Friday, 30 July 2010

World's Costliest Cities Revealed

Many factors are important when expats are looking to make the big move. Language barriers, the different culture, the ability to find a job (if you’re not moving with your company of course), but how much does the cost of living affect your decision?

The Daily Telegraph today has picked up on the latest Mercer Worldwide Cost of Living Survey which was released in June this year. The survey shows that surprisingly, cities within developing countries are actually more expensive than their Western counterparts, with African and Asian cities dominating the top spots. The most expensive city is now Luanda (in Angola), followed by Tokyo and Ndjamena (the capital city of Chad). With the inclusion of Libreville (capital of Gabon) at number seven, three African cities actually made the top ten for the first time, showing the growing economic importance of the continent.

Mercer Senior Researcher Nathalie Constantin-Metral explains, "Many people assume that cities in the developing world are cheap but this isn't necessarily true for expatriates working there. In some African cities, the cost of this can be extraordinarily high - particularly the cost of good, secure accommodation," she said.

Switzerland leads the way in terms of the most expensive European cities, with both Geneva (5th) and Zurich (8th) appearing within the top ten whilst USA only makes one appearance in the top 50 – New York comes in at number 27.

So, how much does the cost of living affect your choice to move abroad, and do you agree with where your city scored in the rankings? Let us know your thoughts!

Expat romance

We touched briefly on the subject of romance in a previous blog post before, talking about the difficulties faced when things go wrong. Today, we thought we’d talk about the upbeat side of expat relationships, especially those of a romantic nature.

Source: Getty

Talking with a mutual friend who was thinking about moving to Spain, he told us that the first thing he googled was ‘Spanish chat up lines’. Surprising as this sounds, with the many priorities that springs to mind when moving abroad, finding love overseas is actually not that uncommon. With expats spending at least 5 years living and working abroad, why shouldn’t finding your other half be a priority?

For those who are already expats, there are actually a surprising number of sites dedicated to expat dating. Sites such as and are great places to start looking. Even if things don’t develop romantically, online dating sites are a great way of to expanding your network of friends and meeting people who are in the same boat as you. With one in five expats finding love overseas, perhaps finding “the one” is easier than you think!

We discovered this blog called 'All roads lead to Pecetto' on Italy Mag'sBlog of the Week”, a blog about Chelsea- an American girl who moved to Italy for love. Chelsea talked about some the reasons why she moved to Italy, the difficulties she found and how she is settling in her new environment in the feature.

Of course aside from work purposes, many people actually expatriate themselves to be with a loved one. We came across this site where three couples share their love stories and the barriers they faced when they moved halfway across the globe. It really goes to show that aside from employment contract ties or career prospects, people do consider moving in the name of love.

We thought we’d end the post of some of the most amusing chat up lines we found. Let us know ones that you found funny or one-line wonders!

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Favourite expat views

We all know the feeling we get when we see one of our favourite views. It’s a sense of contentment, excitement and overwhelming beauty that is difficult to put into words. What’s even more interesting is that this feeling can be evoked by a whole range of stuff. For some it may be a spectacular landscape such as Victoria’s (Australia) twelve apostles, whilst for others it may be a sight that brings back memories of home or child hood memories. As our friends at Brits n’Bobs discuss, one of their personal favourites is the view whilst coming into land in England.

Source: Slord The twelve apostles are a fantastically beautiful land/sea scape

Indeed images and photographs are a great way of making a new house feel like home and can play a real role in stopping those expat blues. Whats more, they can also be a real trigger for planning your next expat adventure. What are some of your favourite views from across the world?

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Countdown to 2012, a once in a lifetime expat experience

So it’s official, the Olympics are well and truly round the corner with just 2 years to wait until the opening ceremony. Preparation in London is well and truly underway, the stadium is coming along nicely, the new CrossRail infrastructure is on track and athletes from around the world are in the midst of their training regime and gearing up for one of the most important events of their lives.

The Olympics have provided us with some of the most memorable sporting achievements and been a spectacle for many fans from Steve Redgrave’s fifth gold in Sydney to the Beijing 2008 opening ceremony. The Olympic spirit really does take over the globe and for expats living in a host city it provides a once in a lifetime experience.

