Thursday, September 30, 2010

UK Employer With Workers Abroad? Concerned About Income Tax?

London - Thursday 14th October 2010 6.00pm

Expat Focus UK taxation partner Oliver Heslop will explain the
income tax risks associated with informal international
mobile employment and what can be done to mitigate them...

More details here

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Expat Focus ladies monthly coffee morning - Portugal, 28th September

September's coffee morning was held in the picturesque town of Lagos situated in the Western Algarve. The venue, the Amuras Bar on the Marina, proved to be a popular location, being just two minutes walk from the train station plus there is plenty of free parking nearby. Ladies from the Southern Algarve opted to let the “train take the strain” to Lagos, enjoying the journey as part of the day out.

Our leisurely coffee was followed by a simple lunch at the traditional Portuguese restaurant Adega da Marina which is very popular with the locals. After four hours of non-stop discussion and laughter, we exchanged books and said our goodbyes, already looking forward to meeting up again next month.

The Expat Focus ladies coffee morning is held once a month and is a great opportunity to make new friends. While many actively participate on the Expat Focus Portugal forum, non forum members are welcome to join us.

The next coffee morning will be held on Tuesday 26th October. Full details will be published on the Portugal What’s On forum which can be viewed here

Come on ladies please join us and you will be made very welcome! Hope to see you there…

One expat's experience of healthcare in Singapore

During my stay in Singapore, the subject of healthcare comes up quite frequently. That's not a big surprise; having little or no experience as a patient abroad, most expats have a certain amount of apprehension regarding admission to and treatment in a hospital that's not in the country in which they were born or spent most of their lives.
Bryan Norman

It seems there are two camps when it comes to healthcare in Singapore. Some people claim that private healthcare is the way to go. Others say there's no real difference in actual care received in private hospitals as compared to public hospitals. They believe that healthcare in Singapore is at a very high level regardless of whether you're a private or a public hospital patient.

I haven't got enough experience with the medical care profession in Singapore to claim either of these two options is the better one. But I do know that the generally higher cost of private care does not necessarily equate to shorter waiting times. Apart from this, I have one personal experience as a recipient of medical care that may be particularly worthwhile to note.

Two years ago, I'd caught a flu that didn't go through its usual phases, i.e. where the symptoms peak after a day or so and then abate over the period of another few days. Instead, my sore throat, headache and fever never reached any sort of intensity. Rather, I just felt generally malaised, and this didn't really improve over a 7 day period. I decided that this flu bug was particularly persistent, and that I needed some medication to jump-start my immune system.

Within minutes of my doctor's appointment...


Readers can contact Bryan by:



mobile: +65 90079345

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Interview with Jo Parfitt - expat writer, mentor and publisher

Jo, can you tell us a bit about your background?

I have lived abroad since 1987, moving from my home in the UK to Dubai, Oman, Norway, back to England for a while and now to the Netherlands. I have created, maintained a career based on my love of writing throughout this time. I have written 27 books, been a journalist, taught writing, done copywriting, been a speaker and now focus on teaching and helping expats and entrepreneurs to write books and articles based on their expertise and experience.

What services do you offer to expats?

I believe in only working in areas I know well. I know about running a business based on my passion, portable careers and being a writer as well, of course, as living abroad. My services are tailored to this niche. I tend to work with other expats and, as someone who attends expat and international conferences like FIGT and WIN I have done lots of research into expat issues too.

- I run live workshops that teach people how to write books, articles, blogs and life story.
- I offer online courses that teach the same.
- I mentor expats and entrepreneurs to write their books, articles, blogs and life story, get in print and get paid!
- I am a publisher and commission books by and for expats.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Property prices in Portugal - Up or Down?

Are you looking to buy or sell a property in Portugal? What are your views on valuations and property prices?

Has the market stabilized or are prices still in free fall?

Please share your views...

Click here to join the latest discussion on the Expat Focus Portugal forum.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

La Rentrée - getting back to normal after the summer in France

by Expat Focus columnist, Sharon Revol

La Rentrée is one of the first French phrases I can remember learning and literally means The Return or the start of the new school year. This was of little interest to me until I realized just how much French culture differed to the British culture and what a great impact La Rentrée was to have on my life each year.

