Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Happy Expat New Year!

The clock will be striking midnight at different times for all of us no doubt, but we’re wishing a happy 2015 to each and every expat around the globe.

We’d love for you to share with us your plans for the night, whether big or small. Will you be importing your New Year traditions from home or are you seeing 2015 in as the locals do?

For a bit of inspiration, here’s a whistle-stop tour around the globe via some of the countries with the most intriguing New Year traditions!

Image source: Creative commons / Tomas Castelazo
In Spain and some parts of Latin America, many people eat 12 grapes in time with the 12 chimes of the clock at midnight, which is said to secure them a happy year to come.

In Burma the traditional ‘Thingyan’ festival involves people splashing water on one another in order to start the New Year with a purified soul.

Every year, the locals write their hopes and wishes on white spheres and cast them into the Singapore River to make them come true!

On New Year’s Eve, an onion is traditionally hung from the front door of a house as a symbol of rebirth for the coming year. Parents then wake their children the next morning by tapping them on the head with the onion. 

For Estonians, New Year’s Day consists of trying to eat seven, nine or twelve times, as they are all considered to be lucky numbers. The more they manage to eat, the more plentiful the food will be in the coming year!

South Africa
In Johannesburg, the residents throw their old appliances out of the window to represent “out with the old and in with the new”.

Czech Republic
Here, the people cut apples in half and look at the shape of the core to determine what the New Year will have in store. 

(Our personal favourite) The Danes like nothing more than smashing plates on their neighbour’s doorstep. The more broken plates you have at your door, the better your luck will be for the coming year!

The romantic Venetians gather in St. Mark’s Square to see in the New Year with a mass kissing session. 

The Swiss drop a blob of cream on the floor on New Year’s Day to bring luck and a rich year. 

Each year, thousands of Brazilians throw white flowers into the ocean as an offering to the Goddess of the Sea in the hope that she’ll make their wishes for the next year come true.

Bolivians believe that wearing bright yellow underwear on New Year’s Eve will increase their fortune for the year to come, whereas Argentinians believe that pink underwear will attract love in the New Year. 

So there you have it – a peak into New Year celebrations around the world! Don’t forget to share below in the comments section some of the traditions from your adoptive country!

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Friday, 26 December 2014

Festive customs from around the world

Wherever you are in the world, it’s fair to say you’ll come across festive traditions of some description at this time of year. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, there’s no question that with every different country come a whole host of different customs, and one of the best things about expat life is being able to sample some of the more unusual things that are on offer. Here’s a round-up of some of our favourite festive customs from around the world:

Image source: Creative Commons / Comrade Foot

Venezuala: Get your skates on
If you feel a little manic and short of time at this time of year, you’re not the only one - but the festive season in Venezuala can bring a whole new meaning to the term ‘get your skates on’! From mid-December right up to Christmas Eve, it’s common for the authorities to close roads in the country’s capital so that church-goers can roller skate to morning mass. As the largest city, this can often mean that many roads are obstructed or closed by 8am so that it’s safe for everyone on wheels.

Poland: Christmas Dinner on Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve is the day when most people eat "Kolacja wigilijna" (Christmas Dinner). It usually consists of twelve dishes, designed to bring luck for the next twelve months ahead. Typically, guests will only tuck into their meal after the first star has been spotted in the sky – often kicking off a competition among all of those at the table! 

India: Any tree will do
Christmas tree decoration can be a driver of fierce competition the world over, with more and more carnations of the traditional tree cropping up every year. In India, it’s common to forgo a fir and instead hang festive decorations from a mango or banana tree instead. 

Czech Republic: Shoe tossing for a husband
Aimed at those who may be looking to settle down, in the Czech Republic it’s customary for single women to rely on their shoes to give an idea of what the year ahead might hold. Typically a single woman will stand with her back to a front door and remove one of their shoes, before hurling it backwards over their shoulder towards the door. The way that the shoe lands is supposed to show the thrower their marriage destiny: if the toe is facing the door, it’s a good sign, but if the heel faces the door then they could be looking at another year’s wait! 

