Friday, 21 October 2011

The question on every potential expat's lips

How easy is it to get a visa?

It's often tough to get a residential visa for the country expats want to move to. It is often at least as tough to find out the requirements for getting a visa and where to get the information from. It can be a nightmare. So Expat Explorer has had a little dig around and come up with the top 5 sources of visa information that should at least point you in the right direction, as requirements differ wildly from country to country.

 1. Global Visas and Visa Bureau are not all encompassing sites, but they a good source of information for many people. A good place to start.

 2. Project Visa - pick your country off world atlas and instantly get visa information. Also has links to the country's embassy, which is a useful addition.

 3. Sometimes you really want to ask the advice of someone who has been through the process. Expat Forum  has a wealth of people who have been through every type of emigration issue and experience possible. Someone will be able to help you.

 4. It's not all about the rules and regulations, this article from Shelter Offshore is all about the process. A nice little guide to help you through.

 5. If you are starting out looking for a country to move to, this little gem, Anywork Anywhere, will let you search through countries to see how to make your skills work in the country you would like to move to.

As always any suggestions from the experienced expat community out there is welcome. Comment in the box below or on Twitter.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Are you watching the changing of the seasons where you are in the world?

Across the globe the extent to which the passing of the seasons affects the weather varies dramatically. The extreme changes occur in places nearer to the poles, such as the northern most tip of Alaska, where there are two months of winter when the sun doesn't rise and 85 days straight of sunlight in summer.

Compare this to countries nearer the equator where the temperature doesn't vary so much throughout the day or year and only have two seasons, rainy or dry.

So what has sparked this topic? Many expat bloggers have started posting about how much they love fall/autumn. From the food and the weather, to the holidays and the Christmas planning, many expats are raving about this time of year as their favourite. 
Dear England, Love Canada

" ... a melancholy season, bewitchment for the eyes ..." 
-  Alexander Pushkin  (1799- 1837)

The quote here was featured on the blog It's an Expat Life in a post about autumn in Russia, with a lovely picture taken whilst flying into Sheremetyevo Airport recently and admiring the beautiful golden leaves that Pushkin may be referring to in the quote above.

The picture above is from the blog of Anne Kostalas called Dear England, Love Canada, who states many reasons for loving autumn in this lovely post, Autumn Colours or Fall Colors - It's all Good!  Anne writes about her enjoyment of Thanksgiving, which is not only celebrated almost a month earlier in Canada than in America, but a novelty to her as it is not celebrated in her native UK.

Sarah Bittorf expresses her love of autumn in Ghent, Belgium in her post Fall is Here. She is looking forward to lots of home cooking, brisk walk, dressing and and decorating the house, activities which so many people fondly associate with autumn.

Expats in Ghent

All of which, naturally starts expats thinking of home, what the seasons are doing in the country where they grew up and in many cases, of whether or not they are returning for the Christmas vacation. Britney of Arabia has a very accurate account of attempting to make Christmas plans for the family (do you go to them, or them to you) which many expats will be all too familiar with in her post They're Coming! 
Twins Mummy Blog
An expat in Dubai with young twins gets a very surprising answer when she tries to find out how much they know about Christmas, and what they would like for their presents - purple! 

So, what are you enjoying about fall or autumn. Are you in a country where there is little change between the seasons and missing the cooling of the weather heading into winter. Or possibly you are experiencing seasons for the first time, what's your experience? Share your story in the box below, or tweet us @ExpatExplorer

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Taking the plunge - getting employment in another country

After making the hard decision to move abroad on a long-term basis, either solo or with family, and deciding on a country it is now time to knuckle down and really get into making it happen. Whether you are moving half way across the world with all your worldly possessions, your family, pets and much more, or spontaneously country hopping alone, here is a short overview of getting employment abroad. If you have had similar experiences, and would like to add your advice or questions at the bottom, please feel free.
Some tops tips from the Overseas Digest suggests that there are really five ways to get employment abroad, and the experiences of expat bloggers out there seem to back this up. They are as follows:
  1. Get posted abroad.
  2. Volunteer.
  3. Study.
  4. Freelance.
  5. Just go and hope for the best.
The only addition to this would be teaching, but in most cases this would either come under volunteering, studying (moving to a country, studying to become a teacher and then teaching) or freelancing. Some of the items on this list may seem like they should not appear on a post about how to gain employment abroad, but this is a long term plan, and sometimes they may need multiple steps. 
For example, volunteering abroad, should you be fortunate enough to be able to work for free even for a short time, is a way of creating a local network of contacts and discovering where you want to work and where the jobs are. Studying allows similar benefits.

