Friday, 30 January 2015

Mixing with the locals vs mixing with expats

To some, the idea of settling into a ‘home away from home’ will entail finding a group of like-minded people who are going through a similar process – other expats.  To others, the notion of staying in the ‘expat bubble’ can be a wasted opportunity to explore new people, cultures and customs.

Our 2014 HSBC Expat Explorer survey revealed that expats are deeply torn on this debate.  44% of expats say they tend to go out with other expats more than the locals and in the world’s fast paced business centres, expats love nothing more than to share an evening with their expat colleagues. China, in particular, can be a difficult work culture to adjust to and 42% of expats in the country say they struggled to make the transition. With punctuality of the upmost importance, ‘saving face’ a key concept and gift giving an important part of etiquette, learning from an experienced expat can be vital. As one expat who moved to China from Indonesia told us, “Prepare for a different culture and attitude”. Perhaps that’s why expats in China (70%), Hong Kong (65%) and UAE (64%) are amongst the most likely to find friendship with other expats.

For all the benefits of expat mentors, a healthy number (31%) of expats told us they have more local than expat friends. Learning the local language is a vital gateway to making local friends and learning more about your new host country.  Only 19% of expats in Mexico said they had difficulty learning the language, which is perhaps the reason why an overwhelming 61% of expats in the country say they have more local than expat friends. If you would like tips on picking up the local language quickly, read our blog post on the topic here. As one of the contributors to our Hints and Tips page stated, “Always try to learn the local language. Avoid staying with the expat community only”.  Furthermore, Mexico’s street food scene is widely celebrated, and is also provides a fantastic social hub where locals and expats can mix.  Mexico’s internationally recognised festivals are also a great opportunity for expats to join in and party with locals.    

Inevitably, some expats would agree that finding a balance of meeting locals and other expats would be a good way to approach establishing your social life. One expat gave his advice on achieving this balance via our Hints and Tips page, “Joining the local football team can be a good way to meet locals and fellow expats” (added by Tobi Albisrieden).  Getting to know the locals comes hand in hand with gaining local knowledge about your new area from people who have lived there for the longest amount of time. Another expat told us, “Find any excuse to talk to locals (taxi Drivers, Hairdressers, Waiters, etc.)  It sounds simple but often the best tips and insights will come from them”.

What has your experience of making friends as an expat been?  Leave a comment

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

A Different Perspective: Expat Life

As expats, we are all different.
We are young, or we are old. We're with family, or alone. We've come for love, or money, or career, or adventure, or for all of these things. Our paths may never cross, but we are on the same journey.
We have left everything we have ever known, for the unknown.
Here, where we have moved to, everything seems new. And yet, when we return home, everything will have changed.
‎Because we see things differently. We have a different perspective.‎

And in this, we are all the same

We are excited to announce the launch of our new video, ‘A Different Perspective: Expat Life’.  Inspired by real tweets and tips from the Expat Explorer community, we have created this crowd-sourced video, which brings to life the unique perspectives of past, current, and future expats.

Everything within the video has been informed by expats around the world, each of whom brings their unique perspective on living and working in a new country. Throughout, we look at why people decided to move abroad, what expats have learned and words of wisdom they have for others about to take the leap. No expat experience is identical, yet these different perspectives bring the expat community together as we explore the new opportunities life abroad brings.

The video is created from still images, which are animated using 3D visual effects so that the viewer's perspective of the image changes - in the same way that expats' perspective on the world changes as they experience life from a different angle, in another country. The video was animated by award-winning filmmaker, visual effects artist and animator, Tim Keeling. His work has been screened in London’s National Gallery, V&A and Shoreditch Town Hall, and internationally in Australia, Holland and Germany.

If you are feeling inspired by the video and would like to learn more about expat life, check out Our interactive tool offers a global comparison of different expat destinations for you to explore, and you can also submit your own hints & tips for being an expat.

