Friday, 26 February 2010

Expat Info Desk

Earlier this week saw the official launch of Expat Info Desk, on 23rd February. Offering a number of on-demand digital books it provides an information resources written “by expats for expats” and its city guides are designed to help out those considering relocation for themselves and their families.

One of the best features of the site is the free calendar that gives you expat-related events in each of the cities the site covers. There’s no guarantee where you are will be covered but there are a number of social events, cultural events and just general newcomers and expat meet-ups that may prove invaluable if you’ve just moved to a new city and are a bit lost!

It’s great to see more resources such as this going online – after all the internet is particularly useful for expats or just people travelling who want information about an area. We really look forward to finding more insights into the real-life global expat community in Expat Explorer 2010.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Expat foody confusion

Have any of you moving to a foreign country found the food a little hard to swallow at first? Especially in regions heavily influenced by a certain cuisine, some expats may find it difficult to find food that fits with their traditional palette. It may take a while to settle in this respect – by either finding where the good spots to eat are or getting accustomed to the local cuisine in general.

In Korea, a feature of an expat blogging community is the high number of food guides, written by residents, to help foreigners in the country. The country’s "often confusing" restaurant scene is laid out, complete with photography, in an innovative web site design together with lively reader forums. Korean publication JoongAng Daily recently looked in detail at this vibrant scene and has described it for those interested on its website.

It’s definitely worth a look if you’ve just moved to Korea or are thinking about it in the future. You may even find it useful if you’re after inspiration for cooking something a little different.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Retirement – a good or bad thing?

As an expat, do you consider where you will be in 5 years time, 10 years time, or when you think about retirement? While earlier in your career you may chase opportunity and excitement, your retirement destination will likely be the one where you feel most comfortable. Of course all that opportunity-chasing may lead you to somewhere like the South of France to live out the good life or it may be that you head back to your roots. How are you approaching the future and is expat retirement a goal in itself or just something to be put off for now?

If you’re looking to retire overseas it seems that you could do a lot worse than Canada. The country that topped the Expat Explorer lifestyle ranking has also been the subject of a recent report that revealed that 70 per cent of retirees living in Canada found the country to be everything they had hoped for. Shelter Offshore said that the country “offers beautiful natural landscapes, vibrant city life, a high standard of living and an excellent service infrastructure”. Not a bad set of conditions in which to live out your golden years!

However, there is a substantial dollar value attached to the lifestyle, and an expat needs to demonstrate a total net worth of at least 800,000 Canadian dollars (just shy of half a million pounds sterling) to the Canadian government before they will grant a retirement visa.

Thursday, 18 February 2010


An expat’s career is often high-intensity and demanding. For most just adjusting to a new job can be tricky, let alone adjusting to a new culture and social scene! If posted by an international firm, even communication with other offices and others within the firm will suddenly require much more effort, organisation and attention to detail. This is especially the case if you are moving into a position of significant responsibility or management, where your skills in not only adaptation but also dealing with new cultures will be tested to the limit.

Australian publication Business Review Weekly recently took a look at how expat managers face “an eternal struggle with their own headquarters”. It talks about the benefits of working in “the frontiers of the world economy” and the advantages this can grant you over those in the more-established offices.

It shows how being an expat in business means flying high, and staying high from a professional point of view long after the plane has landed.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Sue Burke of Mount Orégano writes for us

Some of you may know of the blog Mount Orégano, which is written by Sue Burke, an American expat living in Madrid, Spain. She recently took a look at the HSBC Expat Experience report and has offered to make a guest appearance on our blog, to give insight on what being an expat has been like for her. We're really excited to introduce Sue to you all and so without further ado...

A learning experience
By Sue Burke

When Spaniards ask me if I like living Spain, I always say yes, even though I'm not here to like it. After ten years in Madrid, I've noticed that Spaniards have an inferiority complex about their country and I don't want to hurt their feelings.

The truth is my husband and I moved to Spain to learn about it, not to like it. And we've learned a lot.

Even before we were married 18 years ago, we wanted to live overseas to experience another culture. Just to make it a truly different culture, we agreed that it should be a non-English-speaking country, and since the only foreign language we knew was Spanish, that narrowed things down. When we finally got a chance to move to Madrid, we took it even though we had never been to Spain and didn't know anyone there.

The actual move wasn't too much harder than moving cross-country in the United States, where we're from, except that our possessions came by slow boat and took three months to arrive. All our years studying Spanish gave us barely enough language skills to get by, but Spaniards have plenty of pride in their language and were glad to help us improve. We found a comfortable apartment, arranged our banking and insurance reasonably easily since Spain is used to foreigners, and set about living internationally.

