Friday, 30 May 2014

Five signs your children are better expats than you

Your kids may have been your biggest concern in moving abroad, but many expat parents soon find that children take to the family’s new life much quicker than the adults! See below to find out if your child is a better expat than you are and find out what top tips you can learn from them. 

They aren’t too shy to speak the language: Children aren’t as worried about making mistakes and this can mean they really throw themselves in to language learning. Last year’s Expat Explorer survey even found that children were best at picking up languages often perceived as harder such as Thai and Chinese. While children may have some natural advantages in picking up new tongues more quickly, their can do attitude and lack of self-consciousness should definitely be replicated.

Creative Commons / Coelacan

They’ve made new friends by joining new activities: Whether it’s ballet on Thursdays or softball on Saturdays, children often attend a host of fun activities, where, naturally, they meet lots of friends. No doubt you’ve enrolled your children in multiple clubs to help them settle in, but what about you? Take up a hobby or join a class and you’ll soon feel at home with your new friends, whether they are other expats or locals.

They already refer to your new house as ‘home’: If ‘home’ for you means only your birth country while the kids are chattering happily about returning home from the shops, it may be that you’re struggling to let go. Take a look at our top tips for dealing with homesickness and make sure you’re focused on the here and now.

Creative Commons / Takeaway

They’re no longer fussy eaters: The move abroad may have sparked a sudden interest in culinary oddities among your kids (especially if it gives them bragging rights when talking to friends who they’ve left behind). If you’re avoiding local grub, maybe reassess your position – you may find a new love for it! 

They see expat life as one big adventure: Moving can be as fun for children as it is stressful for parents, but see if you can imbibe some of their excitement and you might find things get a lot more fun!

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

An expat from afar: how to get organised before you arrive

You’ve just decided to up sticks and move abroad. Perhaps you’ve told a few friends and are beginning to think about shipping your belongings, or maybe you’re in the process of applying for a visa. Whatever’s on your to-do list, there’s no doubt that at some point, you’ll feel stressed or nervous about the amount that you have to do before leaving. Sound familiar? Take a look at our guide to setting up your new life before you get there: 

Get app happy
When it comes to keeping life simple technology is often king, wherever you are in the world – and these days, there’s an app for everything! Whether it’s organising quotes from removal companies, keeping track of your paperwork or checking out new schools for the kids, you can almost guarantee there’s a digital answer to your problem, that will help you to stay on top of what you need to do and when. With so much going on, and even more to keep track of, we say embrace technology – but always make sure you keep a hard copy of important documents somewhere safe, just in case technology should fail you...!  

Lists are your friend
Even if you’re embracing technology, a hand-written list still has its place – there’s very little else as satisfying as putting a line through a task that you’ve completed. You might find that things sometimes spring to mind when you’re getting on with other things, so keeping a pen and paper to house your trusty list is always a good plan. 

Image source: Creative Commons / Nomadic Lass

When you’re moving abroad, you’ll find that you’ve probably never been in a position where you’re receiving so many quotes for so many different services. From banks to removal services, schools to insurance, it’s always wise to shop around and make an informed decision and get the right service for what you need. If you’re relocating for work, it’s likely that your employer will be able to give you some guidance – otherwise using the internet, particularly social media and forums, can be a helpful way to check out your options and make the right decision. 

Choose shops which will deliver the goods
…In all senses. If you’re furnishing your new home, the devil is in the detail and you can’t underestimate the value of getting your new place just how you want it –  as it really helps you to feel settled. Order furniture ahead of time and choose well-known shops and brands which can help to make life easier for you; whether that’s arranging a delivery to your home or workplace.  

Take a trip
There’s only so much you can do from hundreds, or often thousands, of miles away – particularly if you’re brand new to the country and culture! Glean as many insights as you can about your new home through doing your research and asking around (you might also find our Hints & Tips tool is a good place to start) – but sometimes there’s no substitute for an actual visit. If you can, take someone along with you when you go. Not only does this help to make things a bit less overwhelming, it means you have another valuable pair of eyes and ears to help you soak up as much local knowledge as you can while you’re there!

