Friday, 21 December 2012

Top Ten Expat Explorer Blog Posts of 2012

As we approach the end of 2012, we bring you a roundup of the most popular blog posts of the year...

Image source: Creative Commons Axel-D

Our February blog post on long distance relationships was the most popular of the year. If you’re after some advice on overcoming obstacles of distance, trust and communication? Then take a look at our post.

We looked at the emerging breed of expats – the expat entrepreneur, and shared some top tips for anyone thinking of starting out. It’s definitely worth a read if you’re an expat thinking about starting up your own business abroad.

As part of a brand new series on Expat Explorer for 2012, our Expat Entrepreneurs series calls for those who have pursued their business dreams and set up a business overseas. We’re still interested in hearing from anyone, so get in touch!

Italy – cultural hub, foodie paradise or sun-kissed paradise? We take a closer look at this popular cultural haunt for tourists and expats alike.

Another popular blog on a city theme… This time it’s London! Find out more about what the city is like for expats, whether it’s entertainment, work, infrastructure or expat communities.

Our top guest blogging post of the year featured Sine Thieme, who told us all about her experience living in South Africa. Take a look at her first-hand account to see why she finds it such an incredible place to live.

Ashley Thompson’s unconventional how-to guide for living in Japan proved popular for our readers. In this post, Ashley describes navigating freelancing, transport systems and Japanese food labels… It provides some great tips for both new and serial expats alike.

What’s the Digital Sizzle? Read seasoned guest blogger Bryce Keane’s account on how he set up his own community when moving to the UK.

It’s been a great year for our Expat Explorer survey. We’ve had over 5,300 respondents from all over the world take part in the survey, making it the largest sample yet. We rounded up the highlights of this year’s report and you can re-cap them here.

If you want advice on how to get out, interact with locals and use your language skills, look no further! Emily Wachelka has the answers…

Friday, 14 December 2012

Guest Blogger Series: Introducing…Anna Power

This week’s guest post features Anna Power who talks us through how she is adapting to expat life in Bangkok.

How Life Has Changed

It is almost 6 months to the day that I became an expat.

It has gone so fast, yet it is also difficult to imagine a time not living in Bangkok. Life no longer revolves around a 9-5, 5-day working week (or more realistically 7-7 and often working on weekends), blinking and missing “summer”  or waking up in the middle of the night full of anxiety about work. Instead I now feel I am embracing life – discovering all that Bangkok has to offer from the amazing temples (in my humble opinion Wat Arun is the best) to the shopping malls to just wandering down an unknown soi to see what’s there.

Wat Arun temple Source: Prachanart

Don’t get me wrong, life over here is not always easy. My friends back in the UK see me as being on a permanent holiday and that can make it hard to talk about feelings of loneliness or not belonging. The standard response is but you live in a sunny place and have your own swimming pool – what is there to complain about. And I understand that. 6 months ago it would have been my reply too. I think only someone who is or has been an expat can understand how hard it is to literally start your life afresh at thirty two by moving to a place with no job and no friends and just how difficult it is to live somewhere and not understand the language. I also now find myself living in the year 2555 (the Buddhist calendar is followed here – year 2012 in Europe is year 2555 in Thailand).

However I have no regrets.

The quality of our lives has improved tenfold. I am almost embarrassed to admit how much we were ruled by television in the UK. We currently have very little material items as we are still waiting for our shipping but the only things I really want are our pictures and photographs. Everything else seems irrelevant. I cannot imagine what we have in the forty eight boxes on their way to us.

Life as I left it in the UK was getting hard. Bills were rising but my salary was both cut and then frozen. People were miserable. It was also boring. To an extent it felt like Groundhog Day – get up, go to work, come home, eat and watch TV, go to bed. Repeat next day. When I now email friends full of excitement of what I have seen and done and ask what they have been up to the response seems standard: “same old, same old, nothing has changed since you left”.

Equally, there is the risk of this happening in Bangkok – despite what my friends think I am not on a permanent holiday. We still have the mundane tasks of cleaning, washing and paying bills. However I refuse to return to Groundhog Day. There is just too much to see and do than just sit in my apartment all day playing on Facebook. That is of course also the case in the UK; I just became too stuck in a rut to see it.

I acknowledge how lucky I am to have been given this opportunity, but having now made some friends here; I see just how easy it is to become an expat. So many people from the UK successfully apply for postings based in Bangkok or work hard for 6 months in their home country and then take a break here, in the knowledge their money will stretch further in Asia than in Europe. I now actively encourage family, friends and acquaintances to take the same chance that I am glad we did!

About the author

Anna Power is an expat freelance writer and blogger following a move to Bangkok in June 2012. In her previous life she worked as a lawyer but when her partner’s career took her to Bangkok she decided to make the most of living in the Big Mango.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Boomerang Brits

Source: Wikicommons

Quick to go abroad but equally quick to return home. This is the impression that a segment of the British expat population has given in a recent survey, earning themselves the moniker ‘Boomerang Brits’.

There have been a number of reasons bandied about to explain this behavior which has seen British expats return home from destinations like Australia after just a year of living. Is it because Brits get particularly homesick? Perhaps they miss a good cup of tea and simply can’t cope? Perhaps not.

