Friday, 30 November 2012

Navigating Expat Dating

Moving to a new country with a new culture can be a difficult experience on its own, but how do expats who are looking for romance navigate the expat dating market?

Dating a local is undoubtedly a great way to improve your local language and broaden your social circle, not to mention tapping in to the local knowledge for those hidden gems such as a restaurants and bars that are often hidden to newbies.

Taking a language course is one of the best ways to meet new people and gain an invaluable skill, especially in non-English speaking countries.

According to our Expat Explorer 2012 survey, the Cayman Islands is the easiest place to make new friends with 73% of expats reporting it to be easy, this was followed by Bermuda with 68% finding it easy and Thailand with 64%. Those in Hong Kong, 60%, and Thailand, 53% have more active social lives than in their home countries.

And when it comes to finding love, half (49%) of expats in Germany, 48% in the UK and 43% of expats in the USA agree that they have found their life partner since relocating.

Do you have any tips for expat dating? Have you found local love? Leave us a comment in the box below.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Guest Blogger Series: Introducing… Michela Mantani

This week’s guest post features Michela Mantani, who talks us through navigating daycare and nurseries in Geneva.

Child play in Geneva
Image Source: Creative Commons Abby Batchelder

Finding a good school is always a top priority for expats moving abroad with children. However, nurseries and daycare are equally important for expat families with very young children, especially as they may be without the help of family and friends at first.

Geneva used to have a shortage of nursery places for children under the age of three, but this has recently changed after a Referendum held last June. So, if you are moving to Geneva in Switzerland with young babies or toddlers and you’re considering a nursery or daycare centre to help out with your childcare arrangements, here are some useful tips.

1. Crèches
All crèches located within Geneva’s city centre must be reserved through the BIPE (Bureau d’information petite enfance), but the waiting list is quite long. It’s a good idea to look at rental properties in some of the communes (municipalities) around Geneva because crèches in these areas can allocate places independently, but will obviously give priority to families living in the area.

2. Location
If you haven’t moved yet, research thoroughly beforehand and find the communes that offer more childcare options so that you will have priority as a local resident. Some communes don’t have any crèches for children under the age of two whereas others have several. Usually, communes with more childcare facilities will also offer a range of other baby-friendly structures such as toy libraries, playgroups, mum and baby activities, which will of course be of tremendous help to new expat parents moving to Switzerland.

3. Childminders
If you’ve already moved and are finding it difficult to find a nursery place, look at alternative options such as mamans de jour (childminders) who take care of children in their homes.

4. Garderie autogéré
Speak to other mums who live locally. What saved us was discovering that a group of local mums had set up their own part-time nursery in a nearby commune, which took children from the age of 18 months for 3 hours in the morning. This wonderful initiative is called a garderie autogéré (i.e. run on a cooperative basis) and there are a few in Switzerland and neighbouring France too.

5. Private Nurseries
Look at private nurseries. Although they are very expensive, they allocate spaces independently from the BIPE so you might have more chances to find a place for your baby.

About the author
Michela Mantani is an expat freelance writer, blogger and mum-of-three living in Geneva since 2008. Before moving to the beautiful shore of Lac Léman, she lived in London and worked at the BBC for many years. Always on the look-out for cool, family-friendly activities she’s an absolute design, food & travel enthusiast who tries to involve her children in everything she does. You can read more about her expat family adventures in Switzerland at Geneva family diaries

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

No doubt someone you know has told you how many sleeps it is until Christmas Day. At the point of writing this it’s exactly 35 days, 10 hours and…21 minutes.

Even though it’s only just November and the majority of people are far too busy to even think about putting their decorations up, you could argue that expats need to start thinking about Christmas plans earlier than most. With family and friend spread across the globe, the holiday period can often turn into a frantic tangle of logistics as you attempt to organise gifts and get-togethers whilst simultaneously dealing with day-to-day tasks – like your job.

