Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Top 10 Expat Explorer blog posts

Time for another monthly round up of most read posts this month:

  1. Expat Women Series: The truth about expat housewives- Part 1 of 4 in our Expat Women Series, with the first one looking at expat housewives.
  2. Expert Excellence featuring Robin Pascoe- Expat author shares her insight on the use of social media as a training tool for expats.
  3. Best place for quality of life abroad- Thailand tops the poll for quality of life abroad. Find out about best places for healthcare, work life balance, entertainment and social life
  4. UK has the X(pat)-Factor... or does it? – Expat Explorer results from the Expat Economics and Expat Experience reports paint a grey picture for those who have located to the UK. However, the UK ranked top globally in terms of entertainment. Find out why here.
  5. Guest Blogger Series: Introducing... Tiffany Jansen – Tiffany from Clogs and Tulips shares her story on how she made friends with the locals
  6. Guest Blogger Series: Introducing... Vicki Jeffels- Vix poses an interesting nature vs. nurture question when it comes to expats. Are expats made or born?
  7. Guest Blogger Series: Introducing... Aaron White- the ever popular English Man in Dubai- Aaron White gives his top five tips for those thinking of moving to Dubai
  8. Are expats more creative?
  9. Expat buddies – Our second report found that expats choose to spend more time with their own expat friends, rather than making new friends in their host country. Why might this be?
  10. Expat Explorer Survey 2010 launches today! What do the results say?- Find out results from our first report on best place for expat finances.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Guest Blogger Series: Introducing... Vicki Jeffels

This week, we have three-time expat, Vicki Jeffels as our guest blogger. Vix writes at Vegemitevix where she talks about life as a Kiwi expat living in Britain. Here, Vix will share with Expat Explorer readers her unique insight into life abroad and poses an interesting question:

Are expats born or made?

I've been an expat three times now - as a child in post-colonial Fiji, in Australia as a traveller and later as a young mum, and of course now... as an expat Kiwi living in Britain.

I'm not sure whether expats are born, or made. Do you simply grow up with an adventurous spirit? Or do you crave to repeat the fascinating experiences of your expat childhood, as I did? Perhaps it's a little of both. Whatever the origin, I think the challenge can be far more keen for the 'mother' of a family than the 'father'. The maternal role is so intertwined with building a home and a supportive community, it can be difficult to assimilate into a new country and feel at home. It takes time, of course, and all of it is 'growing time'. In the end one of the biggest positives the expat life brings, is a feeling of being close as a family unit, sometimes even to the point of being self-reliant.

There have been surprising lessons too. In my humble opinion I think it can be more difficult to settle into an environment when it is a similar one to your homeland. If everyone around you also looks English and speaks English, the social gaffs are highlighted! I have been known to embarrass myself by saying just the wrong thing yet looking as if I should have known the right thing to say.

On one sunny afternoon in rural Hampshire my car battery died, and I needed a strong burly man to help man the jumper cables. I bounced across the road to the local pub where the old boys were in caps and Wellingtons at the bar ruminating over their pints. 'Hi there, can anyone give me a jump'. One of the old boys almost fell off his stool. Apparently, that's not the right thing to say in England!

The expat experience is a learning curve, sometimes a gentle one, sometimes a steeper one, but overall it's a worthwhile one. If nothing else being an expat helps to bring home what it means to be a native of your homeland. I'm not sure I've ever felt so much a Kiwi as I do now, as the sole voice in the pub cheering on the All Blacks in a rugby game against the Lions. I never watched the All Blacks at home. I didn't eat a lot of Vegemite then either, nor crave Pineapple Lumps or Jaffas or any of the other foods of home. But here I do. They are the foods of the other side, where the grass is said to be greener.

Is there an innoculation for being drawn to the expat life? If there is, I'll pass. I'm happy with living this life with my eyes wide open, where very little is taken for granted, and home is a part deep inside me that travels with me when I do.

