Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Top 10 Expat Explorer blog posts

In case you missed it, here’s a roundup of our most read blog posts this month:

1. Five essential apps for Expats – our post on apps for expats is the most read post of the month. If you have an iPhone then be sure to check out our top apps for expats

2. Guest Blogger Series: Introducing... Bryce Keane – in second place is guest blogger, Bryce Keane's tips and advice for expats in London

3. Expat children and the unique experiences of Third Culture Kids – a look into the unique challenges of being a Third Culture Kid

4. How to prevent the culture shock of repatriation and feel as if you’ve never left – Expat Explorer shares our five steps to minimise reverse culture shock

5. To be or not to be - should expats give up their home citizenship?

6. Guest Blogger Series: Introducing... Rebecca Self – adding to the top ten most read blog post, another instalment to our popular Guest Blogger Series where Rebecca shares some of her tips on the logistical challenges of becoming an expat

7. Expats in business – a quick look into the types of challenges expat entrepreneurs face when setting up their own business abroad

8. Breaking the language barrier and the joys of expat slang! – Avoid language faux-pas and deal with the local lingo

9. Guest Blogger Series: Introducing... Chelsea Christensen – our special guest blogger- Chelsea shares her story on successful expat romances

10. Expat Lifestyle- Creating a home from home – finding home comforts can be difficult. Expat Explorer shares some great websites on where to get goods from home

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Guest Blogger Series: Introducing… Rebecca Self

This week, we’re happy to share another instalment to our Guest Blogger Series. Say hello to Rebecca Self. We came across Rebecca’s blog- XpatAdventures and were inspired by her story to set off on a journey of self-discovery by living in a foreign country. Here, Rebecca shares some of her tips on the logistical challenges in becoming an expat, and the importance of asking the right questions before you set off.

Naïveté is no position for an Expat

I've been overseas five years now, and am starting to get a lot of questions from other people who'd like to move abroad. They're not asking the right questions though, and neither did I when I moved from the United States to Switzerland.

People always ask, "What made you decide to do it?" "What was it like to sell everything you owned?" and "What's it like to live so far away?" The part that seems to fascinate people is the emotional and personal part of the story. Maybe that's in part because we all seem to romanticize moving abroad... all that Under the Tuscan Sun, you know?

Looking back I see I was much more naïve than I should have been. I did not ask the right questions. Here's the story, and the questions I should have asked (and you should, too).

I was a professor

In the States I had a great tenure-track job with the best colleagues and boss in the world. They were supportive and kind and great to work with. The environment was respectful, fun, creative and easy-going. It was in a very small town though and I taught media and politics, about which I had very strong opinions in late 2004 and early 2005.

I found the job in Switzerland on the Internet. I wasn't really looking; I didn't apply for any others. It was a bizarre combination of courses and requirements that fit me to a T. And I'd always had this dream of living in Europe; I'd studied French and Italian. It took about ten minutes to apply.

In April 2005 I went for an interview. It went well. I liked the people even though I could tell it was a strange, small institution and not as good a job as the one I was leaving. That was a risk I was willing to take to live in Switzerland.

I met with the Dean, the Head of HR & Finance, the President, professors, enough people to get a feel for the place. They had a lot of turnover, this I'd heard and our conversations were pretty well scripted. The HR/Finance guy had his spiel down pat. He told me they'd handle my permits, taxes, etc. That sounded great, because I'd be busy with summer school and getting ready for the move. I asked questions mostly about salary and benefits. The job paid considerably less than I expected and there were virtually no benefits. This would be a setback for me financially, and was my primary concern. The Dean said he wanted this to be a long-term commitment, for me to build my professional life here.

That night I dined alone on the lakeshore downtown. Over steaming pizza and a tasty local red merlot, I decided I wanted it to be a long term commitment, too. I went back home and sold everything I owned, including my home.

I'm sorry to say that becoming an expat has taught me to trust people far less than I used to. I shouldn't have believed the things they said; they had a position to fill. They had a way they'd done this for years and I had no idea what I was doing. I guess it could have happened anywhere and may not be cultural, but it seems remarkably Machiavellian and they speak Italian... either way, what happened is not what you want when you're alone and thousands of miles from home.

What happened was I got a nine-month contract, a twelve-month apartment lease and a permit fit for a migrant worker. The same the following school year, too. It wasn't legal. I didn't know that until later, when I had no recourse.

Having this experience made me realize how important it was to ask the right questions before deciding to make the move. I learned this the hard way.

Here are the Right Questions.

1. What kind of work and residence permit will I be issued? For what duration will the permit be issued?

2. What is the duration of my contract? How will it be renewed? How can it be terminated?

Do not simply ask the hiring authorities at your potential employer the above questions - ask the authorities, ask local attorneys.

