Monday, December 30, 2013

Considering A Move Overseas? Good News If You’re A Doctor, Engineer Or Bee Keeper

Leading international relocation specialist, Robinsons Relocation, has released a list of the most ‘in-demand’ vocations for Brits wanting to start a new life overseas – as well as some of the more unusual roles currently sought.

Based on data gleaned from Robinsons’ 15,000 international relocations completed in the last 12 months, it has cross referenced its most popular emigration destinations - Australia, America, Canada, New Zealand and Spain - with the most in-demand jobs in each country.* And while medics, engineers and the professional services are in high demand across the board, there are also a few surprises, with New Zealand needing bee keepers and wine makers, Canada in short supply of chefs, and Australia wanting map makers!

Most ‘unusual’ jobs across five most popular destinations

1. Bee Keeper (NZ)
2. Wine Maker (NZ)
3. Stallion Master (AUS)
4. Cartographer (AUS)
5. Locksmith (AUS)
6. Chef (CAN)

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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Expat Experience: Chrissie in Nice, France

Who are you?

Hi, I’m Chrissie, an Australian living and working in Nice, France. Like many of my compatriots, I headed off to discover the world upon completion of my university degree and ended up here in the sunny South of France. That was back in 2007. When I first arrived I was offered an administrative position with an English company who supply fine wines to the super yachts which invade the Mediterranean each summer. I’ve been there ever since, and thanks to further training (and dedicated tasting) I now have a very fulfilling wine sales role.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

It all started in 1998 when I’d just finished high school. My big sister was already living in Nice and suggested I defer university for a year.

Instead I could come and live with her and enroll in an intensive French course. I didn’t need much convincing! I fell in love with Nice straight away and always hoped to return at some point. When I finished university I travelled on and off for about 18 months before ending up back where it all started! It helped to have family around, although my sister has now returned home to Australia after 20 years here. I also have a French passport, thanks to my mother, which I’m more than grateful for. Without it I would never have been able to stay.

What challenges did you face during the move?

I guess I was lucky as I left Australia in my mid-twenties with only my backpack and a desire to see where the wind took me! I didn’t have to worry about moving a family and issues such as finding schools or appropriate housing. A return ticket to Australia was booked so I knew that if my new life in France didn’t work out I could simply use that ticket to head home. I still don’t know how, but somehow I found a job and a room in a flat share within a week of arriving in Nice. I haven’t looked back since!

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Tales From A Spanish Village: Two Old Fools and Passports

Victoria Twead
The reason we wanted extra burglar bars fitted, and doors replaced, was because we were planning to visit Australia this winter. We wanted to leave the house secure and watertight. We had contacted our builders in March, thinking that would give them plenty of time to complete the job.

Nine months later they finally turned up to begin work in earnest. But things never go smoothly in our village. Their arrival coincided with a major overhaul of El Hoyo's sewage system and a resurfacing of the main street. Unable to bring their equipment to our house, the builders shrugged and disappeared again.

"I guess we should check our passports," I said to Joe. "Then we can book flights as soon as the building work is done."

To my horror I discovered that our passports expire in January. I hurriedly researched the renewal process for overseas residents. A hefty fee of £295.72,(ouch!) a signed declaration form and two passport photos were required. That seemed simple enough.

"Have you ever seen a photo booth anywhere?" I asked Joe.

He thought hard. "Nope, I don't think so. I guess we'll have to go to a photography shop?"

Our neighbours, having never been out of Spain, had no idea where we might find a booth or shop that produced passport photos. So we went in search of a photography shop.

"Passport photos? No, we only do weddings, family portraits and fiestas," said the assistant, surrounded by galleries of arty photos showing smiling brides and happy families...

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Monday, December 23, 2013

Why I Love The British Boxing Day

Michelle GarrettAs an American living in the UK one of my favourite days of the year is Boxing Day, the day after Christmas. The day off, after Christmas. Until I moved to the UK I had never heard of Boxing Day.

Boxing Day is a public holiday originating in England, which is now celebrated in many other countries in the commonwealth with a mainly Christian population.

As with many modern traditions, Boxing Day may have started as a pagan Anglo-Saxon offering of parcels of food and gifts to the poor, the day after the mid-winter feasting and celebrations. The tradition continued into Christian England. The current name is thought to have possibly originated when these gifts of food were given the day after the wealthy landowners celebrated Christmas and the generous leftovers were boxed up and distributed among the labourers, servants, and trades people who were employed by the landowners. As England became the United Kingdom and developed the commonwealth, the tradition was spread throughout much of the world.

Today Boxing Day is traditionally celebrated in the UK on 26 December, or St Stephens Day, the day after Christmas Day. Unlike St. Stephen's Day, Boxing Day is a secular holiday. Although the day after Christmas is considered Boxing Day no matter what day of the week it falls on, if it falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the public holiday will be carried over until the following weekday, giving workers the benefit of the day off. Equally, if Christmas and Boxing Day fall on a Saturday and Sunday, they are celebrated on Saturday and Sunday, but Monday and Tuesday will be public holidays...

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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Winter on the French Riviera

Kim Defforge
After an enjoyable Indian summer, cooler temperatures have arrived along with this year’s Beaujolais Nouveau on the third Thursday of November at midnight, the legally regulated release day and time and a worldwide annual celebration of a red wine from Beaujolais, located in the Burgundy region of France. With lighted streets and holiday cheer, Nice’s main square, Place Massena, is the center of December’s holiday festivities: holiday market craft chalets, lighted holiday decorations, snow-flocked trees, a giant, lighted ferris wheel, and an ice skating rink. It’s a nice time to be in Nice, whether here as a visitor or as a resident 24/7 in France.

During and following the holiday season on the French Riviera, final preparations are also in progress for the following year’s annual, winter festivals - all of them coordinated to take place during the same time period, so that visitors can enjoy all the parades, floats, and entertainment.

Nice Carnival

The city’s iconic Mardi Gras Carnival is one of the oldest carnivals in the world and is known for its parades of vibrantly-colored floats (“corsos”), decorated with roses, mimosas, carnations (the official flower of Nice), and other flower varieties; the giant headed and massive figures (“grosses têtes”), especially the King and Queen always heading the current-year themed carnival procession (“Corso Carnavalesque”); musicians and dancers, rainbow-colored confetti; silly string among the festive crowds; and the infamous “Bataille des Fleurs”, where mimosa and other flowers are thrown to spectators...

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The 5 Best Beaches in Costa Rica That No One Knows About

Shannon Enete
While it’s no secret that Costa Rica is home to some of the best beaches in Central America, where to find them can often be a challenge. Living in Costa Rica has afforded me the time and relationships with locals that privy me to this sacred information that I will now share with you.

