Friday, 26 August 2011

The University Puzzle

Every year thousands of British expats return home to go to university, and many more expats from across the world decide to come to the UK to study. But with an ever growing range of options available to those approaching university age many parents and their children alike are wondering which to choose and the pros and cons of each. This post aims to explore the option of going to university overseas and the benefits that this option can afford you.

For many taking a gap year is a dream come true, offering the chance to go to places which they have never been before and explore new parts of the world. However this is an expensive option that not everyone can afford with many people preferring to go straight from school to university.

In these cases embarking on a university course abroad can combine study and travel, without having to take a whole year out between. But there are many other benefits to studying in a foreign country that may (or may not) not have been considered; it’s not all about the time or the money.

With the job market for graduates getting increasingly competitive the world over, a foreign/international university and the experiential factor of this can help build a CV and make it stand out from the crowd. With Mandarin being a key language for business and a heavy investment in their universities, China is fast becoming a popular university destination for those who want to study abroad.

For those looking to study abroad it’s important to be sure your course and destination of choice has everything that you want. The only way to achieve this is research, hard work and perseverance. And it might help to have a look at this article from the Huffington Post.

In case you missed it, earlier today we tweeted this great article which explores the idea of raising global children being an important part of becoming a 21st century citizen. With this in mind perhaps a global education is something more people will consider? In our previous posts we have also discussed other back to school tips that might be of interest for helping your younger children start a new school (although starting somewhere new is always scary, so is a good read for all the family).

If you or your child is looking into going to university abroad here are Expat Explorer’s top five websites to visit:

1. Overseas Universities with Classes Taught in EnglishIf you are looking to study abroad the chances are that you will want to be studying in English. Here is a great list of schools across the globe which teach in English.

2. The Center for Global Education – This little resource will help you explore the options that are open to you regardless of what language you want to be taught in. It’s a really easy to you application that gives you information on a much broader range of universities.

3. QS Top University Country Guides – If you already have a country in mind that you would like to study in have a look for it in this list. You will find great nuggets of information such as league table results, latest education news country facts and figures.

4. Study Abroad: Student Handbook – Another great resource from The Center for Global Education. Some great tips on finances, a comprehensive list of questions to consider throughout the process and a first rate to do list.

5. Global Student Experience – Not sure about spending the whole of your degree in an international university or aboard? Here is a great source of information about shorter study abroad programmes that will bolster any degree.

Have you studied abroad? If so share your experience with Expat Explorer, it’s always great to hear from our readers.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Emerging Expat Hotspots

Today we spotted an article which looks at the growing trend of Brazilian expats who are returning to their home country to take up managerial roles.

It would appear that Latin America’s largest economy is in need of home grown talent to help steer it on the right path as it becomes more closely aligned with the world economy. This demand for senior expatriates can clearly be seen by the huge salaries experienced expats can look to receive. A chief executive in Brazil’s financial capital can look to earn an average of $620,000 excluding bonuses, compared with $574,000 in New York and $550,000 for top bosses in London, according to the article.

In our 2010 Expat Explorer survey we found that the BRICs (Brazil, India, Russia, China) emerged as expat hotspots hotspots. Scores for expats in these countries were higher than average when looking at a number of economic factors including earnings, career development, improved economic outlook and the ability to save. Expats in these countries were also more likely to believe that their economies were on the up especially those in Brazil, with over two-thirds (69%) believing the economic situation had improved over the past year compared to a 22% worldwide average.

As this year’s Expat Explorer results come in it will be interesting to see how the BRIC’s have fared since last the last report or if we will see any new economic hotspots emerge.

In the meantime, have you had any desire to return to your home country for career-based reasons? Or perhaps you have began a successful career in an emerging economy? Let us know, we always love to hear from you.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Home Sweet Home

Following on from some tips on how to help your child settle into their new school, we started thinking about home sickness - defined as ‘being sad or depressed from a longing for home or family while away from them for a long time.’

The first few weeks of arriving in a new country are full of exciting new experiences and bombardment with new cultures, language, weather and much more. However, once thing start settling down into a routine, the feelings of home sickness may start to rear their ugly head.

Luckily, in most cases homesickness tends to pass quite quickly, once someone feels they are starting a new and exciting period in their life and become more involved in the community and local culture. However, for some it can be a daily occurrence. With this in mind here at Expat Explorer, we have come up with some thoughts on how to ease the home sickness bug.

1. Technology

Make it a priority to get set up with phone lines, and internet as soon as possible. Feeling connected with your friends and family back home will make the physical distance between you seem less. It also means that you can share the excitement of moving to a new country with them, and feel buoyed by their enthusiastic responses!

