Thursday, December 29, 2011

What Does the Christmas Season Mean to You?

by Expat Focus columnist Piglet in Portugal

For me Christmas means many things; the birth of Christ and Christmas carols, quality time with family and friends, Christmassy food & decorations and of course snow on Christmas day. But as I pause to review preparations for this year’s Christmas festivities and the joy of two baby grandchildren, memories are rekindled of Christmases past and I pause to remember the loved ones who are no longer with us.

Christmas can be a lonely time for many expats or indeed anyone rich or poor, who is, for whatever reason, separated from their loved ones during this festive season.

However, it may not only be family and friends you are missing but also traditional foods and even the weather. The weather says she? Yes, unfortunately I’ve noticed we Brits do have a tendency to dwell on the weather. For instance, does Christmas day on the beach sipping champagne and eating mince pies in the sunshine while paddling in the sea with Santa resonate “Christmas” in quite the same way as a “White” Christmas back home? Perhaps absence makes the heart grow fonder, and a “White” Christmas is actually only an illusion promoted on Christmas cards. In truth, the chance of a white Christmas is extremely slim. The reality is probably closer to heavy rain, fog, black ice, traffic chaos and severe weather warnings kindly issued by over-anxious TV or radio presenters. “Do not travel unless absolutely necessary”, they caution. Does this sound familiar?

But we can dream.

Maybe a beach Christmas, although not traditional, is not such a bad deal after all! However, before you start yearning for a warm sunny Christmas day on the beach. it might surprise you to know that in our corner of Portugal it has rained on the last two Christmases.

What about Christmassy food? Which foods do you associate with Christmas? When I think of a traditional English Christmas dinner I always think of roast turkey served with sage and onion stuffing, roast potatoes, brussel sprouts and parsnips, followed by Christmas pudding or mince pies served with brandy butter and oodles of thick double fresh cream. Goodness, my mouth is watering already; the taste buds are jumping for joy in anticipation and the heartburn tablets are already within reach!

Article continues here

Friday, December 23, 2011

Missing the Movies in Panama?

by Expat Focus Columnist Stephanie Angulo

Just because you move abroad doesn’t mean that everything in your life is suddenly 100% different. You will find yourself partaking in many of the same activities you did back home, like going to the movies. The hubs and I have always been avid movie goers and didn’t let moving to Panama, a Spanish speaking country, slow down our movie date nights. Waiting in line to see midnight showings of Lord of the Rings, all the Matrix movies, and Ironman 2 barely scrapes the tip of the iceberg. Since our big move in January of this year, we’ve learned a few tips and tricks to enjoying our movie theater experience in Panama.

If you’re considering moving to a non-English speaking culture, or have already moved to one, these suggestions will help you know what to expect before you sit in front of the big screen, otherwise you just might not want to watch another movie in a theater abroad again.

1. Go with the subtitled movie. If you’ve moved to a non-English speaking country, some of the movie listings are subtitled and some are dubbed. Although you might be proficient in your new language, movies are typically better with the original voices. We also find that the locals are more likely to choose the dubbed movies so they don’t have to read the subtitles for 2 hours and possibly miss action on the big screen. We notice that locals going to a subtitled movie tend to talk more or read out loud, so if you choose to go to a subtitled movie, follow my next suggestion.

2. Be careful which times you pick. If you have chosen to watch a subtitled movie, don’t watch it in the evenings, weekends, national holidays, or school vacations. I know it’s starting to sound like those blackout dates for credit card miles rewards, but trust me on this one! We noticed that all the locals who couldn’t get tickets for the dubbed movie times will go ahead and buy tickets for the subtitled movie times. Then they will proceed to talk through the entire movie no matter how many times you nicely ask them to stop. Sometimes I don’t think they realize that there are other people who do understand English sitting amongst them.

Article continues here

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Only American in the Village

by Expat Focus Columnist Michelle Garrett

Some expats like to completely blend in and not draw attention to their differences and I have been one of those expats. However, I have learned to make the most of my American background, because I enjoy how it makes me unique amongst my friends, and sometimes I don’t want to share the uniqueness!

There is a comedy sketch show in the UK called Little Britain. Two comedians have constructed a series of sketches making fun of aspects of the British people. In many cases, the themes are not exclusive to Britain—in other words, you’ll get it even if you aren’t British.

One sketch is The Only Gay in the Village, in which a gay man, Daffyd, flaunts his homosexuality by wearing outlandish outfits and making bold statements about his lifestyle. The villagers are completely indifferent, which causes Daffyd to react with further attempts at provocation. He is also outraged when ‘other gays trespass on his patch,’ clearly relishing the self-imposed title of The Only Gay in the Village.

While living in London I had to get used to the occasional ripping apart of some aspect of American life by pop opinion writers, stand up comedians and people at dinner parties. This was all part of the skin thickening process for an expat. Here’s one thing I learned about that: The British aren’t targeting American’s specifically, they do this to everyone, even themselves. I accepted this aspect of the British sense of humour, and I didn’t stop being proud of my American background, but I was certainly a lot quieter whilst living in London. Who would want to draw attention to themselves in that environmen

After seven years of that I moved to Essex where everyone is nice and friendly and loved talking to me about the States. The woman on checkout at the local grocery store enjoyed telling me about her favourite holiday to Yellowstone, or the car mechanic spent 20 minutes, tools in hand, describing in great detail about when he did a fly drive around California. Postmen stopped to chat about the different states of origin on my parcels. Farmers paused to say ‘that doesn’t sound like a local accent!’ which launched a conversation about where I grew up. When friends of my children find out I’m American they say ‘oh cool!’

I eventually got used to being special and interesting in a positive way. I realized that...

Read more here

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Experience German Christmas Markets Like a Local

by Expat Focus Columnist Laurel Robbins

Christmas Markets in Germany are a huge hit with tourists and locals alike, but the tourist and the local experience can be quite different.

Tourists tend to flock to the larger, well known Christmas Markets while locals prefer the smaller lesser-known ones. Last weekend I attended the Nuremberg Christmas Market, the largest one in Germany that attracts over two million visitors each year. I heard just as much English being spoken as German and while it was nice, I don’t think it deserves the honor of being Germany’s most famous Christmas Market. Despite being just an hour and a half drive from Munich, many of my German friends living in Munich friends have never been and have no desire to go since they think it’s too touristy. Many of these friends also favor the smaller Christmas Markets in Munich such as the one at the Munich Residenz over the touristy one at Marienplatz. My personal favorite Christmas Market is the medieval one in Esslingen, near Stuttgart. It is not well known outside of the local area, but is very unique.

Many tourists go to Christmas Markets to shop, while locals go to socialize. If locals are going to shop at Christmas markets they try and do it during the day and during the week when the Christmas Markets are not as busy. Evenings, when Christmas Markets are at their finest with all the lights, are reserved for meeting friends over a mug of Glühwein (mulled wine) and Kinderpunch (a sweet non-alcoholic drink that tastes like hot Kool-Aid) for the kids. During the Christmas Market season it’s not uncommon for locals to have a very full social calendar of catching up with friends at the varying Christmas Markets in the area. The Christmas Market season just started last week and I’ve already met five different groups of friends.