Make no plans until this is handled. Take it upon yourself to learn exactly what the different types of permits are and the implications and consequences of each.

Find out basic things like: will you be able to buy a car and secure auto insurance with this type of permit? Call auto insurance companies (more than one, the answer may vary) to find out.

And for your future employers and colleagues:

3. What sort of support for housing, language, insurances or other logistics is available?

4. How often do you socialize with colleagues? Do you have close friends in the community?

Get everything in writing

Get even informal agreements in writing, especially if it's important to you, and clarify details before you leave home. Decide what's important to you and make sure the details are clear on those things. One thing that was important to me was my dog. He'd come to school with me in the past occasionally, and this job new involved longer hours. During the interview my potential boss offered that the dog might come to school with me, even when I'd never mentioned it. When I arrived in August I was informed that dogs were not allowed to set foot anywhere on campus.

At a dinner party I threw with a few professors after I'd arrived, a colleague who'd been at the school for six years said, "This is the first time I've ever had dinner with a bunch of the professors like this." If they don't socialize, are there places in town where you'll meet people? Clubs or sports for example? If I ever return back to the United States, it will be for this reason alone. As a lifelong solo traveller, I'm accustomed to plenty of alone time; being an expat, though, has been isolating to a degree I never expected.

A Final Caveat

Would I do it again? Absolutely! I'd ask the right questions this time, too. I'd place my trust where it's been earned, and maintain safe boundaries and skepticism as needed. I'd continue to enjoy all the things I've loved about being in Switzerland, too -- from the food and languages to the public transport, hiking and hot springs.

Good luck on your adventures!

About the author

Rebecca Self is originally from Sarasota, Florida and now works globally in organizational development and talent management for multinational clients. She's moving again next month. You can find her professional presence on the Web here or on Twitter. To find out more about Rebecca’s adventures, see her personal blog XpatAdventures or XpatAdventures on Twitter.

(Re)location, location, location

For an expat, making a second international move can often require a lot of time, especially when it comes to organising the associated logistics. There is much to think about, from what you want to take with you to what you need to sell, which accounts you need to close down and then what you need to plan ahead for in your next location. It leaves many pondering where to begin

Source: Marie Claire

Planning is therefore such a crucial part of this process and leaving as much time as possible to organise your state of affairs is a must. Start by making a list of the things that you need to get through before you leave – split this up into several sections to cover aspects such as:

• What you want to take with you to the next location
• What you want to sell and possible people to sell it to
• Things you need to close down, such as accounts with utility providers
• What needs to be planned for the next location, such as Visas and accommodation
• What experiences you still want to have before you leave – this one is important too as you need to make sure you make the most out of your current location!

It’s also important to line up a removals company early. Start by getting several quotes from good companies like Global Moving Systems or Crown Relocations and then line up a packing date so you have something to work towards.

Quite often time will run away from you, so making sure you have plenty of time to cover off everything will mean that you have more time to relax before you depart. It will also mean you can then prepare yourself for the other side of leaving – the emotional one, when you have say goodbye to your friends. Whilst this will always be sad, remember that it’s not all bad – ahead of you lies another adventure…

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

A preview for things to come

The result from our most recent blog poll is in! Thanks to all those who voted, giving us a glimpse of things to come in our 2010 Expat Explorer survey which is due to be released soon. Now in its third year already, Expat Explorer is the largest global survey of expats from all over the world.

So what did our blog poll reveal? We asked the question on whether expat life means you are better off financially through our blog and on Twitter. After a week of voting, 54% say they feel financially more secure as a result of living and working abroad. Compared with last year’s Expat Economics, this result is in line with the 68% of expats who said that they are saving and investing more since moving away from their home country.

We thought we’ll highlight some of last year’s findings below and we’ll be waiting for the 2010 results with eager anticipation.

Expat Economics 2009

• Expats in the US, Thailand and South Africa were most affected by the credit crunch
• Almost half of the expats in the UK considered returning home
• The UK was the worst for saving behind Spain and France
• Despite economic crisis, expats were wealthier and saved more than in their country of origin

Stay tuned, as we will shortly be releasing the first instalment of the Expat Explorer series – Expat Economics – which will reveal even more about the financial aspects of expat life and which locations are home to some of the wealthiest expats.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Citizen or Citizen of the World?

Source: Getty

When considering which aspects of home life one misses when they live abroad, it is interesting to pose the question of where is home and how do we decide?