Source: Guccio at

For those expats living in London, 2012 promises to be a special year with opportunities to witness the games at close quarters. With London already one of the biggest expat capitals in the world, it should provide the perfect venue for a global celebration of athletic talent. Thankfully there are also a number of ways to get involved either through buying tickets or volunteering to be one of an army of “Games Makers” responsible for making the Games run smoothly. Being up close to the action with some of the world’s greatest athletes is something that only the Olympic Games can offer and surrounded by some of the most passionate fans on the planet should help create a truly unique atmosphere. As many expats living in South Africa will testify, living in a host nation at any major sporting event provides a fantastic opportunity to integrate with locals and soak up the accompanying carnival atmosphere.

Whilst many have debated how well the games can cope with the economic downturn and the extent of its lasting legacy what can’t be denied is that for the millions of fans across the globe it promises to be an exciting spectacle and as Olympic fever grips London here at Expat Explorer we’ll be counting down the days.

If any of our readers are looking to volunteer to become a “Games Maker” we’d love to hear all about your experiences so please do get in touch.

Monday, 26 July 2010

How the expat community is hitting the airwaves to send that lonely feeling packing!


We wrote a blog post earlier in the month on whether expats are more creative. This week we thought we’d touch upon the subject of whether expats are lonelier and how the expat community is working together to overcome some of the unique challenges the lifestyle presents.

As attractive as the job prospects of moving abroad and the potential life experiences of an expat may sound, many expats living abroad will know the reality that expat life is not all glamour.

Often the initial couple of weeks can be especially difficult as this American blogger living in the UK explains:

There is no about that the expat life can come with crushing loneliness, especially in the early days. Getting used to a new country, culture, potentially language, food, and life in general is difficult enough. Doing it solo, with no spouse or family to rely on for guaranteed support, this life can be really, really hard.”

It sounds pretty daunting doesn’t it?

Thankfully however it is not all bad the expatriate community is becoming increasingly creative in looking for ways to send that lonely feeling packing.

For example, just this weekend, we came across this article in the Telegraph about an online radio station, Expatsradio, which aims to provide an online platform bringing expats together and providing a little something for everyone.

Expatsradio provides potential and existing expats all over the world with information on issues such as finance and law and entertainment programmes and is already proving a hit with the expat community, experiencing up to 1000 listeners a day. As Peter Anstis, the founder says, “Most of us are expats ourselves, and we know how lonely it can be. We think that this station can help people abroad feel more connected.”

Here on expat explorer we are always looking for practical advice on how to make transition to expat life easier so please do share your top tips!

Friday, 23 July 2010

Has Denmark solved the problem of expat integration?

One of the most daunting challenges facing any new expat is the process of integration into a local community. Moving to a new country can be an extremely stressful experience and in an unfamiliar environment faced with an unfamiliar language, making friends can be sometimes be difficult. With this in mind the Danish Ministry of Integration have embraced the concept of a digital revolution and established a social networking site aimed at encouraging expat workers to meet local Danish people.

The site “Lets meet! In Denmark” reads “Through our online platform, you can search for, find and match up with open-minded Danes and expats in Denmark, who are curious and interested in getting to know others living in Denmark.“ and as discussed on this blog earlier in the week, could mark the first step in fundamentally changing how expats interact with each other and locals abroad. Here are some further tips courtesy our friends at on how to make friends whilst abroad

But is it just Denmark that has this problem or is the issue of integration replicated across different countries and continents? As Craig Till of Expat In Denmark notes “Denmark has a real issue with recruiting, but also more specifically retaining, qualified foreign labour professionals. Comparatively speaking, expats don’t stay here very long, and one of the main reasons they cite is that they fail to make friends and feel that they’ve socially integrated into Danish life”

So today we’re asking our expat readers how you’ve found fitting into your new home? Which countries make expats feel especially welcome and which have proven to be slightly more difficult? As always to share any more tips for making this process as easy as possible.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Expat Clubs – the ghost of a bygone era or still the beating heart of an expat community?

Anyone who has read E.M.Forster’s A passage through India will be familiar with the concept of an expat club. In years gone by such clubs were at the centre of the expat community, providing a safe haven to meet fellow expats, sample food and drink from back home and catch up with news from outside one’s host country. More recently, however, these clubs have been faced with declining numbers as Eric Johnston at the Japan Times points out.