We would like to thank all our contributors who made this video possible:
@Iced_Jem, @michaelvenske, @ed_romson, @shelleypascual, @paroshep, @dimebarcelona, @CathylPowell, @DrJParenteau, @AliceJungclaus, @carolamex, @PartridgeISM, @emmakaufmann, @CrowningGifts, @Caripampita, @Caro_Ganter, Desmonaut, Ana Eminio, Tori, Voix and all the respondents to our Expat Explorer survey.

Are you thinking of a move abroad or want to inspire others on their journey? Be sure to watch the video and share the link here:

Friday, 23 January 2015

The best destinations for the vegetarian expat

A huge advantage of being an expat is the opportunity to totally immerse yourself in a new culture – from work, to social life to the things that you’re eating; expat life is often a whirlwind of new experiences. We enjoy writing about all things food and it’s something that’s really important to consider as part of your expat experience – there’s no question that finding a spot where the local cuisine suits your tastes is a must! 

If you’re vegetarian or vegan, chances are you’ll be used to thinking outside the box when it comes to food - whether that’s cooking it yourself or seeking out new meat-free eateries. Living and eating abroad is a great way to experience new diets and perhaps try a different way of eating – especially if you’re thinking of combining a move with a new health kick. Most people will associate some particular countries with vegetarian cuisine, like India where Hinduism is the dominant religion and Thailand, where Buddhism contributes to the country’s reputation as a lower consumer of meat. 

Creative Commons/ Wikimedia

Here are some of our favourite hotspots where the veggie option comes out on top: 

San Francisco:
San Francisco is well-known as a place for living and eating healthily which is reflected in the large selection of meat free eateries. The city has also committed to city-wide backing of campaigns such as Paul McCartney’s Meat Free Mondays. The healthy living beliefs of the city make it a great location for quality, locally grown and organic ingredients. 

This US destination is such a hotspot for the vegetarian and vegan lifestyle that it is also full of vegan clothing stores and bike shops! The University District of Seattle is called one of the most vegan-friendly neighbourhoods in North America and it is thought that soon the number of vegetarian and vegan-friendly eateries could outnumber the number of coffee shops in the city. 

With the large South Indian population of Singapore, it’s no surprise that there are numerous vegetarian restaurants and the popularity of tofu offers a good opportunity to still keep protein in your diet. There are a wide variety of vegetarian and vegan eateries available in the city from up-market restaurants to a hawker market, which is also an excellent location to try out authentic local cuisine. 

Paris boasts more than 30 exclusively vegetarian eateries and hosts amazing creperies for those who love French cheese. – . Despite the excellent reputation that France has for amazing meat dishes, the vegetarian and vegan scene is a flourishing secret in the heart of the city of love.
Another reason why becoming an Expat can be the chance to totally transform your diet and lifestyle.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Succeeding at work in a new country

Becoming an expat opens the door not just to a different life, but also a different way of working. There are many reasons why people choose the adventure of moving abroad but often it can give many people the opportunity to carry on or progress in a career they love in a lifestyle that truly suits them.

Last year’s Expat Explorer survey found this to be the case for over a third of expats: 38% said that they moved to take advantage of better job prospects – and more (40%) said that their work life balance had improved as a result.

In cities that are especially fast-paced, achieving a work/life balance can be a challenge. However with changes in technology, so many careers can now be maintained from anywhere within the reach of WiFi – we’ve all considered the benefits of being able to take your conference call on a beach in Australia, or writing up that report while overlooking the New York skyline instead!
Creating the right work life balance can be about much more than just getting out of the rat race – living in a new place will often give you more opportunity to re-assess your priorities and carve out more time for spending with family, friends, taking part in and pursuing new hobbies. While it’s a challenge to work somewhere new, even if it’s in a country that you’re familiar with, embracing this and jumping straight in is a great way to breathe fresh creativity into a career that has started to feel like just a job. It can also prove to be a lucrative leap for those who speak a foreign language.