We mentioned in a previous post about how Canadian expatriates are facing the choice of whether to relinquish their national citizenship or not. This requires those individuals who have resided outside of the country for more than five years to surrender their democratic right to vote in federal elections. In addition, nationals must continue to pay taxes if they still possess any native investments. Arguably, this legal hostility could discourage those living abroad from retaining links with their place of birth.

However, for others there are more positive reasons for acquiring alternative citizenship. When the sovereignty of Hong Kong was transferred to China in the 1990s, civil servants were told that the top posts in the administration should be reserved for Chinese nationals. For Mike Rowse, the opportunity for professional seniority together with the ease of the application progress informed his decision to apply for citizen status.

Sometimes, for former expats such as Steve Tennant, making the decision to become a permanent resident of a state such as Hong Kong emerges accidentally. Though born in Britain, Steve arrived in the state from Singapore. His subsequent marriage to a Chinese national along with the birth of two daughters and his gradual immersion into the language and other cultural facets of Hong Kong, prompted his retirement in the region.

Of course there are others who feel that gaining official citizenship, whether for emotional, professional or technical reasons, is somewhat unnecessary. As this website proposes, ‘Legally, a citizen is someone who has the required passport, a piece of paper. But truly, a citizen is someone who shares with their communities and who gives back what they take out.’

As we have explored through our posts on employment, business and friendship – expatriates certainly contribute to their adopted neighbourhoods in a very positive way.

Do you agree?

Friday, 20 August 2010

Guest Blogger Series: Introducing... Chelsea Christensen

Today we’re lucky enough to share a new instalment of our Guest Blogger Series and this week we’re taking on the topic of expat relationships. So say hello to Chelsea Christensen an American expat who left her home country to pursue a new life in Turin and a whirlwind romance with her Italian boyfriend. Here on Expat Explorer, Chelsea shares a beautiful story of successful expat romance......

Interlingual Romances: Put Yourself in My Pants

The world gets smaller and smaller by the day. One minute I'm living in a quaint American ski town working for the local film festival and the next minute I'm uttering the words, "Yes, I'll move in with you!", to a dark and handsome ski instructor with a thick Italian accent. 3 months later I sold everything I owned and boarded an Alitalia flight bound for Turin, Italy. Love, and the prospect of adventure, will make you do these outrageous things.

Most of us Expats-by-Love only think about getting there and if you're like me, didn't think about what would happen after that. I learned a few lessons the hard way. One being that the key to assimilating into a foreign culture is to make friends. I started a blog to have a creative outlet and to share the funny things about living in Italy. After starting the blog I joined an online Expat community. I had no idea just how invaluable that would become. I have made many friends both online and in person all whom understand what you are going through. Plus you get to share funny stories with them that would otherwise get lost in translation. For example, once while having an argument with my Italian boyfriend, to help prove my point I uttered the phrase, "Put yourself in my shoes". As this was the first time he had ever heard that saying he looked at me blankly for a moment and then said, "Put yourself in my pants!" Needless to say the argument ended at that moment as I couldn't stop laughing.

Becoming an Expat is certainly not for the fainthearted. In college we had a study abroad semester in London and several of the students couldn't handle being that far away from home and would cry themselves to sleep every night. Those students didn't make it to the end of the semester and went home early. I have learned that if you want to have an interlingual romance, to avoid crying yourself to sleep every night you must make sure that the following 3 cliches are part of your personality.

1. You: Roll with the punches

2. You can: Expect the unexpected

3. You believe that: If you can't beat 'em, join 'em

By 'joining them' I don't just mean learning the language. I mean embracing the cultural idiosyncrasies. For example, here in Italy most shops close from noon to 3:30pm. Why you ask? So people can go home for lunch and take a nap. All of my American work ethics tell me that this is just plain laziness. Italians see it as a traditional healthy work day. After a period of adjustment and planning my entire days around getting all of my errands done either before 12 or after 4pm, I can start to see the benefits of an afternoon nap.

Then there are the days when those little culture quirks begin to make me question what am I doing here. Last month I started to think about where I would be if I had said no to that handsome ski instructor. Then I looked out my window and the Naked Bicycle Club of Turin whooshed by my apartment on their annual nude ride threw the city. I smiled and thought - life would be more dull for sure. So glad I said yes.

About the Author

Chelsea Christensen is originally from Park City, Utah and is now living in Turin. She regularly blogs about her exciting new life in Italy and is always interested in hearing from other expats and sharing their experiences. Find out more about Chelsea’s adventures, subscribe to her blog- All roads lead to Pecetto

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Expats in business

Expatriates operate in a variety of industries from large multinationals to small entrepreneurial ventures and partnerships. Whether a move abroad is career motivated or due to other factors the benefits of a change in lifestyle and culture are certainly not limited. Many successful businesses have been launched as a result of entrepreneurs living the expat life. Not only do many set up and run their own businesses, but many are of the opinion that the expat lifestyle has helped the business to grow and develop into a highly successful venture.

