Wednesday, 30 June 2010

The Great British Brain Drain?

Fears of a Great British brain drain took centre stage today as findings from a new report from the Institute of Public Policy Research suggests that the majority of British people living abroad are typically young, well-educated, highly skilled and adventurous. Whilst it’s interesting to see that the UK produces high-quality expats who, as the report suggests, are “often involved in business development, civic activism and charitable pursuits” is the UK in danger of losing the next generation of its talent?

There are currently an estimated 5.6 million Britons living abroad with the majority tempted overseas by prospects of a more lucrative career, better work-life balance and higher standard of living. However, at time when the UK is trying to rebuild its economy and grow its businesses, should the government be doing more to attract talented expats back to the country? Expats have definitely been affected by the recent Emergency Budget and as previously reported here many expats have been feeling the pinch from local currency fluctuations and the strength of the Euro against the pound.

So what is the net effect of all this? With new financial measures being implemented on a global scale and many countries introducing widespread political reform, are we likely to see a growing trend of repatriation? What seems certain is that in many regions the “dream of a place in the sun” seems to have become a little bit more unsettled with a few grey clouds suddenly on the horizon. With the results from this year’s Expat Explorer survey currently being pulled together hopefully we’ll soon have some more answers on how the global expat community has reacted to a somewhat eventful 12 months.

Friday, 25 June 2010

The grey clouds of pension reform

With the Department for Work and Pensions announcing numerous reforms to the UK’s pensions legislation, the question to pose is what impact this might have on the expat community in future generations. The changes made include plans to increase the state pension age to 66 by 2016, abolish the default retirement age and review the concept of auto-enrolment.


Longevity is a key driver in these reforms and the simple fact is that as a nation, residents in the UK are living longer than ever before. As a result, in order to be financially stable in retirement and prevent an extremely heavy burden being placed on the state, the majority will need to work till they're older. The good thing is that through abolishing the default retirement age employees will now have much more flexibility in “phasing down” their working life and be able to continue on a part time basis thus making them financially better off. But what does this mean for expats?


One might argue that in having to work longer, people will be less inclined to move after their retirement and the expat community may be expected to shrink slightly. On the other hand if the proposed changes mean people are now more financially stable and better off in their latter years, perhaps they will have more economic capacity to move overseas and enjoy a life in the sun. In this case we could actually begin to see a demographic shift and an ageing expat population.


Whatever the impact, these changes are likely to make a fundamental difference to people’s lives and its important especially for expats, whose financial situation can often be more complex than those living at home to understand exactly where their money is and what they are entitled to. Tax efficiency of savings will be more important than ever and making sure you receive specific expat tailored advice will be paramount. As always we welcome your thoughts and look forward to hearing your views.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Expats and the Emergency Budget

As the Government outlined its economic plans in the Emergency Budget, today we’re asking how these announcements have impacted the expat community? Through our previous posts we’ve already discussed how policies at home like the removal of fuel allowance can impact the expat life abroad and with further slashes to benefits announced yesterday are times about to get even tougher?

Perhaps the biggest shifts in policy set to impact the expat community include the rise in capital gains tax for higher earners from 18% to 28% and the acceleration to increase the state pension age to 66. For those expats owning more than one home or with their own business, changes to capital gains tax could come as a pretty big blow. With so many recent changes in regulation, now more than ever it’s important for expats to have a deep understanding of their financial arrangements to ensure these are as tax efficient as possible.

To help you see how you may have been affected by yesterday’s Budget, we’ve included an at a glance summary, courtesy of the BBC as well as a full summary including the small print.

As always we’re really interested in hearing your thoughts about how you’ve been impacted or have looked to change your lifestyle as a result.

Monday, 21 June 2010

How the World Cup is bringing the expat community together

As we fast approach the knock-out stages of the World Cup, it's great to see that expat communities across the globe are rallying around their teams as football fever steps up another notch.

What's particularly nice to see is how expats have also embraced their adopted country, like expat Kay Johnstone, who reveals in the Telegraph that although she has never been a strong football fan, her experience of South Africa and its enthusiasm for World Cup 2010 has been too hard to ignore. She says that it's "like Christmas every day, with everyone more friendly, more polite, more happy. There is a national pride that is almost tangible." She is also hoping that South Africa reach the final stages of the competition which is a great thing to see.