You see, those two words actually mean so much more than just the start of a new school year. La Rentrée is very aptly named as it is synonymous with the start of everything in France, almost like the start of a new year except it takes place in September rather than January and you don’t make New Year Resolutions (although I’m sure if I searched hard enough I would find some French people that do!).

It would have been helpful if I had also learned that trying to get anything done during August in France (and sometimes even July) is a complete waste of time. Want to see your Doctor, an accountant or have your hair cut? Forget it, they’re all absent during the summer.

Even our local shops shut down for a month so we are left without being able to buy the very staples of French cuisine which we have come to rely on. No crispy baguettes to accompany the fresh cheese from the cheesemongers or to accompany the fresh vegetables from the greengrocers or tender meat from the butchers. The only option left for us is the local super market and their inferior quality of produce, exactly what we have come to avoid...


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Expat Focus 2010 Survey - Can You Help?

To mark the 10th anniversary of Expat Focus we're looking for feedback from our readership to help us improve both the Expat Focus website and newsletter.

Would you please help us by sharing your thoughts in a very short survey which should take no more than 2 minutes to complete? No personal information is required and opinions expressed will be kept strictly confidential.

The survey can be found at

Thank you very much in advance, we will be reading every single response and implementing the best suggestions - your opinion really does count!

Expat Living - Lessons in Humility

by Expat Focus columnist, Toni Hargis

Whether you move around the world or just to one country, I guarantee you’ll make a fool of yourself at some point. It can be a language blooper or a culture clanger, but it’s there, lurking on your horizon. For the most part too, it’ll happen when you have an audience of at least five, who will then repeat the story until it becomes an urban legend.

We’ve all done it, so you’ll be in good company. In fact, take comfort from these examples of red faces and cringing embarrassment.

The first wedding I ever attended in the States was just a minefield of social gaffes for me. I wore a hat (it was 1991 after all, and I was hot off the plane from London). I was THE only person wearing head gear, and I think some people looked at it as an English eccentricity. I couldn’t even take it off because I had the dreaded “hat hair”. Then, when my husband and I went to take our seats, I completely ignored the young man standing at the top of the aisle pointing his elbow at me. Apparently I was supposed to take his arm and let him walk me to my pew, but I marched straight past and seated myself while my husband shot him a “she’s not from here” look of explanation. Fortunately I didn’t learn about my mistake until my husband deigned to tell me – about a week later.

Another personal gaffe was my first US Christmas work lunch. The waiter was taking drinks orders and I didn’t register that the two women before me had ordered iced tea. I ordered a glass of red wine, to be met with an uncomfortable look from the waiter and deathly silence all around me as my colleagues waited for my boss’ reaction. (He just laughed at the situation.) Not one single person other than me ordered alcohol, even though this was our Christmas celebration. I couldn’t believe it. Not wanting to change my order and look like a suck-up I said, “Well obviously I’m only having the one” and drank diet soda after that. Goodness knows what got written up in my Personnel file...


Monday, September 20, 2010

From Spain to Bahrain - Two Old Fools and Ramadan

by Expat Focus columnist, Victoria Twead

Was it really less than three weeks ago that Joe and I sat in our kitchen in Spain, wondering what our new life in Bahrain held in store?

We’d agreed to exchange our idyllic, if sometimes crazy, life in a tiny Spanish mountain village - for a year teaching in Bahrain. We were replacing mountains with deserts. Crisp, clean air for city pollution and sandstorms. Exchanging the hourly chimes of our village church bells for mosques and Muslim calls to prayer. What would life be like in Bahrain? What were we letting ourselves in for?

Joe and I arrived in Bahrain at 2.00 am, tired and anxious. We’d almost been refused visas in Madrid, planes were delayed and connections missed. The heat hit us like a punch in the face. However, although exhausted, our eyes drank in the scenes flashing past as our taxi sped us to our apartment. We gaped at the modern skyscrapers of Manama, bright city lights, minarets and domed mosques, Arabs wearing headdresses and white robes. Andalucía already seemed a long way away.