Source: Flickr

Entrepreneurs Sara Delaney and Ellen Lobler are a perfect example of the success the expat lifestyle can bring to a business. They set up their fashion consultancy business ‘LoblerDelaney’ after meeting in 2006 and realizing that they shared many interests that could lead to an exciting business partnership. When the business was first set up Ellen was the only one to be living the expat life, away from her native home of the Netherlands. Before long a change in circumstances saw Sara relocate with her family to New York and although doubt lingered over the future of LoblerDelaney, the pair decided they were both determined and passionate enough about the business to ensure they did everything they could to keep it going. The business has been up and running from opposite sides of the Atlantic for four years now and the pair have seen their client list expand significantly since Sara set up operations in New York.

The Challenges

Sadly setting up a business abroad requires a lot of hard work and expats often face many challenges, from overcoming language barriers to adapting to new cultures and tackling gender stereotypes.

Expats in business often go unnoticed and customers assume that successful businesses have been created on years of local knowledge and expertise. Setting up your own business is a challenge for anyone but trying to get to grips with the different culture of your market as well as their buying preferences will take intensive research, commitment and a serious investment of time.

We would love to hear from other expats that have set up successful businesses abroad and believe that the expat lifestyle has contributed significantly to their success. Get in touch and share your advice and experiences!

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Expat Lifestyle- Creating a home from home

Source: Getty

As varied and interesting as the expatriate lifestyle can be, we all have moments when we miss aspects of home. Expats often cite family and friends, as well as the weather and social norms as things they miss the most. But sometimes it can be the more trivial familiarities of daily life one craves; ranging from magazines to shampoo, from television programmes to something as simple as sliced-white bread.

Getting hold of household brands from home can help expats feel more settled abroad. The excitement of seeing a Tesco, Carrefour or a Wal-Mart may bewilder those at home, but the prospect of being able to stock up on home comforts can make a real difference.

We thought we’d share some great websites which might provide the products and services which you remember so fondly:

• Expats living in Belgium, France, Germany, Holland or Luxembourg might benefit from the extensive range of international TV and radio stations provided by Expat TV
• American groceries and candies are available for expats living in mainland Europe or the UK via Lets eat direct
• Those seeking British brands will love Expat Essentials’ one-stop expat shopping service for all those favourite British foods that you miss
• Our Aussie friends might find Food Shop perfect for some therapeutic browsing (and buying)
Expat Marketplace might be useful for expatriates looking for household furniture and appliances
• For Asian entertainment and fashion needs, Yesasia and Yestyle might just be sites you’re looking for

As always, we’d love to hear from our readers. If you have any further recommendations for fellow expats, let us know.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Expat children and the unique experiences of Third Culture Kids

Now we love receiving comments from our readers. We love hearing your thoughts on our posts, sharing in your experiences and learning about your fascinating stories and backgrounds. We love it even more when your comments tell us how much you enjoy reading our content and when you open our eyes to some of the fascinating projects you’re involved in.

One such project was brought to our attention by Ruyi who got in touch having read one of our posts and informed us about her great tckbookproject aimed at detailing the experiences of Third Culture Kids (TCK’s).

Now for those that aren’t familiar with the term, Third Culture Kids are described by the lovely folks at Wikipedia as:

“someone who, as a child, has spent a significant period of time in one or more culture(s) other than his or her own, thus integrating elements of those cultures and their own birth culture, into a third culture."

The term was initially coined by the sociologist Ruth Hill Useem in the 1960’s and there has since been a vast amount of research looking at the Third Culture Kids, their characteristics, personalities and how their experiences have shaped them as individuals. Whilst growing up in a different culture can often broaden horizons and offer exposure to a range of societies and traditions, Third Culture Kids often face many challenges and issues such as a loss of identity, the breakdown of social support networks and a feeling of being “out of sync” with their peers.

However, thankfully it’s not all doom and gloom and many Third Culture Kids admit they feel they can “get along with anybody” and are often considered “more mature” than their none TCK counterparts. Importantly with the growth of social media, many TCK’s have found novel ways of keeping in touch and the growth of online communities such as TCKID and TCKWorld provide a range of support and resources.