It can always be a bit difficult for expats that are not able to celebrate world sporting events in their own home country as they can feel like they are missing out. What it does mean, however, is that amongst this group you often find an even stronger sense of pride and community away from home, with many expat circles in their adopted country uniting together, heading down to a well-established meeting point and cheering on their team together. Take, for example, the Australian Times, which picked out some of the best places to watch the Australian football games if you're an Aussie expat living in London.

With many countries now looking at this week's games as make-or-break, it's very likely that we will once again see expat communities come together across hundreds of cities, all glued to that familiar little (or big) screen. The question is, where will you be watching your team's game and do you have any tips on where expats should go in your city/town?

Friday, 18 June 2010

Tokyo is the most expensive expat city

New research published by Employment Conditions Abroad (ECA), a global British outsourcer, has suggested that Tokyo is the most expensive expat city to live in. The report which surveyed the price of a basket of day-to-day goods and services for expats in over 390 locations found the top five priciest cities to be:
1. Tokyo (Japan)
2. Oslo (Norway)
3. Luanda (Angola)
4. Nagoya (Japan)
5. Yohama (Japan)

With 3 out of the top 5 cities based in Japan, the survey highlights how the growing strength of the yen has seriously increased the cost of living for international assignees in Japan. Does this represent a wider trend amongst the expat community where local fluctuations in currency really do impact everyday life?

As recently discussed on the Expat Explorer blog, many British expats living in Europe are now choosing to conduct their weekly shop online and delivered from the UK given the strength of the Euro. Perhaps more tellingly these findings paint a slightly different expat picture from the popular “living like kings” perspective. Have you had to change your lifestyle following changes in the strength of local currencies? Stay tuned for the results of the 2010 Expat Explorer survey which will hopefully shed further light on this interesting and important issue.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

The secret to a stress free expat life and why it’s good to talk!

Further to our post on the difficulties that can come with expat relationships, we wanted to take a further look at the complexities of settling in to a new expat life. Living the expat life can often be a stressful experience which is full of change and uncertainty in unfamiliar surroundings. Whilst many find this existence exhilarating, liberating and a welcome challenge, living abroad is definitely not everybody’s cup of tea. So what it is that determines how well people can adapt to life in a foreign nation? A new report seems to suggest that personality and susceptibility to stress may be crucial factors.

Writing for the Guardian, Dougie Marks believes that people who are prone to stress will naturally find it more difficult to settle into a new life overseas. Perhaps more worryingly these difficulties can often lead to many health problems such as headaches, insomnia and a lack of concentration. One of the main recommendations to come out of the report is the importance in developing a social support network as quickly as possible. Being able to call on friends and family is vital but when the nearest relatives may be thousands of miles away, local integration becomes crucial.

As Marks points out “it’s important to take time to make friends locally, both expat and native, to unwind with them and share your problems.” One of the immediate problems that comes to mind is the fact that often new expats find themselves completely reliant on the existing expat community. Obviously these networks provide a source of immediate support and advice but taking time out to engage with locals and really experience their culture can be equally important.

Getting involved with the local community is however not without its challenges and with language barriers, fear of rejection and cultural differences can be an extremely daunting process. That’s why on today’s blog were asking all our readers to let us know of any tips and advice they have on how to make building relationships with the local community as easy as possible. We look forward to hearing you thoughts

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

The tricky nature of expat relationships

One of the more complicated aspects of expat life is relationships. For many, this can be about creating new relationships in a new country, however for many others it centres around how to successfully manage a relationship that you are already in - something that can be more difficult particularly when you are an expat.

Often, expats make their decisions about a relocation based on work and this can be tricky, especially when there are conflicting views amongst partners. Whilst for one side it may be a fantastic opportunity and something that will drive career growth, for the other it may mean something very different and they may stand to lose both a well established career and friends network. Much of this is about compromise but perhaps something that is found more prominently amongst expat couples is sacrifice.

Looking at the gloomier side of it, the Guardian covered a story this week that shows what can happen if things turn sour for an expat couple. It says that breaking up may be hard to do, but for married expats it can be fraught with danger and that where couples choose to divorce can have a major impact on both parties' financial health.

The important thing to remember, though, is that this is by no means relevant to all expats and in fact for most part, the expat life is a fantastic and enriching experience for both parties. Becoming an expat can also open avenues for singletons when it comes to love, with many who have left their original home to pursue an expat life finding love along the way. Our Expat Experience report, published last year, found that one in five expats have found love overseas, with Thailand being the most likely place to fall in love followed by Germany and Brazil. It also found that expats over the age of 55 will have a greater chance of finding their life partner whilst living abroad.