Since locals tend to socialize at Christmas Markets they also visit more than one Christmas Market providing variety and also debates over which Christmas Market has the best Glühwein, since not all Glühwein is created equal. Each time I’ve met friends so far it’s been at a different Christmas Market. Tourists shouldn’t fall into the trap of thinking every Christmas Market is just like the other. While there are similarities, each one has a different feel and sometimes even a different theme. There are medieval Christmas Markets (both in Munich and Esslingen that I’m aware of) and baroque Christmas Markets (Ludwigsburg) and even an island Christmas Market on Frauen Insel that is Germany’s only island Christmas market...

Read more here

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Understanding and Overcoming the Challenges of Pursuing an Expat Career

by Megan Fitzgerald

It’s important to understand the challenges you will face if you decide to pursue an expat career. I always recommend making a list of these obstacles so you can develop a plan to address them. This will set you up for success as you start your search for jobs overseas.

Those who have been considering work abroad for some time are likely aware of many of these challenges. However I’ve found that many people are not aware of all of the solutions available to overcome these obstacles and realize their dream of living and working abroad.

For this reason I’ve shared possible solutions to the some of the most common challenges:

Language skills

The problem: Not speaking the language of the country you want to work in will limit the job opportunities available to you – particularly countries where your mother tongue is not spoken at all.

If you are an English speaker, as it is the language of business, you will have more opportunities than those who speak other languages. Many jobs require not just an ability to speak, but fluency, which can be hard to achieve when not using the language regularly.

Possible solutions:
Find and target countries who speak your language. You’d be surprised how many there are. There are over 50 countries who have English as an official language, over 30 countries where French is an official language and over 20 where Spanish is spoken.

Learning a language as part of your career or business development plan is also an option. Finding opportunities to immerse yourself in the language through study courses abroad or even several weeks of holiday would be important. This would help you both learn and assess your ability to actually operate in that language in your target country.

Work Permits

The problem: Most of the time you are required to get a work permit or visa in your target country to secure a job abroad. This most often requires a job offer and the company facilitating the process.

Depending on a country’s immigration policies, there may also be limits to the amount of visas issued each year. If that number is relatively small then you are likely competing with the top talent globally for those visa slots.

If you are an accompanying spouse...

Article continues here

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Holidays and House Guests

by Piglet in Portugal

I was recently asked by a friend living in the UK: "Do expats still take holidays and if so where?" What a strange question and one I’d never considered!

So what's the deal with expats and holidays? Do you return to your homeland to visit family and friends, explore your new country or are you still tempted to travel to foreign shores?

Some expats, having fulfilled their dream of moving abroad, may prefer to "holiday at home" - a perfect opportunity to explore their new country. For instance, Portugal has so many places to explore, from its outstanding beaches and cruises along the Douro River to city breaks in Lisbon and Porto. Not forgetting the numerous historic towns and villages such as Tavira, Obidos, Tomar and Evora, just waiting to be explored. That's before you take into consideration the multitude of other styles of holiday on offer, like wine tours and activity holidays such as surfing, kite-surfing, horse riding and bird watching, to name but a few. Phew! I ask you, why be tempted to holiday elsewhere?"

However, if you've already "discovered" your new country, does the desire to holiday in a foreign land still beckon?

Many years ago, when choosing a holiday destination, we would spend ages studying glossy travel brochures, deliberating over which country to visit, and even longer deciding on the most suitable area before deciding on what hotel to stay at. However, I no longer yearn to travel due to family ties - the arrival of our first grandchild, who lives in France, closely followed by our second grandchild, who lives in England, means we now take frequent “holidays” to both countries. Decision made! No more glossy brochures, and the “dream” tour of Canada and Alaska remains a dream unless winning the Euro Millions Lottery makes it a reality!

Sadly, as many expat retirees have seen their pensions and income diminish over the last few years, and workers on a low income battle to juggle their finances, holiday budgets may only stretch to visiting family or friends back home. So the question of where to go does not arise. But what if you have no family ties or budget restrictions, where would you choose to holiday? Has becoming an expat really changed the way you view holidays?

On the other side of the coin when family and friends visit you do you consider this to be a holiday?

Read more

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Americans, You’ve Been Warned!

by Expat Focus columnist, Toni Hargis

If you’ve read my book, you’ll know that I go to great pains to keep Americans apprised of British customs, sayings and manners. Not that we all take tea at precisely 4pm every day, or consort with the Queen on a regular basis, but there are some things that while minor, make all the difference.

If you’ve yet to read Rules, Britannia, let me recap a few of my tips:

Please – While the meaning of “please” is usually implied in the tone of an American request, the word itself is not always used. In the UK, its absence will draw audible intakes of breath and small children may well find the cookie, or toy they are requesting withheld until they “ask properly”. The word “please” is used by everyone regardless of background; it is said to everyone regardless of station, so that includes waiters and other people paid to serve you.

He/She – Again, while no harm is meant in the US by referring to a person as “he” or “she” while they are standing right in front of you, it’s considered very rude in the UK, and often elicits the rhetorical and shocked question “Who’s she? The cat’s mother”. Seriously. If you can’t remember, or don’t know, the name of the person you’re talking about, simply say “We were just discussing…..”.

Read more about language problems:

Friday, October 07, 2011

Top Three Differences between Mortgages in France and the UK

by Sharon Hill, French Mortgage Direct

Most people buying a French property need to raise some type of mortgage finance to help them make their dream come true. Often, the Estate Agent selling the property will offer assistance, putting the buyer in contact with a local bank. The local bank will rarely be in a position to offer advice and guidance and the purchaser could end up with a mortgage but no knowledge of the French mortgage market.

Lack of understanding can be catastrophic for buyers especially if they assume that French mortgages operate in the same way as in their home country. Without professional help, buyers could end up having their mortgage application refused by the lender resulting in not being able to proceed with the purchase, or with a mortgage unsuitable for their needs.

When choosing which French mortgage is the most suitable for you, it’s important to understand how property finance works in France.

Here are the top three differences you should be aware of:

1. No Non-Status Loans

Self-Employed applicants often ask if they can apply for a non-status loan. This means that they would like to obtain finance for their property purchase without providing any proof of actual income or outgoings but this is not possible in France. French lenders are legally required to ensure all loans and mortgages are “affordable” for the borrower and therefore non-status loans are not available.

If you can’t prove your income, you should consider alternative means of as a French mortgage won’t be possible for you.

2. It costs money to register the mortgage

In almost every country, mortgage lenders charge borrowers to take out a mortgage in the way of arrangement fees. However, in France, there is an additional cost to arranging a mortgage which is the cost of the guarantee. Each mortgage in France is registered and a guarantee is taken out by the bank to protect their funds.

A few different types of guarantee exist but non-resident borrowers are...

Article continues:

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Tales from a Spanish Village - Two Old Fools Fight Over Thongs

by Expat Focus Columnist Victoria Twead

I always thought writing would be a gentle pastime. Sitting at a desk, fingers busily tapping the keyboard, ideas flowing from mind to computer in a steady creative stream. But it’s not like that in our household. For a start, if the words won’t come, I pace the kitchen, deep in thought. If Joe speaks, I snap at him, annoyed that he’s breaking into my train of thought.

Living in a tiny village in Spain is definitely inspirational. I can work undisturbed, gazing out onto the mountains between paragraphs. No sounds apart from the bee-eaters chattering as they fly through the valley in flocks, or Uncle Felix’s mule clattering through the streets. So there should be no distractions, right? Wrong, I’m afraid.
“Vicky! Come and see this eagle,” Joe calls, and I abandon everything and race to look. We're not expert enough to identify it, but that doesn't matter. To watch an eagle wheeling in the endless, blue sky over the mountain tops is a joy and a privilege.