Interestingly with the advent of YouTube, many TCK’s have taken it upon themselves to discuss the issues they face in a range of humorous and creative ways. Below is one of our favourites:

Source: Abhishekcs27

Experiencing the expat lifestyle as a youth is obviously a unique experience and projects such as Ruyi’s will help capture this diversity in a fascinating and lasting way. The 2009 Expat Explorer survey has also examined the issues of Offshore Offspring and found some interesting findings such as:

· Australia is ranked as the number one country for raising children,

· The UK scores poorly for schooling and the cost of raising children

· Singapore scores highly for education and safety

· Childcare and costs of raising children cheapest in Hong Kong

With 2010 findings currently in the pipeline we’ll hopefully be able to shed some more insight into how these profiles have changed over the last year. In the meantime we’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Expatriate life: Gender differences

As discussed, issues such as employment and community integration are common to many expatriates. However, are there any characteristics of the experience which differentially affect each sex?

Source: Getty

The Expat Explorer Survey suggests men are more likely to relocate for longer. Whilst 63% of male respondents indicate that they have lived abroad for more than five years, this duration is matched by only 46% of women.

There are qualitative differences too. Whilst financial organisation is regularly cited as a difficulty for expats, many more females than males confess to finding banking and taxation adjustments complex. An article by Shelter Offshore suggests this is because traditionally it is mothers who take time out from paid employment to help their family adjust to life abroad and this can leave their income variable and mismanaged.

However, other sources suggest that males are increasingly fulfilling the homemaker role when their spouses relocate with work and will similarly experience difficulties, isolation and language barriers whilst away from home.

This is offset against apparent advantages for females in employment overseas. One American professional who has worked in the Middle East and Asia suggests; ‘I feel more respected as a manager in China than I do in the U.S. The Chinese value two qualities in their leaders: competence and warm-heartedness...Adopting [this] behaviour is more common by American female assignees than by males’.

In spite of the benefits, fewer females relocate abroad with their jobs. This trend has been attributed to a perception that they may be exposed to relatively more cultural bias or risk. Many websites advise females on how best to handle some of the more patriarchal states of the world. Some good advice includes a adopting a willingness to embrace local customs, researching the area, liaising with other expatriates and working hard to demonstrate your value within employment.

Arguably, these approaches ensure a great experience for all expats, regardless of gender! We’d be keen to hear if you think either sex fares differently.

Friday, 13 August 2010

The art of making and keeping friends the expat way

Source: Getty

We have explored before the ways in which some expats are finding romance away from home whilst others are experiencing the familiar loneliness that accompanies the transition to a new way of life.

Our 2009 Expat Experience report found that while expats in Thailand, Vietnam and Hong Kong indicated positive experiences in meeting new people overseas, expats based in Germany, Belgium and Japan have found it more difficult to mix with fellow expats and make local friends.

However, we came across this Telegraph article that might offer a rather immediate solution for those looking to ingratiate themselves into their newfound local communities. The latest range of online networking websites are offering friends for hire! For a small hourly rate you can select your companion for platonic activities such as chatting over coffee, cinema visits and shopping trips, through services such as www.rentafriend.com. The opportunity to instantly fulfil social needs is said to appeal to those who have relocated with their busy careers or simply need a native tour guide to show them around their new neighbourhoods.

As the birthplace of Hello Kitty and capsule hotels, the Japanese have also embraced this networking opportunity and come up with a new type of “social service” that help people fill that social abyss, Office Agents- a Tokyo-based company rents out friends, work colleagues and even relatives. For expats, this could be a practical (albeit unconventional) solution to exploring your new territory and meeting new people.

Mitch Moxley, an American in China is paid to act as the “foreign” colleague for Chinese businesses. He says, ‘Recruiting fake businessmen is one way to create the image—particularly, the image of connection—that Chinese companies crave... The only requirements were a fair complexion and a suit...It’s a lucrative gig for underworked expatriates here.’

We’d be interested in hearing about what you think about this rent-a-friend phenomenon or even about your own social experiences around the world. Feel free to share your thoughts with us.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Which expats are the hardest working?

We’ve spoken before about whether expats are more creative than their stay at home counterparts, or whether expats are getting younger. But which expats are the hardest working?

With many expats moving abroad in search of increased career opportunities, undoubtedly many are already researching into expected salary levels and career prospects within their chosen country. But, how much do expats take into account the working hours and holiday allowance in their new destination? Both of these factors are important for those who want to guarantee a good work / life balance in their new country and shouldn’t be overlooked.

So, according to a Reuters / Ipsos poll we saw on the Daily Telegraph this week, it turns out that France is the place to go for those who value a relaxing lifestyle.

Workers in France are most likely to take advantage of their full holiday allowance (89%) followed by Argentina (80%), Hungary (78%), Britain (77%) and Spain (77%) who dominate the top five spots, which demonstrates how dearly the Europeans value their time off work!
However, those who enjoy long haul trips and long relaxing breaks from work shouldn’t look to Japan. Unfortunately it scores lowest of all 24 countries surveyed, with only 33% of employees using their full holiday quota.