Johnston makes the case that nowadays many expats actually want to fully integrate into their local community. This integration can take many forms from sampling the local cuisine to celebrating local festivals and embracing cultural traditions. As we’ve previously discussed on this blog the issue of expat isolation and integration is one of that remains fairly contentious and therefore perhaps expats clubs do still have a role albeit in a slightly different format.

Social media may well have transformed the face of expat clubs forever, providing the opportunity for more professional and specialist interest groups to exist. It may be that traditional expat organisations simply can’t compete in an era where many communities exist in a purely digital space and the need for a central hub or facility is completely negated.

Maybe in this sense the present can embrace the past in complete harmony.

Monday, 19 July 2010

The Expat Journey: The serious question of “What next?”

All too often, new expats get so caught up with the initial excitement of relocating, exploring their new surroundings and experiencing their new working environment, that we tend to forget about the question of “What next?” or “What happens five or even ten years down the line?”

Our 2009 Expat Explorer Survey found that one in five expats (20%) find love overseas. Along with the initial motivations to move, which may include better job prospects and the potential for better pay, the quality of family life is often not considered until the later stages of the expat experience, especially for
younger expats.

Thoughts about the quality of education and childcare may be the last of your priorities but with over half of expats spending more than five years away from home, it may be wise to keep these considerations at the back of your mind when assessing a potential employers’ offer.

Take a look at this
blog that we came across whilst looking at Business Degree Online’s Top 50 Expatriate Blogs about an American expat family living in New Zealand to get an alternative insight on the expat experience.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Why do people become expats?

What is it that makes someone decide that they want to become an expat? Is it purely about monetary gain? Is it about the search for something new? Is it about the lifestyle or is it because the power of a relationship is enough to make you up sticks and leave home?

There are a huge number of expats out in the world. The UN puts the figure of international migrant stock at over 200 million worldwide – some will be on short-time work secondments, some will constantly move from one location to another every few years and then there will be those who choose to instead relocate permanently, adopting their new country as their home.Each one of these groups has a difference reason for becoming an expat in the first place. Traditionally, the view has been that the key driver is monetary gain and the prospect of developing one’s career exponentially by getting international experience. The interesting question is, however, how long does it actually take to (a) decide you want to move abroad and (b) then actually make the move.

It’s a big decision and one that can’t be taken lightly. Lucky individuals will benefit from being transferred with their existing company. In this case, it’s often the company that will organise everything for the expat when it comes to relocation, so this in itself can wipe off a significant amount of time when it comes to making the decision to move and the departure itself.

For those expats that don’t benefit from this, however, what are the things to think about when relocating? What are the pros and cons about moving and also what are some of the other aspects that people may not think of until they move, thereby making the first stage of establishing a new life that much trickier. The general rule is that the more you can set up ahead of time the better. The list includes a few of the following:

· Getting the right Visa sorted

· Setting up a bank account

· Setting up medical insurance

· Understanding the general cost of living including accommodation, food and public transportation

· Which location to live in: where can you get the best expat experience but also where will be suitable for work etc

· Cultural differences: what you need to know in your new home

· What sort of clubs to join in order to hit the ground running when it comes to establishing a social life

Often, the best way of finding out the above is speaking to someone else who is living or has lived in the country you are going to. Their inside knowledge will be invaluable to you as you’ll be getting the facts first-hand from someone who has tried and tested them. If you don’t have one of these sources, try sites like Just Landed which can be great sources of information for would be – and existing – expats around the world.

Whilst there is a lot to sort out, the potential rewards are endless. If you have any tips to share with prospective expats about things that they should be thinking about, please let us know here. I’m sure there would be many that would be grateful for the help!

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Are expats getting younger?

Moving to work abroad has traditionally been seen as an opportunity for those in senior positions and high profile roles – predominantly due to the low number of entry or junior level positions for younger workers looking to move overseas.

But recent findings from ORC Worldwide, the global human resources management company, show that this trend is changing. The introduction of international graduate schemes and the ability for those with less work experience to take positions abroad means that expat opportunities are now much more achievable for young workers.