The next few days, before school started, were a whirl of tours. The International School, our employers, took us to see the Grand Mosque, the F1 racetrack, Bahrain at night and sumptuous shopping malls. We were promised a visit to the King’s camels but were told it was too hot. For the camels or us? We weren’t sure.

Of course we knew we had arrived in the middle of Ramadan, but were blissfully unaware how that would affect us. And affect us it did. Ramadan is the 9th month of the Muslim year, a period of strict fasting. Nobody eats, or even sips water, between dawn and sunset...


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Expat Experiences: France - Erica and Eric

Who are you?

My name is Erica; I am an American citizen living in France.

I am married to a French citizen. His name is Eric, and he lived in the US for over 20 years. I am an original cowgirl and poet from Cody, Wyoming and he is an outstanding jazz guitarist and guitar instructor educated in France with live music experience in the US and France.

He is also a music gear specialist and an excellent salesman and manager!

I have lived in 5 different US states including, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, New Hampshire and Oregon. Most recently, I worked at Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA), ( in Portland, Oregon as Assistant Academic Advisor and International Studies Programmer. I am also a Marketing Consultant for my parents business in Powell, Wyoming, Running Horse Realty, ( (Saddle up - Run with the Best!)

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

The first time we moved to France was in May of 2003 from Eugene, Oregon in order to be closer to Eric's family. We were married in France and stayed until October 2003 and then returned to the states because we could not find employment in France. We had a beautiful, storybook, countryside ceremony near La Cote St Andre (central, east side) with both of our families and spent much needed time with Eric's family during our stay in France. However, It was a difficult political time for Americans as May 2003 was just after the start of the Iraq war.

When we boarded the plane to come to France it was nearing the end of the SARS outbreak. The dollar had lost its value and we in turn lost a lot of money moving our funds to Euro. It was also the summer of the largest heat wave on record in Europe where over 14,000 people died just in France. I remember that farmers were feeding trees to their livestock because there was no feed due to the drought. There were also a lot of very large bugs finding their way into our apartment.


Expat Experiences: USA - Rebecca Shine

Who are you?

Rebecca Shine - I live in Manhattan with my husband and 2 year old daughter.We are expecting our second child in October.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

We took the plunge and moved to Manhattan, from London, when my husband was offered a transfer with his work. He had been employed by the London office for a few years and then received a call about the opportunity to transfer to NY.

We jumped at the chance since we had spent numerous long weekends in the city and had always said it would be an amazing place to live. Luckily it has turned out that way! We have been here 3 years now and have literally settled where we first landed; in Soho. We recently bought an apartment in the building where we were renting and our daughter was born here in the city, so it's feeling pretty much like home at the moment.

What challenges did you face during the move?

This is an interesting question! At the time it was like a big adventure. We had no children so we were literally flying by the seat of our pants and feeling our way in the dark. My husband's company arranged for the shipping of all our goods and provided us with temporary accommodation. The rest was left up to us. We had to find a broker who would find us a long term apartment, work out the health care insurance system once I was pregnant (I hardly knew what an OGB was since we don't get to see them in the UK on the NHS unless via a GP referral.) We had to try and understand and make sense of everything from cell phone deals to broker fees to NY State ID and driving licenses. In hindsight it was a steep learning curve and a valuable one.

How did you find somewhere to live?

We were lucky in that we knew the city well and had already decided to live downtown, preferably in Soho or The Village. We were given temporary accommodation in Nolita for a month which gave us a chance to sample the neighborhood.

We luckily found a good broker (on Craig's List!) who listened to our requirements and found us an apartment in an old (in NY terms!) converted grammar school in Soho to rent long term. It worked out well as we are still in the building now and love it. The whole process was a trial in terms of providing all the paperwork needed within the time frame to secure the apartment so they would take it off the market. Especially in terms of the 3 months down payment and the 15% broker fee. Quite a shock! Not having a credit score in the US makes thing very hard although they did manage to do some kind of international credit check on us and secure the information they needed.