Playa Bejuco (pronounced bay-who-ko)

A 35 minute drive south of Jaco will lend you to an expansive coconut-palmed oasis. It’s easy to miss, however, so keep a watchful eye out for the single-access dirt road marked Playa Bejuco. There is one small grocery, or pulpería, where you can buy a snack along the dirt road. After about a half-mile you will reach the café colored beach where you can park, hang a hammock in the ample coconut trees, or venture south another half-mile to the Delfin, a small hotel and bar and enjoy a cold beverage.

What makes this beach special is it’s vastness both in girth and length, and it’s lack of popularity. You can walk in either direction for miles without running out of beach. Most days the only other people you run into are local fisherman trying their luck with a net or fishing line thrown by hand with a lasso maneuver. Sundays and holidays are the exception to this rule, since the locals tend to honor the Sabbath at the beach...

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas in Panama, or, What the Heck Am I Doing Here?

Susanna Perkins
My husband and I really detest the cold weather. Back in the early fall of 1988, we looked at each other one blustery morning and asked, “do we really want to go through another winter?”

The answer was an unequivocal No!, so we put our house on the market and moved with our (then) four kids to Central Florida.

Contrary to popular belief, it can get cold in the Orlando area and even freeze (although nothing like the bone-chilling temperatures of the Northeast). Every winter my husband would say to me, “I don’t think we moved far enough south.”

Now we’re coming up against our second Christmas in Panama. We’ve definitely moved far enough south – average daytime temperature here year-round is 90 degrees (that’s 32 for those of you who measure in Celsius). It never freezes and it certainly never snows.

But then come those holidays and traditions that we always associate with cold weather – in our case, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Last year, we enjoyed a Thanksgiving-style dinner with lots of friends at one of the local restaurants. Then a few weeks later, our youngest daughter, a junior in college at the time, flew down to spend Christmas with us.

We were delighted to spend Christmas Eve with local friends, where we enjoyed their traditional Christmas foods and festivities. On Christmas day itself, we brought dessert to a North American friend’s house where we dove into a feast of dishes that were part of several different family’s Christmas traditions.

It was altogether satisfactory.

This year? Not so much. …

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Crowdfunding: 3 Tips for Expat Entrepreneurs Raising Capital

Kristin Spindler
Crowdfunding is a buzzword I’ve heard a lot lately – in Dubai, London and New York. Last winter, over dinner in Dubai, family friend Jeff told us about his new business-– an online platform to raise equity for start-up businesses. Fast-forward 16 months since launch, and Jeff Lynn, CEO of London-based Seedrs Limited, has raised over £2 million ($3.24 million) of equity for 48 companies in the United Kingdom.

Crowdfunding 101

So what exactly is crowdfunding? That dinner was the first time I’d heard the term “crowdfund” an acronym which stands for Capital Raising Online While Deterring Fraud (and) Unethical Non Disclosure. According to the Oxford Dictionary, crowdfunding is “the practice of funding a project or venture by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via the Internet.”

There are several types of crowdfunding: 1) donation-based campaigns such as those for schools and museums, 2) rewards-based campaigns where goods are received for contributions, 3) debt campaigns which raise money via loans repaid with interest, and 4) equity/share investments in companies, by far the fastest growing segment, and the focus of this article.

The Dubai Crowd:

The equity crowdfunding phenomenon is newer but growing in Dubai. At a seminar hosted by law firm Taylor Wessing at the end of October, Loulou Khazen Baz, founder of online employment marketplace explained how she was the first to raise $100,000 in 12 days on crowdfunding platform Launched in May, 2013, Eureeca connects Middle Eastern entrepreneurs with a crowd of investors who can invest as little as $100 USD in SMEs.

Top Tips From the Experts:

Seedrs’ Jeff Lynn and Nabbesh’s Loulou Baz have the following advice for entrepreneurs looking to raise equity capital via the internet...

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Monday, December 09, 2013

Grumpy Gets Jazzed Up In Guimarães, Portugal

Christine Morgan
It’s actually quite difficult, even for me, to be grumpy in November but I try. The trees explode in tones of russet and amber, the air is crisp and the rain stops, albeit temporarily. St Martin’s day, on November 11th is famous for its Indian summer. Actually the sun does show its face but it still feels freezing, so it’s my advice to admire the sun through a window whilst huddled round an open fire eating chestnuts. Eating Chestnuts is, in fact, what you do on St Martin’s day, along with copious amounts of food and beverage in the company of friends or family. Then you reach for the Andrews liver salts (if you are lucky enough to have any) to curb the subsequent indigestion.

The best thing about November in Guimarães though, by far, is the annual Jazz festival. It runs for 2 weeks and has been held here for over 20 years attracting some of the big names from the jazz world to this tiny corner of Europe.

This year I managed to see Ron Carter. I scurried there after work on the first Friday (the soft melodic sound had me dozing off at one point, proving I am not as young as I used to be and really should have been in bed). Of course it was well worth staying up for, but sadly I had to turn down invites from my girlfriends to go on to the après jazz session following. Some of us have to get up early on Saturdays...

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Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Author of 'Oh God, My Wife Is German', Hannover

Who are you?

I am an American expat from Portland, Oregon, now living in Hannover, Germany. I am a freelance graphic designer and copywriter, and an avid blogger of all things humorous (though I most often take aim at subjects like Germany, expat life, culture shock and my beautiful -- and unintentionally hilarious -- German wife.)

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I moved to Germany in September of 2012 in order to be with my wife. If she'd been from England, I would have moved to England. Had she come from Italy, I would have moved to Italy. Had she been from Siberia, I would have said, "Sorry honey, but I'm sure there's a very nice guy for you in Siberia. Probably the quiet type, because he's frozen to death."

What challenges did you face during the move?

My wife and I lived together in Portland before we moved to Germany, and in that last year, we were both working full-time jobs, planning our destination wedding, arranging for my wife's future career in Hannover, and worrying about how I was going to continue my own career in Germany without speaking the language. It was probably the most stressful year of our lives thus far, and we dealt with it by eating cake, pizza and drinking copious amounts of beer. (My wife looked amazing in our wedding pictures. I looked like a bloated veal calf.)

How did you find somewhere to live?

Our location was determined by my wife's job; she's a Gymnasium teacher (and a fantastic one at that), and she landed a job at a school in Hannover. Finding an apartment in any German city can be stressful, and we were prepared to hire a broker if necessary. Luckily, we knew a friend of a friend in Hannover, so we were able to figure out the kind of neighborhood we wanted and what we could afford. But finding an apartment is rarely a pleasant experience, and no matter the country, moving sucks...

