Monday, 29 July 2013

Moving to the countryside

The rural idyll is something many of us crave and if you’re one of those fleeing the city smog for the country escape then here are some things you should consider. Whether you are choosing to settle in the lavender fields of Provence, the island life of Greece, or anywhere else abroad, these tips are worth a read.

Picture source: flickr

Rose tinted glasses…
Whilst country life offers a slower pace and the promise of peace and quiet if you are relocating abroad to opt for the rural life, it is wise to think about the reality. It’s easy to fall in love when driving up to a ramshackle traditional house in the August sunshine. However it is worth thinking about the practicalities. The little lane in winter may become impassable for example if the area experiences snow, ice or heavy rain. The ramshackle roof you praise for its rustic charm in the summer may see you chasing round with pots and pans collecting rain in the winter and the wonky windows may just cause a cold draught in the cooler months. Having a house in a good state of repair will not only make living there more pleasant all the year round it will also make you safer.

Picture source: flickr

Safety, safety, safety…

Unfortunately in every country there is crime, it’s an unavoidable fact of the modern world, and while we may at first think of burglars in suburbia or pickpockets on the city streets, crime also affects rural areas. By considering the security of your country home you not only make the property more secure whilst you’re out, but you also make yourself safer when you’re in.

Picture source: flickr

Branching out…
An isolated house set in its own land is great in many ways but when you’re living somewhere rather than simply holidaying, you’ll want to make new friends and branch out into the local community. So why not consider living in or just on the edge of a village? This way you can have the best of both worlds- the open land to roam in will still be on your doorstep but it will be easier to become a part of village life. Furthermore by living within sight of neighbour’s you can help to keep an eye on each other and your properties. As an expat you may choose to return home for a couple of weeks (or months) at a time so this may be worth consideration.  

Friday, 26 July 2013

Expat hubs: Shanghai

Image source: Flickr

As the world’s largest city proper (a city without its suburbs) by population, there is no doubt that Shanghai is an iconic location. That’s why we’ve written up a short guide to the city, looking at the main things it has to offer.

Shanghai is one of China’s ‘big three’ cities that dwarf the rest of the country’s settlements in terms of its global profile. It is probably the most diverse of the big three, showcasing a vibrant mix of fashionable Hong Kong’s dynamism and historical Beijing’s cultural heritage.

Image source: Wikimedia

Perhaps one of the better-known aspects of Beijing is its fantastic architecture. Shanghai features various styles, from the neoclassical HSBC Building to the towering skyscrapers of its famous skyline and the smaller, more traditional buildings found by the river.

One of the fantastic effects of Shanghai’s similarities with Hong Kong is the sheer excitement of the city’s hustle and bustle. It’s also a great place to spot celebrities - some of residents are so glamorous that at times Shanghai’s sidewalks can seem more like catwalks!

Image source: Flickr

Shanghai also shares with Hong Kong a long tradition of welcoming expats. In fact, by 2010 there were over 160,000 expats in the metropolis. This is perhaps due to its history as a kind of port city. It also helps that many of the locals speak good English, making life easier for English-speaking expats whilst they work to learn the intricacies of the area’s specific dialect.

Speaking of history, Shanghai’s fantastic cultural heritage straddles many disciplines. The Shanghai Museum of art and history has a fantastic collection of Chinese artefacts and the city was also the birthplace of Chinese Cinema. Nowadays, the city is considered a critical inspiration for the cyberpunk subculture.

Are you an expat in Shanghai? What’s your favourite thing about living in the city? Let us know in the comments below.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Understanding your employment rights whilst working abroad

Image source: Flickr

Working abroad is an amazing experience – an adventure like no other. However, there’s a lot to get your head around when moving. If you’re moving for work, your rights as an employee will be at the forefront of your mind.

One of the first questions you should ask before moving is “Which country’s laws apply to me if I work there?” Unfortunately, there’s no legal version of the Rhine to act as a definitive border between jurisdictions. As such, it’s best to keep a simple basic principle in mind: most of the time, your host country’s employment law will apply. For example, expats working in the UK are protected by British employment law, regardless of contractual clauses that might state otherwise. This applies even if the company the expat is working for is from their home country.

However, this is not to say that your home country’s law doesn’t also apply. It’s entirely possible for two or more countries’ laws to apply to an expat. When this occurs, it’s best to seek legal guidance. In the meantime, governmental websites can be a really helpful source of information.

Finally, we should point out that it’s important to establish whether there are any agreements in place between your home and host country concerning employment rights. European expats may find that their home country’s laws apply very differently within the EU to outside of it.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Country in Review: Germany

Castle Neuschwanstein: Image via Flickr.

What are the top ten things that come to mind when you think of Germany? The rules of probability suggest that there will probably have been two of the same words in all of your lists.

Beer and sausages…

While these two words might seem reductionist, and a far cry from a well-rounded view of the country, there must be some truth around all of the fuss. So…. rather than try and quash the stereotypes – why not dig a little deeper, find out a bit more about what makes German beer and bratwurst so globally appreciated.

Image via flickr
So beer…

Germans, behind the brewery loving Czechs, consume the most beer than any other country in the world. Although there has been a slight decline in recent years, the Deutsche are still host to over 1,300 breweries and drink a staggering 110 litres a year per head. It is such a staple of the German diet that in Bavaria, beer is even considered a food. Because of the drink’s importance to German culture, it’s brewing and composition is treated as sacred and has been defended by the Reinheitsgebot “purity order” for centuries.