Are there many expats in the area?

Our neighborhood is full of expats and so many of them are from the UK! I belong to a mother's group downtown and I would hazard a guess at 20% - 30% of the 1500 members being expats. New York is such a transient city which makes it easy to meet people as so many people, if they are not expats, are new to the city at some point or another and make an effort to be sociable and to network in order to meet like minded friends...


Friday, September 17, 2010

Expat Focus Guide to Personal Finance - our FREE e-book is now available

The Expat Focus Guide to Personal Finance is a free e-book (PDF) which covers the following subject areas:

1 Cost of Living
2 Credit and Debt
3 Currency Transfers
4 Expat Banking
5 Buying Property
6 Taxation
7 Pensions
8 Health Insurance
9 Education
10 Wills & Inheritance

Becoming an expat, especially for the first time, can be a daunting experience with a myriad of different things to think about in addition to one’s financial situation. To make matters worse, the expat financial services industry has a reputation for hard selling and sharp practice – a reputation which in some cases is fully justified.

This guide won’t give you all the answers or tell you exactly what to do - everyone’s situation is different and needs to be considered on its own merits - but it will give you a good idea of the sort of things you should be thinking about and the questions to ask.

Get the guide at

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Ramazan Bayrami (Festival) in Turkey

by Margy, Forum Leader in the Expat Focus Turkey Forum

The Ramazan Bayrami (Festival) takes place over three and a half days. The half day is called Arife Gunu (say ah-ree-fay), this is the last day of the holy month of Ramazan and most offices and banks close at lunch time on this day so that people can go and prepare.

In 2010 the half day falls on Wednesday 8th September with the 3 day holiday on 9th, 10th and 11th. All official places are closed for 3 days.

Preparations for this big event start several weeks before; there is a huge amount of work involved!

One of the first things one notices is that many people wash their carpets and rugs, lots of soapy water gets splashed around! Of course nowadays there are professional carpet cleaning centres that make life easier. A few families in the cities and many in the country areas still get their house or flat painted or white washed before the holiday. This is a time when new furniture or curtains might be purchased too. Apart from all this, the house gets a thorough cleaning, to within an inch of its life! Once the apartment is all spruced up, the shopping can start!

In traditional families each member usually gets a brand new outfit to wear. Some women are very handy with the sewing machine and can run up just about anything even men’s shirts! There’s no problem if one can’t sew though, there is a whole range of places with varying prices where pretty dresses and suits and smart shirts and trousers are on sale. Market stalls, supermarkets, boutiques and department stores are all hustle and bustle at this time.

Next it’s time to think about baking! All kinds of delicious desserts are usually made at home. Baklava is the most popular and there are others, all generally very sweet and sticky! My mother-in-law always used to make her own baklava. She would make several large trays of this scrumptious dessert! It would have disappeared by the 2nd day of the Bayram! She made her own tissue thin pastry with butter, rolled it out and the filling was of locally grown walnuts. In the cities nowadays most working wives have to order these kinds of treats from local baklava makers.

My father-in-law used to help her make some delightful round cookies, that taste rather like shortbread. Made with flour, butter and icing sugar, my father-in-law used to knead them for her. Before baking them until they were firm but not golden at all, she would pop an almond on each one. They were my favourites!

On Arife Gunu (the half day preparation) there is a poignant tradition that most families follow if at all possible. They visit the local cemetery, taking flowers and saying prayers for their dearly departed.

The Ramazan drummer doesn’t let people forget him! He comes round during the day and collects a few tips. I’ve also noticed that these days the dustmen knock at the doors and happily pick up any tips offered! Cleaning ladies, gardeners, drivers etc are often given gifts or cash. People try and remember others less fortunate, the elderly, sick and children. For example it’s a nice gesture to buy outfits for the children of the caretaker family in the apartment block or take a tray of baklava and some toys to the local orphanage. Someone in the city might send their relatives back in the village something nice for their home, a television for instance.

If you would like more information about life in Turkey or have any questions please visit our Turkey Guide or our Turkey Forum where you will be made very welcome!