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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Interview with Stefan Gassner, SAGE Immobilien, Austria

Stefan Gassner
Please tell us a bit about yourself and your company

Our company is one of the leading real estate agencies in the federal state of Salzburg and Tyrol in Austria, offering more than 450 properties. The area covered includes all major skiing destinations in Salzburg and Tyrol. 17 full time employees provide a full-service real estate agent service at three offices. Our service includes an in-house legal department that is handling communication between seller and buyer and the notary handling the purchase transaction. Our company takes care of everything involved in the purchase, including handover service and after-sales services like help with public utility companies or small renovation works. The company was founded in May 2006, starting with one office in Zell am See. In 2011 we opened our first branch office in St. Johann im Pongau. Our second branch office was opened in 2013. Since our founding in 2006 our company has grown to 17 full time employees. Our company is a family run business. Our CEO is Mag. (FH) Stefan Gassner, he studied Management and Law in Innsbruck and Budapest and has been in the Real Estate Industry since 2002.

What has the property market been like this year?

The market has been quite stable, although the number of sales has slightly decreased. Prices are stable or slightly increasing.

What do you expect to happen to the market in 2014? Are there any "hotspots" to look out for?

For 2014 I expect the market to be similiar to 2013. We do see some recovery in the UK market, indicated by more requests for holiday homes out of this market.

The outlook for the year 2014 shows that for residential properties the demand is still high. Although due to the high price growth over the last 5 years the demand curve has slowed down a little. The Austrian property market in 2013 has been stable with a little growth in prices, depending on the exact location. Demand in the large cities and the well-known tourist resorts has been high...

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Friday, November 29, 2013

Sticking To Our Roots – Or Doing Our Children A Disservice?

Toni Summers HargisI was in an online ‘expat’ conversation the other day when someone suggested we do our children a disservice when we don’t assimilate to our host country. I agree with her, and go one further to ask if perhaps, even when we try to instill a “bit of the old country”, it might not help? It’s a fine line.

Expat Brit, author, blogger and artist, Emma Kaufmann has lived in the States for thirteen years; she is English and her husband is Irish. She says – “I think a lot of whether you assimilate or not depends on what state of mind you are in when you come to this country. A lot of spouses are brought here with their husbands (I have seen it the other way around but it is mostly thus) and they are homesick, so cling like a drowning (wo)man to the old country.

Typically if you are here for a short while, like a few years maybe, many expats in the US think that this is just a stopgap and that they will go home soon. This makes it impossible to assimilate and it’s therefore really not a very positive experience for anyone.”

Emma makes a great point. While many expats experience difficulties in new locations, they probably don’t realize how much this can affect their children’s experience. A common reaction to culture shock or homesickness is to blame everything on the host country or to insist that things would be better if only you were in - insert name of “home” here. If your children weren’t even born in your “home” country, this can be particularly confusing or upsetting for them. They may feel disloyal by not hating the host country quite as much as you do, or by not having the same feelings about “home”...

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Time For Snow Tires?

Aisha Isabel Ashraf
I must have been looking the other way because it’s suddenly winter and very cold. The manageable minus three degrees, crisp sunshine and bracing air that chased us into the supermarket at the weekend were gone when we came out – replaced by snow tumbling from the vast black maw above and a wind-chill of minus fifteen, so that I almost thought we’d used the wrong exit and stepped out into Siberia.

“Yay, it’s the sticky kind!” yelled my eldest, ecstatic at the prospect of snowballs and frozen frolics. Somehow we manhandled both shopping and three wired children into the Jeep – and then the fun began.

It was indeed the sticky kind. It stuck to the roads and became a slick mirror reflecting with crystalline cruelty the impotent wheelspins of drivers wrestling Momentum for control.

Each intersection on the journey home became a heart-hammering, suspense-filled “Are we going to stop in time?” game – but with flesh and bone housed in great chunks of metal muscle instead of pixels on a screen.

Our short, intense trip took us past fire engines and crumpled bonnets, across the path of traffic when the icy brakes couldn’t do any more than slow us too slowly, and finally, thankfully, home – in one piece.

Coming to Canada has been a learning curve that continues even after forty plus months. Take snow tires, for instance. Many people fit them once temperatures drop to single digits (seven degrees Celsius is the magic number) and insurance companies reflect this good sense in a reduced premium. When we first bought our car we figured, with the efficiency of the plows and gritters here, they were an unnecessary expense only really needed if you lived in a more rural area...

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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Expat Experience: Jacqueline Bain, Orosi Valley, Costa Rica

Jacqueline Bain
Who are you?

I am a woman in my mid-twenties from Minnesota, United States. I went to undergraduate in Arizona and gained a BA in Social Psychology. I then went on to earn my MA in Social Entrepreneurship from a university in California. I enjoy writing and reading, especially novels about utopian/dystopian and conflicting ideals. I enjoy living near the ocean, as I grew up in the Midwest and could only visit the ocean on vacations. I also love trees, as I believe they possess a knowledge and patience beyond what humans have been able to appreciate and comprehend. I enjoy traveling and feeling the energy of the morning in a new place.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I decided to move abroad when I was studying Social Entrepreneurship for my MA degree in California. The focus of Social Entrepreneurship is to create sustainable business models that work towards a triple bottom line- effectively helping people solve world problems. I wanted to see some of the “third-world” dynamics firsthand, so I decided to move to Costa Rica. The country has had great growth recently, and the residents have benefited greatly. I wanted to take in firsthand the experience of living in a country that was considered “third-world”, but was now growing into a new market as they gained resources.

What challenges did you face during the move?

Deciding to move to Costa Rica was a challenge, as I had never before lived outside of the United States. As a young woman traveling alone, I was enraptured but nervous about the move. I sold a large amount of my belongings, and settled for storing the rest with family in the US. The main challenge I experienced during the move was just maintaining the feeling of courageousness every day. It was important to recognize the situation for what I would (hopefully) gain, rather than the fears that struck me every once in a while. Once the decision was made, I just kept pushing myself to make the next move...

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Interview with Ashley Tiernan, Pattaya & Jomtien Real Estate, Thailand

Ashley Tiernan
My name is Ashley Tiernan, I am a partner in Direct 2 Developers and Pattaya & Jomtien Real Estate in Pattaya Thailand.

I was born in England and have lived in Pattaya Thailand since about 2000 with my wife and 3 kids. Most of my time has been in the property sector for major developers and my own agency.

I teamed up with my partner Alan Beilby in 2012 and set up this company. Alan has many years’ experience managing real estate companies in Australia, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, he holds an Australian real estate license and is accredited with ASIC (Australian Securities and Investment Commission) as a financial / investment advisor.

Pattaya & Jomtien Real Estate Co. Ltd. sells previously owned condominiums and houses / villas at realistic prices and offers rental condos, houses and villas throughout the Pattaya and Jomtien region.

If you are planning to buy an off plan or a completed property in Pattaya (condo, house, villa or even just land) you will find that the real estate market in Pattaya, Chonburi has something for everyone...

