Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Taking Christmas Top Ten Lists to the Extreme!

With Christmas fast approaching it seems that every publication is posting at least one or two “Top Ten” lists, from Top Ten Christmas Movies (everyone has a favourite) to Top Ten Wackiest Christmas Decorations. So here is a rundown of the Expat Explorer Top Ten Christmas Top Ten Lists!
From Flickr

1. Senior-friendly mobile phone
2. Webcam
3. Plant sensor
4. e-Book reader
5. Digital photo frames
6. Motion Sensing Gaming Console (MSGC)
7. HD video cameras
8. GPS
9. Large print keyboards
10. Portable media player

1. Die Hard
2. Brazil
3. Nightmare Before Christmas
4. 1941
5. A Christmas Story
6. The Bishop’s Wife
7. Elf
8. Gremlins
9. Miracle on 34th Street
10. A Christmas Carol

1. Munich, Germany
2. Cologne, Germany
3. Vienna, Austria
4. Prague, Czech Republic
5. Copenhagen, Denmark
6. Nuremberg, Germany
7. Strasbourg, France
8. Manchester, England
9. Brussels, Belgium
10. Zurich, Switzerland
From Flickr

1. iPad2
2. iPhone 4S
3. Kindle Fire
3. Nintendo 3DS
4. Blackberry Playbook
5. LG Star
7. TiVo
8. Chromebook
9. Motorola 3.0 Tablet
10. Sony Ericsson Experia Play

1. Bah Humbug Bauble
2. Jelly Belly Baubles
3. Christmas Pudding Bin Bags
4. Cluedo Crackers
5. Cat Badge Christmas card
6. Christmas Loo Roll
7. Moscow Fur Stocking
8. Moustache Snow Globe
9. Feather Tree
10. Gisela Graham White Feather Owl

1Fairtrade Fun Ball
2. Kamikaze Airlines Organic T-Shirt
3. Organic Green / Pink / Charcoal Proportional Striped Socks
4. Fairtrade Organic Hi Top Trainers Black & White
5. Organic Turquoise / Aqua Affirmation Socks
6. Fairtrade Organic Low Top Trainers Red
7. Fairtrade Mini Football Ball
8. Kamikaze Women’s H20 Organic T-Shirt
9. Fairtrade Pro Football
10. Fairtrade Organic Kids Hi Top Trainers Black & White

1. The Night Before Christmas - Clement C Moore
2. Cops And Robbers - Allan and Janet Ahlberg
3. The Snowman - Raymond Briggs
4. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
5. How The Grinch Stole Christmas - Dr Seuss
6. Letters From Father Christmas - JRR Tolkien
7. A Child's Christmas in Wales - Dylan Thomas
8. The Polar Express - Chris Van Allsburg
9. The Tailor of Gloucester - Beatrix Potter
10. Horrible Christmas - Terry Deary and Martin Brown

1. The Best Christmas Books Ever
2. The Only Christmas Gifts You Should Buy This Year
3. The Coolest Christmas Card Ideas You’ll Ever See
4. Christmas Albums You Probably Don’t Own But Should
5. Best Advent Calendars EVER
6. Christmas Printables, Websites & Other Cool Online Tools
7. Handmade Christmas Gifts for Kids to Make & Give
8. Best Advent Calendars EVER
9. How To Wrap and Detangle Christmas
10. Presents Without Bows Are Just Wrong

From Flickr

1. “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” — Alvin & The Chipmunks
2. “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” — Elmo and Patsy
3. “All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth” — Spike Jones and his City Slickers
4. “I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas” –Gayle Peevey
5. “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” — Thurl Ravenscroft
6. “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” — Jimmy Boyd
7. “Snoopy’s Christmas” — The Royal Guardsman
8. “Santa Baby” — Eartha Kitt
9. “Feliz Navidad” — Jose Feliciano
10. “Frosty The Snowman” — Gene Autry