Also, of course there are so many ways to keep in touch nowadays, from text messaging, to video skyping, that means you can feel close even if you aren’t and at a fraction of the cost.

Check out the wealth of information on the net as well, there are so many bloggers out there all of whom have been through the exact same experience, so draw on their ideas!

2. Time

The hardest critic can often be you, so give yourself time to settle in and make friends. If you haven’t got a jammed social life within the first 2 weeks do not panic. It takes time to engage with new cultures and to make new friends, all this will come slowly as you begin settling into a routine.

This philosophy also applies to unpacking. If some boxes stay unpacked for a couple of months, it is not the end of the world – if anything it may prove that you don’t need all of your things and provide the opportunity for a spring clean!

3. Be brave

We know this is often much easier said than done! Try and talk to your neighbours/people in your local shops etc and see how friendly they are! They may become some very good friends, but you have to put yourself out there to begin with!

Also, check out notices in local shops/areas for social groups/clubs you can join – this will take your mind off being away from home, and also make you friends at the same time!

4. The list

List all the reasons you moved country in the first place, and review and add the positives from the country you are in whenever you get have the time. This will keep you focused!

Do let us know if you have come across any great home sickness tips to share with us!

Friday, 19 August 2011

That new school term…

With August coming to an end, and the start of school looming, we have been discussing how daunting it must be for Expat children to start a brand new school in a different country.

Many parents will begin the process of reassuring their children that within the day they will have forgotten it’s a new school after being bombarded with new friends, and experiences. However, to help you with the first stage, we have put together a couple of tips on how to help your children ease into expat education:

(Source: Flickr Creative Commons)

1. Prior experience is key

See if you can get in touch with other expats who have been in similar situations. They will have a wealth of knowledge that they can share with you, with the ‘watch outs’ and the pitfalls to take into account!

2. Talk to the teacher

See if you can get a meeting with the teacher before your child starts so that you can start to get an understanding of the system and the requirements. This means that when your child has questions, you will be able to help.

3. Give a helping hand

Talk to the school that you are sending your child to, and see if you can find someone who can act as a buddy to your child when they first start. This should give a feeling of security to your child and also comfort to you that they have a go to person in case they have any questions. This buddy will also be able to introduce your child to other friends they have made, giving your child an instant friendship group!

4. Talk to your child

It will be a very daunting process starting at a new school, so make time on a daily basis to talk your child through the experiences and new cultures they came across. This will help solve any under the radar anxieties and will hopefully combat any problems that will occur in the future. You can also offer much needed advice about how to tackle any issues, and how to cope in such an unfamiliar environment.

5. Don’t worry about grades

Let your child settle into the school and environment before you worry about grades. It will take them a while to get used to the new systems and therefore they may not be performing at the level they should. Keep an eye on it, and I am sure you will see them back up to their standard before long!

6. Have a party!

This will help you as well as your child! Having a party and inviting the whole class, is a great way to get your child socialising. It will also give you a chance to catch up with other parents and talk to them about the area/the school etc.

7. Clubs/extra curricular activities

Try and encourage your child to take part in extra curricular activities. It’s a great way to get them interested in the new country and culture as well as a way outside of the formal environment of school to bond with new friends.

Check out the HSBC Expat Explore 2010 survey to see which countries voted highly in child social integration.

As always we love to hear your opinions!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Music makes the world go round

You may have seen us tweeting yesterday about the anniversary of the death of music legend Elvis Presley. In the US thousands of fans flocked for miles to visit his home in Graceland too see his final resting place. However, Elvis is just one of many music icons that are gone but definitely not forgotten so in tribute today we celebrate legends passed.

John Lennon

Perhaps an obvious choice but you simply can’t pay homage to the greats without including this man. This Beatles legend formed undoubtedly one of the most successful song writing partnerships of the 20th century with band mate Paul McCartney. Aside from his music Lennon was famous for his peace activism and opposition Vietnam war as well as other humanitarian issues. Such outspoken behaviour wasn't always welcome and in the 1970’s Richard Nixon and his administration unsuccessfully tried to deport the singer. As a solo artist Lennon's album sales in the United States exceed 14 million units, and as writer, co-writer or performer, he is responsible for 25 number-one singles on the US Hot 100chart. In 2002, a BBC poll on the 100 Greatest Britons voted him eighth, and in 2008, Rolling Stone ranked him the fifth-greatest singer of all-time.