Oktoberfest beer hall: Image via wikimedia

While this law was adapted and made more flexible in 1993 with the introduction of the Provisional German beer law, it is still recognised as a global standard among connoisseurs. In fact, the world renowned festival, Oktoberfest (which confusingly occurs in September) only serves beer that adheres to the ancient Reinheitsgebot and that is brewed in Munich.

But it is not just about beer at Oktoberfest. If you find yourself a little bit peckish on your tour of the taverns there will be plenty of traditional fare to choose from. While you may be tempted by a pretzel or some Stöllen, if you want to get your teeth into some real German culture, then sausages are the way to go. 

Image via flickr

Sausages or wurst are iconic of Germany and have been a staple in the population’s diet since the Middle Ages. Because of this heritage, the choice is extensive, with over 1,200 types and endless regional varieties.  The most famous is probably the bratwurst - which can be made from veal, pork or beef and grilled, pan-fried or (you guessed it) poached in a broth of beer. While tucking into a bratwurst should always be on your foodie bucket list,  if you are lucky enough to be an expat in Germany, then it is always worth expanding your repertoire and tasting everything from weisswurst (a pale veal sausage) to landjäger (a German spiced salami meaning hunter’s sausage). Whatever you try though, go all out in embracing German cuisine and pile your plate with the traditional honey mustard and sauerkraut.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Expat hubs: Chinatown

With the rise of the global economy, convenience of air travel and a growing lust for new experiences, expatriation is an appealing prospect for many individuals. While expats, by definition, will have moved to a foreign country and as such, are not considered to be local, the rate and volume of expatriation means that there are certain areas in which these groups have made the new country their own.

Today, we are taking a look at those places where expats have settled and really made an impact.

Image via Wikimedia

New York is a metropolis characterised by its foreign population. With over 800 languages spoken and endless nationalities to meet, the city continues to draw in expats looking to take advantage of what it has to offer.

While there is a clear multiculturalism existing in New York, there is one area that is notable for being created by an expat community, for an expat community – and that is Chinatown.

Image via Flickr

While Chinatown's and other cultural hubs (little Italys etc.) can be found all around the globe, Chinatown in Manhattan claims to have the highest concentration of Chinese people in the western hemisphere, and so it is a great case study of expats making their mark on a city.

Chinatown started from humble beginnings, with the first recorded Chinese immigrant- a man named Ah Ken – moving there in the 1840s to set up his own cigar shop. His success encouraged other Chinese businessmen to sell their tobacco wares in Chinatown and drew in a large Chinese population to relocate there.

Nowadays, Chinatown has become world-renowned as a popular destination to visit, with swarms of New Yorkers and tourists alike flooding in to take in the colourful bright lights, well-stocked Asian supermarkets, street fairs and the endless restaurants. What is so inspiring about this historic community is that they have really created an expat identity to be proud of, keeping hold of their home-country traditions and making it something beautiful to be admired in their new country.

If you want to learn more about the history of this place, and happen to be in the Lower East Side district, take a tour of the Museum of Chinese in America where you can wander through exhibitions that provide the back-story to the history of Chinese people in the USA.  

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Staying safe as an expat

Picture source: Flickr

Despite the excitement of moving abroad there are inevitably things that can go wrong. One of the important things to think about is personal safety, both security and personal well-being. Alongside the growing list of things to consider before moving overseas, here are some of our suggestions on how you can stay safe as an expat:

Keep a list of key phone numbers
Keep a backup list of all the key phone numbers you will need, this includes your bank, your local embassy or consulate office as well as any friends that you will need to contact. Many mobile phone companies allow you to back up your contacts online which can always be useful. Think also about having a map, many people solely rely on mobile phones for navigating when abroad.

Learn the good places in town
Learn the good from the bad; every city has places which are not advisable to go. Learn where is safe and where is not, get a good guide book or speak to people who have visited or lived there. Getting lost is part of going somewhere new but certain places you just don’t want to be lost in!

Find a friend
The world is so global nowadays that there is normally a friend or friend of a friend who lives or works in a location. Make a note of who they are so if you get in to trouble there is someone who can assist and, in some cases, speak the local language. Expats are normally only too happy to assist a friend in need. 

Be sensible
This is a basic for being in any large city but remember not to carry large amounts of cash or fancy electronic gadgets. Whilst this is often an obvious thing when out and about, remember that in some countries you will stand out as a foreigner and become an obvious target for thieves.

Make sure you have the right insurance
Especially in the case of medical care remember to make sure you are insured. In places where healthcare is free, this is not a problem but some countries require payment for everything and if the worst occurred one does not want to be haggling in a hospital or with an ambulance driver.

Monday, 8 July 2013


Image source: Flickr

This week will see the first day of Ramadan, arguably the best-known Islamic festival around the world.

Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. It takes place at different times during the Gregorian calendar each year and the specific dates are determined by the appearance of the new moon. Perhaps the most well-known tradition during the month is the fast – one of the Five Pillars of Islam.

Fasting during Ramadan means that for the duration of the month, many Muslims choose not to eat or drink anything during the day. They also abstain from any other temptation that may detract from worship. Before sunrise and after sunset, small meals are allowed (but nothing too excessive). These meals are called suhoor and iftar.

In addition to fasting, some Muslims choose to make additional charitable donations on top of those they make throughout the rest of the year. Some also choose to undertake additional prayer and to read the whole Qu’ran. They can opt to recite the Qu’ran during prayer; this is called Tarawih.

After 29 or 30 days, Ramadan comes to an end with a special festival called Eid ul-Fitr. On this day, Muslims break their fast and partake in a special Eid prayer. Sometimes, gifts are given to children and immediate relatives and further charitable donations are made.

Do you celebrate Ramadan? Are there any differences in how you celebrate between your host and home countries? Let us know in the comments.



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