The difficulty then can be quite different - for those that have found a life partner in their adopted country, the question is how do you deal with being with someone for the rest of your life who may want to live outside your homeland? It's a tricky question. Perhaps it is something you have experienced or maybe it's not relevant to you as you don't intend on ever moving home and are happy where you are. We'd be very interested to hear your thoughts!

Monday, 14 June 2010

Singing Singapore's praises

Expats have given further evidence of their love for Singapore, with a piece out today from the New Straits Times.

Focusing on integration, the piece features several expats commenting how easy it is for them to live and work in Singapore, with the following cited as some of the best benefits:
  • Skilled workers with graduate degrees, professional qualifications or specialist skills are allowed to bring their families and are exempted from any monthly levies
  • Those earning more than S$1,800 are eligible to apply for permanent residency within six months of working in Singapore
  • Short application process of three - six months
In addition to the above, expats also say that Singapore is home to efficient public transport and a lower cost of living. The findings mirror our Expat Experience report that was released last year. Overall, Singapore placed 8th out of 26 countries when looking at both the ability to integrate and overall quality of life. In fact, it was among the top six countries of the report in terms of the high quality of utilities, entertainment and healthcare.

No doubt, Singapore has always been a well established location for expats worldwide and has seen a countless number either relocate on their own or - if they work for a multinational company - make a move through their existing role. In particular, expats with families have often remarked on its strengths and how it caters well to their lifestyle. Does any of this sound familiar to you?

It will be interesting to see how Singapore places this year in the Expat Explorer 2010 survey, which is due for release in the coming months. Will it retain its high standing or will other locations emerge as new contenders for this top 10 position? Only time will tell...

Friday, 11 June 2010

Guest Blogger Series: Miriam Berger (part 2)

Setting up a small business

My experience at home (Canada) and abroad (Israel)

At the end of 2009, I started on a different type of adventure – starting my own business.

Starting my own consulting business has always been a dream of mine. Throughout my career, I’ve worked for some of the largest corporations in the world but always felt that I would get the most satisfaction of running my own show.

Towards the end of 2009, after some reflection time, I felt like it was time to give it a shot. After leaving Jersey around September last year, I went back to Toronto to visit with family and friends. This began the development of my marketing consulting firm, AppleCrisp Marketing Solutions.

What started as a series of wacky ideas has now prospered into a small business that I’m very proud of. In under a year, I feel that I’ve accomplished a lot.

My first step was research – in Toronto, I looked into what I needed to do to start up the business formally. The first step was deciding on a name (done) and registering it as a sole proprietorship. The process in Ontario (the province Toronto is based in) is quite straightforward. You can essentially register the business name online and you receive a business name registration number and certification through email. Costs are minimal (CAD$60). Since I’m running my own show (for now) I didn’t have to register for any additional services like Worker’s Compensation – only register the name and apply for a Good and Services Tax (GST) number. Done and dusted all in one afternoon!

After spending some time in Israel, I made the decision to stay here for a little longer. A few months in, I realized that there was a lot of opportunity to grow AppleCrisp locally in Israel as there is a need for English speakers with solid writing and marketing skills. Taking all of that onboard, I decided to set up shop here too and register AppleCrisp – Israeli style.

To most, registering a business in the Middle East may have “red tape” written all over it. I’ve found that, again, it is pretty straightforward. There are English agencies setup to help out new entrepreneurs and small business owners – so a lot of resources if you have questions. The first step is to register for Value Added Tax (VAT), then Income Tax and finally with National Insurance. Once you open a file in these three areas you are pretty much on your way unless you want to incorporate – which I don’t.

What I’ve learned? Opening a consulting business, with little overhead and no employees other than yourself, has been quite straightforward in both countries for me.

Words of advice - It is important to take the time to understand what you need to do in order to qualify for certain incentives as well as ensure you comply with the local laws. Asking local people, including hiring professional services, is a good investment of time and money to start the process on the right foot.

Starting up a business is still new for me but so far, so good. Doing it while I’m living abroad makes my experiences even that more rich and interesting. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for AppleCrisp – here, there and everywhere.

Exciting times ahead,

Miriam

About the author

Miriam Berger is the Owner/Consultant of AppleCrisp Marketing Solutions (www.myapplecrisp.com). She has been a marketer since 2001, working for some of the largest organizations worldwide. A true expat at heart, Miriam is originally from Toronto, Canada and has worked across North America, the UK and now Israel. At the end of 2009, she made the move to the consulting world offering her marketing expertise to clients across international markets. In addition to her wide range of marketing projects, she is also the blogger behind Travelling Starfish (www.travellingstarfish.com) - a travel blog with an expat edge!