About the author

Vix writes at Vegemitevix where she talks about life as a Kiwi expat living in Britain, now married for the second time, living with three children, a dog and a cat and a dining room full of detritus. Her story about how she met ‘my Englishman’ and the struggles they encountered when trying to fight her deportation, are the basis of her second book entitled From Pavlova to Pork Pies (via Paris!) which will hopefully be published in the new year. Follow Vix on Twitter @vegemitevix

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Guest Blogger Series: Introducing... Tiffany Jansen

This week we explored whether expats have a tendency to be cliquey and had some strong responses on Twitter from fellow expats. As our second report found, expats tend to stick with other expats, and a lot of the response we had resonated with this. Worse still, the report also found that Europe is the hardest region to make friends. So what should you do to make that first step to venture out and start making friends from your local country?

Today’s guest blogger, Tiffany Jansen shares some of her thoughts on how to…

Befriend the Natives

Like most expats, as soon as I moved to the Netherlands, I began to seek out fellow expats and internationals. I joined an international women’s club, began Dutch language classes where I met others in my situation, and used my husband’s networks to locate other expats. My efforts produced some amazing relationships and I am so grateful that I took the time to reach out in that way.

But the longer I stayed in the Netherlands, the more I realized that something was missing. I had absolutely no Dutch friends. Of course I socialize on a regular basis with my Dutch husband’s friends and they always welcomed me with open arms. Yet the fact remains that they are my husband’s friends. I felt so dependent on him as it was during that first year, and the idea of him being the sole supplier of my Dutch contacts made me feel positively helpless.

Towards the end of my first year in the Netherlands, I decided to set out to make some Dutch friends of my own. I had several reasons for wanting to do this other than regaining a sense of independence. The two most important of those were a) to help me with my mastery of the Dutch language, which I knew was an integral part of the integration process, and b) to help me feel more at home in my new country by making me feel more rooted and giving me a sense of belonging.

My first “big break” occurred when I stumbled upon Divina Close Harmony through a fellow American and international women’s club member. Also a performer, she had found the vocal group in order to continue to nourish her love of singing and performing here in the Netherlands. Knowing that the group was an all-Dutch one -- save my newfound fluent-in-Dutch American friend – gave me some pause, but I decided to give it a shot. Divina allowed me to meet with like-minded Dutch women who share my passion, do something I enjoy, and practice my Dutch.

The next step was taking advantage of the Dutch-partner program offered by the municipality I live in. After completing an intake interview, I was paired up with a native Dutch-speaking volunteer. The idea is to meet once every two weeks over the period of six months to spend time together… speaking Dutch. My partner and I still meet up regularly almost a year later.

I’ve found that befriending the Dutch is no easy task. As friendly as the Dutch are, many expats have found that they tend to keep their friends from school or university and don’t usually feel the need to expand beyond that. Sure, they gather acquaintances from work and other social activities, but friendship is a level not too quickly or easily attained.

When I get discouraged, my husband always reminds me of his friend Inge. Inge was a former colleague of his whom he introduced to his circle of friends. It took her two full years of persistence to become a part of that circle. She’s now married to one of them and, when you see the group together, you’d never guess that there was a time when she wasn’t a part of that group and that’s if you’re a native Dutch speaker.

As a non-fluent Dutch speaker, in my case there is always going to be someone communicating in a language other than their native one. Language barriers and the inability to fully express yourself in another language can make making friends in your new country a far cry from a picnic.

Even so, only one year into Mission: Befriend the Natives and I’m already seeing results. Some days are better than others, but I’ve come to realize that making friends with the locals is a crucial part of feeling at home in your new country.

About the author

Tiffany and her dog moved to the Netherlands in 2008. Like so many expats in the Netherlands, Tiffany’s move was a result of being swept off her feet by a Dutchie. Tiffany writes about her dutchification adventures at Clogs and Tulips: An American in Holland and teaches theater and musical theater workshops at Little Broadway. Follow her on Twitter @clogsandtulips

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Expat buddies

Further to the launch of the second report about expat lifestyle abroad, the findings found that that expats choose to spend more time with their own expat friends, rather than making new friends in their host country. Why might this be?

When people are placed in a completely new and unfamiliar environment, it is a blessing to have existing expats in your new country to help you learn the ropes better. Expats who have ‘been there and done that’ can understand the situation you’re in. This could be for this reason that new expats tend to gravitate with fellow expats.

The results show that this is most likely to be the case for those located in Qatar and the UAE where more than four in five expats are more likely to only integrate with fellow expats, followed by Bahrain (81%), Hong Kong (79%) and Saudi Arabia (73%).

