Friday, 28 September 2012

Guest Blogger Series: Introducing… Laura Parsons

This week’s article is written by Laura Parsons of The Expat Hub. In this blog, Laura shares five ways to get the most out of social media when moving abroad

Five Ways Social Networking Sites Can Help Expatriation

Image source: Creative Commons/ AslanMedia

Keeping in touch with loved ones
Staying in touch through social networking sites costs less than a phone call and takes far less time than sending a letter. What’s more, for many expats, it’s the reason they joined social media sites in the first place. Tweets, status updates and wall posts are fantastic ways of having little casual conversations, and can make a lonely expat feel like their loved ones aren’t so far away.    

Making friends
Social media sites not only help expats keep up with old friends, but can help them make new ones too. Many expat communities keep in touch through forums, Facebook groups and Twitter feeds, which provide a fantastic, quick and simple opportunity to meet fellow expats and locals alike. What’s more, it’s also a great way of sharing experiences, offering or receiving advice, or advertising expat-geared events or favourite expat spots.

If there isn’t a social network for expats in your area than make one! Chances are you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how many people welcome the effort and join up.

Finding work
Some companies will advertise jobs via Twitter, Google Plus, Facebook and especially LinkedIn, so take advantage of all networking opportunities. You can use them to find out which jobs are available in your new area, pose questions about particular job markets, qualification requirements, typical wages, working conditions and working hours, all of which then build up a realistic picture of what your overseas career could be like.

Finding a home and getting to know your area
People renting out properties or wanting to take part in a home exchange are using social networking sites more and more. It’s much more personal (and cheaper!) to let a house in this way than to use an agent, and it’s often easier to find somewhere or someone to fit your requirements.

You can also use social media as a brilliant source on your local area. Ask questions, ask for recommendations (and hopefully get a personal response from a local in the know!), and keep up-to-date with local events.

Getting involved
As any Twitter addict will tell you, it’s all too easy to get caught up in the digital world. For expats feeling out of place in a new environment, talking to family and old friends online can be a huge comfort, but it’s important not to become too reliant on it. Make sure you leave time to get to know your culture and neighbours.

About the author
This article was written by Laura Parsons at The Expat Hub. Follow them @expathub

Monday, 24 September 2012

Five top tips on protecting your family abroad

Protecting your family when making the big leap abroad is no doubt top of the list of worries for any expat.

Here we bring you some tops tips to ease your concerns and keep everyone safe and sound!

Image courtesy of Anne Froelich

1. Ensure you’re insured
Comprehensive insurance is the first step to making sure that should anything happen – big or small – you’ll be in a good place to recover any damages. If you are unsure where to begin then expat forums are a great place to pick up tips and advice. Even better, talk to someone you know who’s living abroad and see what measures they put in place before moving.

2. Everybody needs good neighbours
Talk to people! There’s no better way to get yourself settled than to chat to your neighbours – especially those with their own children. Assuming they aren’t new to the area too they should be able to give you the low-down on everything from where to do your shopping to best playgrounds or social clubs in the area. Building up a close network around means that you will have people close by you can rely on should you need anything.

3. Stay healthy and happy
Organising healthcare for your family will help to give you peace of mind. Healthcare provision varies from country to country so it’s important to know beforehand what the set-up is in your host country. Knowing in advance will help you to make smart, cost-efficient choices where bills can quickly add up.

4. Funding education overseas
Like healthcare, education costs will be different depending on where you live. Fees can be expensive if you choose to put your child through a private schooling system so it’s important to factor this into your budget. If your child goes to a state school, you won’t have to pay for fees but school trips and socials can also be quite costly, especially if your child is keen to integrate with their new classmates.

5. Toy story
Perhaps less high on the agenda of an expat parent, but equally important, is the issue of toy safety. The EU has some of the toughest toy safety laws in the world so it’s important that you are aware where your child’s toys have been manufactured to avoid any accidents. All toys in the EU which have passed set regulations will have a CE mark on them. You can buy these toys in the safe knowledge that they follow strict safety guidelines.

Find out more about protecting your family overseas and other great expat guides, check out our Knowledge Centre.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Expat Excellence featuring Gillian Kemmerer – Part 3

This is Gillian Kemmerer’s third week and final week as guest blogger. As the founder of Ready Set Jet, an invaluable resource helping expats under 29 deal with common concerns, she’s brilliantly placed to talk us through all things expat-related.

Part three explains how to avoid illness abroad – and what to do in the unfortunate event of falling ill.

Combating Illness Abroad

It has happened to the best of us.  Your new life in London or vacation in Buenos Aires is going brilliantly until you suddenly start to feel an overwhelming fatigue that can only mean one thing. Soon come the chills, the fever, and perhaps a strong dose of fear.  Becoming ill in another country is a serious matter, and one that can often be underestimated when the Internet is our new symptom checker.  Here are a few tips to stay as healthy as possible abroad, and – if the worst happens - to prevent you from becoming a Googlechondriac.

