Friday, February 28, 2014

5 Good Reasons You Should Move To France (And 1 Reason You Shouldn't!)

France, with its rich culture, beautiful landscapes, fine wine and scrumptious cuisine, is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world. It probably doesn’t take much to make you want to pack your bags and head to the picturesque French countryside for a weeklong holiday. But moving to a foreign country is something quite different. It is a truly life-changing move, and one that should usually involve a great deal of thought. If you’re wondering whether moving to France is the right decision for you, here are 5 good reasons why it just might be:

A new cultural experience

Getting introduced to a new culture can always be an opportunity to evolve as a person.

French culture is vibrant and fascinating. Adapting to some of it may take a while, but it’s likely to be a welcome change. The French love to spend time with family and friends, and especially enjoy long, luxuriating meals. It’s a slower pace of life, and the best way to adapt is simply to embrace it. Learn to enjoy fewer work hours and more leisure time. Avoid rushing through your meals, even if you’re by yourself at a restaurant. Take the time to savor your food and drink, enjoy the natural and man-made beauty around you, and maybe learn to spend time people-watching.

Great for those who love to travel

Within France itself, there are myriad places to visit. Apart from the big cities, there are beaches, quaint little villages, and the sprawling mountainside. The added benefit of living here is that France shares borders with many other European countries such as Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, and Germany, which are all great travel destinations. If you have children with you, it’s a wonderful way to expose them to diverse cultures...

Read More

Expat Experience - Diane Wargnier, Loire Valley, France

Diane Wargnier
Who are you?

My name is Diane and I'm an American originally from New Jersey now living in France's Loire Valley with my husband, Tom, and Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Dagny.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I live not far from Angers, France, and moved here about two years ago.

What challenges did you face during the move?

I think the move was the easiest part.

The challenge was maintaining a long-distance relationship (me in NYC and him in France) so once we got married, I moved and it wasn't challenging at all. I bought a one-way ticket, packed two suit cases, and was off!

How did you find somewhere to live?

When I first arrived, I just moved into my husband's apartment so it was a seamless transition for me. It's the same town I'd visited many times on trips and is where my husband works. But five months ago, we bought our first house in the same town to have a space we call our own complete with a little backyard for the dog. We searched for several months and in France, the home buying process is a little different than it is the US. Here, you work with many agents since certain properties are only available with a certain agent. I have to say I'm lucky that my husband is French and could navigate the process with ease. Between the paperwork and cultural differences along the way, I would have been lost otherwise...

Read More

Phuket Is Still Peaceful

Anne O’ Anne O’Connell

I’ve never been a political animal… and, never will be, but I would be remiss as the Thailand columnist for this forum not to share my impressions of the protests and the election that never really was.

Most people who ask us about the situation are obviously concerned for our safety. They needn’t be. We have felt absolutely no repercussions in Phuket from the protests since they were reignited in November when the current prime minister attempted to pass an amnesty bill that would have allowed her brother, the ousted PM, to return to Thailand without facing the corruption charges he would have to otherwise.

Basically, the protesters want her to resign. They are proposing that a non-elected People’s Democratic Reform Committee take charge and totally re-vamp the existing system, which they claim is corrupt. An article on the ABC News website on Feb. 10 said that “She has refused to resign, arguing she was elected by a large majority and is open to reform, but that such a council would be unconstitutional and undemocratic...”

Read More

Tales From A Spanish Village: Two Old Fools And Expat TV

Victoria Twead
by Victoria Twead

One could almost hear the howls of anguish from expats across Europe this month, and Joe's was probably the loudest. We'd been warned, although I don’t think anybody really believed it was going to happen. But it did. One day all the BBC channels simply vanished from our screens.

"No BBC1 or BBC2?" asked Joe, desperately punching the buttons on the remote control, scrolling through the channels.

"No BBC3? Or 4?”

NO SATELLITE SIGNAL IS BEING RECEIVED advised the message on the otherwise blank screen.

"No news? No Match of the Day? No golf? No rugby?”

"All gone," I sighed. "I understand they've replaced the old Astra satellite, which means UK residents will get a better picture, but the footprint is smaller. Viewers in Spain and the rest of Europe won't get anything.”