Or, “Vicky! Paco’s just given me this huge bag of vegetables. What shall we do with them?” I turn away from the computer to admire the contents of the carrier bag he’s holding out, crammed with glossy red and green peppers, courgettes and purple aubergines. So I search for recipes that require these delicious ingredients, and start preparing and cooking, my manuscript forgotten...

Read more at:

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Expat Experiences: The Bahamas - Jeremy

Who are you?

Hi, my name is Jeremy and I'm a Belgian guy.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I lived for 5 years in North America, after that almost 2 years in Central America.

Now I'm living in The Bahamas... Why? Hmm... Do I really have to answer this one? :-D LOL

Well, let's say that at first I came here twice as a tourist and destiny helped by the love of a local mermaid brings me back to the Bahamian shores, but not as a tourist this time.

What challenges did you face during the move?

Ha, ha... Yes, we can speak about challenge! Hmm, probably the biggest one was to learn how to cross a street and arrive still alive on the other side as everyone seems to drive on the wrong side of the road here :-D LOL

After this first learning, the second one was to be the driver of the car and get used to also do my best to stay on the wrong side of the road, no matter what... Just joking but not so easy at first. Other than that, nothing really complicated except maybe about immigration laws and more especially the application of it in real life. Each immigration officer here seems to have its own perception of the law and it is kinda difficult to find two of them thinking the same way or just willing to apply the basic law as it is supposed to be...

Read more about life in the Bahamas:

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Expat Experiences: The Netherlands - Julie, Rotterdam

Who are you?

Julie, 27 years old, French (Parisian).

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I moved to Rotterdam end of April 2011 to follow my partner who has been transferred overthere.

What challenges did you face during the move?

I didn’t know I must register to the cityhall and give some papers to get the sofi number to be considered as citizen. I needed this number to find a work, to be paid, to open an account, to get an apartment.. for almost everything here. And also, as we are not married, I had to do a lot of paperwork to do more. He didn’t have to do it as expat.

How did you find somewhere to live?

We looked on the website of Pararius and took appointments to visit some apartments.. and found one after 2 months!

Are there many other expats in your area?

We don’t know. My colleagues told me it was an expat district, but I really have no idea.

What is your relationship like with the locals?

It is very fine. Except when guys stop us to know if we are not looking for any weed as we still have a French matriculation on our car.

What do you like about life where you are?

It is quiet and nice to live. The city is modern and also, you can go everywhere if you have a bicycle.

What do you dislike about your expat life?

It is quite difficult to do all the paper without getting any...

Read more about Julie's experience in Rotterdam:

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Dhyan Summers: Top 3 Tips for being a Happy ESWK (Expat Spouse Without Kids)

Frequently I see clients in my practice who are ESWKs (pronounced ‘eswik’) or Expat Spouses Without Kids. Although they are in an enviable position by some standards, they often tell me that their spouse is working all the time, they are lonely, and are fighting, sometimes successfully and sometimes not, the tendency to hide out at home. One client mentioned that she sometimes felt like curling up and hiding in a box in her closet.

There are two sides to the coin of being an ESWK. On one side you have the freedom to do almost anything you want to do, and on the other side is an almost complete lack of structure which at times can seem overwhelming and even despairing. In addition, when you have young children it is much easier to bond with other parents, as you have a built in reason for doing so.

Exhilaration vs. Despair:

So the question becomes, how do we turn the despair into excitement and exhilaration that freedom can bring? I have spoken before of the importance of finding something we feel passionate about, and at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I repeat myself here.

Tip # 1: Find Something You Feel Passionate About Doing:

Usually when we feel overwhelmed, or depressed or isolated, we have a tendency to, as my client mentioned, want to hide. I use the metaphor of climbing into bed and turning the electric blanket up to 10, which in Delhi where I live, would not be a practical thing to do! We want to hide because we are not feeling good about ourselves and might be feeling that we have nothing to offer anyone else. The one sure cure for this is to find something you feel passionate about doing.

You might notice that I say...

Article continues here

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Victoria Twead: Life is Good for the Two Old Fools

We’ve been back home in Spain for a full month now, leaving Bahrain and the Arab Spring behind for ever. Memories of being under house arrest, the distant gun-shots, the helicopters and the protests are fading.

Our Spanish neighbours gave us a lovely welcome and their eyes grew large when we told them about our year away. Very few have ever been out of Spain, and our tales of teaching Arab children and the uprising astonished them. But it was the day-to-day stuff that really fascinated them.

“Madre mia!” Paco said as he sliced the serrano ham.
“No ham or pork at all? For a whole year?”
“And you had to cover yourselves up in that heat?” asked Carmen, gaping.
Coming back to our mountain village was like pulling on a favourite pair of old slippers. We threw ourselves into cleaning the house and evicting the spiders and lizards that had taken up residence while we were away. It didn’t take long, and we were soon comfortable again.

Only one of our elderly chickens survived, so in the second week, we got six more to keep her company. Chickens are not known for their high IQ, but this new lot seem particularly dense. Roosting is instinct, right? But even with old Susio there to teach them, they cannot get the hang of...

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Investing in a Low Interest Rate World

by Expat Focus investment partner, Tom Zachystal

On August 9th Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the US Federal Reserve, made an unprecedented announcement (I guess by now we should be used to unprecedented announcements from the Fed). He announced that the Fed would keep US target interest rates low for two years. Never before has the Fed committed to a time-span for its interest rate policy.

Many investors were disappointed that the Fed didn’t announce a further economic stimulus measure but in fact the actual announcement is much more useful because it helps bring certainty to what has become a very uncertain investment market.

If interest rates are to remain low, this creates less competition for fixed income type investments. Bond prices go down as interest rates go up and one of the great uncertainties in the bond market during this extended low-interest rate period in which we have been living has been when to get out of bonds, as surely interest rates must rise at some point. Indeed a few months ago I wrote in this space about my concerns regarding fixed-income investments. Now we know that interest rates won’t rise for a while but this is not to say there are no concerns about low-yielding bonds. A concern that remains is that this low-interest environment may spur inflation and if inflation is running at, say 4%, then investors wouldn’t want to be locked into low-yielding bonds.

Low interest rates also create less competition for investments that do not pay an income; commodities for example – especially commodities such as gold that do not trade solely on supply/demand fundamentals. If we could get a decent yield in a savings account then we might be less inclined to put our money into something that is more difficult to value and does not give us a cash flow – we might put our money in the bank rather than holding gold...


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Expat Experiences: Chile - Sally Rose, Santiago

Who are you?

My name is Sally Rose. I blog as The Thorny Rose.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I moved to Santiago, Chile on March 1, 2011, because I had discovered, during a visit here in 2008, that I felt better here than anywhere I've ever been or lived. Whatever "it" was, I wanted more of it! (I had always had an idea that I would go overseas to teach English "someday.")

What challenges did you face during the move?

Because I expect this move to be permanent (well, as permanent as anything ever is in my life!), I divested myself of almost everything I owned. Since I'll only admit to being 39, I'll just say that it was 39 years worth of "stuff." The hardest thing, beyond a doubt, was giving away my 16-year old cat who was too old to make the long journey.

Can you tell us something about your property?

I am renting from the same landlord whom I've rented from on previous visits. I found his property on Craigslist. I love the location, but will be moving again, eventually, because this apartment is tiny, more like a hotel suite with a kitchenette than a real "home."