1.Top Ten Expat Christmas Posts!
1. An Expat Christmas – hungary for adventure 
2. Christmas Edition: Carols – Life of an Expat Parent 
3. A Mince Pie for Christmas – Expat Daily News 
5. Expat Christmas: Holiday Blues to Holiday Cheer – Memoirs of a Young Adventurer 
6. Christmas Variability – Boreal Expat 
7. Happy Expat Christmas – Punchbuggy
9. Christmas spirit in Lugano – Expat with Kids
10. An Expat Christmas – The Life and Times of Chantelle 

We hope you have enjoyed these Christmas Top Ten lists. Do you have a Christmas themed Top Ten list to share with us? Tweet us @ExpatExplorer or share the link in the comments box below. Merry Christmas!

Friday, 16 December 2011

Expat Guest Blog - Cocktails at Naptime: How two writers met in Cyberspace and wrote a book

Once upon a time, two mums who really should have been doing housework wrote a book together. They called it Cocktails at Naptime and some nice Australian publishers called Finch Publishing laughed out loud when they read it on the train home and thought their readers would laugh out loud too on their trains home, possibly startling some fellow passengers along the way.
Here’s their story:
Emma says:
Gillian was like Nanook from the frozen North (Aberdeen) while I was a sunburnt British ex-pat living in East Coast America. How, you may well wonder, did this unlikely duo meet on the blogosphere. I am ashamed to say my chat up was that corny old line, “I really like your blog.” Luckily she was polite enough to reply.
At first I was suspicious. What was the matter with Gillian I wondered? She was not loud and shouty like so many people on the blogosphere. She never posted pictures of her cats or mumsy articles about how to create rainy day activities out of a thousand saved yoghurt pots. She was immature in a certain way like me, a Eurovision Contest fanatic who liked to dress in cheap spandex for non sexual purposes, yet unlike me seemed to run her family like a well organised military machine. Whereas I was domestically challenged, leaving the dirty washing to overflow the baskets like Mount Vesuvius and sometimes (okay a lot) getting my two daughter’s names mixed up.

So in some ways we were chalk and cheese and yet before we even disclosed we were both Capricorns (born a mere two years and 10 days apart) there was a certain indefinable chemistry between us. Well I’m not sure how it happened but we realised that we were having the sort of synchronised and brilliant ideas that could no longer be hidden under a bushel and before long we were telling each other we had to write a book together.
Now why that worked out is a bit of a mystery. Why we understood each other so well despite the fact we’ve never met in person may be partly astrological but it is also deeply geographical. For while I was born in the South and Gillian in the North we both shared the same soggy, damp landmass for many a moon. Essentially our shared heritage involves such cultural reference points as finding the royal family ludicrous, a genetic disposition to enjoy things like fried sausages and eggs without worrying about its cholesterol content, a 70′s childhood involving numerous electricity strikes where we sat in the dark listening to ABBA on a portable radio and an adolescence spent dating weedy pasty men with crooked teeth (tans only briefly becoming a fashion statement in the UK in the 80’s when orangey fake tan made a debut which looked awful unless you were a member of Wham!).
Even though we were psychic twins in many ways including a love of cheesy pop music and the fact that we both speak German it still didn’t take a genius to figure out that writing a book together in cyberspace was going to be about as easy as asking Lindsay Lohan to lay off the sauce. And yet, because we are both goats we dug our hooves in and got on with it, with bits of text flying back and forth until we had amassed something that looked distinctly like a book. And now that this book is done and dusted and filled with marvellous illustrations, we’re hoping there are other mums out there – not necessarily Capricorns – who will enjoy our peculiarly skewed but perceptive views on what really happens after your midwife screams, “Mrs Mum! Take a deep breath and push. You’re crowning!”
Gillian says:
It was October 2008 and I was hatching plans for that year’s over the top Halloween costume (Marie Antoinette, as I remember, complete with a papier mache dead Louis XVI’s severed head in a basket) when an email popped into my inbox from someone I only knew as Emma K in the strange world of blogging.
“Hi Gillian
I always enjoy your blog and believe you are on the ball, so I just wanted to pick your brains. So, I was wondering……”