"No darts, no tennis? No World Cup?" Joe slumped back on the cushions in despair...

Read More

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Expat Experience - Elle Draper, Almeria, Spain

Elle DraperWho are you?

My name is Elle Draper, and I live in a little converted farmhouse on the side of a valley in Almeria, in Andalucia - Southern Spain. I live here with my partner, Alan, and our three very enthusiastic rescue dogs These are Guido (Chief of Security / G Unit), a Beagador. Pepper (Big Face / Big Black Bear), a Labrador, and Billy (Billster / Ginger / Benjamin Button), a boxer.

Originally I hail from Southsea, Hampshire although I was actually born in York. Together with Alan, I provide web design, online marketing and search engine optimisation services (getting sites to number one in Google for example).

We have clients all over, including the UK, Spain, Canaries, France, Germany, the US, and even Australia. However we also have a number of our own websites... mainly with a Spain focus. Our most recent is which publishes daily articles about anything Spanish... food... photographs... tips... local events... and much more.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

We originally moved in the summer of 2006. Alan and I had met in Portsmouth, through work – and both expressed a desire for warmer climes. We considered Italy and the Canary Islands, eventually deciding on the Canaries. We lived in Lanzarote in the Canary Islands for 6 years before moving to Andalucia in September 2012. The resort we lived in on Lanzarote (Playa Blanca) is a beautiful resort, and has oodles of restaurants and nice bars... as well as a stunning Marina. However, we had been hankering for a more rural existence for some time – and our current home in Almeria ticks all those boxes.

What challenges did you face during the move?

I have to say that we were really lucky as we didn’t experience many problems with the move. All our friends and family were extremely supportive... with a number of them being surprised it has taken us so long. The only issue, I suppose, was when our household belongings got stuck in Customs for 10 weeks because we used a terrible shipping company...

Read More

Global Mom: Eight Countries, Sixteen Addresses, Five Languages, One Family

Expat Focus talks to Melissa Dalton-Bradford about her Memoir - Global Mom: Eight Countries, Sixteen Addresses, Five Languages, One Family—a Memoir about her fantastic journey of motherhood that will inspire any family.

Melissa, please tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m an American by birth and by passport, but like many of your readers, I’m a good solid Citizen of the World. I was raised primarily in the great American west by parents who had studied and worked in Germany, spoke fluent German, and subsequently kept their secrets from us in German. We cracked that code, there were no more secrets, and my passion for languages (and discovering the world) was ignited.

With my parents and siblings I spent portions of my upbringing in Austria (Salzburg and Vienna), then worked and studied in Austria during my university years and as a young married graduate student. (My husband, who’s American, who’d lived in and loved Germany, and spoke the kind of German that made my jaws and heart melt. I was wooed by his umlauts.) Together, we launched an international career and family trajectory––me writing and mothering, him businessing and fathering–– that has spanned over 20 years and has taken us to Hong Kong, Oslo, Versailles, Paris, Munich, Singapore and finally to Geneva, where we currently live with the youngest two of our four children in a village close to the banks of Lac Léman.

You recently published your memoir - Global Mom: Eight Countries, Sixteen Addresses, Five Languages, One Family. What is the book about?

Global Mom: A Memoir is, as New York Times best-selling author Kate Braestrup wrote in her endorsement, a book about love. Yes, it’s also true to its subtitle, and draws readers across the global panorama our family has lived in. But it’s far more than travelogue. Far more than cultural commentary. And it’s more than vignettes that leave readers laughing, gasping, swooning, fuming or crying, although I hope it’s that, too. What it is, is a frank depiction of what this kind of peripatetic life deals you––the stress, the loneliness, the fractured then reconstructed identity, the many losses––and how all those factors are counterbalanced with the innumerable gains. At the heart of the book (and here comes the spoiler) is the tragic loss our family has known in burying our oldest child when he was 18. That loss, which hit in the middle of a major international move, re-contextualized every other event––every other element––in life, and sent our family to the strangest, hardest place we’ve ever lived in: the land of loss. Here, the book takes a dive into a new landscape, which heaviness is deliberate on my part, since that’s the reality of traumatic loss. What is redemptive in the book, and readers have commented that it is the strength of the narrative, is that in spite of so many losses and the ultimate loss of death, there is hope in the possibility of living onward. That possibility hinges on love...