Jamaica: For the house-proud
In Jamaica, but also in other countries including Venezuela and Finland, Christmas is an excuse for a thorough ‘winter’ clean – as with plenty of other places, it’s seen as respectable and enjoyable to start the festive season with a clean and well-organised household. In Jamaica many people will take this one step further, with many also painting the outside of their houses, to make it smart and ready for guests, as well as buying new curtains and decorations with which to dress the windows. Clothing is also seen as another way that people celebrate, treating themselves to a smart new outfit for the day itself. 

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Monday, 22 December 2014

Will you be flying home this Christmas?

The holiday period is upon us again and we’re all thinking about spending some quality time with our loved ones. But for those of you who have just moved abroad, it might not be as simple as it used to be. 

Here we weigh up why you should and shouldn’t make the long journey home this Christmas.

Don’t think twice… Just go!
  Image Source: Creative Commons / Unknown

Christmas is all about the family – all the way from the nativity story to our modern-day rituals, the family takes centre stage at this time of year. So if you can make it to wherever in the world your loved ones call home, there’s a strong argument for just going for it. 

What’s more, moving abroad can be quite hectic period of your life, and so any opportunity to spend time somewhere familiar and relaxing with people that you love, you should take. You’ve earned it!

Also bear in mind that during the Christmas period, many people are able to enjoy more time off work than usual. If your friends and family work long hours and you’re worried that you won’t get to see them, there might not be a better opportunity than now! 

And don’t forget all the treats that will be waiting there for you. You’re friends and family at home probably know you better than anyone else in the world, and will undoubtedly spoil you rotten with all those home comforts when you arrive!

Stay away!
 Image source: Creative Commons / ReneS at flickr

One of the big downsides to travelling at this time of year is that airlines tend to bump up their prices because they know they won’t struggle to fill their seats. Try to book in advance as possible to avoid the mad Christmas rush.Another reason to stay in your new country is that it will give you a whole new festive experience. 

Christmas traditions vary widely around the world and spending this Christmas abroad might shake things up a little. Try a different Christmas dinner, visit markets, experience festive cheer in a different climate… it might be strange at first but it will broaden your horizons! And finally, if you can’t or don’t want to make it home this Christmas, why not invite your friends and family to come and visit you instead?

So tell us, will you be flying home this Christmas? And if you’re a long-term expat, what’s the best thing about Christmas in your new country?

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Monday, 15 December 2014

How to Beat Boredom on Long-Haul Flights

Being an expat, the eventuality of being stuck on a long-haul flight is rather difficult to escape.  Sat in one spot for over 10 hours inevitably becomes very boring, especially after the initial excitement of the in-flight entertainment has withered away.  Here are a few ways for you to beat the boredom next time you find yourself on a long haul flight:

1. In-flight yoga

Moving and stretching after you have been sat in the same position for a long time will have positive psychological and physical effects.  Doing this helps get your circulation going and may reduce any anxiety you may have.  If you’re stuck for moves, there are some great guides to in-flight yoga positions available online.

Image Source: Creative Commons/Pixabay
 2. Games

Games can be a great way to occupy a bored mind.  Traditional pen and paper games such as Sudoku and crosswords are perfect if you’re travelling alone or have sleeping companions.  If you are the owner of a tablet device, many classic board games are available digitally. Some in-flight entertainment systems even have games and quizzes to play against other passengers on the flight!

Image Source: Creative Commons/ Wikimedia
3. Reading

Books are one of the best ways of passing time, taking you into another world – use the long flight to make headway on that reading list you’ve put off or even to read a book set in the place you’re about to visit. If you’re in the mood for something lighter, pick up some magazines from the airport before you set off.   For anyone with tired eyes, podcasts and audiobooks can also provide hours of entertainment (or, at the worst, talk you to sleep).
Image Source: Creative Commons/Gaelx
 4. Snacks

Having a selection of available snacks at the ready will give you a pick-me-up when feeling frustrated or bored.  Nuts and dried fruit make for a great in-flight nibble as they release energy slowly throughout the flight.
Image Source: Creative Commons/ Christmas Stock Images

5. Sleeping

If you are lucky enough to be able to sleep on flights, it is probably the ultimate way to beat boredom by making the journey go very quickly. For those that struggle, pack your ear plugs and eye mask to help you block out airplane hustle and bustle. 

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