What is the property market like at the moment?

Have no idea. I do know this: I was living in New York City before this and I can buy an apartment here for probably 1/4 of what a similar one in NYC would cost.

Read more about life in Chile at:

Friday, August 05, 2011

France - Language Is Not The Only Key To Integration

Wendy Mewes looks at finding out about France

Many people simply find learning French or other foreign languages too difficult. While they are keen to pick up a few words of greeting and purchasing, there is no reasonable expectation of going beyond that. This could be through age, lack of language experience or just a poor head for foreign sounds. But language is not the only form of integration.

Most expats know their own areas well enough at a certain level. They visit the sights on arrival and repeat the best regularly with visitors. For holidays they may visit other parts of the same country they’re living in, often to experience a different landscape or environment: from country to coast, or vice versa.

But the key to living easily in your own chosen resting place is to understand that place as well as you can. And I don’t mean knowing the best/cheapest restaurants or even picking up and endlessly regurgitating the local legend. Legends spring from history, landscape and human endeavour. The stories may be larger than life but at another level, it is real life they reflect.

As anyone who has read the excellent Discovery of France by Graham Robb knows, France as a united country has a short history and every region is still anchored in its own individual roots. Getting to grips with the unique character of your area will give you a much greater sense of belonging and an appreciation of what matters to the people who live there and why.

Take most basic level: geology determines the landscape, and the landscape determines what can be grown, eaten, exported, built and defended in any area. Find out about local stone/soil and get hold of examples or know where to go to see them. By such a simple step you can get to grips with the essence of a region. Brittany, for example, is said to be a ‘land of granite’, but if you look at a geological map, you easily see the degree of exaggeration involved in that stereotype...

Read more:

Monday, August 01, 2011

Expat Experiences: Australia - Sami, Perth

Who are you?

I am Portuguese by birth, but have lived in South Africa (20 years), Germany (6 years) and Portugal (12 years).

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I moved to Perth to accompany my husband who had been offered a job. We came in January 2007. Although we were happy in Portugal, there was always a wish to go somewhere else where we could provide our children with a better future, and to an area where we could eventually explore the Asian countries.

What challenges did you face during the move?

We were lucky that the company that sponsored our move/visa paid for a removal company, so it make our life easier. We had to give away a lot of stuff as not all fitted in the container. Of course leaving family and good friends behind is heart wrenching but we had made the choice! We also had to leave our 3 cats behind, as it was far too expensive to bring them. Lucky for us our daughter was staying for a few more years and she took them.

How did you find somewhere to live?

We lived in a rented furnished flat (apartment) for 3 months paid for by the sponsor company, then we had to make our own way.

Perth was in the middle of a property boom at that stage and after having looked at over 30 properties, we had to settle for something less than we would have liked, as we had to give 20% deposit. We had lots of trouble finding a bank that would give us a loan too as we were on a 457 visa (4 year temporary business sponsored visa), hence the 20% deposit and we still had to pay an extra lenders insurance. We settled for a "renovators dream" as the...

Read more:

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Expat Psychology; Moving from Isolation to Social Connection - 3 Top Tips

By Dhyan Summers, MA, Licensed Psychotherapist

Erik Erikson, one of the foremost developmental psychologists of all time, outlined The Eight Stages of Human Development (Erikson 1950). In this seminal work he states that every human being passes through 8 stages of psychological development from birth to death. It is not the scope of this article to go into all the stages, but as an expat, and as a psychotherapist working with expats, I am continually reminded of the 6th stage, Isolation vs. Intimacy, which generally occurs between the ages of 19 to 40. The stage immediately preceding this is the adolescent stage of Identity vs. Role Confusion. Once one’s identity has come into clearer focus, he or she is ready to move on to the task of establishing important relationships such as spouse, children, colleagues and close friends.

Up to this point, we expats are just like everyone else. We establish careers, become co-workers, may marry, have children, and choose good friends. But if we choose to live life as an expat, this is where we depart from the norm; as expats we are continually re-visiting the 6th stage of isolation vs. intimacy. Our spouses (usually) and children may be a constant, but our close friends and colleagues are constantly changing. We must learn how to handle this flux without isolating ourselves, which sometimes seems like the line of least resistance and the safest bet.

At a time when social isolation has been described as a modern-day plague, the task of connecting with others can be quite daunting. A recent study by Duke University scientists (2005, USA) found that 25% of all Americans report having no meaningful social support at all. This was up from 10% when research was gathered 20 years earlier. And these were Americans who lived in America! One can speculate on the reasons for this such as working longer hours and computer-generated pastimes, but whatever the reasons, isolation is a huge problem. We know that social isolation results in increased incidents of depression and vulnerability to addictions as well as many other physical and...

Read more:

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

New Podcast: Interview with Becky Grappo, Expat Education Expert

In this episode we talk to expat education expert Becky Grappo about the challenges of international education and how to find the right school for your child abroad.

Listen to the interview at or download it as an mp3 file here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Worldwide Cost of Living 2011: Which city is the most expensive to live in? Which city is the cheapest?

The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Worldwide Cost of Living June 2011 Summary is now available here.

The EIU cost of living survey compares the cost of living in 140 cities in 93 countries providing invaluable information for both expat executives and HR managers.

From the EIU website:

"With many global cities still feeling the affects of the 2008-09 economic downturn, consumers and corporations alike are wondering if they are getting the most value for their goods and services in their particular location. Twice a year, the Economist Intelligence Unit analyses the prices of various goods and services for a number of cities and determines (on average) how much it costs to live in some of the world’s largest cities. This year, we’ve developed an exclusive summary which you can download for free that includes the top ten most expensive cities, and the top 10 least expensive. We’ve also included the methodology behind our bi-annual survey. When you download this free WorldWide Cost of Living summary, you will discover which cities are currently considered the most expensive in which to live, and which are the cheapest..."

Monday, July 11, 2011

Buying Off-Plan: An Expat Checklist

by Ivan Doherty, Chief Operating Officer & Investment Advisor, IFG Asia

Buying real estate in any country can often be time consuming and nerve wracking. If you are based in the country of purchase this can make it a lot easier, but cross-border purchases can be fraught with difficulties.

Most expats, because of their location, often find it easier and more convenient to buy-off plan property rather than second-hand property, the main reason being that it is often packaged and easy to transact the deal. In addition, with new property, in many countries, building guarantees are often included which reduce risk and the ongoing maintenance costs that may be associated with older properties. If you are living 4,000 miles away, you don’t need the headaches!

There have been far fewer off-plan developments around since 2008 due to the financial crisis and lack of liquidity for developers, but they are now slowly but surely coming back and being marketed to potential buyers and I would like to comment on some of the issues that have arisen for investors who have bought off-plan property outside their country of residence:

Why are you buying this unit?

This is a difficult one to rationalize, as we are all emotional and tend to buy property that fits our personality. Are you buying the property to be able to live in one day, or purely for investment? Or both? Try and separate your feelings and look at the objective of the purchase. All off-plan property in glossy brochures look attractive.


It would be worth looking at the property cycle statistics in the country where you intend to purchase – ideally you would not want to purchase at the top of the cycle. You can also aim to buy currency at a favourable rate by looking at historical trends. This does not take too long to research.

The developer

You need to thoroughly check out the developer and who is building the project and what experience they have. If this is their first project, I would advise caution. It is always advisable to choose a developer with a solid track record. They know the pitfalls and likely have a good source of financing in place, allowing the project to complete.