Source: Markb

One of the first questions and expat should ask themselves as early as possible is where will Christmas day be spent? If you plan on travelling home, it’s worth bearing in mind that flights book up fast, and increase in price rapidly. If purse strings are tight and you can’t afford to fly to family could they afford to come to you? Another option could be meeting halfway and renting a house for you and your family to stay in. Again, you have to keep ahead of the game when it comes to holiday homes so don’t leave it until the last minute!

The second most important task after deciding on location is to work out how long it will take your gifts to reach their required destination. Once you’ve chosen some socks for your Uncle and a box of chocs for Granny get them in the post! Mail ordering can take time if presents have to travel halfway round the world. Be sure to find out exactly how long your packages will take so that you can plan around that. It’s also crucial to insure anything you send against loss or damage.

We all know that Christmas can be a very, if not the most, expensive time of the year. Drawing up a budget that takes into account everything mentioned above as well as food, Christmas activities and even winter clothes if it’s your first year in a cold country!

After the all wrapping, sticking, decorating, cooking, singing and shopping is done you can relax…only 365 more sleeps until the next one!

Are you spending your first Christmas in a new country? Let us know how it will be different for you and your family!

Friday, 16 November 2012

Guest Blogger Series: Introducing… Evelyn Simpson

This week’s guest post features Evelyn Simpson who shares her views on the benefits and challenges of expat life and why the ‘trailing spouse’ moniker doesn’t apply to her.

Source: gem fountain

Not such a trailing spouse

Having the opportunity to experience life in so many countries and cultures is an amazing privilege. If someone had told me as a child growing up in a very small village (officially a hamlet) in Scotland that this would be my life, I’d never have believed it. I’ve done so many things that I never dreamed I would do, been to so many places that I’d only have read about and had the opportunity to explore interests that I’d never have time to pursue had I not moved.  I’ve met so many amazing people with whom I’d never have otherwise crossed paths. 

Living in other countries has changed me. I was shy as a child but there’s no room for shyness when you need to create a new life every few years. I’ve also discovered a passion for languages that would astound my high school French teacher. My husband would probably tell you that I am much more patient and tolerant of chaos than I used to be. Living in a culture that is not your own, speaking a language that you are just learning teaches those attributes. I’m not sure my children would concur.

In the HR Lexicon, I’m a “Trailing Spouse” but I’ve never really felt that term accurately reflected my role. In fact it really annoys me. The decision to relocate has always been a joint decision for us. Some moves have required more thought and discussion than others but I’ve always felt that I could find opportunity in the countries we’ve moved to – and, yes, we have turned down an assignment that really wouldn’t have worked for me. It’s clear to me that the role that I’ve played in relocating is key in making our assignments a success. If I hadn’t had the flexibility to manage our moves and ensure that our home is set up and our children are happy and settled in their new environments, there’s no way my husband would have been able to jump straight in to each of his assignments. 

The transitions in expat life have not always been easy. Moving to a new country challenges your identity in so many ways, especially if you are making another transition in the process. I took a break from my career as an investment banker to spend time with our daughter when she was a baby, but during that time we moved. The further I moved geographically and emotionally from my old career, the harder it got to go back, so I didn’t. My career formed such a large part of my identity leaving it behind was a massive challenge to my sense of self and my confidence. Now my identity is woven around the skills I have as an expat and as a mother but it’s taken me years to work out a way to have a career that could accommodate the demands on me as a consequence of expat life.

I feel lucky to have discovered coaching; it’s a powerful, transformative process. Looking back at my own moves and transitions, I know that if I’d worked with a coach through each of them, I would have avoided a lot of angst over rebuilding my life and my identity. Once I understood how coaching works by experiencing the benefits of it myself, I wanted to learn those skills so I could use them to help other accompanying partners navigate through their own transitions and that’s what my business is all about.

Through coaching, blogging and social media, I have “met” some amazing expat women. The communities of expat women and of coaches online are incredibly supportive and generous in sharing experiences. I’ve now had the privilege of meeting a number of them in real life. It was online contact that got Louise Wiles and I working together on a careers and expat partners report. We’re working hard to get a report out within the next two weeks and we think that it will make interesting reading for accompanying partners and HR professionals alike.  Louise and I are also joining forces to launch some other exciting projects in the autumn so watch this space.