Of course, all expats have different factors that influence their decision to move, but it’s important to make sure you do your research on the points that are important to you – whether that’s work life balance, language barriers or career opportunities. It’s always great to hear your thoughts on what you look for in an expat location, so get in touch with your stories!

Source: Getty Images

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Breaking the language barrier and the joys of expat slang!

Life as an expat can often be full of challenges from adjusting to life in an unfamiliar environment to getting to grips with the local currency, making new friends and dealing with a completely new language and dialect.

Almost every country has its own set of local sayings and pieces of slang that not only add to the cultural experience of expat life but also provide an opportunity for misuse, the odd faux-pas and a lot of laughs. From the Aussie “Fair dinkum” to the Spanish “Chalado” (cha-la-doe - Crazy or nuts. Estar chalado = To be crazy or nuts) expats can often face a tough time when grappling with the local dialect.

Thankfully there are lots of resources out there from phone Apps like iLingual to a whole range of expat blogs and dictionaries which can help ease the transition and get you up to speed in no time

Or perhaps you could take a leaf out of the book of Amy Walker who with her amazing ability with accents could probably blend in almost anywhere!

In the meantime we’d love to hear some of your stories and experiences of dealing with the local lingo and any tips or advice!

Monday, 9 August 2010

How to prevent the culture shock of repatriation and feel as if you’ve never left

Source: Getty

We came across this interesting blog post on the Telegraph last week about “The reverse culture shock of a trip back home.” Often, when we touch upon the topic of moving and living abroad, we think about the importance of adapting to the local culture and settling into the new environment. Hardly any thought is given to what happens when expats decide to pack their bags and make the return journey home.

Our Expat Experience report found that a third of all expats who live away for more than 10 years have not been home for more than two years. For those who choose to live abroad for such a long time, many are surprised and even shocked to find that life has seemingly moved on without them.

Suddenly, you find new additions to the family that you have never seen before, friends back home seem to be settling down and starting up their own families, your favourite local restaurant or bar has closed down and replaced by some nondescript mall.

Repatriates return home to find that the world was their oyster, but the future right now is a clam.

Here, Expat Explorer would like to share some tips and advice for repats to minimise the effects of reverse culture shock and make re-adjusting easier:

1. It is important for expats to mentally prepare themselves for repatriation before heading home. Returning expats usually go through several stages of culture shock as they readjust. By anticipating these stages, expats can develop more effective coping strategies

2. Like any relationships, seeking closure is important. Take some time to reflect upon your life abroad and the achievements you’ve gained before you return home to prepare yourself for the resulting sense of loss

3. While you’re abroad, stay in touch with friends back home through Facebook or arrange Skype sessions once in a while and visit your family at least once a year to keep in the loop

4. If it is difficult for you to go home every year, then stay in touch with fellow expats who are also thinking of heading back home so you can share your experiences with someone going through the same things as you

5. Before you leave, set a goal or vision of what you want to achieve when you get home. This can keep you occupied when you arrive back home and help overcome repatriation shock quicker.

We’d love to hear from fellow expats (or repats) on suggestions on how to overcome repatriation shock and what’s worked well for you. Feel free to share your thoughts with us.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Guest Blogger Series: Introducing... Bryce Keane

We’re starting up our Guest Blogger Series again and this week, we are lucky enough to feature a guest post from Bryce Keane from Australia. He has been working in London in the PR industry for just over a year now and has some tips and advice to share….

When Connecting is Key

I have been living as an expat in London for around 14 months now and one of the most common questions I always get asked by other, newly arrived, Aussies is often “How do I find stuff?”.

Now, that is actually a general umbrella question for a host of other questions I often get – anything from “How do I find a job?” to “How do I meet people?”, “How can I find a flat?”, “How can I find about upcoming gigs?”, to “Where is a good place to go out on Saturday night?” and even, “Do you know where I can get a decent cup of coffee?”.

I always take these questions quite seriously, because I know exactly how it feels to have to ask them. However, I was very lucky to have been moved over with work and to have a few contacts when I arrived but that did not stop me from constantly exploring new ways to just generally ‘find stuff out’ in my new home. So, when I was asked to contribute to Expat Explorer, I thought it might be a perfect place to jot down a few of the things I’ve learned since being here.

What’s Going On?

A good friend of mine gave me one very handy tip when I first arrived, he sent me the link to sign-up for the Time-Out e-newsletter which is an old resource but – in my book – still one of the best out there for what’s going on every weekend in London. Everything from events, to the best ‘cheap eats’ places, to the best coffee in London (trust me, I have this list saved in multiple locations). It is still a great resource and so I am passing that link on to you.