The agent

If the developer is using a real estate agent to market the project, check out, question and clarify all the points raised in their marketing literature and sales pitch. Ask how they will help you transact the business from start to finish...

Read more at Expat Focus: Money

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Expat Experiences: Hong Kong - Jade, The New Territories

Who are you?

I'm Jade, a 30-year-old originally from Melbourne, Australia, and now living in the New Territories of Hong Kong. With my husband, 4-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter, I live in a tiny village in the middle of a tropical rainforest with views of the South China Sea. Apart from the stench of drying fish (as seen in the photo below), we've found we've unexpectedly living in a lush paradise. We share our village with coloured finches, snakes, butterflies the size of my hand, cows, dragonflies and whole selection of other unidentifiable insects - as well as lots of locals who are happy to encourage us in our appalling attempts to master Cantonese!

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

We moved in December 2009. I am a court reporter and originally worked in the Federal Court of Australia. We moved here when I was offered a job in the High Court of Hong Kong. Our decision to move ultimately came down to making a decision regarding that perpetual question that plagues young families - security versus adventure - and choosing adventure!

What challenges did you face during the move?

When we moved, my daughter was only 10 months old. We shipped a lot of our stuff from Australia to Hong Kong, and it had to leave Australia about six weeks before us. That meant we spent our last six weeks in Australia without our beds, most of our clothes, and the kids' toys and books. We basically all slept on a futon in our empty loungeroom. Our last day in Australia was Christmas Day. We arrived in Hong Kong with 90kg of worldly possessions and moved straight into a temporary serviced apartment that my employer had arranged for us, which was 400sq feet. We couldn't even open our suitcases. We'd also sent our cats on ahead of us from Australia and had to wait six weeks for them to clear quarantine, so we spent a lot of our early days here traipsing to the cattery to visit them. And avoiding our 400sq feet of "space". I was still breastfeeding my daughter when we arrived, as well as starting a new job, and settling my son into full-time kindergarten. It was...

Read more:

Thursday, June 30, 2011

New podcast - Simon Hilton talks about currency transfers for expats

The latest episode of the Expat Focus podcast is now online!

Foreign exchange broker Simon Hilton talks about currency transfer issues for expats. Learn about the factors which affect exchange rates and how currency brokers can help protect their clients from exchange rate volatility. Also, learn how to choose a reputable broker to make sure your money is safe when being transferred abroad.

Listen to the Expat Focus podcast here.

Monday, June 27, 2011

International Mortgages – Better than ever and easier than you think?

by Stephen Burdett Cert PFS DipFA, MBL Financial

With global interest rates at an all time low and international real estate prices at rock bottom, has there ever been a better time to buy a property? There is a common misconception that as an expat living overseas, it can be almost impossible to get a mortgage, especially in the current economic climate. The reality is that the opposite is the case. Several major UK banks have international subsidiaries providing the internationally mobile expat with a range of services, including mortgages for an investment property or a holiday home overseas.

Available in a range of currencies and for properties in most developed countries, including Australia, New Zealand, the USA, Canada, Hong Kong, Dubai, the UK and Europe, mortgages are being offered at rates from as low as 1.69%.

But what about a deposit? Following the aftermath of the recent banking crisis and the issues that came out of the woodwork with revelations of banks poor credit policies, lenders have been forced to tighten their qualifying criteria. However, most see this as a return to the norm of traditional lending policy, such as the requirement for a 30% deposit. However, it is possible to use equity in an existing property or investment portfolio and mortgages are available for up to five times income. Some lenders will also use to 50% of any rental income too. Interest only mortgages are also available, particularly useful for investment properties or for tax and estate planning...

Read more at Expat Focus: Money

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Two Old Fools Have Enough (From Spain to Bahrain and Back Again)

By Expat Focus Columnist Victoria Twead

Isn’t it exhilarating when you’ve been fretting over a life-changing decision, finally make up your minds, and just know you’ve made the right choice? That’s how Joe and I felt after we typed this letter:

Dear Ms. N,
Please accept this as our formal notification that we are resigning from our posts of High School Math/Physics teacher, and Grade 6 English teacher and will not be returning for the new term in August 2011.
This decision was not an easy one, but we have decided that we would like to return to our home in Spain and retire. We very much appreciate the opportunities we have been given here, and the welcome and support the school has given us.

We wish you all every success in the future,

Yours sincerely,

Joe and Victoria Twead

So that’s it. A year ago we signed up to teach in an International school in Bahrain, and now we’ve come to the end. The school wants us to stay, but we’ve had enough. Enough of teaching rich...

Read more:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Importance of Writing a Will for Expats

by Ivan Doherty, Chief Operating Officer & Investment Advisor, IFG Asia

There are many things that expats need to consider when assessing the overall framework of their financial planning – bank accounts, pensions, life cover, medical insurance – but the one that is most often ignored is writing a Will. After many years of giving financial planning advice, my simple explanation is that nobody wants to think about ‘the end’, let alone put it in writing.

Dying intestate (without a Will) whilst living in a foreign country can be particularly time consuming and troublesome for family members who have to sort it out, indeed the legal costs and paperwork can mount up very quickly indeed. The process can run into years, not months!

It is not just the lack of a Will that is a problem, it is also the lack of a schedule of assets. Do you have a defined list of your assets? Have you scheduled them with contact details, email addresses? Have the investments and accounts you hold changed name/ ownership over the years? This is time consuming and a thankless task, but forms an essential part of the succession planning process. If you do nothing else after reading this article, please do this.

For those who have only recently moved abroad, the task may be quite straightforward, but for longer term expats who have accumulated assets in various countries over the years, it can appear to be somewhat complex. To make it easy for you to think about, a general rule would be to have a will in every country where you hold assets.

The task of writing a Will need be no more complicated than opening a bank account, and in the new era of anti-money laundering paperwork, one could argue is actually a lot simpler...

Read more at Expat Focus: Money

Monday, June 20, 2011

Managing Currency Risk Part 1: Principles of Sound Currency Management

by David Kuenzi, CFP®, Thun Financial Advisors


Currency issues are often one of the most vexing and least well understood issues for investors. This is especially true for Americans abroad whose salaries and other income sources are often denominated in currencies other than U.S. Dollars (USD). The good news is that understanding how to properly incorporate currency considerations into a sound, long-term investment strategy is much easier than commonly understood. In this note (part 1 of a two part series) we pull back the opaque veil of “currency risk” that clouds investment and financial planning decisions for Americans abroad. We sketch a few, easy to understand principles that all investors can use to guide choices around currency denomination of savings and investment...

Read more at Expat Focus: Money

Sunday, June 19, 2011

How to Help Your Marriage Thrive Instead of (Barely) Survive While Living Abroad

by Expat Focus columnist Dhyan Summers

I am an American psychotherapist in private practice in New Delhi, working primarily with the expat community. I also work with expat couples worldwide through Skype video conferencing. Many couples come to me because they see counseling as the last stop before separation and divorce. Fewer couples call for a routine “check up” when they feel their marriage isn’t functioning optimally. Fewer still seek me out when their relationship is going reasonably well and they just want to iron out a few kinks.