Top 10 Tips For Moving Abroad

BE SURE - Moving can be extremely stressful, be as certain as you can be that it's the right move for you before you go. If possible visit the country before you make up your mind, don't rely on other people's impressions. Ask yourself if the new culture will really suit you (and your family).

BE PREPARED - ...For anything and everything to go wrong. Don't assume that you'll be able to find the perfect job or house immediately. If possible make sure you've got enough money to see you through the first couple of months at the very least (preferably longer). And to do that you'll need to...

BUDGET - As unglamorous as it sounds, good budgeting could be what makes the difference between a successful relocation and a disaster. Before you go, work out what everything is going to cost during those crucial first months when you're trying to find your feet in a foreign land.

DON'T DELAY - Start preparing as early as possible, just getting all the necessary paperwork in order can take a long time. Make a checklist of everything you need to do!

CHECK YOUR BENEFITS - If your company has initiated your move you may be eligible for relocation benefits. Make sure you ask if they haven't told you already!

HEALTH - Make sure that the country you are moving to has adequate healthcare facilities and infrastructure to support you (and your family), especially if you suffer from a medical condition which requires treatment or medication.

YOUR HOME - Think about what you want to do with your current home (e.g. sell it, lease it, leave it empty) and what kind of accommodation will be most suitable in your new country. If you don't know anyone in the new country who can help find accommodation, consider the services of a relocation agent.

EMPLOYMENT - Will you be looking for work in your new country? If so, consider starting your job hunt before you go (use the Internet!) Will you be able to use your existing qualifications or will a period of retraining be necessary? If you're moving somewhere where they don't speak the same language as you then you should...

LEARN THE LANGUAGE - Few skills will have such a positive impact on your relocation experience as being able to speak, or at least understand, the local language. Getting to grips with the local lingo before you go is a great idea!

PAPERWORK - No matter how insignificant that old document at the back of the bottom drawer may seem now, take it with you, the chances are at some stage you'll have to show it to someone. Moving countries can be a bureaucratic nightmare at the best of times but if you come prepared with the necessary paperwork you stand the best chance of a stress free relocation. Things to think about include birth certificates, wedding certificates, educational certificates, medical certificates (including those for your pets!), etc.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Expat Focus Guide to Moving Abroad - Updated!

The latest version of the Expat Focus Guide to Moving Abroad is now available for purchase/download at

In a move worthy of Dr Who's TARDIS the guide is now bigger on the inside (there's more content) than it was on the outside (the filesize has been reduced by about 40%). Don't ask me how our technical wizards achieved that because I don't know!

I do know, though, that the guide looks better than ever and changes to the layout have now made it much easier to both read and print. A sample of the first few sections of the guide can be downloaded here. Enjoy!

Expat Focus Forum Lunch - Portugal

Following the success of our first "Expat Focus Forum Lunch" in May, our latest "get together" was held on the 12th September at “O Branco” a cosy Portuguese restaurant in Carvoeiro (Algarve). Away from the tourist area this little restaurant proved to be a real “find” by one of our members who kindly organized the event. The food was simple, delicious traditional Portuguese cuisine, and at just €7 per person - outstanding value! We enjoyed: bread and olives; the dish of the day (sardines or pork); dessert; a jug of house wine; beer or a soft drink; coffee and a "digestivo" of either port or brandy!

It was great to meet other forum members, of various nationalities, to discuss a variety of forum topics face-to-face. We also exchanged ideas and shared our experiences of everyday life in Portugal. New friendships were formed and a good time was had by all. By the end of the meal there were some very “merry” folk looking forward to our next get together in December!

Details of December’s lunch will be posted on the What's On in Portugal forum closer to the event…I hope you will join us?

In the meantime, our next event will be the Expat Focus monthly Ladies Coffee Morning - we look forward to welcoming new members!

Thanks to everyone who supported the event and for those who were unable to join us on this occasion, I hope we will see you in December.

Further details on forthcoming Expat Focus Portugal forum members events can be found here

Expat Focus Community Manager