And that was how Cocktails at Naptime started. We added the Woefully Inept bit later as we realised there was a slight theme emerging when none of us put forward any recipes for anything anyone could feasibly feed our kids or any top household tips on how to get any baby puke cleaned off of anything that would normally require dry cleaning. So, effectively what I’m saying is that the email there is the evidence I need  when my own mother reads this book for the first time and gasps at all the naughty bits so that I can point squarely in Emma’s direction and shout “She started it!”
What strikes me now, over two years on, is that what is even more bizarre than starting this tri-continental book in the first place is that we actually finished it. You see, Emma and I have never met in person. Not even as I write this little epilogue as the book’s about to go into print. Yet, I feel I know Emma pretty damn well as for the past two years we have been writing and sending little funny stories and daft lists about  “Ten Ways to Hide Birthweight with Nothing More than Electrical Tape” to one another, and fretting over what’s funny and what’s not, and what’s too rude and what’s not rude enough and somehow getting a book written between us. Along the way we’ve talked about what’s going on in our lives, made each other laugh frequently and possibly cry with frustration on the odd occasion.
We’ve even had the odd off-peak long distance phone-call where we nervously tried to suss out if one of us was one of those unhinged crazies you meet on the internet, who given half an inch,  will turn up at your bedroom window one evening wielding an axe or start sending you carefully constructed and physically uncanny representations of yourself as a voodoo doll through the post. Turns out we were only as unhinged as each other and that’s why we got on so well. If Emma ever sent me a voodoo doll I’m sure it would have been well meant. I’m certainly currently working on a simply darling one for her.
One thing’s for sure it’s not been the easiest way to write a book I’m guessing, but it certainly has been an incredibly interesting one. At first I was convinced that at one point Emma and I would have to at least meet geographically half way and actually clap eyes on one another to get this book finished. Maybe we could rent a cheap garret in the Faroe Islands halfway across the Atlantic and stay there for a week, with one of us sitting at a laptop typing furiously with fingerless gloves on as the other paced the creaky floor brandishing a half empty wine bottle, dressed in a parka ranting about nipple shields, support pants, colic and the humour therein. After all, isn’t that the kind of thing writers do? It never happened. We each just sat in our respective kitchens thousands of miles from one another and wrote and edited and emailed, and then rewrote and edited and emailed some more without requiring any Faroese hospitality, garrets or otherwise. I still wore fingerless gloves though for that feeling of writerly authenticity — I can’t speak for Emma although I’m guessing, like me, she was in spandex a lot of the time. We both also confess to occasionally brandishing half empty wine bottles.
After all the blood, sweat and emails there came a lovely time when a good while after we had dispatched Cocktails out into the world of publishing and sat expectantly by our letterboxes, we indulged in quite a lot of virtual jumping about hugging one another in cyberspace when we were asked by some nice Australians if they could publish our book. This was indeed an unexpected twist to the already insane geography of this whole project. Let’s get this straight: I live in Aberdeen, Scotland- Emma is English but lives in Baltimore in the United States- and a publisher in Sydney, Australia wants to publish our book? And none of us have ever even been in the same continent as one another at the same time, never mind the same room? Somehow, even in the era of an international web community and the whole “global village” thing, that still seems completely and utterly mental.
The big question for me is; will Emma and I ever meet one day? I really don’t know. But I know I feel like we already have. In fact, I feel like we’ve been sharing a flat for nearly three years. And yeah, that horrendous mess in the living room, yeah that wasn’t me, that was Emma.

The authors are excited to announce that Cocktails at Naptime is now available as an iBook from the Apple iBookstore and can be downloaded to an Apple device such as iPhone or iPad. Cocktails at Naptime is available in English on all Apple iBookstores worldwide, that is in Australia/New Zealand, America, Canada, UK, France, Germany and other EU countries.