Read More

I Come From A Land Down Under…

Nicole Webb
by Nicole Webb


If you're a regular reader of my ramblings, you probably know I've spent a fair bit of my writing time, wearing expat shoes and being quite vocal about the thrills and spills of culture shock - you know - stuff like: what happens when you find yourself catapulted into the arms of another country, anxiously wondering if this is simply a fling or a lasting love affair?

Well, in answer to that - Hong Kong has me in its clutches, but Australia you'll always have my heart. (Awwww.)

But on a recent trip back Down Under, it was kind of like running into an ex-boyfriend and finding something that had been so familiar, for so long, was suddenly quite alien.

I think it's what they like to call "Reverse Culture Shock."

Strewth mate! So where the bloody hell are you?

Stepping into the airport, for a brief moment, I contemplated, Mars? For starters, there's a new thing they call the ePassport. Have you heard of it? I suppose I have, but watching everyone flock to the 'SmartGate' for self-processing had me in a flap. Yes, Yes, I know they have a similar thing in Hong Kong, but this is Australia! My Australia! "Whaddya mean things have changed!?" I've obviously been living under a rock because when you're flying domestically these days, crikey…the people seem to have all but disappeared? "Bag drop-off" has reached a whole new level, it's now called Check-in Kiosk! Not a soul in sight!

Again, "where the bloody hell are you?"

Read More

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Where The Wild 'Things' Really Are 'Wild', In South Africa!

Marla Sink Druzgalby Marla Sink Druzgal

When lions woke me in the middle of the night, I thought someone in a nearby room was snoring…loudly. It was our first night in South Africa, and we were staying in a guest house outside the capital city of Pretoria. Snoring seemed a perfectly logical conclusion for what I was hearing. We weren’t living in a national park, and we had done our research before moving: there are no longer free-roaming lions in South Africa.

But the “snoring” continued each night at regular intervals: midnight; three a.m.; six a.m. By the time the manager asked if we had heard the lions, I had already figured it out: the gated community in which we were staying is adjacent to a game reserve, which have a pride of lion.

We now have a house in that same community, and depending on the time of year, we hear them roar a few times each night.

When I would write family and friends about our nighttime serenade, I would quickly have to remind them that we’re safe, that those lion are no more a threat to us than if we were living near a zoo. But they were no sooner placated by this than I would excitedly announce that cat tracks were sighted at my husband’s worksite in Mpumalanga Province. Workers had a debate on whether the tracks belonged to a serval or a leopard, both still free-roaming predators in the country. While they concluded the tracks belonged to the more common (and smaller) serval, not a leopard, it caused excitement among those we told that it could even be possible to still encounter a wild leopard in South Africa...

Read More

A Month In The Life Of An English Writer In Tuscany - January Reflections

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

I love the start of a New Year, particularly in our little bit of Chianti. There is a lot of pruning and tidying to be done in the countryside and by mid-month the only sounds to be heard, were the snipping of vines and the relentless muted conversation of the contadini (farm workers) from the slopes below us. By the end of the month, much of the woodland had been cleared of debris opening up beautiful new vistas for us locals to enjoy on the way to our morning coffee in Fiano. I discovered that the man in charge of the workers at Villa Bacio, which owns vast tracks of land around us, is called Lorenzo.

He is the spitting image of the singer Mick Hucknell, so I was a little disappointed to find out his real name!

From my own point of view, I am glad to report that the necessary discipline for getting on with my novel ‘The Bolivian Connection’, kicked in at the start of January and my heroine, Joanna Wilde, is currently in La Paz about to hear the reading of her late fathers will. If you have read ‘My Father, The Assassin’, you will know that her father was a pretty evil character and made his money by way of assassination and other dastardly means. It’s all getting rather scary now!

Did you know that Italian children love fashion and start wearing black as soon as they are walking? They also like glittery things; pastel shades are definitely out...

