in the sports local to the country that you are in can open up a whole new conversation amongst colleagues.

Culinary expats might at first find it frustrating that they are unable to locate all of the things that they need to cook the meals that they enjoyed in their home country. The solution to this could be going to a local cooking class, to learn new recipes, discover new spices around you and even fuse the cuisines of your home country and your new country to create something new, unique and reflective of your experiences. Perusing your interests abroad, be it sport or cooking, can help you establish new friendships and above all help you to explore your new country in a different way.

Flickr - Matt365230

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

5 Things only an Expat in Germany Will Know

If you’re moving anywhere new, it’s unlikely to be a walk in the park – and it can be easy to underestimate the colossal length of the organisational checklist that comes with relocating abroad. Sometimes you just can’t prepare for everything, and you’ll wish you’d known some of the things before you got there! So with a little help from some fellow expats, we’ve put together a quick guide to help your transition to Germany go without a hitch.

Suss out the costs
Something that may either seem obvious or not even cross your mind at all is the salary to cost of living ratio. Food shopping may cost more or less than at home, housing won’t cost the same, transport won’t be the same. All of these things add up to make a big difference: without doing your research it may turn out that you have far less (or far more!) money left over at the end of the month than you first presumed, so be prepared and don’t allow anything to take you by surprise. 


Creative Commons/Pixabay


Plan ahead

Don’t assume anything as a given and check before you move. You’re going to need time to visit banks and schools so make sure your employer (if you’ve already secured a job) is willing to give you time to do these little important errands when you first arrive. A lot of banks in Germany aren’t open on weekends so you may need to free up a morning here or there to sort out your ‘life-min’. If you haven’t already found a job, make sure you look into the qualifications required in your field of choice since not all employers will accept a foreign degree!

Steering towards a successful transition
Another little detail that might be easily overlooked when moving to abroad is the acquisition of foreign formal documents like a driver’s license. If you have a driver’s license from your home country – it can be exchanged for a German license during the first few months of your residency, but this time period depends on where you’re coming from. Some countries (and US States) have less comprehensive agreements with the German authorities so it can be a little more complicated so make sure you check this in advance! If you do not follow the necessary procedures to exchange your home license, you may end up having to do the full driver’s course which is time consuming and very expensive.
Creative Commons/Pixabay

Learning the lingo will go a long way
It may seem a little obvious, but learning the German language as a means of integration really is an important tool. If the locals identify the fact that you are making an effort to communicative via their native tongue then they will actively help you to develop your understanding of the language whilst it will also help you to gain their respect: a good way to start is to take into account that you’ll need to adapt to your new country, don’t expect it to adapt to you! Current expats suggest on our Hints & Tips pages that you start off small, even something as simple as buying your groceries at the local shop in German, build up a relationship with the clerk until you’re in a position where you actually refuse to speak in English. Challenging yourself will go a long way!


Avoiding the bubble
A phrase that pops up regularly in tips from our expat friends as something to avoid, is the ‘Expat Ghetto’ Syndrome – perhaps more widely known as the ‘expat bubble’. I’m sure you can imagine where this is going, but it really is important that once you arrive and settle in Germany, you don’t shy away from submerging yourself into the local community. We know that it’s far easier to meet fellow expats who are in the same boat as you and speak the same language, but no great adventure ever started by taking the easy route. Get involved in local charity work, invite your neighbours over for a barbecue, don’t avoid the community – be the community. In the style of Robert Frost, take the path less travelled by and throw your prejudice aside.  

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Six Celebrations of Father’s Day

Father’s Day is a much-loved tradition around the world celebrating the father figure, and often involves the giving of cards and presents on a particular day.  However, certain countries have more specific customs and traditions that take place on Father’s Day.  Here’s six ways of celebrating Father’s Day wherever you are.

The UK

Father’s Day in the UK is coming up this Sunday 21st June.  Occurring on the same day as Summer Solstice, some historians believe that Father’s Day in the UK originated from the Pagan worshipping of the Sun.  The event is traditionally celebrated with the quintessential British meal – the Sunday roast, which is usually eaten in a local pub or at home.  Typical Father’s Day gifts given in the UK are stereotypical ‘Dad’ presents – ties, socks and mugs!

Image Source: Creative Commons / Wikipedia
Thailand

In Thailand, the date of Father’s Day is determined by the monarchy – the birthday of the present king is also the day on which Father’s Day is celebrated.  Currently, this is December 5th.  Some Thai families also light a white candle on Father’s Day in respect of the King of Thailand.  As a colour which symbolises masculinity in Thailand, yellow is worn by children and grandchildren on Father’s Day, and Canna flowers (which are considered to be masculine) are presented as gifts.  