Moving abroad can also be an exciting opening for entrepreneurs. Taking on the challenge of breaking into a new market can help to reawaken the enterprising spirit to make sure that your venture keeps growing – and you’ll be surprised at the new things you pick up when working somewhere new. For entrepreneurs who do expand abroad, the best advice is to make sure you make the most of the new connections that your new location will bring, because who knows where they also could lead. Share knowledge by joining co-working spaces. This can help with problem-solve, give you new minds to bounce ideas off and create innovative solutions that you may not have found working at home.
Overall, exploring as an expat can expand horizons far beyond a change of view from the office window.
Whether your workplace is large or small and wherever it may be, we've combed through our Hints & Tips tool to bring you some of our best crowd-sourced tips for getting ahead in your new career:  

1.       Be open to new things

2.       Be prepared to get stuck in

3.       Be ready to change your pace – whether that’s switching it up or down!


4.       Integration is key


Friday, 16 January 2015

City in Summary: Rome

As a centre of such rich military and religious history, Rome is a city with a wealth of vibrant culture and opportunities to explore.  The Vatican City boasts spectacular architecture, (with Michelangelo’s famous artwork displayed in the Sistine Chapel), and is one of the city’s top tourist attractions, whilst the impressive Colloseum depicts the wealth of imperial Roman architecture in the city.  As well as the city’s visual aesthetics, Rome also boasts some of the best of Italy’s famous cuisine. Predictably, in the 2014 expat survey, Italy was ranked 2nd for the best diet and enjoying the local food. It is unsurprising that Rome is a popular destination for tourists who appreciate art and architecture, but living in the Italian capital brings its own challenges. 

Image Source: Creative Commons: Carlo Mirante

As with any city, some may find Rome’s fast paced life and busy streets slightly overwhelming, and expats in Rome comment that living in the bustling city is very different to visiting it for a city break.  The road system can be one of the most congested in Europe and with bikers weaving in and out of traffic you’ll need your wits about you to keep up with locals. 

It is possible you might suffer a bit of a culture shock - Rome is very laid back and less service-orientated.  A custom which has tended to impact people entering workplaces in Rome for the first time is ‘La Pausa’; similar to the siestas of the Spanish, in Rome businesses take around 3 hours for lunch.  Try not to get frustrated with the slower pace of business in Rome; really embrace the mind-set of “When in Rome”, and enjoy that ‘La Pausa’!

Image Source: Creative Commons/ Anselmo Sousa

Although expats comment it is possible to get by without learning Italian, they recommend that an ability to understand and speak the language will help build friendships with locals and allow you to really immerse yourself within the city. One expat told us, “Learn the language and do not confuse living here with a holiday in Italy”. Encouragingly, the 2014 Expat Explorer survey ranked the Italian language very highly (2nd place) for ease of learning.  However, if you are feeling particularly homesick, there is a large expat community in Rome who are said to have a lively social scene – so there should always be someone you can speak to! 

Image Source: Creative Commons: Jean Pierre FLEAU

Like any capital city, Rome is big, and its residential districts vary.  Younger people looking to be at the heart of the buzz of city life generally live in the areas of Trastevere and Prati, which are close to the city centre and full of trendy restaurants and chic boutiques.  For expats with young children, Aventino, Monteverde and Balduina are ideal; located in Rome’s famous hills, the areas are quieter and are less congested. 

Overall those who relocate to Rome have a very positive experience, with the magic of Rome outweighing any difficulties of adapting to city life. 

Share your own tips for moving abroad in the comments section or on Twitter @expatexplorer

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

The Top Five Posts of 2014

From the best places for life abroad to returning home again, we’ve been all over the world with our posts to look at lots of different perspectives around being an expat. We’ve loved hearing your thoughts on all of these posts, so to celebrate the start of a new year (and for many of you, a brand new set of experiences – and perhaps challenges!), we’ve put together a list of our most read articles from last year. Here’s to 2015 expats!