It is available for download here:
 Cocktails at Naptime by Emma Kaufmann and Gillian Martin

You can follow them on twitter here:

And read more of their great writing here:

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Lonely Planet- Friends for Friends

As an expat you are probably quite familiar with feeling totally alone in a new city, and how long it takes you to start to feel even remotely at home, rather than just a visitor. Lonely Planet have come up with a great Facebook app that helps you to find friends of friends in your destination city. Although the app seems to be geared towards tourists, it is a great idea to help you get to know a new place whether you are there for a week, a month, a year or indefinitely.

Watch this video on this fun and really useful new tool and tell us what you think. What do you think of reaching out to a friend of a friend to help you get to know a new city and become a local in no time? Leave us a comment below!

Friday, 9 December 2011

Expat Explorer Survey: The Results!

Over the past week, through this blog and Twitter, Expat Explorer has been sharing what expats really think of their country of residence and experience as an expat. Some of the highlights include expats being able to afford a more luxurious lifestyle in developing countries, China came out as the most cost effective place to raise children and (an expat favourite) that expats don’t seem to be as affected by economic conditions!

There has been much discussion on Twitter about the results of the study, such as here, here and here, now it’s your turn to tell us your thoughts right here! If you haven’t had a chance to look at the results of the survey, you can check it out right here! Have a play, compare two countries, read all the reports on the findings, and post us a comment!

Did you know that social media is increasingly important for expats across the globe to keep in touch? Even when there is not a lot of social media usage in their country of residence? Do you use social media? Skype? Facebook? Flickr? Tell us your experiences.

Are you living in France? Do you have children? The Expat Explorer findings report that France tops the charts for bringing up children abroad, but do you agree? Perhaps you have lived there in the past, and think it is better than other countries you have been in.

It’s been a hell of a week here at Expat Explorer HQ! We just wanted to say a big thank-you so much for all your support throughout, from filling in the survey to commenting here on the blog and tweeting @ExpatExplorer on Twitter. We really would love to hear what you think, so have your say! 

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Expat Explorer Survey findings released! Money doesn’t buy happiness for expat children!

Expats from across the global rated their current countries on quality and cost of childcare, the health and wellbeing of their kids children, and how they integrate into the community. The findings revealed France (1st), the Netherlands (2nd) and Australia (3rd) to be the top places for raising children abroad!

Children in these countries appear to lead a much healthier lifestyle: they are more likely to be spending more time outdoors (France 53%, Netherlands 53% and Australia 75%) and playing sport (France 47%, Netherlands 56% and Australia 81%) since relocating than average (47% and 46% respectively).

However, expats living in these countries benefit from a child friendly environment at the cost of wider economic benefits. These countries find themselves towards the bottom of the rankings in the Expat Economics league table (France 28th, Netherlands 29th, Australia 21st), revealing that expats in these locations are less likely to benefit from higher salaries or accumulate luxuries.

Are you raising children as an expat parent? What do you think of the country you live in? Let us know in the comments box below. And you can check out the full results by clicking here.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Expat Experience – Social Media Savvy Expats

Did you know… Expats are using the latest in social media and communications technology in order to stay in touch with loved ones all over the world, according to the latest findings from the 2011 Expat Explorer survey from HSBC Expat. While Facebook tops the list as expats’ social media channel of choice, expats across the globe would be lost without the latest technology such as Skype to keep in touch with their friends and family.

Facebook use among expats is remarkably high, even in regions where general use is pretty low. In Africa and Asia, Facebook penetration among the local population here is extremely low (3% and 4% respectively), yet the channel is still one of the most popular methods of communication among expats (67% and 65% respectively)!

This trend actually consistent across the world, where Facebook use among expats continues to be much higher than the local population, as witnessed in Europe (26% usage locally vs. 73% among expats) Latin America (21% local vs. 72% expats) and the Middle East (8% local vs. 68% expats), further demonstrating how important these tools of communication are for expats living away from home.

Does this reflect your experience as an expat? Check out the full findings and a load of other interesting expat stats here.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Expat Economics – Good news for expats!

Expat wealth remains robust in spite of global economic conditions!!