Thursday, 10 June 2010

The Gulf continues to be popular with expats

According to Euromonitor, the population of Bahrain is set to double by 2030, driven mainly by immigration. A study highlights that an influx of foreign workers, particularly from Asia, means that this population is now estimated to have overtaken the native population for the first time.


Despite efforts from the government to tighten entry requirements to the country, in order to implement its policy of ‘Bahrainisation’ and to encourage employment of Bahraini nationals, it is still thought that foreign workers make up two-thirds of the current work force.


We recently looked at the United Arab Emirates, where over 80% of the current population originates from outside the country, and various stakeholders have expressed concern over expats’ dominance of the job market. Bahrain has a much smaller population than the UAE (800,000 compared to almost 7 million) and therefore its demographics are much more exposed to mass people movement.


It will be interesting in the coming years to see how these regions develop in relation to one another, as an indication of what the influential factors are in attracting expat workers to an area.


Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Croissants from Croyden? How savvy expats are sidestepping the weak pound

As the Euro continues to grow in strength against the pound, savvy expats are taking bargain hunting to the extreme according to the latest reports from The Guardian. It seems that a growing number of expats have began grabbing their groceries online at UK supermarkets and making use of specialist delivery firms to have these shipped to the continent.


While it seems that currently British expats living in France are the most likely to get their croissants from Croyden rather than Calais, the trend does seem to be spreading with Simon Goodenough, director of Sterling Shopping, a delivery firm based in Brackley, Northamptonshire recently receiving orders from as far away as Spain.


Whilst some may see this new development as nothing more than one of the lighter-hearted insights into the expat life, does it really point to a deeper issue of increasing financial pressure on British nationals living abroad? With many expats holding pensions or savings in sterling rather than euros, the weak pound has meant a 30% drop in spending power over the past 18 months. So are expats finally feeling the pinch and is the notion of “living like a king” now completely flawed?


Only time will tell but with the 2010 Expat Explorer survey assessing many of the financial pressures expats face, we should have some interesting insights to share soon. Keep your eyes peeled for our Expat Economics report scheduled for mid-summer.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Expat Explorer 2010 now closed… and all eyes on South Africa

The HSBC Bank International Expat Explorer survey for 2010 has now closed.

Early counts show it to be significantly bigger than last year’s and we’re sure we’ll be able to paint a fascinating picture of the expat population around the world. The response has been great and demonstrates that although individuals are spread across pretty much every area of the world the expat voice is strong. Thanks to all who took part and helped us get this far – and keep an eye out for the first report, Expat Economics, which we’re expecting to be able to publish in mid-summer.

Onto the next biggest thing happening this year, the World Cup kicks off in 3 days. Millions of people will be tuned into events in South Africa. The tournament has been the catalyst for serious levels of investment in the country’s infrastructure and entertainment facilities so that it can support the travelling fans of nations around the world. The next 5 weeks will be a real chance for the country to show what it is about as fans from all over the world fly in to take part.

The South Africa-based expats that we surveyed last year were already raving about the country and as a result it ranked above European countries and 6th overall in Expat Experience. The Telegraph recently ran an article looking at the legal and financial side of moving to South Africa as part of a series for Britons moving overseas. Whether you’re planning on visiting for the World Cup or considering a move yourself (or maybe the former leads to the latter…) the article is definitely worth a read.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Are EU expats about to be left out in the cold?

As the new coalition Government prepares its emergency budget for the 22nd June, recent reports seem to suggest that even expats could be affected by proposed cuts. An article courtesy of the Daily Telegraph discussed the fact that according to a senior government source, the winter fuel allowances of nearly 65,000 expat pensioners in the EU could soon be under investigation.

Currently British expats aged over 60 and living in the EU claim payments worth up to £400 each winter to help with their heating bills and in 2008-2009 these payments cost the British government around £13.8 million. Undoubtedly with Britain’s fiscal deficit posing a considerable threat to the economy, belt tightening is a natural consequence however the fact remains that this annual pay out to expats equates to less than 1 per cent of the total winter fuel allowances allocated by the Department of Work and Pensions.