Image source: HSBC Expat Hints & Tips

Friday, 23 May 2014

How to get to grips with transport abroad

Whatever method of transport you’re used to, it’s likely to change when you become an expat – whether that’s your morning commute, the school run or the weekly shop. In a new country you’ll have new buses to catch, new routes to take.-Maybe you’ll have to work out how the Metro, Tube or trains work and try and decipher different signs, perhaps your route will be longer and hotter. One thing’s for sure, you can count on it being different. 

As is always the case with expat life, you’ll find that it can take a while to get used to things. – We think the best way is to jump straight in and give it a try, but here are a few pearls of wisdom to help you on your way (quite literally!):   

Do your research
Research is important and taking the time to find out what shops and transport you have around your neighbourhood will pay off.  If you have time before you start work or do the school run; why not take a day to just have a look around, explore, and maybe even get a little lost. In the lead-up to starting a new job, give your drive, bus or train journey a trial run before you do the real thing; there is nothing worse than being late to work on your first day! 

It’s also worth thinking about the new customs of your home and familiarising yourself with the local laws, customs and etiquette to avoid being caught out e.g. eating on a train in Singapore can result in quite a hefty fine. And if you are planning on going for a drive in Denmark or any of Scandinavia you better make sure you have your headlights on, as this is a law even if it’s sunny! 

Creative Commons / Alaine Givillet
Just ask  
Everyone needs a bit of help sometimes so don’t be afraid to ask. Although it depends where you are, it’s rare that people will be unwilling to help. Getting around the language barrier can be problematic sometimes, so having a map to hand could help to combat this.   

Be patient
Finding your way around takes time and, if you’re finding things difficult, it’s always good to bear in mind that things WILL get easier eventually. Make the most of your friends or work colleagues to help you find your feet.  If you’re there on your own, head out to explore – just don’t forget your phone and trusty A-Z…!  

Creative Commons / Entrer dans le reve

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

A culinary picture of… Budapest

Adjusting to new flavours of local cuisine can be one of the most difficult (and eye-opening!) aspects of moving abroad. This time we’re taking a look at what it’s like to make the move to Eastern Europe – more specifically, the culinary delights of Budapest in Hungary, where the food is often hot, spicy and fried.

As is the case in many European countries, there is plenty of choice when it comes to what you’re eating – so you’re more than likely to find something which suits your palette.

Here are a few of our favourite specialities from Budapest to look out for:

Feeling hot, hot, hot
Paprika is the national spice of Hungary so it’s not surprising that food is usually hot and spicy – although it’s fair to say that the local perception of spicy may differ to your own! Made of ground peppers, you’ll find the spice in a lot of dishes across the city, particularly the most well-known dish, goulash. Known by Hungarians as gulyás, it’s big business in Budapest. Usually somewhere between a stew and a soup in its consistency, goulash is made with beef, vegetables and garlic. If you’re not keen on spice, you could try making your own and holding back on the paprika – slow cooking is the trick…!

Image source: Creative Commons / Francis Bourgouin

If in doubt, fry it!
Across the city you’ll find numerous kiosks which offer cheap and cheerful options for lunch and dinner, at a very competitive cost. Although they don’t all look particularly inspiring, much of the food will exceed your expectations – it’s delicious, although not always healthy. As your expat experience continues you’ll soon identify the best outlets! If you’re not big on spice and are looking to steer clear of paprika, there are plenty of other options: if you’re feeling particularly hungry then why not give langos a try? Served like a pizza on a bed of fried dough, it combines garlic (yes, more garlic!), tomatoes, Hungarian sausage, sour cream and lashings of cheese. It’s not one for the healthy-minded, or the weak-hearted, but a great option if you fancy something a bit stodgy! 

 Image source: Creative Commons / Krista

The Jewish Quarter
In the city’s Jewish Quarter, you’ll find a laid-back atmosphere and plenty of pavement cafes and bars. Sit down and take in the atmosphere with one of the city’s famous beers – particularly during the spring and summer months, when the weather feels uncharacteristically warm for Europe. Usually sold at between 200 and 800 HUF (the equivalent of about a £1), a pint is the perfect way to quench your thirst, particularly after tucking into a plateful of gulyás or langos!