Later, I often got the question about upcoming gigs (one of the best things about London) and, as I had moved in with a musical housemate by then, I put this question to him. His response, which I shall share with you, was thus:

‘My tips are finding the venues that put on bands you like. For me it's The Lexington, Cargo, Hoxton Bar + Kitchen, Scala, Luminaire etc. Go to the venue’s website and they will have a very up to date list, with much more info as well. Also, new sites like songkick.com which are set up to integrate with your Facebook profile.’

Following your favourite bands on Twitter is another great idea, as they often give details for presale tickets. Couple this with new smartphone apps like GigBox and you’ll be rocking out in no time!

I would add to this by saying that UK music blogs are some of the best in the world, so also keep your eyes on would be The Stool Pigeon, The Line of Best Fit, Pitchfork Media (US-based but very good), London Gigs and of course my old favorite Time-Out London’s music gig guide.

Festivals is another common one for expats, and this one I would say is a personal choice (as the UK have so many, all with their own unique feel, that is worth exploring and experimenting). However, some of the bigger ones that might be easier to try out first (and often come with amazing line-ups) include the famous Glastonbury, The Isle of Wight Festival, Bestival, V Festival, Reading Festival and Latitude Festival (IoW and Latitude being two personal favorites of mine).

Jobs Anyone?

The key to job hunting in the UK, to me, is two-fold (and also can be linked to meeting new people, but more on that later): First, build up your digital profile – if you haven’t got one, get a LinkedIn and fill it with everything on your CV, then get a Twitter account and start searching for the area your interested in with a hashtag like ‘#jobs’ at the end. Many people are amazed to find that there are 300,000 jobs advertised on Twitter per month and recruiters are increasingly using LinkedIn to source new talent. Once you have these two in place, start calling or connecting online with either recruiters or the internal HR people, depending on what you’re looking for. Never stop with just one recruiter, as it will take a while to find the right one for you, and try and call and get people out for a coffee meeting whenever you can. The key is to get your face, knowledge and personality in front of them, as you will already be at an advantage over the existing pile of CV’s on their desk.

Where do I live?

Ahhh, the most important one! Where you live in London will definitely shape your impression of the city. London can be a madcap place, so finding somewhere that is your peaceful haven away from it all is key. I still find Gumtree to be one of the best resources, because it changes daily, and there are a whole host of other websites like Flatmate Finder, but also look to your friends or any contacts you have over here. Helping to get the word out that you’re looking, amongst friends and friends of friends, will often save you the hassle of looking at multiple flats without any success. Also, make sure you keep an eye on key factors like public transport options and availability of supermarkets etc before saying yes – these things sound very basic, but can be a real pain in the long run if not easily accessible.

Finding People/Places/Everything Else

One of the things I really love about a global city like London is that, as intimidating as it can sometimes seem to the newly arrived, everyone is here – from all over the world – to achieve something. The beauty of this, in my experience, is that it is a city full of people, many of whom are just like you and are also here from other parts of the world to meet new people, experience new things etc. This is not to say that you should befriend every person on your local bus, but it does mean that you can meet some amazing people if you put yourself out there. Just don’t walk around comparing everything to home, as this is one mistake that I have seen many make before – open your mind and enjoy everything for what it is, different.

I would assume most of you use Facebook, but get yourself out there on Twitter and see who else is talking about / interested in the same things you are. Search for topics, brands, destinations or even ‘tweet-ups’ that occur around London for free every night and begin connecting with people offline as well. Get on to Google Blog Search and seek out people that explore and right about the things you would love to know – clubs, restaurants, shopping, festivals, travel, music – it’s all out there and, best of all, it’s free. Most importantly of all, in terms of nightlife, make a point of trying to explore as many areas as you can on your weekends because North, South, East and West London all have different vibes and different crowds. Find the one that works for you and the rest will follow naturally.

About the author
Bryce Keane is originally from Melbourne and is now working in London as an Account Manager for Mulberry Marketing Communications. He is always interested in hearing from other communications professionals with thoughts, feedback or just for a chat. You can reach him on or Twitter or to find out more about Bryce’s adventures, subscribe to his blog- The Boy in the Bar.

Images source: Courtesy of Sebastien Dehesdin from www.onedayforever.com

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

A taste of home

In some lighter expat news, David Beckham and TV chef Gordon Ramsay are opening up a pub in LA to be called the Queen Vic. Named after Beckham’s wife and former Spice Girl Victoria, the pub will be aimed at British expats who have been yearning for traditional ales and English food, however the pair also believe that the locals will take an interest.