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No More Thanksgivings

Michelle Garrett
The first year I lived in the UK I was here with other American students. We lined up at the phones with our phone cards calling home and cooked a sort of Thanksgiving dinner with what we could find in the shops, which meant no pumpkin pie. We all felt a bit lost, unsure, but also a bit rebellious that we weren’t with our families for such a family focused holiday.

My second year in the UK I bought a massive turkey and invited loads of British friends around and cooked the whole meal myself and collapsed in a tearful wreck at the end of the day. It wasn’t Thanksgiving, just a massive meal with guests watching me expectedly throughout as if Something Important might be revealed. I felt very homesick.

How do you share a holiday with people who don’t celebrate it? Sure, there are traditional foods you can serve (and all the ingredients are now readily available), sure there are a few regular routines each family follows, but what would those matter without the shared cultural backdrop to the day? The national holiday, the pause in autumn routine, the shops and television shows all swirling in a fest of reds, oranges, yellows and browns, the schools putting on pilgrim plays where little Native Americans hand ears of corn to little Pilgrim Fathers on stage (no, they don’t cover the bloody side of the shared experience of Europeans settling in the New World), and the countless turkey themed crafts for children, like the old favourite: tracing a line around your hand, colouring it in in turkey colours, taping it to the fridge door.

After the Year of the Massive Feast I didn’t do anything for Thanksgiving for many years apart from call home and listen to everyone else having a good time. Attempting to celebrate it in the UK amongst the British just emphasised how far from home I was...

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Expat Experience: Carse Ramos, Budapest, Hungary

Carse RamosWho are you?

My name is Carse Ramos, and I’m a PhD student in Anthropology and Sociology of Development, focusing on transitional justice and genocide prevention initiatives in the African Great Lakes region. Originally from the United States, I now split my time between Budapest and Geneva. I study in Switzerland, and work in Hungary as a mentor, professor, and legal research fellow with the Academy of Sciences in Budapest. In my other life, I am a human rights advocate and almost lawyer, as well as an avid traveler-adventurer, voracious reader, caffeine junkie, almost lawyer, sometimes writer and musician. I’m also involved in a very complicated long-term and long-distance relationship with New York City, where I spent over a third of my life.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I first came to Hungary in 2010, during my second year of law school. I did an internship with the European Roma Rights Centre in Budapest and stayed as an exchange student in Human Rights Law for one semester. I fell in love with the city and made many friends here, so I came back last year to do my Masters degree. In prior years, I had traveled fairly extensively and even lived in Uganda for a few months in the late spring/summer of 2008. However, my initial stint in Budapest was my first time living abroad for an extended period of time.

What challenges did you face during the move?

The language! Hungarian is difficult – no way around it. During my first stay in Budapest, English-speakers could be found, but they were not so prevalent. Most of the people that I worked with were from various parts of the Balkans, so I actually learned more Bulgarian and Serbian in my initial months here. Still, I managed to get around (as you do), and in the end I had picked up enough Hungarian to cover most basic necessities.

When I moved back, I was in a world of English-speakers. My university curriculum was entirely in English, and I lived in the dorm with other students. The biggest challenges this time around have involved trying to break out of that pre-packaged small world and reintegrate myself into the city somewhat...

Where Are You in the Expatriate Journey? A Roadmap of Expat Acculturation

Michelle Sullivan
You made it happen. You are now living abroad. You have deftly completed the tasks on a long checklist from having a garage sale back home to figuring out how to open an electricity account in your new home country. You maintained a brave face so far, as the journey that has been paved with twists, turns and the occasional bump in the road. Some you anticipated; others, not so much. Or… maybe you dream of living abroad some day, or just arrived to your new country, or perhaps a few years into your new reality. No matter where you are in the expatriate journey, an understanding of the stages of the expatriate integration process will help to serve as guide throughout your experience.

Pre-departure: I am really doing this?
As you prepare for departure date, you are mixed with feelings of excitement, sadness, and a fair bit of exhaustion as you try to tie up the innumerable loose ends. Bittersweet conversations with friends who are so excited for you, the awkward feeling of goodbyes and your internal realization- this chapter of life is coming to and end. You are surprised by the strength of the occasional wave of emotions you feel, but you put your game face on, board the plane and jump into a new reality.

Honeymoon: Vacations never felt like this
Your expatriate journey begins with the honeymoon stage where you constantly stimulated by a barrage of new experiences: sights, sounds and smells that feed your insatiable curiosity. Your excitement is palpable as you explore your new environs and carry out everyday tasks. You are left with the same thought over and over, “Wow, this is where I live!” You are truly impressed with yourself and how you have handled this momentous shift; however, the initial elation ebbs after the first month or so as uncertainty shows itself from under your adrenaline-filled armor...

A Month In The Life Of An English Writer In Tuscany - October

June Finnigan
The continuing adventures of June Finnigan, her Man, and Farty Barty the cat.

The highlights of October, here in our little bit of Chianti, included the grape harvest and a visit from my lovely mother-in-law to celebrate her eighty-eighth birthday!

Gi-Gi, my mother-in-law, was welcomed back by the village locals, which made her feel very important. Over birthday lunch at Ristorante ‘C’era Una Volta’ in Lucardo, she enjoyed her favourite ‘lambs chops’ and later burst into song over her digestivo di limoncello. She has a lovely operatic voice, which though now a little shaky, had the whole restaurant clapping and singing with her. Later there were four generations of Finnigans at our villa for afternoon tea.

Our favourite bar in our local village of Fiano is Laura’s bar/Alimentari where we go for coffee, bread and a few groceries. Laura and her family have been a little unlucky of late, what with her daughter Benedetta’s broken foot and Laura’s scolded hand, they seem a little accident-prone. We are very fond of them and the rest of the villagers, who consider us true Tuscans now, or ToscanoDoc. One of the regulars, whom we have nicknamed Sig Rotund, always keeps the local newspaper back for my man to read. They have a certain ‘man’ thing and like to chat about sport. When a few more local men join in and the subject turns to calcio, (football) the conversation can get very heated! Driving back from Fiano one morning, we were all horrified to see a river of wine flowing down the track towards us from Villa Bacio. On closer inspection, we could see grape skins in the wine and realised that it was an overflow of waste, but by golly, it smelt good...

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

How To Celebrate Thanksgiving In Germany

Courtney Martin
For American expats, Thanksgiving can be a difficult holiday. But just because nobody else stuffing their face with exorbitant amounts of food on the fourth Thursday of November, it doesn’t mean that you can’t.

In Germany, there is actually a Thanksgiving-esque holiday known as Erntedankfest. This is a kind of harvest celebration that takes place in the beginning of October. It is really just for farmers and people in the countryside to say thanks for the year’s harvest, however. Nothing comparable to what we do each year in the U.S.