For me that’s been the key to successful expat life - learning to focus not on what I’ve left behind but on the opportunities and challenges in each new place. 

About the author

Evelyn Simpson is founder of The Smart Expat through which she helps the accompanying partners of expat manage the transitions that come with international relocations that are driven by their partners’ careers.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Brides Abroad

It’s not unusual to find a future spouse when living abroad. In fact, this year’s Expat Explorer survey found that a third of expats have found a life partner since relocating. Of all the countries that made it into the league tables, the UK that came top in the romance stakes with half of expats finding true love.

Source: CreativeCommons Ewen and Donabel

As we approach the winter wedding season we take a look at what you need to consider if you find yourself planning a wedding in your host country…

1. First and foremost, make sure that all visa applications are sorted well in advance and, if necessary, your embassy is informed. This is particularly the case if your future spouse is either a national of the country or doesn’t have a visa

2. Check all of the legal details to ensure that your marriage can go ahead and is valid. For example, in the UAE the bride must provide her guardian’s approval for the marriage, and both bride and groom must be UAE residents

3. As you may live several time zones away from your friends and family, make sure that you give them sufficient notice of your wedding date. Even if your invitations aren’t ready, send them a ‘save the date’ email with the details. That way, they can book flights ahead of the big day

4. Work out a budget for your wedding. Some things may cost more or less than they do back home so make sure you factor in everything from flowers to rings

5. Make sure that you’re familiar with marriage etiquette, particularly if you’re marrying a national. This can range from asking her father’s permission to being to financially supporting the bride’s in-laws

We love hearing your views. Is there anything you’d recommend that other expats bear in mind before the big day?

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Talkin’ the Talk

Picking up a new language can be one of the most difficult things you’ll do in your life - especially if you’ve forgotten most of your school-taught French and German! But you’re not alone, the findings of this year’s Expat Explorer  survey revealed that just under a third of expats surveyed found it difficult to pick up the local language once they had moved to their host country.

Source: CreativeCommons StreetFly JZ

Out of the all countries we surveyed, expats in South East Asia were amongst those most likely to struggle with the native tongue. Over half of expats in Hong Kong and Vietnam found learning the local language very difficult compared to just 14% of expats globally.  Furthermore, only between one and two out of ten expats in Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong  agreed that they try to use the local language day-to-day.

So, if you’re concerned that you’ll never be able to chat with ease in your new country here are some tips to help you get started:
  1. Take a language course before you leave regardless of your ability. If you speak the local language well, this will give you a chance to refresh your knowledge. If you’re a beginner, you’ll quickly find that a little can go a long way
  2. Stick with it! Even if you’re speaking the language every day, a course will give you a real grounding in grammar and stop you from slipping into bad habits. It will also give you a chance to meet other expats in the same boat as you
  3. Make local friends. Not only will they be able to help you pick up the language quickly, the chances are they’ll be able show you some great local places to visit, eat out or drink
  4. Have the confidence to speak the language wherever you go, even if it’s just nipping out to buy some bread. It will also show that you’re willing to make an effort to fit in
  5. Completely immerse yourself by watching TV and listening to the radio in your local language. There’s also some great language apps available that you’ll be able to use on the go
If you missed it the first time, here’s a  blogpost from guest blogger Ashley Thompson on what it’s like moving to Japan and not even being able to understand the characters and letters, never mind words!

Monday, 5 November 2012

Expats shift to real estate investment

Image Source: Creative Commons/Moyan Brenn

In our blogpost Economic uncertainty leads expats to choose longer term investments we discussed how this year's survey has shown that expats have gradually made the shift from cash investments and towards property based investments, or ‘real estate’. One in five (22%) of expats surveyed said that the highest proportion of their investments is now held in real estate, compared to just 16% when they first relocated.