Do you think in another language? Or perhaps even dream in it? Those are just a couple of the things that we think marks you out as a veteran expat and this post struck a chord with lots of you. Have a read and see if you recognise any of the signs.  From thinking in the local language, to demanding deliveries of ‘home food’ from your family when they come to visit, these habits suggest you are a fully-fledged expat!

Feeling uncertain about making a move abroad? Or umm-ing and ahh-ing at the prospect of moving home? Our post from May looks at some of the typical characteristics which could mean you’re utterly cut out for expat life.  Are you constantly on the lookout for your next adventure? Do you love a challenge and always see the funny side if things go wrong?! See if this helps you make a choice about becoming an expat. 

3.       Where to live in Paris?
Undoubtedly, Paris is one of the most desirable cities to relocate to, with many people relocating to the city every year in search of a life full of romance and sophistication.  However, like many other global cities, Paris is big! Whether you are looking to be situated near the centre of the city, or closer to the Parisian Universities, this blog provided a helpful guide of where to look to live in Paris depending on your budget and the lifestyle you are after. 

This post was popular with those looking to beat the boredom on their next long-haul flight. From tips on successful in-flight yoga positions, to ideas on the snacks which will get you through your journey, this post considered how to beat boredom for different needs.  Take a look to pick up any tips for your next journey. 

As an expat, having an awareness and education about local cultural practices is essential to your success, particularly within the workplace.  This blog provided some useful information on common workplace customs such as timings, making refreshments and business cards, and how they vary between countries. Take another look at this post and avoid falling foul of any etiquette mix-ups! 

What content would you like to see from us in 2015? Let us know your suggestions in the comments box below!

Friday, 9 January 2015

The best destinations for winter sun

It’s mid-winter in most parts of the Northern Hemisphere now, so the idea of escaping to some sunshine is increasingly popular.  There are many destinations which guarantee warm weather all year round; here is our pick of some of the best places to head to if you are in search of some winter sunshine.  Whether you are looking to explore, have an adventure, or just relax in the warmth, these destinations will tempt you into organising a winter getaway with assured sunshine. 

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town is renowned for its fantastic beaches and weather all year round.  As well as beautiful sunshine and scenery, the city offers a great range of activities including some of the most impressive Safaris in the world, Hiking Cape Town’s spectacular landscape is a great way to explore; Table Mountain remains one of the most popular destinations for visitors and offers breath-taking panoramic views over South Africa.  The UNESCO heritage site of Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden boasts incredible wildlife if you are looking to discover a tranquil environment.

    Image Source: Creative Commons / Leigh Langman
Goa, India
Goa is one of India’s smallest states, making it a great destination to explore if you only have a short period of time.  As well as incredible beaches, Goa offers a rare variety of wildlife to experience, such as the endangered mangrove forests and the Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary.  The 130-acre organic Sahakari Spice Farm is another popular outdoor activity to do whilst in Goa.  If you are looking for some fun during your stay, Goa’s all-night beach parties are internationally celebrated and not to be missed.    

Image Source: Creative Commons / André Pipa

Marrakesh, Morocco
Marrakesh is a great destination for a short break with guaranteed sunshine.  Marrakesh encapsulates Morocco’s captivating atmosphere, with streets of incredible Riads and never-ending markets.  If you are looking to escape reality and get lost in the pace of Moroccan life, Marrakesh is for you. 

Image Source: Creative Commons/ Nathan Guy

Dubai, UAE
If your dream of winter sunshine is embedded in a landscape of flawless beaches and glamourous bars, Dubai is a great setting to escape for some luxurious winter sunshine.  Contrary to what your perception may be, Dubai is not just full of shopping centres; the city offers a desert conservation reserve, remarkable temples and some spectacular coasts. 

Image Source: Creative Commons / Google Images

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