Those of you in Spain or Mexico will have most probably heard of this Latina Legend. Often called the Mexican Madonna Selena released her first album when she was just 12 years old. After starting her career in a band with her siblings Selena branched out alone achieving widespread success through Mexico and Spanish speaking countries. She was named the "top Latin artist of the '90s" and "Best selling Latin artist of the decade" by Billboard, for her fourteen top-ten singles in the Top Latin Songs chart, including seven number-one hits. Today Selena is regarded as one of the most widely known Mexican-American vocal artists in the world. In 1997 her life was made into a film with Jennifer Lopez taking the lead role (Selena).

Bob Marley

Who hasn’t heard the music of this Jamaican born reggae artist? If you haven’t you should listen now! Hailed as the first superstar from the third world, and the man that introduced the world to reggae, Bob Marley is without a doubt one of the most influential artists of his time. Born and raised in Jamaica, Marley started his musical career with friend, Bunny in a group called the Wailers. In 1999 Time magazine chose Bob Marley & The Wailers' Exodus as the greatest album of the 20th century. Marley died in 1981 but his music and his life are still remembered and in 2001, he was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and a feature-length documentary about his life, Rebel Music, won various awards at the Grammys.

Michael Jackson

The name speaks for itself but just like Lennon, the list would not be complete with a mention of this man. Lead singer of the Jackson 5 turned international superstar Jackson was as famous for his music as his personal life which often was the topic of much debate. However despite anything he will always remain one of the most successful and loved performers of all time. When having a look through Jackson’s achievements it took a good few minutes of scrolling before we gave up, there’s hundreds, so here are a few to give you an idea of just how successful an artist he was...

· 13 solo number 1 hits

· 4 number 1’s with the Jackson 5

· Estimated sales of over 750 million records

· 13 Grammy Awards

The list could go on (and on) so instead why don’t you give us a hand and let us know who you think should make the cut and why, leave a comment below or tweet us!

Monday, 15 August 2011

Black cats, magpies and ladders

Having had my path crossed twice this weekend by black cats it got me thinking about superstitions across the world and how they differ. Could walking under a ladder be a sign of good luck in some cultures whereas in others it’s a premonition of bad? Do continents have roughly the same superstitious beliefs, or can they vary from town to town?!

We look at superstitions from across the world, do you adhere to any of these?!

(Source: Flickr Creative Commons)

In China, the broom is given specially attention as they believe that they each have a spirit in side which needs to be handled carefully. Hitting someone with a broom means a curse will be placed upon you.

In the UK, if a black cat crosses your path, it is believed it is good luck. However if you cross the Atlantic to our American counterparts, it is believed to be bad luck. The Italians believe that if you hear a cat sneezing, then it will bring you good luck, and the Chinese believe that cats can see ghosts.

Mirrors, and in particular broken mirrors can yield all sorts of beliefs across different cultures. In many countries, breaking a mirror is supposed to bring bad luck. It is said that the superstition originated as mirrors were seen as tools of the gods. In Russia, if you look into a broken mirror than you will have bad luck, and if you eat and look in a mirror at the same time, you will ‘gorge’ your luck.

In India it is believed that if a lizard falls on one’s head it is a sign of good luck, and will bring happiness to that person, however in Sri Lanka, if you hear a Lizard’s cry when someone leaves the house it is thought to be a warning.

In Pakistan there is a belief that one should never open and close a pair of scissors without reason as it is seen as bad luck and can cause problems for you and your family.

In Thailand, people will try and avoid building or buying a house with the front door and back door lined up. This is considered bad luck as you won’t be able to keep money in the house, it will come through the front door and go straight out the back.

With this in mind it’s not surprising that sometimes expats can find integrating into different communities and cultures a little bit daunting. The 2010 Expat Explorer data provides some really interesting insights into which countries expats found it easier to settle into. Do you have any tips to share or interesting stories about finding your feet in a new country? We love to hear your thoughts so do get in touch!

Friday, 12 August 2011

Food Food Glorious Food

Summer is here which always makes us think of delicious food, served outside and shared with family and friends.

Here at Expat Explorer HQ, it got us thinking to the more bizarre food festivals that can be found around the world. Here is our top 3!

As it’s August – the first festival on the agenda has to be:

1. La Tomatina

Originating in Spain, La Tomatina is the world’s largest Tomato throwing festival, and it takes place in Bunyol each year, generally on the last Wednesday in August.

There are around 20,000 participants who congregate to throw tomatoes at each other. The original idea behind it was that tomatoes promote togetherness, however now it seems just a great excuse to get very messy!

2. In at number 2 – Cheese Rolling

There is something so fantastically brilliant about Britain’s annual cheese rolling competition. The event takes place in Gloucester, with hundreds of spectators gathering to watch the competitors chase a Giant Gloucester cheese down a rather steep hill.