Read More

Anti-British Sentiment Sweeps Singapore

Justin Harper
by Justin Harper

Last month a British expat living in Singapore made headlines all across the world with his derogatory comments about poor Singaporeans and how unpleasant it was taking public transport. For those of you who don’t know, his name was Anton Casey and he was a wealthy fund manager who drives a convertible Porsche and is married to a former Miss Singapore.

He had the dream lifestyle until his sports car needed servicing so was forced to take the local underground system, known as the MRT. He then decided to post Facebook messages about the experience, taking a photo of his son on a train with the caption ‘’Daddy, who are all these poor people?’’.

After his train ride, Casey said he needed to wash the stench of public transport off himself, one of a series of offensive comments he made about Singapore which ignited a war of words across social media. Pressure grew on Casey to be deported and lose his job. He taunted Singaporeans via a Youtube video and then hired a PR agency to apologise on his behalf. He eventually fled the country on a budget flight to Australia and indeed lost his job. While opinion is divided over how harsh Casey was treated and the death threats he received online, the Singaporean media had a field day over the debacle...

Read More

Monday, February 24, 2014

Expat Experience - Molly Sears-Piccavey, Granada, Spain

Molly Sears-Piccavey
Who are you?

I was born in a Nottinghamshire village in England. I work in the technology sector and in my spare time I enjoy blogging, tweeting and reading.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I moved to Spain in May 1998. First I lived in Barcelona for many years and then in 2006 I moved to Granada, Andalusia.

What challenges did you face during the move?

The initial move from UK to Barcelona was not too traumatic as I had the support of a local Barcelona family who I already knew.

As I was Young and by myself I was relatively relaxed about it all. The move from Barcelona to Granada was more complicated as there was the sale of our apartment, jobs etc.

How did you find somewhere to live?

When I moved to Barcelona after several months living with my Student exchange family I went to rent a place by myself. Barcelona is quite an expensive city and I wanted to rent in the área around Sagrada Familia which wasn't cheap either. I remember the owner asking me how much I earned and requesting information from my parents to make sure that I was financially stable. I found this quite astounding at the time...

Read More

Moving To Australia From The USA, Hopefully!

Randy Barnhartby Randy Barnhart

Australia! The name has a magical sound. The Outback. Down Under. They have the flavor of adventure and the Old American West.

Now we might actually live there. That will depend upon the progress of this protracted visa process. After submitting the many required forms, we are at the last step, we hope, in a tortuous endeavor. We need to get the FBI’s ok.

As you U.S. expats in Australia already know, we are required to have a criminal background check by the FBI, partly based upon their review of our fingerprints. We mailed our fingerprints last September, just a few days before the U.S. government shutdown. That set us back at least two weeks.

After waiting what seemed to be forever for the results, one Friday we received two different envelopes from the U.S. Department of Justice. One was a normal-sized number 10 business envelope addressed to my husband Jim. In it was a notice saying that he passed the FBI requirements. The other, addressed to me, was a large manila envelope. It contained a letter saying my fingerprints were illegible and a form for resubmitting my prints...

Read More

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Expat Experience - Carolyne Huber, Melbourne, Australia

Carolyne HuberWho are you?

I’m Carolyne, a late twenties young professional on the quest to discover, grow, and understand social cultures.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

After having moved to France from Canada for work single, I left 2 years later but this time with a French partner in tow. We moved to Australia as a personal investment in our future. Australia provided us with the great opportunity to discover a new land all while my partner learned and gained confidence in English.

While in Australia, I started Project Y U DO Australia, where I search to determine why people decide to pack up their lives and move to Australia. For more info on the project, you can visit

I try to keep grounded, always apply a curiosity factor to everything that I do, and simply enjoy life. I like to describe myself as the Grounded Traveller.

What challenges did you face during the move?

One of the unforseen challenges that I faced when arriving in Australia was the language factor. As I am a native English speaker, I quickly saw with my own eyes the stress the English language brought upon my partner. Although we were a couple, the administrative processes of setting up a new life in a new country where my responsibility. With this being said, I must say that I gained immense patience and also greater respect for my partner as I saw just how much he was trying to linguistically and socially adapt in Australia...