Image Source: Creative Commons / Wikimedia
Spain

As with many other Christian countries, Father’s Day in Spain is celebrated on St Joseph’s Day.  Like most other celebrations in Spain, Father’s Day is marked by a huge feast of traditional Spanish cuisine and lots of dancing.  With this, the Las Fallas festival takes place in Valencia at the same time as Father’s Day (to celebrate St Joseph’s Day), which brings communities onto the streets of Valencia for displays of gunpowder explosions and late-night dancing.   

Germany

In Germany, Father’s Day, or ‘Vatertag’, is celebrated on a Thursday around a month after Easter, and follows the tradition of ‘Männertag’ (Man’s Day), which dates back to the middle ages.  Historically, this day was celebrated by a male only hike, which was enjoyed along with wagons filled of traditional German foods, beer and wine.  In modern times, German men take over beer gardens in and around the city, and go on long afternoon walks with their children.  

Image Source: Creative Commons / Wikimedia
Mexico

Like most other countries, Father’s Day is celebrated in Mexico with a feast of traditional cuisine.  However, if you are in Mexico City on Father’s Day, you will be expected to take part in a city-wide 21 kilometre race in the local national park, Bosque de Tlalpan!

New Zealand

In New Zealand, Father’s Day is celebrated on the first Sunday in September annually.  In New Zealand, spending quality time with your father is the most important thing, regardless of the activity.  However, adventure sports and picnics are among the most popular activities with New Zealand’s outdoor-loving inhabitants – a failsafe way to celebrate with the whole family

For those expats spending Father’s Day away from home, here’s some advice on keeping in touch with loved ones overseas.   




Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Summer Solstice – Celebrations around the world

All around the world, you’ll find different countries are celebrating the Summer Solstice in a number of weird and wonderful ways. With the 21st of June just around the corner, the long night of celebrations is a fantastic way to get to know your new hosts’ culture. Here are just a few ideas of how to celebrate this year’s solstice where you are.

If you’re an expat from the UK living in Germany and you’re yearning for a little taste of home – why not celebrate Summer Solstice at the Externsteine Rock in Horn-Bad Meinberg, commonly known as the German sibling of Stonehenge.

In Spain, the Night of San Juan is something that must not be missed. Usually held on a beach, participants will light huge bonfires and enjoy great food and drink with friends and family. This night of celebration is said to be a perfect little taste of life in Spain all squeezed into one night, where an overwhelming feeling of comradery spans across age, culture and background.

Creative Commons / Contando Estrelas

If you’re in the U.S., there are fantastic opportunities in New York to join a huge community of people to celebrate the longest day of the year. The ‘Solstice in Times Square’ is an immense display of thousands of people all participating in group yoga right in the centre of one of the busiest cities in the world, undoubtedly a great opportunity to meet new people whilst cleansing the mind, body and soul.

 Creative commons / Charles Guerin


For those in  Sweden, it’s all about coming together to to celebrate with plenty of food and drink and an abundance of dancing, usually around one of their prolific festival symbol – the May Pole. Similar festivities are held in the UK, so it would be a great chance to share your own culture whilst learning something about theirs! This is an unrivalled opportunity to eat, drink and be merry. Use it as chance to meet new people whilst injecting yourself into the local community by adopting one of their favourite traditions!

Ultimately, the list is endless. Wherever you are around the world there will almost certainly be a Summer Solstice celebration that you can get involved in. Spirits will be high and friendships will be made. Just be confident and throw yourself at every new opening that your journey offers!


Friday, 12 June 2015

Doing your research vs. winging it - What's the best way to approach expat life?

Naturally, some of us are mindful planners, whilst others are more spontaneous in our decision making.  Depending on the kind of expat you are, how you approach expat life will vary, but one thing is for certain every expat is different.  Careful planners might study travel books and learn phrases in the local language months in advance, whereas ‘wing it’ expats might just turn up with enthusiasm and a smile.   So, when it comes to being an expat; is it better to wise up or wing it?



Depending on whether you are a first time or serial expat, your approach to research may vary with life experience.  Serial expats might feel more confident moving somewhere new as they know what to expect when arriving in a new country whereas first time expats may need to carry out some more research before they make the move. 

Certain things left un-researched can often be a pleasant surprise.  Unexpected food markets, cafĂ© culture, and local shopping opportunities are exciting areas of expat life to discover. Uncovering what places have to offer in terms of street food  and local markets can be one of the most enjoyable adventures of expat life.  Furthermore, exploring cities in interesting ways, such as graffiti trails or by the recommendation of locals, can show you the cities in a way that a tour guide could not. 

However there are some things that can’t be left to the last minute.  Sorting out the structural aspects of life, such as finances, finding accommodation, organising a healthcare provider, and arranging suitable accommodation are things that are not worth winging – and planning is crucial to help make the transition as smooth as possible.  If you are planning a move, see how our checklist can help you make sure you have everything you need. 