We feel that photographs best describe this festival:

3. And at number 3 is the Gilroy Garlic Festival

This is one of the largest food festivals in the states, held in Gilroy, California on the last weekend of July. The event attracts over 100,000 visitors annually, and as you can probably tell from the name, this festival celebrates all things Garlic! The official Gilroy Garlic Festival website claims to have used 72 tons of garlic in the twenty-nine years this festival has existed. There are cooking demonstrations and lectures all about the wonderful use or Garlic!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

30 Steps Forward

Bahrain’s National Dialogue, which began on the 1st July, came to a close earlier this month with the final session being driven by the country’s expat community. Around 60 people representing religious institutions, expatriate clubs and public figures took part in the event, at the Isa Cultural Centre in Juffair.

Participants in the National Dialogue attend the opening session

The National Dialogue is a forum which brings together the full spectrum of Bahrain's political, social, and economic groups. This year’s event was highly anticipated in the wake of political unrest earlier this year and was earmarked as an opportunity to restore national and international confidence.

More than 30 key recommendations were put forward in the closing meeting including:

  • The formation of an expat body to represent the Kingdom’s 60,000 strong expat community
  • Land ownership rights for those expats who have lived in Bahrain for 50 years or more
  • The children of expatriates being granted residency after the age of 18 so they can remain legally with their parents
  • Residence permits for elderly dependents were also recommended
  • Measure to help young foreign residents integrate into the Arabic community

In last year’s Expat Explorer Survey, Bahrain topped the charts for career opportunities but was lagging behind in terms of quality of life. It will be interesting to see, if and when these measures are enforced, if Bahrain can score equally well across the board.

Do you feel the expats have a fair deal in your country of residence? What could be done better? Get in touch to share your thoughts.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Dating 101 no longer exists

So, you’ve made the big move, got the new house, amazing new job, and then you think, that perhaps you would like be sharing this momentous occasion with someone special.

But how do you find them?!It is tricky enough in one’s own country without the added pressure of being abroad.

Expat Explorer has had a good old’ think on your behalf and come up with a few expat dating tips we think may be useful

1. Think outside the box

Everyone thinks about the type of person they would see themselves with, so why not channel this into thinking about different venues and meeting places that would overlap with both your interests. So if you are a massive culture vulture, head to the museums and art galleries, go on the guided tours, you never know who is around the corner!

2. Consider online

Once considered a massive taboo, online dating sites are now very much in vogue. They offer the ideal ground for expats to start their dating search. It’s safe and harmless, and means you can get to know people before making the plunge into the unknown.

3. Do your homework

If you want to date locals or fellow expats put in the hours, get to know the culture and make an effort to learn the cultural differences. This could make a major impact on how you are perceived and equally how you interpret what could otherwise be very confusing behaviour!

4. Confine Mr and Mrs Right to the myths cupboard

Ah yes, the perils of Mr and Mrs Right. The list everyone has of the ideal partner which often can prove a barrier to dating. Dating in a foreign country can be fraught with complications which could mean that people get over looked so we say ditch the presumptions. As an expat you will meet people from all walks of life so don’t limit yourself by nationality or language. By doing this, you will not only broaden your horizons but you may also meet new friends through it to!

5. Contacts, contacts contacts

You will be amazed about how many people you know, friends of friends, colleagues siblings etc, so ask around! Don’t be afraid to express an interest in dating and you never know who may come out of the wood work! How many times have we heard the phrase “We met through colleagues, brother’s friends, sister’s cousin.”

6. Safety first.

Although not a tip per se, we thought we should add in that whatever happens, never put yourself in a situation where you feel uncomfortable or unsafe. Make sure you meet people in public places, and always tell someone where you are going, and who you are with!

Any other tips out there for the expat dating community?! We would love to hear them!

Friday, 5 August 2011

Guest Blogger Series - It’s a magical thing to love where you live – Mike and Jess

It all started on our high school student council almost seven years ago. We have been dreaming big and making each other laugh since then, adding two puppies to our lives in late 2008 and moving from Nova Scotia, Canada to Malta in the autumn of 2010. We blog about our life together at

Our first trip to Malta in 2008

We fell in love with Malta in early 2008 when Mike participated in an exchange program with the University of Malta. Jess came to visit him for several weeks and the rest, as they say, is history. Well, sort of.

When we returned to Canada we realized that Malta was everything in a place we wanted to call our home. It’s not that we were unhappy in Canada. We had jobs we loved, Jess was studying in a university program she enjoyed, Mike was almost finished his degree in accounting, and of course we had our friends, family, and each other. We lived in a charming old Victorian house in the middle of the city of Halifax with our two little dogs, an herb garden, and an electric scooter. Life was good.