This change in money management is most apparent in European countries where more expats than average have increased the proportion of their investments in real estate (France 29% v 37%, Germany 14% v 19%).

What’s more, even high earning expats are choosing to split their investments over time. Expats earning $200,000-250,000 per year have moved from cash investments to a relatively even mix of cash, real estate and equities. So why is this? One possible explanation could be that expats see a wider spread of investment opportunities as a safer option, most likely in response to economic turmoil.

For more results from our Expat Explorer survey, visit our interactive tool. 

Friday, 2 November 2012

Guest Blogger Series: Introducing… Dragan Palla

This week’s guest post features Dragan Palla of Domains Flow. In this post, Dragan shares five tips to help you set up and manage your own blog.

Top five tips to help set up a blog

 Source: Creative Commons: theparadigmshifter

Blogging is one of today's easiest ways to build an online audience. However, setting it up does require attention to certain details, as well as how you manage it regularly. The existence of convenient and user-friendly platforms means you can start out with minimal experience as well.

1. Be specific in your blog niche and you'll attract a more loyal audience

As you're setting up the blog, you'll be asked to define its content. It's easy to set up a general topic such as "the love of horses." While this may be common, it's only going to draw a few visitors and not the niche audience you're looking for. Most of the time, people look up specific topics, such as "how to brush Arabian horses." This fills an immediate need and also encourages them to come back to your blog for future grooming tips.

2. The domain name of your blog is just as important as your content

This should be something that is unique, easy to remember and also brings up your site in search results. By combining all of these features into your domain name, you're paying for more than just virtual rent of merely $10 a year (or equivalent). Instead, this becomes another way to promote your online presence to potential blog followers and subscribers

3. There are free platforms available to use, but there is an advantage to using a self-hosting service for your blog

When you work with some well-known sites, you follow their rules and agree to their service agreement at all times. If you break the rules, they have the permission to shut your site down. To prevent this, consider using sites where you have full control over your site and the type of content posted. Basically, it's the difference between renting someone else's house and owning your home

4. Remember this is your "story" you're sharing with the world
Your voice needs to be authentic and real and if you copy someone else's material, you're only regurgitating and not creating. Don't earn a reputation for copying material - be authentic and honest in your posts. Your readers follow you because they enjoy your voice, tone and personality. If you don't give them that, they might as well read the local news page and get the same kind of information. It's also necessary to research whatever information you post so it's valid and current and guaranteed to answer their questions honestly

5. Once you've found your voice, stick with it
Be consistent with the information you give and how you share it. There are a lot of reasons people start blogs, but yours will be particular to your needs. Give yourself a challenge to see how many new readers you can get in a month or how many comments you can get on a single post. This teaches you marketing in the process while creating another potential stream of income. As long as you're passionate about your subject and stay on track with your subject, it will become a very successful project

About the author
Dragan Palla is the founder of Domains Flow

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Brits wait until retirement to move abroad

Image source: CreativeCommons/Tax Credits

The findings of this year’s Expat Explorer survey reveals that while expats worldwide are typically drawn at a younger age by tempting job prospects and higher salaries, the opposite is true of British expats. 38% of British expats are aged over 55 compared to just a fifth worldwide, showing that Brits tend to wait until they are that bit older before they make the move abroad.

On the contrary the UK itself is popular with middle-aged expats and nearly half of UK inpats (those moving to the UK to live and work) are aged 35-54. UK-based expats are primarily from Ireland and the USA followed by those from Australia, South Africa and India

But, while Australians may be drawn to the UK, Australia also exerts a strong pull on Brits. Despite being on the other side of the world, Australia is the top location for British expats, while the UAE is the most popular Middle Eastern destination, hosting one in ten of all UK expats globally.

Once British expats have flown the nest, they are unlikely to return. Of all expats interviewed for the survey, almost half wanted to move back to their country for retirement, whereas just under a quarter of British expats wanted to return to the UK to retire. Instead, British expats found the sunnier climes of Spain and France more appealing.

Find out how your country fares on our interactive tool.



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