Overall, more than half (58%) of expats agreed that they’re more likely to go out with expat friends rather than local friends. The report also found that Europe is the hardest region to make friends, with European countries such as the Netherlands, Germany, UK, Switzerland and Belgium dominating the bottom five places of the ease of making friends league table.

However, the findings show that expats in Canada integrate well within local society and make friends in their host country. Nearly half (45%) of Canada based expats go out with local friends as much as fellow expats, alongside expats in the USA (37%) and Australia (36%).

What have your experiences been?

Friday, 12 November 2010

Expert Excellence featuring Robin Pascoe

Welcome to second instalment to our Expert Excellence series. This week, we have four-time author and expat expert, Robin Pascoe sharing her insight into the use of social media as a training tool for expats.

We hope you enjoy her post as much as we did.

Using Social Media to Train Expats

Social media has dramatically changed the lives of expats young and old, helping them to make new social connections and keep in touch with old ones.

But what about the use of social media—popular sites such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn—in pre-departure training for international assignments? Not only do these tools help spread the word about valuable resources, they are also convenient in today’s busy world where scheduling training sessions can often be difficult.

“I think nothing is as effective as live classroom training, but video training is a definite second best,” believes expat coach Heather Markel of Culture Transition. Heather uses videos, blog postings, Twitter and other platforms to prepare her clients.

“There’s no way to prevent trainees from doing something else if they are on a video conference or phone call. That’s the main reason why some of those methods can be less effective,” she notes, adding that fighting participant’s multi-tasking can often be a huge challenge for trainers.

“For participants who are fully focused, video and online training can be an excellent resource,” says Markel.

MoveOne Relocation has the most ambitious collection of on-line videos for training expats in the practicalities of international relocation globally.

Videos include interviews with other expats and specialists regarding schools, moving pets, health care facilities, and just about everything else under the sun in short video bursts.

MoveOne also created specific City Guides to answer as many unanswered questions as possible before an expat has even arrived at their destination.

“We are not only telling them what they need to know for a successful, informed move,” says Camilla Zalka of MoveOne. “We are showing them as well. We believe that eases any hesitations they may be feeling.”

If you want to ask a direct question and have it answered. Try International Living, a large and popular expat website that has uploaded more than 100 videos to YouTube.

Internet radio is also coming on strong with the growing popularity of programs on Expatstradio “You can listen anytime, anywhere and get involved at a level that suits you,” says Expatsradio’s media director Peter Anstis.

“It’s not like a phone call you need to schedule or having to sit down and write a letter. It’s all at your fingertips instantly when required,” he says.

Expatsradio has developed many briefing-related shows, including a program about culture shock with host Margarita Gokun Silver of Global Coach Center.

“Social media helps train expats for international assignments because it also allows for so many perspectives and opinions and experiences to be shared on any one subject,” says Silver.

“An expat who is about to go to another country, can receive great insights and learning just by listening to many different people out there.”

About the author

Robin Pascoe is the author of four widely-used books for expatriate families. She recently posted a global video lecture tour on the content of her books at her popular website.

You can also follow Robin on Twitter @expatexpert

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

UK has the X(pat)-Factor... or does it?

Last week, we launched Expat Experience- the second report in HSBC’s Expat Explorer 2010 survey and looked at the emerging themes in the quality of life abroad and how well expats integrated into their new environment.

This week, we thought we’d look a little closer into some of the findings of the report- with a particular focus on expats living in the UK.

The results paint a grey picture for expats who have decided to relocate to the UK. Findings highlight that the majority of UK-based expats do not believe that their quality of life is better than their country of origin. So why do expats continue to decide to move to the UK?

Image courtesy of ITV

Despite ranking 20th in the overall experience league table, the UK ranked top globally in terms of entertainment. With cool music festivals, independent cinemas and quirky eats, the UK ranks 1st for this aspect of expat life. More than two-thirds (69%) cite that they enjoy the varied entertainment choices the UK offers.

The UK also fares well on the 'Ease of Integration' ranking. 41% of UK-based expats think that it is easy for them to make local friends and almost two-thirds (62%) feel that they are integrating well in the local community. This finding could driven by the fact that UK-based expats find it easy to adapt to the local language and limited barriers to communication when they arrive, which is unsurprising considering 70% of expats moving to the UK already speak the local language.