Sitting on a bench in a park one day, playing backgammon under a big willow tree, we began making plans in the way that most couples do. ‘Someday let’s go to Paris. Someday let’s have a beautiful gourmet kitchen. Someday let’s live in Malta.’ And after that we knew it was inevitable we would return to that little island in the middle of the Mediterranean, someday.

That 'someday' came a lot sooner than we thought possible. And not because we got great job offers or had other incentives that encouraged us to move. No, we just decided we didn’t want to wait until our lives were half over to follow this dream. So we worked hard organizing and planning and we made it happen, with a little luck on our side, some sacrifices, and a whole lot of excitement.

We are so happy with our decision to move to Malta. There are a lot of great things about being an expat here. First, the weather in Malta is beautiful. English is also an official language in Malta so we don’t face the difficulties and frustrations of a language barrier.

Malta is also in a great geographic location, making travelling to Europe and North Africa easy and inexpensive. We’ve certainly taken advantage of that in the past year, travelling to France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Morocco, Ireland and the United Kingdom.

Marrakech, Morocco

But living in the middle of the Mediterranean, so close to areas of conflict, is a big change from living in Canada which is quite geographically isolated. Our eyes have been opened to the effects of conflict on this side of the world in a way that would never be possible in Canada. We are now a little less naïve, which is probably for the best. And we recognize how lucky we are to hold Canadian passports - we can return to that big, safe country whenever we need to.

Malta is also beautiful, in that charming way that only Mediterranean countries are. And it’s not all sun and sand here. Malta’s rich history is wonderfully complex and in a ten minute walk you can see medieval palazzo, Baroque churches, and 20th century flats stacked like children’s building blocks, all jostling for space in little towns or hugging the rocky coastline. We’ll take that over the big grassy suburbs, the endless woodlands and the bricked-building cities of Canada, at least for now.

There are a lucky few who feel happy and whole in the place that they grew up or live in. But for many people, and almost all expats, that simply isn’t the case. Sometimes we need to distance ourselves from our home country and culture to be happy, to find adventure and excitement, and to create our own identities. And that was the case for us. We love living in Malta, and after a year of living abroad we have learned that it is truly a magical thing to love where you live.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011


Monday marked the first day of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting. Here we give you a brief guide to one of the largest religious observances in the world.

Falling in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Ramadan is a time for spiritual reflection for Muslims all over the globe.

The name Ramadan derives from the Arabic word for intense heat and sun-scorched ground and it is thought that the linguistic connection between the two represents the thirst caused by fasting during this hot season.

During Ramadan, Muslims are expected to fast during daylight hours. The reason behind this practice is that it is believed to teach patience, spirituality, humility and submissiveness to God. As well as no food or liquids Muslims are expected to avoid all temptation that may detract them from worship.

After dark, small meals can be consumed but not in excessive amounts.

The end of Ramadan is marked by a three day holiday called Eid ul-Fitr. It is custom to demonstrate the end of the fast by having a small, sweet breakfast such as dates or other dried fruit. The Eid-al-Fitr is a great celebration, on this day Muslims show their thanks for health, strength and life.

It is custom to give food to the poor; and to put on your best, or new, clothes. Communal prayers are held in the early morning, followed by feasting and visiting relatives and friends.

Are you currently celebrating Ramadan, or have you relocated to a country where it is widely practiced? Get in touch and share your stories!

Monday, 1 August 2011

Final part of Family Finance Week - Protecting your family

You guessed it; this is the third and final instalment to Family Finance Week, to mark the launch of HSBC Bank International’s latest Expat Guide in association with the Guardian.

Today we’re discussing ‘Protecting your family’

One of the single most important issues for all families across the world is protecting them against the challenging surprises of life. This can become a particular concern for expats, as each country is different.

There is a wide range of policies on the market that should suit everyone; the tricky bit is picking which ones are suitable! Christopher Wicks director of Bridgewater financial Services says “It is imperative that an assessment is carried out by either an international bank, or an independent specialist protection adviser to avoid, with over or under insuring.

Here is a list of our top types of cover:

1. Income protection – this provides you with an ongoing income – up to 75 percent of the previous income – in the event of an accident of illness.

2. Critical Illness insurance – which pays a tax-free lump sum if diagnosed with a critical illness, and usually has life assurance included.

3. Life assurance, which pays out on death before an agreed dates

4. Private Medical Insurance

5. Travel insurance

When considering all of the above it is important to consider portability. One way to do this is to obtain an international or portable policy that can move with you, especially necessary when it comes to life assurance and critical illness cover.

As always we’re keen to hear your thoughts and experiences so please do share any top tips.



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