So if you are living in Germany, and aren’t lucky enough to have connections to the American military here, then here are my tips on how to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Stick with Your Traditions
Thanksgiving was my first holiday away from home two years ago. I actually started crying in the grocery store on Thanksgiving as I walked around realizing that I wouldn’t be having a proper Thanksgiving meal. This was my first time really experiencing homesickness, and now I know that while integrating into your country’s new culture is important, you also should not abandon your traditions from home. So although perfectly recreating your Thanksgiving dinners in the U.S. is nearly impossible, you should at least continue the traditions that are important to you...

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Expat Experience: Lee Samaha, Budapest, Hungary

Lee Samaha
Who are you?

I'm Lee Samaha, a retired investment manager who now runs his own business. I also write investment articles and am working on a book. I've lived in various countries around the world and always enjoyed it, so moving abroad was natural for me. I enjoy travelling a lot and have always found that new experiences develop you as a person.. A few years ago, I decided to set up my operations so I could work remotely, and when I was in a position to do so, I set my mind on living abroad.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I first moved to Budapest in 2012, having fallen in love with the city on a short trip the previous year.

Budapest is a perfect mix of old-world central European sophistication combined with a vibrant youthful night life. I was looking for a well situated base with which to explore other countries in the region, and Hungary has seven vastly different countries surrounding it. Budapest is an easy city to work and play, and I've been able to mix work and travel in equal measure. Meanwhile, I've been learning about a new culture and enjoying a beautiful city.

What challenges did you face during the move?

The language can be a problem, but I find that most young people can speak English or German. Another issue is that the Hungarian Forint isn't a widely traded currency, and you may find your bank is giving you horrific rates when you use an ATM to withdraw Forints. One solution is to use the ATM near the Deak to pull out Euros, and then use one of the many currency bureaus downtown (they give good rates) to buy Forints. Another challenge is that the economy isn't doing well, and you can see signs of people suffering. I hope us expats are positively contributing in a small way, because I wish this country well...

Expat Experience: Shawn Muller, Formiga (Minas Gerais), Brazil

Shawn Muller
Who are you?

My name is Shawn Muller and I am 37 years old, I am originally from Port St. Lucie, Florida. I went on a working holiday to the United Kingdom in 2001, where I met my Brazilian partner. And ever since then I lived between these three countries. I relocated for the third time to Brazil in January 2012. I am currently living in the state Minas Gerais, I spent roughly three days of a week in a small town Formiga (The Sweet Ant Town) and the rest of the week I spend my time at a small holding next to the banks of Furnas Lake about 30 km from town. I work as a freelance art worker and teach English on those days in town.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I moved abroad to broaden my experience and meet new people and cultures from the world. I believe that I am a tourist at heart. Since I left my country in 2001, my journey started in Northern Ireland when I took a connection flight to London. In London I meet my partner and soon I had so many great friends from all over the world and particular from Brazil. I soon started travel and ended up doing various professions in various locations in the UK. I have lived in more than 20 places in the UK and various countries I visited in Europe. Then in between, I then came to Brazil 2004-2005 and then back to South Africa 2006-2009 and then back to the UK 2009-2012 and now we are in Brazil. But I have been to Uruguay and Paraguay in Southern America. I am also a business person and developed various building projects in Brazil. I love Brazil, and love the people from the south to the north, where I have been to Manaus - Amazon, recently. My main reason is the feeling of growth - personally and financially.

What challenges did you face during the move?

The main challenges I face are the airports, the customs and actual traveling itself. As I only look forward to the arrival part. Everything in between is a hassle. From being nervous all the time, to make sure you have all the baggage and always be in the rush mode. And to be honest the discomfort of flying, I prefer the space on the bus tours, much more relax. But the other challenges are the day to day challenges. The different times and culinary habits. But also to communicate to everyone in a new language. But also the weather patterns, as it is completely different from each country lived in and visited. You have to be prepared to fit into the society and be part of community...

Interview with Ian Zammit, Sotheby's Realty, Malta

Ian Zammit
Please tell us a bit about yourself and your company

Malta Sotheby's International Realty is the local arm of Sotheby's International Realty brand. The Sotheby’s International Realty® brand’s history goes back to 1744, when Sotheby's Auction House was established; in 1976 Sotheby’s expanded into real estate to service the property needs of the most prestigious clientele in the world.

Working from our headquarters situated in the Tower Business Centre in Swatar, and our luxurious walk-in office at 200, Tower Road, Sliema, Malta Sotheby’s International Realty offers an unrivalled service to both buyers and sellers of premium property on the island. We boast a network of over 650 global Sotheby’s real estate offices, with whom we work closely to refer clientele to our portfolio, listing each home on our luxury property portal Our associates are leaders in their field with high-net-worth contacts - both in Malta and overseas.

Malta Sotheby’s International Realty covers the islands of Malta and Gozo, managing residential, commercial, sale and rental properties.

What has the property market been like this year?

2013 has been a strong year for property in Malta due to a number of factors; the island’s government has launched various incentives for businesses and high net worth individuals to relocate and enjoy tax and fiscal benefits – these include the Global Residence Program and the Individual Investor Program. Malta’s economy has also helped keep the property market buoyant; whereas our European neighbours Spain and Greece have struggled in the recession, the Maltese economy has remained strong and key industries such as finance and iGaming are thriving. Finally, Malta is home to a number of exclusive luxury developments – Smart City, Tigne Point and Madliena being just a few – which are enticing buyers in the upper end of the market...

The Expat View: Why Traveling Will Never Be The Same

Nicole Webb
“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

As an expat, my arrival in any country (these days) brings with it, the steely eyes of a super sleuth. The minute I step off the plane, I'm giving my holiday destination the once over! Judging, comparing, making rapid assumptions from the cleanliness of airport toilets, I'm sizing up the place for its 'liveability.'
You see, living the expat life, almost every city has the potential to be your future home, which makes any foreign locality fair game. Who knows when or even IF, but as an hotelier's wife, there's ALWAYS a chance this unfamiliar neighbourhood will arrive on your radar at some point in time.

We jumped on a plane and went for a mini-break to Thailand last weekend, a short two hour 40 minute flight from Hong Kong. It wasn't my first time in the Land of Smiles, but I was a virgin in the big city of Bangkok. I was excited to see what the so-called City of Angels had to offer. Stepping out from the airport, raising my sunglasses, I peered out at this populous city of 8-million that stretched before me.

I'd barely scratched the surface of this vibrant metropolis but I was already shaking my head. “It's not Hong Kong,” I said under my breath. “Give it a chance” my inner voice retorted, sternly.
When you're looking through expat lenses, it's hard to keep that raw, open mindedness a first-time traveler might feel in a new, unexplored and exotic environment. The butterflies give way to an anxious knot in the pit of your stomach...

