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...

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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...

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