Sam and Susan have been married for 15 years, and while they both agree that their marriage has never been “great”, it was meeting many of their needs until 2 years ago when Sam was given a promotion and transferred to India. They had both lived abroad as kids, so they didn’t think that living overseas would be difficult for them. Susan said that at the end of her first week in India, she threatened to leave and take the couples’ four year old son with her as she had hardly seen her husband during that time, felt abandoned, and like she may as well have been a single mom. Sam thought her behavior was irrational, they had a huge explosion, and their relationship has gone from bad to worse ever since.

Jennifer and Richard have two young children and live abroad. They had agreed to see a therapist for premarital counseling when they became engaged, and have had regular “check ins” periodically during the seven years of their marriage. Jennifer reports that she tends to nag Richard when he doesn’t do what he says he’s going to do. She feels angry when Richard doesn’t meet her needs for commitment and trust. Richard feels annoyed and defensive that his needs for respect and autonomy aren’t being met. They have learned through counseling how to make observations without judging the other’s behavior, take responsibility for their feelings and unmet needs, and make a request that is not a demand to their partner.

Sam and Susan fall into fairly typical patterns of “naming and blaming”. Neither of them is taking responsibility for their own feelings and needs and instead is blaming their spouse. They are making demands instead of requests which only further alienate their partners. Jennifer and Richard, on the other hand, have learned Nonviolent Communication, or as I prefer to call it the Compassionate Communication model of conflict resolution.

What is Compassionate Communication and How does it Work?

Compassionate Communication is a model for resolving conflicts...

Read more:

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Why State Taxes Make Roth Conversion a Huge Opportunity for Americans Abroad

by David Kuenzi, CFP®, Thun Financial Advisors

This article analyzes how the exemption from state income taxation enjoyed by most Americans abroad significantly alters the calculation that determines whether or not Roth contributions and/or Roth conversion make financial sense. It concludes that the exemption from state taxes makes Roth conversion an especially attractive financial opportunity for Americans abroad that should be capitalized on while they are still living outside the U.S...

Read more at Expat Focus: Money

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

IRAs, Roth IRAs and the Conversion Decision for Americans Living Abroad

by David Kuenzi, CFP®, Thun Financial Advisors

Even under the most conventional of circumstances, American taxpayers struggle to fully understand the myriad of tax advantaged retirement investment options they have. IRAs, 401(k)s, Roths, Individual 401(k)s, 403(b)s, 527s, and defined benefit employer pension plans are some of the many possible investment choices from which American taxpayers might choose. Each has slightly different tax implications and a separate set of complex compliance rules, contribution limits, mandatory withdrawal requirements and other features. Being an American abroad, however, further complicates matters by injecting additional tax and planning complexities into the equation. The good news is that Americans abroad generally have the same opportunities as do Americans at home to accrue tax benefits from tax advantaged retirement accounts. In fact, under certain circumstances and with proper planning, expats may gain more than most from the proper employment of these accounts...

Read more at Expat Focus: Money

Capital Allowances On Furnished Holiday Lettings in Portugal – A Basic Guide

by Property Lynx Lda based on information provided by Davis Langdon LLP

After the 2009 Budget, it was announced that the ‘Furnished Holiday Lettings’ (FHL) rules were to be extended to any country within the European Economic Area (EEA).

It was also announced that the rules would be withdrawn from April 2010, but following a change in Government, the rules will remain in place in their current form until April 2011. After that date, there will be some tightening up of the qualification criteria together with some restrictions in the way that loss relief is given.

This very basic guide has been compiled to give owners of properties in Portugal information on how the rule changes may be beneficial to them...

Read more here

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Expat Experiences: UK - Carmen Jones, London

Who are you?

A 30-something southern belle expat from the US. I've spent the last year adapting to all things British including Victorian plumbing, the value of wellies and a new found acceptance of full fat dairy products.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

After deciding I needed to shake things up a bit in my life, I moved here in May 2009.

What challenges did you face during the move?

Realizing that things here simply don’t work like things do at home. Americans and British don’t speak the same language, far from it. We don’t celebrate the same holidays, eat the same food, drive on the same side of the road, have the same sense of humor, use the same words or express the same emotions.

Not to mention trying to understand the visa process and saying goodbye to friends and family.

How did you find somewhere to live?

Initially through an estate agent which was quite easy. However, I have learned that suitable rentals in central London are few and far in between. So if you find something you like and it has everything you are looking for (price, location, access to transport) then be prepared to take it immediately. Getting use to paying a lot more in rent for much less space was also definitely a challenge.

Read more about Carmen's life in the London

Friday, June 03, 2011

Britons urged to leave Yemen immediately

Britons should leave Yemen immediately as it is "unlikely" the UK will be able to evacuate stranded nationals, the foreign secretary has said.

William Hague said UK nationals should leave while commercial flights were still operating and urged them not to plan for government assistance...


Wednesday, June 01, 2011

New financial section - Expat Focus: Money

Our new financial section - Expat Focus: Money - is now online at

Expat Focus: Money aims to inform and educate anyone interested in expatriate financial issues and in addition to offering our own original content we will also be highlighting the very best online resources.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Expat Experiences: Panama - Jane Ellis, Panama City

Who are you?

I am Panamajama, also known as Jane, mother of three young children. I fill my time by looking after my children, taking photos, doing my blog and studying to become a translator (French to English – NOT Spanish to English!

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

We all moved across to Panama from Scotland last year as my husband is working on the project to expand the canal.

What challenges did you face during the move?

We had to decide whether to bring our furniture with us (including our piano), then our travelling date was pushed back several times. When we arrived we lived in a furnished high-rise overlooking the Pacific while waiting for our furniture to travel over on a container ship. This was a lovely place to live, but there was no way of walking anywhere, and I did not fancy driving in the chaotic traffic of Panama City until I had been here long enough to get used to it. So I felt quite isolated initially.

How did you find somewhere to live?

Our relocation agents helped us. These were provided by the company my husband works for.

There have been many difficulties associated with relocation, not of least of which that Panama has no postal service as such – not like the kind UK or US citizens are used to. It took us 2 months to figure this out, during which time my son’s birthday presents...

Read more about Jane's life in Panama

Thursday, May 26, 2011

What Paddington tells us about German v British manners

Are Germans ruder than the British? Are Britons more dishonest than Germans? Fortunately, we don't have to rely on blind prejudice for answers. Serious academic research has been done on both sides of the North Sea.

There are Britons in Berlin who get taken aback by the directness of Germans. And there are Germans who get really annoyed when Britons (and Americans), in an effort to appear friendly, say things they don't really mean. Some Germans call this "lying".

So, what do the experts say on the matter?

Professor Juliane House, of the University of Hamburg, has studied groups of people interacting in controlled situations, watching with academic rigour how they behave as human guinea-pigs.

She found (or verified) that Germans really don't do small talk, those little phrases so familiar to the British about the weather or a person's general well-being, but which she describes as "empty verbiage"...


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Moved Abroad, What Next? When The Sun Sets on Your Dreams

by Piglet in Portugal
I cried when yet another of my close friends, who had taken early retirement, announced she was selling up and returning to the UK. The reason for her change of heart and even direction was due to disillusionment and boredom. She confided there were only so many coffees you could drink, social events to attend, weeds to pull, vegetables to grow, books to read etc etc. Life here was simply no longer challenging as one day just drifted seamlessly into the next.
I wondered if expats who move abroad on a fixed term work contract felt the same. Maybe because they know they are only going to be in xx country for xx number of years they are already physiologically adjusted to the transient nature of friendships. However, when you retire there seems to be a greater sense of permanence. You are almost mentally saying to yourself “the only way I am leaving here is in a box!”