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Nicola Clarke, Bratislava, Slovakia

Nicola Clarke
Who are you?

I am Nicola, a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) teacher, based in Exeter Devon, in the south west of England. I have moved around a bit before settling here in Devon, having originally come from New Zealand, and lived in Bratislava (in Slovakia) and London on the way. It’s the fact that I lived in Bratislava that I am writing this today!

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

In 2007, after finishing my Masters degree in Philosophy, I was at a bit of a lose end and really didn’t know what my next step was going to be.

There were not that many job opportunities for someone with my qualifications in New Zealand, and I had been thinking about doing a PhD somewhere in Europe, but I didn’t know where or what exactly my focus would be and I really felt that I needed to ‘escape’ New Zealand and look for somewhere new where I could have the space to think. The year before this I had been on holiday in Poland, where I had seen a lot of advertising calling for EFL teachers, as such I thought that this could be a chance to give myself some time to think about what to do, while earning a little money. I did my teacher training in Prague, and while I enjoyed myself in that city, I found it a little too busy for my then state of mind. A job was advertised for a Tefl teacher in Bratislava, which I applied for and got. At that stage I had never been to Slovakia before and didn’t really know much about the city I was moving to; but that didn’t matter at the time!

What challenges did you face during the move?

There weren’t really any great challenges to face during my move, as the school I was working for, IH Bratislava, helped me a great deal. All my accommodation, insurance, taxes etc was organized by the school, so all that was left for me to do was to buy my train ticket from Prague to Bratislava.

As such, I think that the biggest challenge for me was lifting my heavy suitcases on and off the train and not missing my end station. And for both of these I received many offers of help...

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Car Trouble In Singapore

Justin Harper
Having been an expat now for three-and-a-half years, I keep asking myself when I will stop converting things back into British pounds. The realistic answer is probably never. The exchange rate for sterling in some countries makes it very easy to make a quick conversion – for example in Singapore, one pound equals two dollars. So all you need to do is divide the price in half to get your pound equivalent. If you are a tourist I can see the benefit of doing this. But when you are an expat, who earns their salary in Singapore dollars, there will never actually be any “’conversion’’ taking place. But that doesn’t stop me doing it in my head anyway. It would be better if I lived in Hong Kong as it takes much more mental arithmetic to divide prices by 12.

A classic example of this currency conversion obsession happens when I look at the price of cars in Singapore, which are among the most expensive in the world, a deliberate tactic by the government to restrict the number of vehicles on the road. Basically you buy the car, then you have to buy a piece of paper (known as a Certificate of Entitlement) to allow you to drive it on the road. This certificate can cost as much as the car itself.

Begrudgingly, when forced by my wife to buy a car two years ago I bought the cheapest one I could find which was a Hyundai Matrix, lovingly built in 2007. But even this humble mode of transport cost me an incredible S$24,000 (£12,000 via a simple conversion in my head). A quick look on the UK website Exchange and Mart reveals a few similar Hyundai Matrix models in the £3,000 price range. So that’s four times cheaper than what I paid for one in Singapore. A depressing figure which makes me wish even more I wasn’t so obsessed with currency conversions...

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Networking Tips for New Expats in Singapore

by Alexandra Sheehan

The expat community in Singapore is a huge, dynamic group of individuals. You will have no problem whatsoever finding a group of non-locals to relate to and hang out with. However, because of its unique cultural makeup, Singapore has a very different social scene than what you may be used to, one of the reasons why it is such a great place to be an expat.

Making connections

The population in this country is largely composed of young professionals who zoom from place to place, enveloped in their smart phones and robotic in their demeanor. This can be intimidating for the new kid in town (or city), making it hard to break those initial barriers and actually befriending someone new. There are tons of resources which break these barriers for you, providing expats multiple outlets for socialization. groups are very active and offer great ways to meet people and do interesting things. It is different from the intimidating idea of online dating, as it isn’t necessarily for people looking for love. These pressures are lifted from your shoulders, and all you have to do is RSVP, show up and have fun at an event. Groups are formed based on common interests or demographics, so it is easy to find someone you have something in common with. It’s also a great way to get new ideas on things to do, because, let’s face it, those tourist attractions lose their excitement after some time...

Interview with Simon Kerridge of Languedoc Property Finders

Simon KerridgePlease tell us a bit about yourself and your company

I have been in residential estate agency for over 20 years. I began in London in 1989 and moved to Pezenas in 2001. Languedoc Property Finders specialise in helping British buyers and sellers buy and sell property in the Languedoc region of France. We currently have offices in Pezenas and Narbonne and operate in and around those two areas. I believe that buying a property abroad should be fun. An adventure if you like, and we work hard to make the journey as enjoyable and stress free as it should be for both buyer and seller.

What has the property market been like this year?

This year has been an interesting one. Numbers of buyers are down but the buyers that are around are tending to be serious about buying. The difficulty is finding correctly priced properties for these serious buyers to buy. To put it simply, if you present a serious buyer with a correctly priced property then they will buy it. Too many sellers are basing their selling prices on "What they want for their property" or "What they need to sell for in order to buy what they want". This is an unrealistic approach. I may need to sell my Ford Focus for €100,000 in order to buy the Ferrari I want but we all know that is never going to happen. Estate agents are also failing to educate their sellers by way of feedback. It is all too common for sellers to only hear from their selling agents when they have a viewing to arrange. Sellers should expect a regular update from their agents in addition to feedback after every single viewing so that they can build up a true picture of what the market thinks of their house...

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Interview with Andrew Queen, Golf Property Store, Spain

Andrew and family
Please tell us a bit about yourself and your company

My name is Andrew Queen, and my company is the ‘Golf Property Store’ ( or I arrived here in Spain in 2003 after my family purchased a villa here (Villamartin). It really was for a 6 month trip away from it all. Soon after this I fell into the property industry working for a large property company that brought people in predominantly from the UK on 2/3 day Inspection trips. I enjoyed the job immensely and ditched all plans to return to the UK very quickly! After a few years the recession arrived and the days of subsidised trips were numbered. I met my partner soon after and my beautiful daughter Sofia arrived soon after that. Of course, the recession took its toll on the property business but I adjusted to the market and moved into the ‘Bank Repossession’ market, where prices were very attractive and mortgage conditions were preferable. This has seen us through the recession very well – people are always looking for a bargain regardless of the times we are in!

The one thing I did decide on very quickly was to concentrate our efforts on one area/product instead of spreading ourselves too thin. As such we concentrated on the Polarisworld Resorts in the region of Murcia – close to the Mar Menor. I knew the resorts very well after buying on one of the resorts myself a few years ago, and my daughter attends Kings College – a private British School attached to the Polarisworld resort of La Torre. With prices around 1/3 of the original costs it was a very good decision and we are currently in the process of expanding.