At first, Spain didn't seem especially strange beyond all the differences that any tourist notices: odd meal times, unique food, an insane devotion to soccer, and a baffling street address system. But slowly, details emerged.

For example, you must eat only in designated places, never at your work desk. There is an unspoken dress code, and your clothes must suit your activities. Laws are either obeyed to the letter or are treated as suggestions to be ignored at will. You must always greet people, even the other patients when you enter a doctor's waiting room, but the greeting need not be cheerful. If you smile a lot, as Americans tend to do, people will think you're an idiot because no intelligent person could be happy so much of the time.

Eventually, I learned enough to have opinions about Spanish politicians and what numbers are lucky in the El Gordo lottery. I cheered for Spain in the World Cup (after the US was eliminated, of course). I knew when the weather was being unseasonable, and that bats are a sure sign of spring.

Most of all, I began to realize that Spaniards do things differently for reasons that relate to their history, their geography, and their climate.
These experiences have given them a unique culture. Something may seem strange, even illogical, but there's a reason for it — and Spaniards excel at certain things because their culture gives them an advantage.

I know people who came to Spain and instantly fell in love. We came and soon discovered that the country is bigger on the inside than it looks like from the outside.

We came to find out the inside story. We learned along the way that Spain is in fact easy to like. But that's just a side benefit.


We're really keen to hear from more of you so if you'd like to make an appearance and talk about your own expat life, email us at, via this blog or our twitter and lets get talking!

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

The Winter Olympics

The Vancouver Winter Olympics are in full swing and the Canadians got their first Gold on home soil at the weekend, so congratulations to Alexandre Bilodeau who won the men’s moguls freestyle skiing event.

The Winter Olympics and main Olympics are events with a great tradition of bringing different nationalities together. As the competition heats up, national rivalries are born, and everyone gets to see some seriously impressive feats of human achievement. For expats living in Canada, this is the perfect way to reinvigorate a sense of national pride and cheer along their home country at the events themselves or even at expat hangouts throughout the county. At the same time we are sure that these expats would also be cheering for their adopted country, with Canada ranking 1st for lifestyle in our last Expat Explorer report – Expat Experience. The Winter Olympics will also undoubtedly bring together scores of Canadian groups living across the globe, providing the chance to see a little bit of home in every broadcast and cheer along their home country.

Do any of you have Winter Olympic-related stories that you would like to share? Let us know by posting here or tweeting @expatexplorer.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Expats and entertainment

The claim that "alcohol has long been considered an integral part of the ‘expat lifestyle’" was made by expat site Expat Daily News recently. What do expats out there think of this comment? How do you approach moving to a new place and meeting new people?

We looked at quality of entertainment in our Expat Explorer survey (and it was found to be one of the few redeeming features of the UK) however the specific types of entertainment can always be further explored. With this year’s survey, we intend to expand on the points that are most interesting and would love to hear from you. Let us know by commenting here or tweeting us @expatexplorer with your feedback or ideas for the next survey!

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Tax breaks for offshore pensions

If you’re a Briton living overseas you may have looked into moving your pension offshore to avoid the obligation to buy an annuity, through what is known as the Qualifying Registered Overseas Pension Scheme (QROPS). British broadsheet The Telegraph recently took a close look at the options for expats in terms of pensions, and have published an article on the subject.

The fall in the pound is something that has severely impacted expats who rely on a pension income paid in sterling (Expat Explorer revealed a high proportion of British retirees residing in France so our sympathy goes out to them!).

QROPs may be subject to Isle of Man tax but depending on the country you live in, a taxation agreement between your resident country and the UK may mean that your pension is exempt from UK and Isle of Man tax entirely. The list of countries is steadily growing so the article is probably well worth reading if this is relevant to you.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Exposure to the global economy

The relative performance of international economies and fluctuating currency rates affect expats perhaps more so than most people. For most people, it can mean that going on holiday to a certain destination proves slightly better value or more expensive. For expats, it can mean shifts in the value of assets abroad, including property, or simply that the ratio of income to expenditure starts to change.

The British economy followed the rest of the major Western European economies out of recession last week although the announcement has done little to affect the fortunes of the sterling, with other factors such as politics and ongoing developments in the financial world having far more effect on currency rates.

Playing the currency markets is something that many expats look at in terms of investing. Savings and investments habits of expats was something we covered last year in our survey and we are looking to again explore this in 2010. If you have any suggestions on what else we should be looking at – as in if there are specific investment avenues that you take as an expat – please let us know by either posting here or sending suggestions to and we will be happy to try and include them!



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