However, despite these positives, the UK scored worst for all countries on expats’ quality of accommodation and the commute to work, compared with their country of origin. The good old British weather was also cited as a reason why expats struggled to feel at home in the UK.

What have your experiences been? Let us know below.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Best place for quality of life abroad

The second report in HSBC’s annual Expat Explorer survey launched today! The report focuses on expats' experiences of setting up in a new country of residence, integrating into local society as well as their quality of life in comparison to where they used to live.

Expats rated aspects such as entertainment, healthcare, work life balance and social life. This year’s findings revealed that Thailand comes on top when it comes to quality of life, followed by Canada- 2nd and Bahrain- 3rd.

In addition, the results revealed some other interesting things about life abroad:

• Emotive concerns such as making new friends or missing family back home are among the biggest worries for expats when moving abroad. These worries were also more prevalent amongst female expats. Nearly half of female expats surveyed (48%) admitted concerns about re-establishing social life in their new country ahead of relocation, compared to only 37% of men. Meanwhile 44% of female expats shared concerns about missing friends and family, compared to less than one third (29%) of men.

• Increased career prospects and quality of life don’t go hand in hand. The last report found that expats living in countries such as Russia and Saudi Arabia have the greatest overall wealth. However, when it comes to quality of life, these countries typically scored very low on the league table with Qatar 19th, Saudi Arabia 20th and Russia 24th out of 25 countries.

• Expats choose to spend more time with their own expat friends, rather than making new friends in their host country. Overall, more than half (58%) of expats agreed that they’re more likely to go out with expat friends rather than local friends. However, expats in Qatar (85%) and the UAE (84%) are most likely to only integrate with fellow expats, followed by Bahrain (81%), Hong Kong (79%) and Saudi Arabia (73%).

• Expats in Canada are most likely to integrate within local society and make friends in their host country. Nearly half (45%) of Canada based expats go out with local friends as much as fellow expats, alongside expats in the USA (37%) and Australia (36%).

If you’re interested in the full report and how individual countries fared, you can download it here.

Do these findings reflect with your own experiences? Let us know

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Expat Women Series: The truth about expat housewives

In this new four-part series on Expat Explorer, we will be looking at the topic of Expat Women and their experiences abroad.

In part one, we explore the truth behind expat housewives and find out whether it is really just about herbal tea parties, lingering lunches and extravagant trips to the shopping mall.

The truth about expat housewives

You have moved your whole family half way across the globe for your husband’s job, your kids are at school all day, and you have an army of local staff to keep your house in order and dinner on the table at night. You spend the day sipping tea, catching up with other expat housewives, attending pilates classes together and the rest of the time in between spas and manicure parlours.

The reality of course, couldn’t be further away from these stereotypes. Trawl through any expat blogs written by women abroad and you will know.

We have come across some great blogs of housewives living abroad, detailing their new experiences abroad, bringing up the children and settling in to their new homes. Maryline at Franco-American Dream for example blogs regularly about her parenting journey abroad and shares some heart-warming stories about bringing up a child in France.

Africa Expat Wife has been blogging for four years. Her lighthearted accounts of life in Kenya detail the ups and downs of a housewife abroad. Africa Expat Wife’s experiences are on the whole positive ones, however, sadly this is not the case for all expat housewives. Some women have reported extreme cases of feeling lonely and alienated from the local community as a result of language barriers. The important thing to remember that with the explosion of expat activity on the internet in recent years you are only ever a few clicks away from connecting with a community of people in the same position as you. On the expat-blog for example you can find discussion groups on everything ranging from how to make friends in Brussels to how to find a school for your expat children in Bogotá.

For many women who have decided to relocate abroad with their partner, the hardest part is often the loss of one’s ability to have a career of their own. Different countries have varying regulations regarding employment of foreigners and if you are in a country that does not give more than one foreign work visa per expat family your employment opportunities can be severely limited. The other barrier women may face is negative perceptions in their new country of women who work. Saudi Wave discusses the thorny issue of expat housewives vs working women.

Are you an expat housewife? What have your experiences of living abroad been like? Have you developed any innovative ways to keep busy? Tell us your experiences below.



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