Across the world economic unrest has unsurprisingly impacted expat’s confidence in the strength of their host country economies; one third of expats globally say there has been deterioration in their local economy since the beginning of 2010. However it’s not all bad news as the findings of the 2011 Expat Explorer survey show that expat wealth remains widely resistant to these economic troubles, even in countries which have, unfortunately, experienced a certain amount of turbulence over the past year.

A massive 97% of expats in Egypt believe that their economy has deteriorated since 2010, alongside 92% of expats in Bahrain and 80% of expats in Japan. Expats in these countries are also more likely than average to report that their economy is weak: Egypt 77%, Bahrain 40% and Japan 40%.

However, despite this negative economic outlook, expat finances in these countries remain resilient to the wider troubles. Egypt find itself 2nd out of 31 in the Expat Economics League Table, which ranks countries based on a number of factors such as earning levels, disposable incomes and ability to accumulate luxuries. Bahrain and Japan also perform strongly, ranked 10th and 12th respectively in this league.

Furthermore, expats in these areas are better off financially. More than half (52%) of expats in Bahrain have much higher disposable incomes than they did in their home country, as well as 58% of expats in Egypt and 38% of expats in Japan, compared with the global average of 35%.

If you enjoyed these interesting stats, you can check out more about this and other findings by clicking here!! Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Monday, 5 December 2011

The 2011 results of the Expat Explorer Survey revealed today!

Now in its 4th year, the 2011 survey reached 3,385 expats from over 100 countries and is the world’s largest ever global survey of expats! Many of you participated in the survey, so a big thank-you for helping Expat Explorer! In case you are new to the Expat Explorer, it covers every aspect of living life abroad, including questions relating to expats’ finances, the impact of economic, political and social factors on their current country and even how recent natural disasters have affected their experience of living life as an expat.
You can explore the findings for yourself here and discover the places that expats have rated highly for the things that are important to you. You can also see all of the results of the survey broken down into interesting stories here. The Expat Explorer Twitter feed and this blog will also be keeping you up to date with interesting findings  and answering your questions about the results – so if you have a question, just ask!

Just to whet your whistle, here are a few of findings that you might find interesting from each section of the survey:

Quality of life and Expat Experience:
The UK finds itself in the bottom quartile in this year’s Expat Experience league table in the Expat Explorer report, coming 29th out of 31 countries overall. Despite this, it is the 6th most popular choice in terms of an ideal expat destination.

The Expat Explorer 2011 findings show that Facebook ranks as the top social media channel among expats, with 69% choosing to stay in touch using this method and two fifths (39%) using the channel twice a week or more to share the latest news with loved ones at home.

Expat Economics:
Expat wealth remains widely immune to global economic troubles, even in countries which have experienced significant turbulence over the past year.
Expats have weathered the Eurozone crisis and even though the UK is in the bottom half of the Expat Economics league table (23rd), it performs well against its EU counterparts on these criteria, ranking behind only Switzerland (5th) and Belgium (21st).

Almost half of expats in the UK feel that the economy has deteriorated since the beginning of 2010. However, only 25% of expats here in the UK believe that the economy will continue to deteriorate compared to 44% in Italy and 38% in Spain.

Raising Children Abroad:
Countries which offer the greatest benefits for expat children in aspects such as settling in to their new country, general health and standards of childcare are less likely to be able to deliver economic advantages such as greater overall wealth, disposable income, and luxuries.

France ranks first in the Raising Children Abroad league table in the Expat Explorer report, with the Netherlands (2nd) and Australia (3rd). Children in these countries appear to lead a much healthier lifestyle and likely to be spending more time outdoors and playing more sport.

We would love to hear your thoughts, so have your say and ask your questions on these interesting results in the comment box below! 