What has the property market been like this year?

In my honest opinion the market has definitely changed. Sales are at their highest for years and there is a definite mood of change in the air. Prices are creeping up on some of the resorts although there are still some fantastic bargains about...

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Why Don’t You Just Go Home?

Toni HargisNo one likes a whiny expat. There are books upon books written for expats relocating to yet another new country, and one of the most common themes is “Don’t criticize”. Australians even coined the term “Whinging Poms”* for the legions of Brits who’d go out there and then complain about everything from the heat to the spiders. Reminds me of an old joke - A Brit had almost saved his fare back to the UK but needed another quid to buy a ticket. He asked an Aussie "Can you give me a quid to get back to the UK?" The Aussie said, "Sure, here's a fiver- take four other whinging Poms back with you."

*Whinging is a word of British origin meaning whining or complaining. The “g” is soft, like a “j”. A Pom is a semi-derogatory name for Brits; the etymology is somewhat vague but this is a great explanation.

It’s not surprising that natives get a bit irritated when they hear non locals putting down their customs, food, language, education system, and so on. How would you like it if someone moved in next door to you and then basically denigrated everything you did, said or ate? I’m wondering though, at what point the criticism becomes acceptable? When it is appropriate for an expat to voice a criticism of his of her host country? How long do you have to have lived there, and under what circumstances?

Monday, October 21, 2013

It's The Mosquito Season In The Dominican Republic

Lindsay de FelizI have absolutely no idea why God invented mosquitoes. I cannot see they do anything useful at all apart from being a tasty snack for lizards and tarantulas. However, living in the tropics they are all over the place and you would think you would get used to mosquitoes and not let them bother you. You don’t. When I first arrived in the Dominican Republic around 12 years ago, when I was bitten, which was often, I would get a large lump and it would itch like crazy for days. However I think your body must build immunity as now when I get bitten I just get a little lump which goes after an hour or so. I still don’t like them though.

In the early days I would spray anti mosquito spray all over my body from head to toe, just like all of the tourists, but if you live with mosquitoes all year round, besides being very expensive, I can’t see that it does you any good to cover yourself with chemicals day after day.

So you try and have preventative measures such as screens on the windows and mosquito nets. Also good are mosquito coils which you burn. They are especially good outside in the evenings under the table to stop the little critters munching on your ankles...

Video interview: Casey Bahr, American expat blogger in Costa Rica

Casey's blog:
Casey's Expat Focus column:

See below for interview transcript:

Expat Focus: So Casey, you’re currently living in Costa Rica. Could you tell us a bit about the culture and what it’s like to live there?

Casey: Well, it’s like any other Latin American country, in that it’s fundamentally a Latin culture, and Catholic. And what that means is that there’s a little less emphasis on time and more emphasis on relationships. So when you interact with people, you’re expected to engage in some pleasantries and conversation before you really get to the point about what you want to talk about...

How the US Shutdown Affects Currency Exchange Rates for Expats

Simon Hilton
by Simon Hilton, senior foreign exchange consultant at World First and official Expat Focus foreign exchange partner

In the past few months, we’ve seen the strength of the US dollar take a bit of a tumble. At the start of July, USD was up at 0.671 against GBP, but in recent weeks, we’ve seen it fall below 0.61. And it’s not just the pound against which we’ve seen the US dollar struggle, having also lost ground to the Euro and Australian dollar (AUD), amongst others.

Add to that the political deadlock which brought about a US government shutdown, and it’s certainly been an unsettled picture. About 800,000 federal workers in America were told not to go to work while museums, national parks, services and government buildings remained shut in the wake of a lack of consensus over the US budget and the debt ceiling.

So what has this meant for the US dollar? Well, a temporary lack of credibility and a loss of confidence in USD has ensued, creating a feeling of uncertainty and wariness amongst potential investors, which, in some cases, has actually deterred them from investing...

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Education In France – Shoes vs. Hats

Kim Defforge
I recently read the following quote: “In France, once you have chosen a pair of shoes, you must wear them for life.” Well now, anyone who knows me is aware that I LOVE shoes, but the thought of only one pair is unimaginable. I suppose I should say “hat,” rather than shoes, since this is what the American version of this quote would be. Most of us have had a variety of jobs and have worn many hats, with some of us having made total career changes throughout our working life.

In the French school system, the stakes are high: it’s all about memorization and learning is rigid and organized around a centralized curriculum. Tracking in France happens not through classroom assignments, but rather on a school-wide level. Based on test scores, students begin to get funneled into technical or college preparatory schools by middle school.

In the French system, students are grouped together depending on their section (in high school, these sections are literature, economics and sociology, and science). Even though this system is rigid, it obliges the students to have a solid educational background for the future. The French education system is structured toward traditional teaching methods, with techniques that are designed to help students acquire the required standards and pass exams. There is a strong emphasis on math, reading, writing, science, and the French language, based on rote learning, rather than on creativity...

A Tale of Two Countries, One House, And No Documents

Susanna Perkins
Before we moved to Panama in the spring of 2012, we sold off pretty much everything we owned. Some went through ads on Craigslist or eBay, but most of our worldly goods went to others in the course of a single-day estate sale.

Trouble was, we still owned the house itself. The real estate market was so depressed at the time we didn’t dream of selling it, so we found a good rental agent who in turn found us an excellent tenant.

One year later, the real estate scene was looking better so we decided to put the house on the market.

The internet is a wonderful thing. Thanks to modern technology we were able to sign all the listing agreements through an online service. When the first offers came through, we could respond virtually to those as well.

The real adventure began with the closing...

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Moving To Hong Kong? 10 Things You Can’t Leave Home Without!

Nicole Webb
When you get the call to uproot your life and relocate to a new, foreign country, the shellshock of packing up your ‘life as you know it’ and heading into the unknown abyss, is more often than not followed by a fast and furious ‘Google’ of the new ‘home’ in question.

First things first:

Location: Check! (Yes it is right where you thought on the map; or Surprise! who knew it was so close to Timbuktu!?)

Population: Check! (Mighty important to know what you’re dealing with here - are you one of hundreds, thousands or millions?)

Language: Check! (Just how much brainpower is this assignment going to require?)

So, with the basics ticked off - you’re in business.

Next on the relocation agenda, the things that make your world turn - jobs, real estate, schools, medical facilities and supermarkets.

If you’re a couple making the move into the expat world, usually one of you gets the job of heading into uncharted waters first and it’s usually the one with the new job.

For us, it was my Hotelier husband, who arrived cold turkey in Asia’s World City. We’d both had a brief taste of the city that never sleeps in a past life but for all intents and purposes, those trips (for me) were about shopping, eating and sightseeing, not so much focused on the unknown fact that my future might involve living amongst the madness that is Asia’s Manhattan...