A novel reminder
The city’s historic feel is also reflected in its nightlife – many of the watering holes are something between a pub and a bar and are extremely quirky, to the point where some resemble unfinished building sites.  Most of the drinks, particularly spirits, come in generous measures – so it’s important to make sure you’ve eaten a good meal before heading for a drink. Luckily, the Hungarians have come up with an unusual way of reminding people to line their stomachs – you’ll see plenty of bar staff proffering large baskets of raw carrots to their punters. We say go ahead and dig in!

What are the strangest food customs you’ve been introduced to since moving abroad? Let us know by tweeting @expatexplorer!

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

It’s your final chance to have your say in the 2014 Expat Explorer Survey

It’s been almost a month since we opened our Expat Explorer survey for 2014 and the close is almost in sight... But don’t fret, you still have time to have your say – and we’d love to hear from you!

It only takes 15 minutes to join the thousands who have already completed the survey this year and help share your experiences with other prospective expats.

The findings are used to create our online interactive tool designed to help you get to grips with expat life by providing insights on everything from the best places to raise a family, to the hotspots for young career driven expats.

Last year a record 7,000 expats living in 37 different countries shared their experiences with us and this time we want to hear from even more. 

In 2013 we found that Brazil was the place to find love whilst France, Germany and Spain hit top marks for childcare. We are looking forward to discovering the emerging expat trends for 2014 and will be using these insights to help expats get the most out of their life abroad. 

Click here to take the survey and join in the conversation with us on Twitter @expatexplorer #EESurvey14. 

Monday, 12 May 2014

How to help your kids settle in and enjoy life abroad

If you’re a parent, imagine the prospect of moving abroad and starting life overseas through your kid’s eyes and the types of questions running through their mind...

How will I grasp the new language, culture, food and weather? What if I'm not being able to make new friends or get to grips with a completely new school syllabus. Will my old friends forget about me? Will we ever go back to our old home town...?


If you are an expat kid in New Zealand the answer is simple, thrive! Moving to a different country can be as stressful for kids as it is for parents, but it can also be an opportunity to grow. Two fifths of the New Zealand expat parents who answered our 2013 Expat Explorer survey noted that their children had become more outgoing since making the move and almost half felt that they were also more rounded individuals as a result.

Perhaps it shouldn’t come as such a surprise that the home of the Rugby World Cup champions would help to bring expat kids out of their comfort zone. With one of the most beautiful, cinematic landscapes on the planet, a history of sporting excellence and unique mix of western and Maori culture, New Zealand is a fantastic place for expat children to develop.


These results aren’t reserved for New Zealand, over 70% of expat parents in the Cayman Islands, Canada, Australia and South Africa all felt the move improved their children’s quality of life. For expat children looking to pick up their local language, Belgium and Germany are great choices and they also top our table for all round wellbeing.

Wherever you choose to move it is an opportunity for your children to develop. On average a third of expat parents say the experience of living abroad helped to make their children more confident and better rounded individuals. But as a parent what can you do to make the transition as easy as possible? Here are our three top tips:

1. Teach the lingo

The biggest challenge for adult expats is often much easier for young ones who seem to pick up two languages as quickly as they learn one. For young adolescents not speaking the local language can be a barrier to making friends. It’s always best to get the ball rolling at home, you are unlikely to be thanked for the tutelage, but a handful of local phrases might just be enough to help your children get their new life off to the right start.

2. Lead by example

If you want your children to get stuck into expat life you need to show them the way. Throwing your children into every sports club and social event you can find is a good policy but if you want them to embrace the experience it’s up to Mum or Dad to lead by example.

3. Let them be themselves

Identity is a difficult topic for any child growing up, but thrust into a foreign culture with new friends, kids can get stuck between two worlds. For all the importance of letting your children explore their new home remember to find time to enjoy TV, film and music from home. The internet makes keeping in touch with friends much easier and seeing Gran and Granddad every once in a while do the world of good.

If you’ve made the move abroad, we want to hear from you! The 2014 Expat Explorer survey is now open! Take 15 minutes to help fellow expats by letting us know your views on life abroad and spread the word to expat family and friends by sharing the link here and using the hashtag #EESurvey14.



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