Obviously, looking after elderly British citizens is one of the Government’s main priorities but the issue of expat winter fuel allowances raises some interesting issues. Firstly one of the most contentious aspects is that it is only available to those expats living within the EU, British expats who have moved outside this zone are no longer eligible leading to a potentially unfair divide based solely on geographical location. Secondly, with differences in the cost of fuel and local currency and exchange rate fluctuations, is a standard rate payment the most effective way of administering the scheme? Finally, with EU law suggesting that it is illegal for Britain to discriminate against citizens who live elsewhere in the European Union how effectively will the UK government be able to introduce these changes?

Whatever the outcome of the debate, the next couple of weeks promises to be an interesting time for expats and UK residents alike.

Friday, 4 June 2010

The expat community isolated or integrated?

With only three days to go until the close of the 2010 Expat Explorer survey, time for those wanting to take part is running out. Expatriate studies never fail to raise some interesting insights and a piece of research conducted in Canada has proved to be no exception. The report conducted by Jesse O’Brian of the University of Calgary sought to observe how Canadian and American retirees adapted to life in Mexican town.

Interestingly O’Brian found that the move to a new country is often not easy and despite the cheaper cost of living many expats failed to integrate into the local community. Quite often expats were forced to form their own smaller community that meant the lifestyle they experienced was pretty similar to that they had led before the move. Perhaps more tellingly, expats also regularly lost touch with their relatives back home with many citing this as a particularly difficult aspect of living abroad. How representative are these findings amongst the global expat community? Is it that O’Brian’s study provides a seemingly rare honest insight into how isolated many expats feel or is the research simply an anomaly limited to this particular region?

Tell us your thoughts by completing the 2010 Expat Explorer survey before it’s too late!

Thursday, 3 June 2010

4 days left to have your say…

We’ve had an excellent response to Expat Explorer this year and it is already significantly bigger than last year’s. Our research teams are getting ready to crunch the results into revealing reports on life and money in the places you live around the world.


It’s great to see the expat community participating as a whole to such a large project and we’d like to thank everybody that has filled in the survey thus far! We’ve had a greater response from even more countries this year but there are a few where we still need a few more numbers to guarantee that they will be included in the final report rankings.


If you think you have an excellent quality of life where you live, or that your financial situation has much improved compared to before you moved, and you want this to be reflected in your country’s ranking, we would love to know. The countries from where it would be great to have a few more respondents are as follows:

· Bermuda

· Brazil

· Turkey

· Czech Republic

· Egypt

· Indonesia

· Italy

· Japan

· Malta

· New Zealand

· Oman

· Vietnam


We’re looking at exploring other themes this year besides just comparing countries, so if you live outside these places we still would like to hear from you. We’ve so far had people completing the survey from Congo to Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Sweden and even the Cook Islands – ever wondered what the lifestyle is like out there? Once published, the reports will be a great resource for you if you’ve ever wondered about making another (or your first) move abroad.


The survey takes about 10-15 minutes to complete and is open until the end of Sunday 6th June (GMT) so you’ve got 4 days left to have your say. Fill in the survey here and retweet to all your Twitter followers!

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

The expat legacy

Recent figures from the UAE’s National Bureau of Statistics show a division of economic activity between expats and nationals. Despite the global economic downturn and a stagnant economy in 2009, population growth in the UAE continues and now stands at 8.19 million from 8.07 million in 2008. According to the figures, nearly 80 per cent of expats are economically active compared to just 45 per cent of nationals. With 80 per cent of the total population being expats, this means that there is only a very small working native population in the work force.

Understandably, these findings are cause for concern for some of the UAE’s established institutions. UAE publication Emirates Business 24-7 laments the situation saying “this development involves very serious implications for the demographic, economic and human future of the GCC countries.”

The UAE, and Dubai in particular, has opened itself up to the world but the financial crisis has seen a sharp pull-back for the region. As recovery begins, the legacy of Dubai may be the business expat – and this large and economically active population will be crucial to getting the region back on track. At the same time, the crisis has highlighted the importance of sustainable growth. Both expats and natives have a role to play in taking the region forward harmoniously.

In order to paint a picture of our own, we want to include as many countries as possible in the this year’s Expat Explorer reports. Some of the countries that we need a few more respondents to make up a statistically representative sample to include in the 2010 reports include:
· Bahrain
· Bermuda
· Brazil
· Czech Republic
· Egypt
· Italy
· Japan
· New Zealand
· Russia
· Vietnam

If you’re an expat and you live in one of these countries, then please fill out the survey! The same goes if you know anybody living as an expat in the country. We wouldn’t want these countries to miss out!

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