Friday, 2 December 2011

NORC Country Series: Norway

From Flickr
Known to many for its beautiful scenery of fjords, mountains and lakes, Norway isn’t always top of mind for those looking to relocate. Expat Explorer hopes to change this and introduce future expats and those looking for a new adventure that Norway is one to watch. Again, the Lonely Planet guide gives a great overview for those wishing to find out more about this picturesque land and for slightly more information on the country, National Geographic have a nice piece.
Norway is one of the great places to work for high-flying, successful business women. Read more about the fantastic leaps and bounds that female business leaders are making in Norway in these great articles from Harvard Business Review and The Economist.

It’s really important that to get all the facts as well as the feel of the country, so here are a few resources for any would-be-Norwegian-expat. Firstly, have a look at what your Embassy for Norway has to say as they often have useful information. For UK residents the place to go is TheBritish Embassy Oslo, plus they are also on Twitter.
From Flickr
For women planning on living and working in Norway Expat Women have put together a great set of resources on everything from looking for work to international schools guides. Everything you could possibly want to know about working and living in Norway has been summed up beautifully by Oversees Digest.
One way of what it is like to live in a country as a foreigner (apart from actually visiting) is to read about other people’s experiences, such as in this blog – An Expat’s Norway. Also, try keeping up with the news and current affairs that are going on in the country and imagine what it is like living there. The Guardian has a good overview of Newsin Norway, and for a more local outlook on the news The Norwegian Post is English.

Key facts – from BBC
Full name: Kingdom of Norway
Population: 4.9 million (UN, 2010)
Capital: Oslo
Area: 323,759 sq km (125,004 sq miles)
Major language: Norwegian
Major religion: Christianity
Life expectancy: 79 years (men), 83 years (women) (UN)
Monetary unit: 1 Norwegian krone = 100 ore
Main exports: Fuels and fuel products, machinery, metal products
GNI per capita: US $86,440 (World Bank, 2009)
Internet domain: .no
International dialling code: +47

Thursday, 1 December 2011

NORC Country Series: Sweden

From Flickr
Most people would agree that the first place to look when researching a country is a travel guide, such as Lonely Planet. After having a dig around, Expat Explorer found thishandy online overview of Sweden from the lovely people at Lonely Planet. It is brief, but gives you a flavor of what to expect so you can decide whether it sounds like it’s for you. Amongst the many articles that layout the benefits of moving to Sweden, the two most relevant ones come from The Swedish Wire on why childrenin Sweden have the best lives and Marie’ Claire’s The World’sBest Country for Women. Some of the reasons given in these articles are healthy lifestyles, small gender pay gap and long maternity leave period for men and women.

There are many useful resources to describe every aspects of Swedish life for a potential resident, the difficulty, often, is finding them. For those looking to live/work in Sweden here are a few key sites to check out before making any hasty decisions.
From Flickr
For those who don’t work in a company that will post them in their desired country, trying to get a job may pose the most difficulty to achieving the dream. Sites such as EU JobCentre have many useful help documents to point any potential job hunter in the right direction, such as this page on internshipsin Sweden.
Sweden has many, many benefits to offer residents; some of the more concrete ones are listed here, at The lovely ladies at Expat Women have put together this useful list of resources for women looking to relocate to Sweden, and is very useful.
Depending on what you are looking to get out of your move to Sweden, if you like it you may want to stay there in the long term. To be successful in achieving this, a little career advice could go a long way. Whether you are a jobseeker, a businesswomen or just want to dowell, have a read of these articles to get you going.

Key factsfrom BBC
Full name: Kingdom of Sweden
Population: 9.3 million (UN, 2010)
Capital: Stockholm
Area: 449,964 sq km (173,732 sq miles)
Major language: Swedish
Major religion: Christianity
Life expectancy: 80 years (men), 84 years (women) (UN)
Monetary unit: 1 Swedish krona = 100 ore
Main exports: Machinery and transport equipment, paper products, chemicals
GNI per capita: US $48,930 (World Bank, 2009)
Internet domain: .se
International dialling code: +46

Do you live in Sweden? Share your experiences with us about your time there. Would you like to live in Sweden? Ask us your questions and we will try and find out for you! Comment below, or tweet us @ExpatExplorer.



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