Sitting in a dreary office in the UK looking out at equally dreary grey skies made “La La” land in the sun seem like paradise. But for some, this is just not the case – paradise also has its down side.

How many people who retire to a “place in the sun” actually consider how they will fill their days once the challenges of settling in to their new home have been resolved and the initial holiday period and...

Read more:

Friday, May 20, 2011

Expat Experiences: Thailand - Mike Rose, Prachuap Khiri Khan

Who are you?

My name is Mike Rose and I am a retired teacher from the UK.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I moved to Prachuap Khiri Khan, Thailand in January 2008 when I took early retirement. I have always enjoyed travelling and had been to Thailand on a few occasions before deciding to settle here

What challenges did you face during the move?

Numerous! But nothing insurmountable. I had actually intended to work out here part time teaching English, but when I arrived the job wasn't there. So I had a hurried change of plan settling instead for full time retirement and living on my private pensions. Thailand is full of red tape but once you know the ropes its easy to negotiate. Find out what to do is the hardest but there are plenty of resources on the Internet. Visa regulations are quite relaxed but you have to report every 90 days to immigration, which is a pain along with your annual renewal...

Read more about Mike's life in Thailand:

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Surprising day (Part 1)

by David Sutton-Rowe

Photo: David is 4th from the right in the back row.

Well that was a surprise, I was minding my own business one day in my local bar, the El Alhambra, and my friend Antonio walked in, I was having my morning Tostada (Toasted French stick bread, with a pouring of virgin olive oil and salt) and enjoying a really hot coffee, anyway we greeted each other asking how we were getting on in the world.

Antonio is a young man of 31 years old and we have known each other for around 8 and a half years now, and often meet up for a coffee but today was a surprise for me to see him, he is never on time, always gets his days mixed up and being a normal Spaniard this is the way things are done, we got into talking and he suddenly asked me if I would join the PP, (Partido Popular) well this took me by total surprise as I had never talked about my view on politics to anyone, but he went on to explain that the PP was recruiting Foreigners to represent the minority groups that exist here in Spain and in particular in our town of Sax.

I had to think about this for a few moments, with Antonio, asking me “Well about it?” I said “hold on a moment, let me think about this” “But it’s a perfect opportunity for you David, you know that if you get into the mad house, you will get paid for it”, (Mad House his name for the local Town Hall). “That may be” I said, “but there is more to it than that”, “Oh don’t worry about that David, you know you are the perfect person to make an impression in the local government here in Sax”, now this had me thinking at 100 thoughts a second, what if? “I will have to sleep on it”, I said to Antonio, he replied that we should have another coffee before I made up my mind.

Now I know as much about local politics as most people know about brain surgery, and he was asking me to stand for a post in the local government, of a foreign country, where on a good day I can hold a conversation in a bar or BBQ? Now come on, what do you take me for? Some kind of suicide jockey, (suicide jockey, a raving idiot on a motorcycle) I do not even know which side of the fence the Partido Popular stand, let alone who their president is, but hey, wait a moment, could I stand up and be a candidate for a local political party?

I sipped my coffee and took another bite from my tostada, chewing very slowly and thinking things over and not wanting to seem to be too excited by the prospect of standing for an election in my local community. I could see the expression on Antonio’s face change from a happy grin to a slightly concerned look, almost disappointed that I was keeping him waiting, like he has done with me in the past, and secretly I was enjoying this moment, watching his face, and he knew that something was ticking over in my mind, “Well”, he asked, “what you say to this”? “Ok” I replied, what am I letting myself in for, I thought to myself, Antonio’s face lit up and all was well in the bar, I did not have to pay for my coffee & tostada that morning my friend bought it for me, and his new “Friend” in the Partido Popular, well not yet be soon would be.

So that afternoon we visited another local bar to meet the president of the local branch of the Partido Popular, Vincente Gil Sauco, who had asked Antonio if he knew a foreigner that would be stupid enough to stand for local elections in May, and represent the foreigners of Sax, well here I am standing in front of him and looking rather lost in what I am about to expose myself to, and feeling very nervous about the whole idea and was having second thoughts about the role I was about to take on. Still I am up for the challenge and with a little help from other members of the PP, I should fit in and go with the flow.

Monday, April 25, 2011

From Spain to Bahrain - Two Old Fools Stay Put

by Victoria Twead

Nobody is allowed to talk about what is happening here in the Kingdom of Bahrain. The news channels and internet have fallen silent, and I, too, will say little. Joe and I only have 10 weeks to complete of our contract teaching in an International School in the city of Manama, and then we hop aboard that plane back to Spain and our crazy, beloved village in the Andalucían mountains. How we long for the fresh mountain breezes and tasting food without a dusting of sand...

Last month, the troubles here in Bahrain escalated to the point where the British Embassy advised us to evacuate. They even laid on a special flight for British expats, although the fare cost more than a regular flight... (And they wondered why it returned to Britain empty?) But we’ve never felt personally threatened here, in spite of distant gunfire, numerous checkpoints, tanks parked along the roads and constant helicopter activity above. So we stayed. Nearly all the American and Canadian teachers left, and the Lebanese male teachers were deported. We felt we should stay and help keep the school open because the school has been very good to us and we owed the owners that.

Things are easier now; we are no longer under house arrest, and the curfew hours have been reduced. We choose not to travel much around the island, but we could if we wanted. The British Embassy has given us very little guidance, but our American friends pass on their (very good) Embassy advice so we know what to do at checkpoints:

“We no longer advise U.S. citizens to limit movements to areas around their residence, but we encourage everyone to follow the guidelines listed below, especiall...

Article continues

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Things to Consider Before Emigrating – The Total Cost

by Toni Hargis

How many people do you know who talk about emigrating? Chances are, most of them have yet to do it, and it’s often because of the huge costs involved. It is crucial to get a detailed idea of these costs in order to avoid disappointment and/or hardship down the line.
The costs can basically be divided into “getting there” and “arrival” costs:

Getting there:

Establish first of all, whether you’re actually eligible to relocate to your chosen spot. Some countries like Australia and the UK , have a point system which includes your salary or earning potential; others like the USA look at your ability to support yourself and/or the family you are planning to bring with you.

Visa type – all visas cost money, but some are more expensive than others. Establishing your eligibility should go hand in hand with figuring out what type of visa you’ll need (if applicable). If you have a complicated visa application, you may also need to hire an agent or a lawyer, which is never cheap.

Additional application costs, such as visa interviews (and travel to and from), background checks and medical exams must also be factored into the overall cost to emigrate. Requirements are different around the world, but none of them are free.

Visiting expenses – many people visit a place before emigrating, which can rack up the costs. Include flights, accommodation, vehicle rental or transportation costs, and temporary visas if applicable.

Shipping your goods – this will be one of your largest expenses, unless you’re planning to literally start afresh. In most cases, sending a container of goods abroad will run into the thousands, with the price increasing the farther you travel. Don’t forget to include the costs of shipping or flying animals.

Property costs – you may have a property to sell, which entails a fee to your realtor or agent. What if the property doesn’t sell by your moving date? How many months’ mortgage can you afford to carry? Do you already own property in your new country? If not, you’ll need rent money too.


As mentioned, you will probably need...