One slightly more feasible reason is that the UK recession has made it incredibly hard to get a job. This has prompted many people to move abroad and look for work on a short-term visa. This has been especially relevant for university graduates who have found themselves competing against hundreds and sometimes thousands of candidates for just one role.

Despite this trend findings from our 2012 Expat Explorer survey found that  89% of British expats have actually been in their host country  for over 3 years compared to a global average of 76%. The survey also revealed that whilst 78% of British expats reported having a  strong connection to their home country this was less than the global average of 84%. In fact, 72% reported that they felt a strong connection to their host country – higher than the global average of 64%.

Finally, only 7% of British expats that took part in this year’s Expat Explorer survey said that they are actively looking to move back home or to another location and 71% are looking to stay put.

It’s possible that the younger generation of expat are responsible for the ‘Boomerang’ claims as further findings from this year’s survey revealed that moving for short-term career gain was most popular among those expats migrating to the Middle East.

Do you think we are becoming less inclined to settle down? Or are you a long-term expat who is happy staying put? Leave us a comment below. 

Friday, 7 December 2012

New Year, New You?

Image Source: Creative Commons Niklas Bildhauer

In the lead up to the New Year, thoughts can easily turn from new resolutions to new challenges, which in turn can trigger thoughts of new jobs and even new countries. It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of a big change, so to help you we’ve put together a series of questions that you should ask yourself before committing to a new life abroad:

People become expats for all sorts of reasons, but the principal motivators tend to be a new career, moving to be with family or a desire to change lifestyle. If any of these sound familiar then make sure that your decision is justified. If you’re moving because you think there might be better job opportunities abroad, do your research first and try and find a job before you move. Also, check that the lifestyle is really as much of an improvement as you think – a good place to start is the findings from our annual Expat Explorer survey, as this is compiled from our survey of over 5,000 expats and should give you some valuable insights into the work culture and lifestyle in your chosen destination.

Keep an open mind. Research the opportunities that each country offers – tempting though it may be, try and avoid setting your heart on a place before you really know what it’s like. For a useful background on countries, we’ve also got a number of country guides you can look through, and you can also compare countries and filter them by economics, experience and raising children abroad. Once you’ve narrowed it down, you can then look to compare two countries in detail, or view in-depth analysis of our findings.

What first steps?
We’ve said it already, but we’ll say it again: research, research, research! Social media is a fantastic resource and you can use it to contact expats in the country you’re set on to get their opinions and advice. You can also read expat blogs, of which there are hundreds of thousands, to give you a good idea of what life is actually life on the ground. Travel guides will also be a useful resource so stock up on those too. Perhaps most importantly, try and make a visit to your chosen country first. You may find that it really isn’t what you were expecting although on the other hand it might everything you have dreamed of – and more! Lastly, do your best to save money before moving, just in case things don’t work out. This will give you a security blanket in case you have been unable to secure a job or a permanent home prior to landing.

These are just a few of the things that you should be thinking about before you even consider taking that big leap to becoming an expat. There’s many, many more but hopefully this post has gone some way to making you plan for that all important journey!

If you want to read more on how to research a location, take a look at our blogpost on the topic.
And most importantly - good luck!

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Bringing up your children abroad

This year’s Expat Explorer survey found Canada to be the top country overall to raise a child, while Hong Kong comes top for safety, and Australia and Canada are joint top for being the most active countries for children. Moving abroad often involves more than one person, especially those thinking about relocating with their whole family.

Here, we’ve pulled together some of our top tips for expat parents on bringing up children abroad:

1. Safety

Safety is always top on the worry-list for parents, but moving to an unfamiliar country can often turn this worry into paranoia. Talk to other parents to see what precautions they take, and bear in mind that something that seemed safe back home may not be safe in your new country – and vice versa. If you are making your children change their behaviour drastically, tell them why but make sure you don’t scare them – it will help them understand. If you’ve got very young children, take a look at this article on toy safety

2. Health
Make sure that your children have all the necessary injections before they leave. If the water isn’t safe to drink, then buy bottled water or a filter and keep your children hydrated. If you’re concerned about hygiene, buy a hand sterilising gel, and antiseptic wipes in case they fall over.

3. Emotional health  and integration
Expat children often miss home a lot. Social integration is one of the areas where expat parents in the Middle East reported their children had most difficulty, where just under half of expat parents in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and UAE reported that the social integration of their children had become worse since relocating. Address this by talking to them throughout the moving process, encourage them to invite new friends home, send them to local language classes and encourage them to take part in activity groups.

4. Activity
Canada and Australia both score highly as a place for active families, with expat parents here reporting their children are more active in sports and playing outdoors since relocation. However, this doesn’t mean that children in other countries don’t have the opportunity to do sport. Take active weekend trips into the countryside (which will also mean you can see more of your new country), sign them up to activity classes such as swimming, dance or tennis, and consider limiting their time in front of the TV and video games.

5. Food
If the food is different in your new country, some children may take to it like a duck to water. Others, on the hand, may need some coaxing. Try adding some of the new ingredients into standard dishes and see what your children think. Alternatively, get them involved in cooking the meal and maybe they’ll get so caught up in the excitement of preparation that they’ll be more willing to try their culinary creation!

If you’re interested in finding out more great tips for expat parents, don’t forget to check out our posts on budgeting for your children abroad, overseas versus local schooling, helping your child settle in at school and the phenomenon of ‘Third Culture Kids’.



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