Read More

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Expat Traveler Survival Kit

Shannon Enete
by Shannon Enete

Moving abroad is in and of itself a huge feat, loaded with adventures and trials around every bend. It takes a unique, flexible individual to make it work. Oftentimes, those individuals are avid travelers, but once settled down into a new culture they stop exploring. Over the last two years living in Costa Rica, my wife and I traveled to over twenty-five domestic destinations and have created new experiences, hiked new trails, saw active volcanoes and raging rivers, zip-lined through cloud forests, observed 16 foot crocodiles alongside our boat, kayaked in a crater lake and along the Caribbean Coast, was enthralled by fire dancers, surfed a few great breaks, learned countless lessons, met amazing people, swam in waterfall pools, cliff dived over 55 feet (my butt still hurts), touched starfish,

saw countless exotic birds and monkeys, and pushed ourselves to new limits in many categories of life. Sure, we moved to a vacation destination, but that was no reason to stop having vacations! My advice to those that are expats or those that are aspiring expats, make sure to keep challenging yourself, and feed your passions. For many expats, travel plays a large role in both of those tasks.

As an experienced budget traveler, let me share with you my survival kit...

Read More

France - Five Recommended Expat Blogs

At Expat Focus, we like to take a look around the internet and see who’s sharing interesting ideas and useful tips for expatriate life all around the world. In our travels, we come across lots of blogs we’d like to recommend, and we’ll be featuring some of them over the coming months. Today we’re focusing on France; here are five of our favourite expats writing from their new French homes.

American Mom In Bordeaux

As the title suggests, Jennifer writes about life in Bordeaux with her French husband and three daughters. A mixture of personal updates and tips for travelling around Europe, Jennifer provides an open, fun insight into what it’s like being a parent in a new country.

Laurel Zuckerman’s Paris Weblog

For those who like to fully immerse themselves in every aspect of a culture, including history, politics, education and ecology, Zuckerman’s Weblog is not to be missed. The site features local cultural events and literary festivals, as well as new book releases and news on Parisian political issues...

Read More

Why Did Grumpy Get The Hump With Amazon And Tights?

Christine Morgan by Christine Morgan

Recently I discovered on FB that a friend of mine from Uni days is now a famous writer and I curled up under the duvet ready to download her e book and enjoy a good read in bed. Thereby ensued a fight (which lasted 2 days) with Amazon. Due to a purchase way back when from I had somehow been affiliated to the .com (USA site) rather than the. (UK one) and was being forced into paying for the book in dollars.

This was further exacerbated by the fact that my Kindle is a golden oldie, where you have to punch your message in rather than the sophisticated touch screen of later models. Slouched in bed trying to resolve what I considered an affront to my British identity I kept hitting the wrong letter and pressing the wrong key, stubbornly refusing to leave the warmth, get up, put on my dressing gown and go to the office where I could have had the whole process done and dusted in a matter of minutes on the computer.

I spent half an hour growling abuse at Amazon, my kindle and the whole world before I gave up and switched out the light, my bedtime reading plans sabotaged...

Read More

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Good News For UK Expats Moving Abroad As Sterling Continues To Strengthen

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

When a new year arrives, it can be tempting to set ourselves goals that we want to achieve in the coming 12 months. These could range from small things like keeping fit, learning a language or eating more healthily, to big ambitions like moving abroad, buying a house or getting a job overseas.

For those with such goals in mind, or people already living or working abroad, the exchange rate is all important, as it determines how far their money will go when buying a property or sending money home, for example.

Well, we’re now more than a month into the new year, and if you’re still standing by your resolution to move abroad, now may just be the perfect time to do it. Your pounds will now go further than they have done for a long time, and you’ll get more for your money.

The recent strength of sterling has coincided with an improvement in the performance of the UK economy over the last few months, and a stream of favourable news coming out of the UK. We found out a few weeks ago that UK unemployment had fallen to 7.1% in December, and it’s data such as this that has helped sterling to its current high level and enables expats looking to buy overseas to get a better property than they would have done, say, just a year ago...

Read More