Article continues

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Avoiding Investment Scams

by Tom Zachystal

You have worked hard to build a nest egg and would like to invest your money in order that it work for you to provide for the lifestyle you desire; but while searching for investments or investment advisors you find it difficult to know who to trust or which investments might be appropriate for you. Many people find themselves in this situation and some end up being taken advantage of by smooth-talking sales people masquerading as investment advisors.
In this article I highlight three scams we have seen over the years and point out warning signs to look for so that you are not caught unawares. This list is far from comprehensive so if you are uncertain about a prospective investment then I invite you to contact me directly and I will evaluate it for you, often at no charge.

Scam #1: The Boiler Room Sales Person

Suppose someone called you on the telephone saying he was an investment advisor and wanted to give you some free investment advice so that you could evaluate his effectiveness. Suppose he called you once a month for five months and each time gave you one stock to buy or sell that month and each month his advice worked out – when he told you to buy the stock he picked for that month went up, when he told you to sell it went down. After five months, or maybe less, you might be willing to entrust some money to him to invest on your behalf and if you did this you would likely find that the 100% track record he had in the past did not continue.

Let me explain how it is possible for someone to give you perfect investment advice for five or more months in a row: There is a person sitting somewhere with a telephone and a list of numbers they purchased from firms that supply leads. He spends his...

Article continues:

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Expat Experiences: Australia - Sarah Husselmann, Sydney

Who are you?

I’m Sarah Husselmann, a British freelance writer, who moved from London to Sydney in January 2010. I relocated with my husband and two preschool children. Whilst settling the children into their new home, I’ve created a blog and website providing help for mums moving to Australia Mum’s gone 2 Aus. I’ve been thrilled with the following it’s received and I’m happy to be helping families from all over the world with their relocation or visit to Australia.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

Our decision to move to Australia took some time. My husband and I obtained permanent residency shortly after getting married but I got cold feet and didn’t want to leave the UK. I was concerned about missing my family.

We had our children in London and as they got older felt we wanted to offer them a more outdoor lifestyle. We also didn’t want to keep wondering about Australia, and look back in years to come and wish we’d made the move.

What challenges did you face during the move?

We moved to Australia with two children, no jobs, and little support in Australia (we didn’t know many people). We arrived in January, which we now believe isn’t the best time. We don’t think businesses get back to normal until February, after the Christmas break and long school holidays.

My husband was immediately looking for work and...
Read more about Sarah's life in Sydney

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Expat Experiences: Turkey - Jack Scott, Bodrum

Who are you?

My name is Jack Scott, originally from London

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

Last year I moved to Bodrum in Turkey with my civil partner, Liam. I was a petty bureaucrat for 30 years gently ascending a career ladder to middle management, middle income and a middling suburban terrace; comfortable, secure and passionately dissatisfying. We thought it high time to take a break from our labours, put our feet up and watch the pansies grow while we were young enough to enjoy it.

What challenges did you face during the move?

I have to admit that the move was relatively painless. We had done a fair amount of research beforehand and concocted a bells and whistles plan to ensure our momentous decision didn’t lead to certain penury. We were lucky enough to meet fellow expats who helped us enormously. Saying farewell to family and friends was extremely hard but we keep in regular touch and visit London every few months.

How did you find somewhere to live?

Bodrum was the bookie’s favourite from the start, an urbane, liberal oasis where we could live safely and unmolested. We briefly entertained the notion of living in Kas on the Turkuaz Coast where we had honeymooned. Kas is a sparkling Bohemian jewel, surrounded by a pristine hinterland that has been mercifully spared the worst excesses of mass tourism. But, its glorious isolation, protected by a wilting three hour drive from the nearest international airport, means that the town is effectively closed out of season and lacks those dull but essential full time services we all need to live in the

Read more:

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Interview with Megan Fitzgerald, founder of Career by Choice

Megan, can you tell us a bit about your background prior to founding Career by Choice? What made you decide to start your own business and what services do you offer?

Ever since I was in high school I had a passion for exploring other countries and cultures. That passion translated into a bachelors degree in International Relations, living, studying and working in Paris, and a job designing professional and business training programs for entrepreneurs from developing and transitional countries on 4 continents. My career in international education and training continued for many years until I returned to school get my Masters Degree in Multimedia Communications. While pursuing this degree I worked for the university career center running their local and international job fairs and their recruiting and employer relations programs. This is what gave me my first taste of formal career development methodology. After my degree I continued to work for international organizations doing professional and organizational development work. Upon moving to London I continued doing professional, organizational and business development work on a consulting basis. I have been fortunate that my work before and after my Masters degree has allowed me to work with professionals, entrepreneurs and organizations in many countries in North America, South America, Europe, Africa and Asia.

It was when my husband and I decided to move to Rome that I realized I would have some real hurdles to overcome professionally. I did not speak Italian, had no network in Italy to speak of, and I was sure that securing a work visa in Italy was not going to be easy. It was then that I decided I wanted to start my own portable business.

Career and business coaching seemed like the perfect choice. All of my previous education and professional experience had prepared me for just such a line of work. In fact I’d been helping professionals, leaders and organizations grow and improve their performance for years - I just didn’t know it was called coaching. It was also aligned with all of my values - freedom, empowerment, growth and development and being of service - and allowed me to support other people like myself who wanted a satisfying career that would also support a life overseas. So I pursued several certifications in career coaching, executive coaching, and personal branding and Career By Choice was born.

Today Career by Choice offers career, personal branding and business coaching services to expats looking to build a career that fits who they are and their international lifestyle. Specifically I help expats create a clear vision for their life and career abroad, understand their unique value and what they offer and communicate that value in a compelling and differentiating way on and offline. I also teach them how to leverage online networking and social media to build their brand and reach and apply the right tools and strategies to reach their goals. By applying their new skills and taking ongoing strategic action these expats will be set up for long-term career or business success.

What are the main challenges faced by expat professionals trying to build a career abroad? How do you encourage your clients to meet those challenges?

There are many challenges expats face when building a career abroad...

Interview continues:

Friday, April 01, 2011

Missing Food From Back Home - Is It Just Me?

by Piglet in Portugal

Is it just the British who yearn for their favorite foods and familiar products or do other nationalities suffer from similar cravings? Before you leap from your chair in denial I realize this may be a generalization and food-from-home cravings do not apply to everyone. However, there are now so many shops specializing in British foods there must be a market in order for them all to survive.

A quick search of the Internet, plus local knowledge, revealed there are shops in countries such as Spain, Bulgaria, Portugal and even France. In the UK it is not uncommon to see Indian and Chinese specialty food shops and I am sure if I looked further I would find many more.

So why do we feel the need to purchase foods imported from our homeland? Do food cravings have the potential to make us feel homesick? Are we unable to find equivalent products or is it the product description in a “foreign” language that drives us to these shops?

In Lyon, France, I was amazed to discover an English food shop called “Little Britain”. The proprietor was a French guy; this had to be a first! However, I soon discovered he had lived in Scotland for many years and not only acquired a taste for British food, but also a British sense of humor. This manifested itself by naming his shop after the British TV Comedy show “Little Britain” (a parody of life in Britain). The shop stocked a great range of British foods, including haggis, Wagon Wheel biscuits, English mustard, Sweet Piccalilli, cranberry jelly, pork pies, bacon and English bread. English bread? Well, bacon “butties” would hardly be the same made with a baguette, would they? Little Britain had certainly arrived in France and as a country revered for its gastronomic delights I wondered if the locals ever ventured into his...

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