Finding a Broadband Provider in Italy

Twenty years ago, the idea that you couldn’t survive without the internet was a strange prospect. Nowadays, however, we’re connected all the time: chatting to friends on Facebook, emailing documents to clients and contacts, checking newswires and weather forecasts. Moving to a new country can be daunting when it comes to choosing a broadband provider who can actually deliver a fast service without too many hidden charges.

Unfortunately for those who don’t speak the language, the vast majority of ISPs’ websites are written in Italian. In terms of choices available, the range of services are much the same as they are in the UK or US: wireless, cable, DSL and dial-up are the four options to choose from. Of course, dial-up isn’t ideal and if you’re moving to a remote area you’ll need to check that broadband is available and that speeds aren’t prohibitively low. In general, however, you’ll find a similar speed of service to those you’re used to elsewhere; the infrastructure is well-developed and connection problems are relatively few. Now all you need to do is choose where your bills will be coming from, and when everything is new and confusing, that is easier said than done. We’ve put together an overview of some of the available services.

The first thing to check before you even move to the country is that your area has a phone network; some rural places still don’t. If there are phone sockets in the house you’re looking at, then you’re probably OK. The next step is to search for internet services nearby; most Italian websites will refer to broadband as ADSL, though some will use the term banda larga...

Expat Experience: Rachel Farndon, Dublin, Ireland

Rachel Farndon
Who are you?

I am Rachel Farndon. I’m in my twenties and I am a career expat.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

My first big move was as a 9 year old when my family moved from New Zealand to Brunei. I have since travelled all over the world. In 2012 I made my next long term move to Ireland. This was purely spontaneous. I applied for a working holiday visa, picked up and left within about 3 months. I am now living and working in Manila, The Philippines.

How did you find somewhere to live?

In Ireland I had a number of happy coincidences.

In my first two days I had landed a live in job in a hostel purely by talking to people and letting them know I was looking for work. In the Philippines I had one month in a hotel to sort out what I would do next. I spent a lot of time looking online as well as contacting rental agents directly.

Renting was itself, rather simple. My agent did all the liaising and I was able to reach a rent amount I was happy with. Setting up cable and internet was also smooth because my building has an administration office that takes care of contacting companies for you...

A Month In The Life Of An English Writer in Tuscany

June Finnigan
The continuing adventures of June Finnigan, her Man, and Farty Barty the cat.

I am really excited to be able to share my wonderful life in Tuscany with you and this is the perfect time of year to begin this column. If you have ever visited my little bit of Tuscany on the edge of Chianti, you will know that September is the start of the Vendemmia (grape harvest) and the countryside echoes with the sound of squeaky old tractors and the clanking of trailers carrying big juicy grapes, both purple and green, to be crushed at the local fattorie(farmhouses). Now, please do not worry, this column is not going to be dedicated to the food and wine of Tuscany, despite how delicious the cibo and vino is. No, I intend taking you much deeper in the lifestyle of the region and all will become clear as to why we have lived here for nine years.

Principally, we came here because my man wanted to learn Italian and he is a lovely old romantic. On a more practical level, the internet meant that we could live anywhere in Europe and still continue with our UK business. But enough of that. Let me tell you more about September...

Canadian Creepy Crawlies: ‘Does It Bite?’

Aisha Isabel Ashraf
One of the less vaunted aspects of adapting to life abroad is getting to know your neighbours. Not the human ones, with whom you can decide the degree of interaction you’re mutually comfortable with. I mean those household occupants we live cheek by jowl with who don’t share a surname or the rent (or any idea of personal space, come to think of it).

Before we emigrated I did a little internet digging on just how murderous Mother Nature habitually was in southern Ontario and was relieved to find Ontario's only poisonous snake is the Massasauga Rattler, which put us on a par with the adder in the UK. By moving, we’d just be swapping one for the other, the bonus being we’d hear this one coming!

As far as spiders were concerned, all we had to worry about was the Brown Recluse spider (or Fiddleback), which can inflict a bite capable of causing a rash, nausea, fever, scarring and even death. Bizarrely, while researching this article (and trying to make myself feel better by confirming my hunch of a similarly hazardous species of spider in Britain) I discovered there are more venomous spiders in the UK than I realized, so I figure if I survived over twenty years there without any issues the odds look good for us here...

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Building Your Own Tribe In Thailand

Anne O’Connell
Being an expat and moving to exotic locations around the globe can be exciting… yet, often terrifying and sometimes lonely. Advice on how to make friends in new places abounds on expat forums, and I’ve even pontificated myself on blogs and in my book on how to get settled in Dubai. The truth is, no matter where you’re moving to, the advice on settling in can be repurposed with simply swapping out the city and country name.

In the book Expat Women Confessions: 50 Answers to Your Real-Life Questions About Living Abroad they offer some sage advice on finding local groups and networks that you might like to join. “If you don’t find a group, network or association that interests you, do not be afraid to set one up yourself,” say the authors, Andrea Martin and Victoria Hepworth.

When I moved to Dubai, I did find a few groups of business and expat women that I had common interests with and got quickly involved but I also felt the need to create my own tribes where I could establish the parameters and invite the members myself. There are two areas I am very passionate about and no matter where I am, try to find like-minded people to connect with… writing and community service. In Dubai, I set up the volunteer chapter of Room to Read and then also set up a writers group (Flamingo Authors). Both brought great joy and satisfaction and the other writers who joined the author group have become fantastic critique partners. Our Facebook page has been a great way to keep up on each other’s progress. I recently had the immense pleasure of helping one group member get her first book published. The first time she had talked about her desire to write a book was at one of our meetings...

Expat Experience: Graham Dixon, Boston, USA

Graham DixonWho are you?

I’m a musician and writer from Britain with a background in 18th Century music, trumpet performance and creative writing. My folks instilled a love of traveling and before even starting university I had been all over Europe, visited Florida and crossed the date line to explore the Pacific. After finishing my Oxford degree and spending a year in London for my Master’s, I decided to volunteer with VSO and work in China. A two-year contract became five years in Asia, traveling and writing throughout, toward the end of which I met Jenny, my wife-to-be.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

Jenny and I set up home in England in 2006, had a fantastic wedding and petitioned the USCIS for a Green Card.

We both intended to start doctoral studies in the US and applied to many cities, hoping that one would have a place for us both; Boston came to the rescue. Every British kid growing up in the 1980s wanted to live in the US; all of our cultural icons were American: Schwarzenegger, Rambo, the Space Shuttle and downtown Manhattan proved an inexorable draw, although I didn’t consider emigrating until I had met Jenny. After that, the decision made itself; to be with her, I had to both come to the US and move towards making my stay here permanent...