Siobhan Cummins, executive vice president at ORC Worldwide says “Traditionally, companies wanted to recruit mature British people into senior positions overseas. Now, it’s possible to become senior at a much younger age than may have been possible in the past. Many companies offer placements abroad on their graduate schemes, and know that providing opportunities overseas will build their reputation as good managers of young talent.”

Siobhan explains that the trend for hiring younger workers is a mutually beneficial experience – the company is able to take on someone less likely to have family ties and problems relocating, whilst younger people can benefit from the valuable skills they are then able to add to their CV.

So, where should young expats look to progress their career opportunities? David Reed at Expat Recruitment recommends younger workers should look into opportunities in UAE, North Africa and Egypt due to the large number of British companies within these countries but advises young Brits to move to America with caution. He says “America is much harder for young people to crack, as they have a totally different education system, which British qualifications don’t always match up with very well.”

We will soon be launching the next instalment of our Expat Explorer series, ‘Expat Economics’ which will highlight the best locations for those looking to move abroad for better career prospects and higher salaries as well as looking at which countries are most likely to attract people from different occupations. We’d love to hear your thoughts on the biggest influencers in your decision to move abroad, so get in touch!

Monday, 12 July 2010

World Cup legacy scores a winner with expats

With the World Cup over and the vuvuzelas put firmly away until Brazil 2014, we take a look at how major sporting events can impact on life as an expat in host nations.

The link between expatriate life and major sporting events may appear tenuous at first, but with any international sporting affair, expats in host countries often have to endure great changes in the city or country’s infrastructure years before the world’s television sets even start to tune in.

How has the World Cup affected expats in Africa?

With the massive infrastructure investment that has been poured into the region over the past four years, expats in Africa can now benefit from an improved transportation network. Whereas public transport was near to non-existent prior to the games, the Gautrain- the country’s new high-speed train has revolutionised travel in the Johannesburg and Pretoria areas. Journeys from Johannesburg and the airport take just 15 minutes to complete and the journey between the two cities has been reduced by more than half when compared with the previous peak hour drive.

Upgrades to South Africa’s main airport also mean that Tambo International is now capable of handling 28 million passengers a year, making air travel to and from expat’s home countries much easier.

As well as changes in the city’s infrastructure, expats in host cities may have witnessed social changes in their lifestyle. The World Cup bought in ample opportunity for expats to further integrate and immerse themselves with the local community be it participating in Football Fridays at work or watching the games with locals in a bar. Stephanie Katz, editor of
Expat Arrivals said in recent blog post, “I’m proud to be South African – only, I’m not South African at all – not even a reluctant member of the Commonwealth, in fact, it’s worse – I’m American... there comes a time in every expat’s life when you finally abandon the iron pilings of past for the pride of a locale at present.”

So what next?

Both Beijing and London have witnessed major improvements to the cityscape and their transport systems since hosting or winning the bid to host the Olympic Games. For these host nations that have endured this major change, it will be interesting to see how expats views on the quality of life and ease of integration in Beijing, Johannesburg and even London have changed before and after the games. The 2010 Expat Explorer Survey may shed some light on how the expat community in these countries rate their experiences. Watch this space.

Friday, 9 July 2010

A walk in the park: The return of the expat

It seems that as uncertainty on the continent continues, the UK property market is seeing an interesting trend as returning expats look to get back on the ladder. As Andrew Tucker, general manager of Parkland Homes explains, many expats are opting to set up home in residential park homes; “We are seeing expats heading from Spain in particular, but also from Greece and Cyprus. Those buyers moving back from overseas have suffered economic difficulties, with fluctuations in the exchange rage and have realised the benefits of aspects of the UK such as the NHS.”

According to Jon Boston, of the British Holiday and Home Parks Association, this pattern has been fairly common across the 800 sites with which he deals and looks set to continue. One of the main attractions of purchasing a residential park home is that fact that it provides expats with a “soft landing” in being much cheaper than bricks and mortar allowing consumers to get back on the property ladder fairly quickly.

Crucially, according to Mercel Van Peteghem of Anglo-French Law, a firm specialising in helping people move back to the UK from France, buying a park home can actually help expats hang onto a bigger chunk of their capital to help cushion their retirement more effectively. As Van Peteghem explains “Not all the people quitting their Dordogne homes are doing so for negative reasons. Some are making the most of the profit they can realise by selling up and coming back to the UK.”

