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...