Quite often it is good old local food which can make a big difference for expats missing their home. It has the power to bring back happy memories of socialising with friends and family in familiar surroundings and is particularly nice for those individuals who may be feeling a bit lonely. It can also satisfy a craving that has been nagging at the back of your mind.

There are many locations that specialise in serving expat food. The UK is well-known for its string of bars that target the many antipodean expats based there, the most prominent being the Walkabout, home to many an Aussie expat seeking a taste of the homeland. It’s not just the UK – for the majority of countries you go to, you are quite likely to come across some sort of expat bar or restaurant that is catering for a different taste.

These venues are also a great place to socialise and make new friends. As such, we thought we would ask if anyone has some recommendations of expat hangouts in their resident country that they have found particularly enjoyable?

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

To be or not to be…

Source: Origami_potato

Came across this interesting news story from the Globe and Mail which discusses an interesting aspect of expat life – whether or not you are required to give up your home citizenship whilst pursuing a life abroad.

The article focuses on the fact that the Canadian Government is only now beginning to grapple with “a world in which eight per cent of Canadian citizens live outside Canada’s borders.” According to a researcher who is featured in the piece, Canadian citizens who live abroad are actually punished by government policies. This includes no longer being permitted to vote in federal elections if you are a Canadian who has lived abroad for more than five years and the fact that Canadian citizens living outside the country must pay Canadian taxes unless they can prove they have no economic ties to Canada (which includes property or investments).

The researcher argues that these policies will in turn encourage global-minded Canadians to reduce their ties to Canada. The issue is, however, that many Canadians who live abroad may want to return home at some point and why not, especially when you consider the fact that their country has now featured No. 1 for lifestyle in the Expat Explorer reports for two years running. It’s an issue which isn’t specific to Canada either. Today’s Financial Times featured another story which focused on US citizens looking to renounce their US citizenship for similar reasons to those outlined above.

Whilst the decision to change your citizenship may make more sense especially if you are staying away for longer periods, what if that means you can never live and work again in your original home country? It’s not an easy decision to make. Although there are of course expats who may never want to return home, a significant proportion will always feel the pull of their homeland. If renouncing citizenship is a necessary evil, can that patriotic voice at the back of your mind simply be ignored for the promise of more favourable financial gain?

Monday, 2 August 2010

5 essential apps for Expats

Previously on Expat Explorer, we’ve talked briefly about how the expat community is often a highly creative bunch in finding new ways to connect with each other. As a result we’ve seen a whole range of channels being developed including expat radio, blogs, online communities, forums, twitter, Facebook...

Interestingly, expats are also tapping into mobile phone apps to make the challenge of expat integration easier and to connect with each other more effectively. With popularity of mobile devices such as iPhones on the rise, there is quite literally an app for everything.

Looking for a local restaurant? There's an app for that. Lost in the middle of nowhere and need a sat nav? There's an app for that. Stuck in a sticky situation and don't know the right words to get you out? Well, there's an app for that too.

As an expat, there are probably a few apps that you should equip yourself with to make your life a little bit easier. Here are just some of our recommendations:


iLingual is one of the best apps we've come across. Just see the video below and you'll understand why.

XE Currency

This app is great for quick currency conversions. We like this one because it allows you to do multiple conversions at the same time. The XE Currency app lets you refresh the currency rates every 60 seconds, or update automatically every 15 minutes. You can also set up to 10 currencies that you want to track. Really useful for making those quick calculations for domestic and abroad rates or when you’re on business.


You know sometimes you come across some people who are constantly taking photos of their food? Well it turns out that it might actually be quite useful. On Foodspotting, you can upload a picture of your food, say what it is and where you found it, allowing food-seekers to find good food instead of just restaurants. Such a great and simple idea!


Are you always hanging out at the same places? Do you like meeting new people? Are you naturally quite competitive? Then Foursquare might be the app for you.

Foursquare is an alternative social network that allows to search for local communities and interact with friends. On Foursqaure, you can invite people or add existing users to your network, as well as finding friends within the local area. This is particularly useful if you live in cities such as London, New York or Hong Kong. Added to this app is a simple badges reward system for “checking-in” to a venue. The more you check-in, the closer you get to ‘Mayor’ status. A titled envied by many.

Lonely Planet City Guides

If you’re about to move abroad and don’t feel like packing a giant guide book with the rest of your life, you might consider downloading the Lonely Planet City Guide app. Using the location services option on your phone, it can pinpoint your exact location and suggests local sights and restaurant listings. What’s also great about having it on your phone is that you won’t look so much like a tourist in your new home.

Those are just a few of the apps that we found useful. Which ones do you suggest or what do you think would make a great app for the expat community? Let us know!



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