Get posted abroad
The first point on this list has become increasingly difficult in recent years with many companies capping the number of employees that they will give foreign assignments to, with many stopping their posting abroad programmes all together. This point is made very well by Expat Daily in their article on Convincing your company to move you abroad.
Expat Daily gives the advice that most companies will be much more willing to move you abroad if you are motivated by the experiences that it will afford you and the advancements that you can make for the company, rather than simply wanting to be paid more. This advice comes with a caveat that convincing your company that you are the right person for that overseas posting is no easy feat, and may take a lot of persuading.

There are an almost infinite number of volunteer abroad companies out there that will (usually for a fee) arrange your volunteer work and accommodation for you. Although this may often be an expensive way of going about getting employment it allows you to be your desired location for an extended period of time (budget dependant), create a network of contacts and find the right job, as opposed to any job. If you can volunteer in a company, sector or area related to the job that you want to get in the long-term, even better. Of course, this point leads to volunteering as a teacher. There are many ways of going about this, such as studying in your home country then moving abroad to volunteer, finding a programme that allows you t study in the resident country before moving. The best known accreditor for teaching English is TEFL, but there are lots and lots of ways of gaining this.

Apart from a teaching qualification, there are many courses that you can do in your chosen country, provided you obtain a student visa. Studying in a country is a particularly good way to be able to stay in a country for a reasonably long period of time, whilst creating a game plan and meeting people who can help you in the long term. The most comprehensive list of universities who give classes in English (outside of native English speaking countries) can be found on College Lists.

Taigh Smyth
This is all about using the skills that you have to make money in a different country, whether your "thing" is writing or teaching, website design or accountancy, creative or technical, there is always a need for skilled workers in almost every country. Have a look at Taigh's experiences for inspiration.

Just go for it!
This approach is not, as Overseas Digest points out, for the fainted hearted. It won't suit everyone, and may not be what you are looking for in your life abroad, but it definitely one way of making it happen. Take inspiration from Leif and his Runaway Guide.

Once you are in your dream career in your perfect country, have a look over John Falchetto's 10 tips to grow your career abroad. Hopefully these points have been helpful to you and would love to hear your comments and suggestions.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Expat Excellence featuring Jane Dean

This week Jane Dean, a freelance writer, living in the Netherlands shares with us her cautionary and very amusing tale of why locals always know best!

When locals know best – the Dutch and their bikes

Ask anyone to think of something typically Dutch and I guarantee the top four will be, in no particular order, tulips, windmills, clogs and bikes.

Bikes will always be on the list; every Dutch person owns at least one and 98% of them will be the old-fashioned omafiets (Grandma bike), with baskets of some description up front, panniers behind. These bikes are solid, reliable and basic in design; bulky buttock-supporting saddle of a seat, brakes (if you’re lucky), built-in bike-lock and three gears. They didn’t appeal to me at all and I dismissed their old fashioned cumbersome frames as archaic and odd.

Before moving to the Netherlands we equipped ourselves with two-wheeled transportation believing it would be the quickest and easiest way to acclimate to our new surroundings. We’d also heard rumours the cost of buying a bicycle once we got to the Netherlands would purchase a small car in the US, which did play a part in our decision.

With enthusiasm on the part of my husband and son and reluctance on mine, (I hadn’t ridden a bike since 1987) we bought three flashy, 27-gear mountain bikes with which to explore our soon-to-be home.

The Netherlands has miles and miles of bike paths snaking through glorious countryside, past fields adorned with the ubiquitous black and white cows, alongside canals flanked by windmills. I saw none of them. Between the pain in my butt and balancing the 27 gear changes with the right level of pedalling, the bike rides were miserable.

I hated that bike with a passion. There was no position where it didn’t cause excruciating discomfort to regions you hope never to experience pain, unless it involves giving birth.

I tried everything. Gel-filled undergarments (yes, really) were the weirdest experience; the idea being there would be a comforting layer of gel between you and the saddle. It was a unique sensation but a complete failure in decreasing pain levels.