1.       Do your homework pre-departure

Is the water safe to drink or should you avoid the tap at all costs? Untreated water is one of the most common causes of illness abroad, and understanding common local viruses and infections (and how to avoid them) is the first step to staying healthy.  You may be warned against drinking tap water in a new city, but don’t forget that ice cubes made from tap water carry the same bacteria! The Center for Disease Control & Prevention has a particularly thorough discussion of the risks associated with contaminated water, and methods to prevent sickness.

Also, you may react to certain foods and spices which aren’t part of your normal diet.  Combine your own experiences with local research to build a list of food items that might be best avoided for your own wellbeing.  And crucially, ensure you obtain all necessary immunizations pre-departure (more information can be found here:, and invest in any bug sprays or ointments recommended to prevent illness spread by insects.

2.        Avoid self-diagnosis at all costs

The symptoms may feel familiar. We’ve all had fevers, colds and stomach pains at some point in our lives.  However, when travelling in unfamiliar territory, you may be tempted to write off your aches and pains as benign symptoms of a common condition.  The truth is that we are not always aware of the prevalent viruses and diseases in a new location, and our antibodies alone may not be enough to fight them.  So, self-diagnosis should be avoided, and proper medical care sought out as quickly as possible.  A course of antibiotics may be all you need, but be sure to remain under medical supervision until you begin to feel better.  If your sickness occurs after a particularly nasty animal scratch or bite, seek emergency care immediately.

On the other hand, hypochondria thrives due to search engines. Typing a few symptoms into Google may throw up results ranging from minor afflictions to life-threatening conditions.  There is no better diagnostic tool than a doctor’s examination.  Prevent a harrowing case of Googlechondria and use the Internet with caution when attempting to diagnose your illness.

3.       Pursue reputable medical care, as recommended by your local embassy

Your greatest resource on the ground in times of trouble is your local embassy or consulate.  Walking straight into a hospital without recommendation is advisable only in times of dire emergency. Make a quick call to your embassy or browse their website for doctor and clinic recommendations.  If you are in a region where English is not the native language, finding a doctor who can properly understand you and assess your symptoms is critical.  Embassies tend to have the low-down on the best medical care for foreigners, and may recommend expat hospitals and local pharmacies that are particularly accommodating.

4.       Remain vigilant even after you return home

If you have lived abroad for several years and are returning home, you may be tempted to become lax in your attention to health matters.  Infectious diseases and dangerous viruses can be caught at any time, particularly on an airplane. When seeking medical care after you return home, be sure to mention that you have recently travelled. Doctors at home are equally aware of the risks associated with the region in which you have lived, and may be able to diagnose you more accurately with this information.

About the author

Gillian Kemmerer is the founder of Ready Set Jet, a resource geared toward Generation Y expats. She loves to hear from young people living out their dreams abroad on the RSJ Twitter (, and is both an avid compound archer and rabid FC Barcelona fan.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Five quirky ways to help with long distance relationships using technology

Source: Creative commons/blankqo

Distance can put a huge strain on a relationship. However it does not doom it to failure. There are many ways that a relationship can in fact flourish with a bit of space.

Our previous blog about long distance relationships was one of the most read blog post in July so we decided to follow it up with some more tips for you and your partner on how to cope with being apart using technology.

Technology can play a huge part in beating the long distance blues, for instance Skype is one of the most useful tools for keeping in touch with your other half. However there are some fun and quirky ways that modern technology can be used to help revitalise your long distance relationship:

·         Create Spotify or iTunes playlists - Making a playlist for your girlfriend or boyfriend is a unique way of sharing something you are interested in – and gives the compilation cassette tape or CD a thoroughly modern twist

·         Compile an instagram photo album on Facebook – Bring your overseas experience to life with this handy app so you can share things you’ve seen and enjoyed whilst on the move. The artistic filters give your images that extra hint of nostalgia and make them more memorable for the person viewing them

·         Install WhatsApp – this messenger application is quick and easy to use and provides an easy way to message each other when you aren’t able to sit down at a computer and Skype one and other.

·         Arrange a surprise  Google+ hangouts  - If a birthday or special occasion is coming up and you can’t be with your partner who is overseas then why not organise a surprise Google+ hangout instead of a surprise party. You can create a video chat with up to 9 people and you can use the chance to catch up with friends and family, see each other’s faces, watch live broadcast together – or if you fancy have a virtual fancy dress party with pirate hats and all. The possibilities are endless!

·         Private blogs as well as video blogs are another way to keep in touch. They can act as a personal platform for communication and are a useful way to keep your partner fully informed in your day to day life.

Using one or two of these tips could be a way to refresh your relationship if it is struggling under the pressure of long distance.  Technology is now at the stage where it is quick and simple to communicate with someone regardless of how far apart you are.



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