So how is this trend reflected in other countries? Are more expats than ever before returning to their country of birth as a result of the global economic conditions and more importantly are they downsizing to improve their financial security? One of the main drivers behind the expat lifestyle has been the fact that it often offers a better relative standard of living so how are expats reacting to the fact that these benefits are being reduced due to economic uncertainty? Perhaps in times of uncertainty, the support offered by a network of friends and family becomes even more crucial.

As always we love to hear you thoughts so please do share your expat stories with us.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Handy tips when moving abroad

We came across this interesting blog post by Meg Nesterov on Gadling, which looks at how newcomers to the expat arena can tap into the local expat community when they arrive. Ask any expat and you’ll find that relocating and uprooting your life to work in a new country can often be a challenging and daunting experience. As Meg says, “No matter how well-travelled you are, moving to a foreign country and living as an expat is a whole new ballgame”.

In the Expat Explorer Survey 2009, we found that there were a number of expats who said that “adapting to the local culture” was one of the key challenges they faced while others found “re-establishing a social life, being accepted into the local community and making friends” a difficulty. Expat life isn’t easy but there are some things you can do even before moving to your new home to make your move and integration easier even before leaving your (current) front door. Below are some handy tips that expats can follow.

1. Do your homework
With the increasing ubiquity of the internet, any prospective or current expat has access to a vast array of research portals, including access to online expat communities. There are many sites that offer a good range of advice and articles for you to get a good feel of the new destination you are heading to and tips before you set off.

Here are a few good places you can start with:
  • Expat Forum – Boasting almost 60,000 members (and growing), Expat Forum provides hundreds of helpful articles, news and interviews that are relevant for the country you are heading to.
  • Expat Exchange – Established for more than 10 years, you can find a rich pool of resources and articles and connect with other expats on their forum.

2. Using Twitter
Many expats also share their stories and handy tips on Twitter. Twitter is a great place to start a conversation with local expats even before you arrive in the country. Use the twitter search function to find expats working and living in the area and follow them. The great thing about twitter is you can meet like-minded individuals and people who have experienced a similar situation to your own. Use a #tweetup hashtag to set up a meeting with your fellow tweeters for when you arrive.

3. Blog, bloggers, blogging
Look out for expat blogs in your destination country to get an idea of what life is like on the other side before you move. Often bloggers share insights and the practicalities of obtaining permits, converting your driver’s licence and the best local gems to head to on a Friday evening. Get in touch with the blogger or leave a comment on their blog post. Check out Jessica Spiegel’s post on a list of 15 of the Best Expat Blogs.

You might even be inspired to start your own blog with your own discoveries. Blogspot is a good place to start.

There are of course many other handy tips and tricks for people either looking to become expats or expats who are looking to make a move to another location. If there's anything that you've found has worked particularly well, feel free to share here as we're sure that many expats out there would love to hear your thoughts!

Monday, 5 July 2010

Are expats more creative?

As many expats will testify, living abroad can be an extremely worthwhile learning experience. Not only does it provide a fresh perspective on life but can also open the door to new cultures, friends and daily routines. In addition to all this, new research published by the American Psychological Association suggests that people who live abroad tend to be more creative than those who lived in their home country.

When tested on a variety of standard psychological tests for measuring creativity, success rates were much higher for those who had spent time living abroad (60%) compared to those who had remained in their country of birth (42%). As Professor William Maddux explains, “The theory that living abroad somehow opens your mind is an old one, which we know through stories of artists like Hemingway who lived in France. Running tests like this however gives us actual empirical evidence for the first time.”

Interestingly, creativity was highest amongst those who had made a considerable effort to integrate fully into their new country of residence such as by learning the local language. It seems that to truly widen our creativity, we must really try to fit into our new surroundings and begin seeing things in a whole new light.

Such findings have really interesting implications when considering the number of employers who place a premium on creativity and innovation to stay competitive. For example in recruitment, when designing training schemes and designating job assignments. With scientific evidence for the first time supporting the notion that the expat lifestyle really does make a difference psychologically, we’re eagerly waiting for the results of the 2010 Expat Explorer survey to see just how these lifestyles vary across the globe and what commonalities may play a part in expat creativity.



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