We invested in various saddles; bigger to support what I assumed was my overly huge rear, smaller to reduce the area impacted by pain. Eventually we found a saddle designed for women, giving ultimate support to the bone structure of the pelvic area. It just looked a bit weird, rather like a three leaved clover, with three strategically placed mounds offering support to bones and the whole thing smaller than a side plate.

The saddle caused great amusement wherever I went looking as if had been purchased from an adult store rather than Halfords. Older house vrouws in particular would give me severe, disgusted looks when I parked my bike and I’d see groups of teens pointing at the saddle, doubled up with hysterical and obscene laughter.

The final straws in my love/hate relationship with the bike occurred within weeks of each other.
The first was a ride through the sand dunes to Katwijk, up the coast to the north. I’d forgotten the dunes are huge, several stories high in places, with the bike path snaking up and down and in between them.

“It’s a beautiful ride,” enthused my girlfriend, “it only takes twenty minutes, and we can have lunch on the beach when we get there.”

It took over an hour and involved more gears changes than a Top Gear special. We found a delightful eatery where I could ease myself into a cushioned chair and imbibe several fortified coffees and a glass or two of wine - for medicinal purposes - to anaesthetise my rear in preparation for the ride home.

The second involved crossing the dunes south to Scheveningen, the seaside suburb of The Hague. A bike ride for an Indian curry and a beer, followed by a steady amble home through the dusky twilight seemed a wonderful way of passing a summer’s evening with friends.
The reality was different. Pitch black, no lights and no stars. We’d been pedalling for five minutes when my wheel veered off the bike path and stopped dead as it ran into sand. The bike stopped, I didn't. That was the last time I rode that darn bike.

I decided there was a reason the Dutch ride the bikes they do and am now the proud owner of a battered second-hand, comfortable omafiets with three gears, brakes, built-in lock, wicker basket up front and panniers behind. You’ll often see me whizzing along, dog trotting alongside, with a beaming smile and a painless rear.
I absolutely love my bike.

Monday, 3 October 2011

To keep or not to keep, that is the question

The New Diplomat’s Wife says her own sheets, Kim says her toothbrush, then her computer and H&K’s own Matt says kettle, tea, toaster, but what is the first thing you unpack when you move into a new house, and why?

One couple say that they have to unpack the stereo first, just to get through the enormous task of unpacking, whilst this little survey throws up some results that I’m sure many people think about when unpacking, whether they are constructive or not.

From this small list of things it seems that people like to have four things with them when they move somewhere new. People like to have some that is familiar to them to aid the transition between old and new, like The New Diplomat’s Wife and her sheets, something that makes life more fun, life the couple and their stereo, something to help you communicate with friends and family back home, like Kim and her computer, and then there are the practical aspects – toothbrush, clean clothes, something to eat. 

Packing, moving unpacking can be an extremely difficult time in anyone’s life, but no more so than in the life of an expat. Expats can’t simply pack everything up, hire a truck and drive all their belongings down the road. There is shipping, customs, ensuring there is somewhere for all these belongings to go on the other side. There are many good sites that aim to help make the move a little bit easier for expats, and here are just a few:
  1. Where to begin….
  2. Buying a property abroad
  3. Top tips for a successful assignment
  4. Questions you should ask yourself before moving overseas
  5. How to get an international job
There are many reasons that people don’t like getting rid of their possessions, if you are interested in those reasons have a read of this article, but sometimes it is just necessary. When becoming an expat the question turns from, do we really need to keep this, to do we really need to pay to ship this across the world or pay to keep it in storage here?
So Expat Explorer has compiled a list of things that really, really can be ditched before the big move:
  1. Any clothes that are more than a decade old.
  2. Anything that you have used or worn in 2 years.
  3. That big stash of magazines that is over taking the garage/office/attic.
  4. The contents of the man drawer.
  5. Books. Many books hanging around in houses will never be read again. Give them away. The same goes for CDs, games and DVDs.
  6. If you have any DIY projects half finished, now is the time to let them go.
  7. If you needed to use it and it was packed away at the back of the garage, would you be willing it out? No? Ditch it.
  8. Do the Throw Out 50 Things Challenge
Don't you wish you could just do this?
So, expats, what is the first thing that you unpack when you move home? And what are your top tips for de-cluttering before the big move? Leave a comment below or on Twitter ExpatExplorer.



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