As well as these areas, it is a wise idea to research into the workplace customs and cultural faux pas of your new host country.  Without doing so, you may find yourself unintentionally offending someone – not the best way to start life as an expat!  Doing some research in advance regarding the language of your host country and learning a few key phrases for your arrival will be extremely valuable upon your arrival.


However spontaneous you may be in other areas of life, winging it all the way into expat life isn’t for everyone – whatever your approach, we can help. Take a look at our expat resources website to see how we can help you plan before moving abroad.  


Tuesday, 9 June 2015

4 Expat Mottos to Live By



Expats have a lot to remember. Is it polite to be early or late to dinner? How do I move money back home? What’s a fair price for bread? Or what’s the right way to greet my new boss at work? In their first year of life abroad the average expat might relearn years of cultural assumptions, map out a whole new city or devise a range of handy mnemonics to remember new names. 

The expat brain is a mass of shortcuts and tricks to get by in unfamiliar surroundings, but when all else fails, sometimes it helps to have a little inspiration from someone else who’s been there and done that.  A handy mantra or motto to keep in mind when times are a bit more challenging can really help - especially in those early months in a new home. Looking at all of the tips and tricks you’ve shared with us on our Hints & Tips page, we’ve pulled out some of our favourite expat mottos to live by. Which one speaks to you the most? 

 An expat from New Zealand living in the UK

Many expats don’t know what they will miss till it’s gone – perhaps you’re a Mediterranean expat mourning the loss of your afternoon siesta or a German pining after sauerkraut. It’s easy to focus on the things you miss but when in doubt keep positive, embrace the new – and learn where to go, who to see or what to eat when you’re in the mood to reminisce.  

A Mexican Expat living in the USA

For expats, it’s fair to say that ignorance is certainly not bliss. Being the bumbling foreigner can mean that people cut you a lot of slack in those first few months but to make friends and really get under the skin of your new home picking up the local culture and etiquette is a must. Your new Turkish friends could be over the moon when you’re able to recount the history of Attaturk, whilst your new American friends might light up at your stirring rendition of the Star Spangled Banner – break a leg!

An American expat living in Ireland

Research. Research. Research. That’s our advice for newbie expats, but what we can’t tell you is what will go wrong. Heed these wise words and always presume something will go awry. Meeting your first local friend for dinner in Beijing? Assume you take a wrong connection on the subway and build in an extra 30 minutes to get back on the right track! 
 
A Romanian expat living in Vietnam

So, you’ve read up on local business etiquette and practiced your accent - it’s finally time to meet your new colleagues. For most expats this is a nerve-racking experience at the best of times, but what if you get something wrong? Perhaps you use a 15 degree bow when a 30 degree bow would have been more appropriate or you arrived early for a meeting when it’s actually more polite to be late. Don’t let it get you down. Read up as much as you can, but ultimately there’s some value in taking this as your motto and learning one very important skill – bounceback-ability!

Friday, 5 June 2015

The best places to eat al fresco around the world



If there is one thing that sums up the summer, it’s being able to eat outside in the sunshine.  Depending on where you are in the world, the opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors will be different – but a meal al fresco will always be a fantastic way of exploring somewhere new and getting to know the local cuisine, whilst making the most of the sunshine.  Inevitably, eating outside varies by culture and by country; with some al fresco practices very traditional, and others a little more alternative.  Here’s our pick of the best– bon appetite! 

Picnicking in Hyde Park
The quintessential British picnic has been the definitive picture of the British summer over the past few centuries – come rain or shine! Those new to London should hit the shops for strawberries, scotch eggs, and afternoon tea, which are best enjoyed out of picnic basket while sitting on a picnic rug.  Choose your perfect spot in the huge Hyde Park and find some peace in the chaos of central London.  

Image source: Creative Commons / Google Images

Living it up in Dubai
The rooftops of Dubai are fast becoming the most sought after spots to eat in the city.  With stunning views of the city, glamorous interiors, and enticing menus, the rooftops of Dubai are the trendiest spot to eat al fresco in the city this summer – always a great spot to watch the sunset, or sometimes even the sunrise.  

Sunset over Sydney harbour
Cremorne Point Reserve offers unsurpassed views of Sydney and its harbour, which are particularly spectacular as the sun is setting.  After enjoying a classic Australian picnic of iced tea and barbequed chicken, follow the walks along the harbour and view the city from a different perspective. 

Image source: Creative Commons / Flickr

Punting through Venice
Little can be more idyllic than eating al fresco within the beautiful surroundings of Venice, whilst being punted along the canals of the city.  Eat, drink, and relax whilst taking in the views of the old town of Venice.

Image source: Creative Commons / Google Images

Live like a Parisian
If there is one thing that is loved by Parisians in the summer, it’s taking a bottle of wine down to the river Seine.  Over the summer months, the river becomes crowded with Parisians enjoying the summer sunshine and watching boats pass by on the river. A stop at the bustling Parisian markets for bread, meat and cheese to enjoy with your drinks is also a must. 



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