Tuesday, March 25, 2014

How The 2014 UK Budget Affects British Expats Living Abroad

Oliver HeslopExpatriate tax director of Global Expatriate Tax Services Ltd and official Expat Focus UK tax partner Oliver Heslop discusses the recent UK budget and its impact on British expats

Budget Day in the UK was 19 March 2014, when the UK Chancellor George Osborne announced the UK economy to be very much back on track.

We consider the reforms that he has announced to UK pension annuity rules to be seismic changes.

Despite the changes on pensions, in 2014 the average UK taxpayers will say that they are not feeling the benefits of the UK recovery. With a General Election already fixed for 2015, it was perhaps important for the Government to look after key voters. Some critics argue that they targeted pensioners in this Budget, who are more likely to vote than the under 30’s. We do not wish to be drawn into any political discussion here. Tax facts only!

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Expat Experience - Kim, Near Chateaubriant (Loire Atlantique), France

Who are you?

Hello! I'm Kim, an American from Massachusetts currently living and working in France with my boyfriend and our smiley dog Jojo.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I moved to France one year ago to be with my boyfriend after several years of long distance. We both work for a French engineering firm based in Chateaubriant, not far from his home town. I'm a commercial export assistant, which has become a crash course in French business culture.

What challenges did you face during the move?

Moving was a whirlwind of emotion and packing. I found someone to sublet my apartment, sold my car and appliances, and stored or gave away anything that didn't fit into three suitcases. It was challenging to consider necessities, like clothing and paperwork, in addition to personal items such as family pictures. Unpacking was a bizarre experience - I managed to bring along a casserole dish and a pineapple plant, but forgot office-appropriate shoes...

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School In Canada - Small Differences, Big Impact

Aisha Isabel Ashraf
by Aisha Isabel Ashraf

Trawling online recently I came across an article about a UK school defending its decision to suspend a pupil over a wrestling logo shaved into his hair; and before that, another story about another school apologizing for insisting a parent supply a photograph of their chickenpox-stricken child for absence monitoring.

Taken together they were a startling reminder of the differences in education and social attitudes between Britain and Ontario, Canada, where we‘ve lived now for nearly four years; almost long enough to forget all the small ways life overseas can be strikingly different even in countries broadly similar.

Held Hostage By The System

Every summer in the UK the same old debate rages over the stranglehold parents endure from inflated holiday airfares and restrictions on removing children from school during term time. The ages of compulsory attendance in the UK are 5-16 and those who fall foul of the law can end up facing heavy fines, as Natasha and Stewart Sutherland discovered when they booked a week long autumn trip to Greece a year in advance...

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Learning To Communicate With The Locals In Italy - Some Tips For Expats

When travelling or staying abroad, striking up a conversation with locals can sometimes be quite challenging. You may find yourself feeling frustrated or anxious when attempting to communicate the simplest things. Many tourists and expats – and locals alike – are known to lose their temper once in a while on account of the communication gap.

In Italy, it is quite easy to get by without speaking much Italian, especially in the major cities like Rome, Milan and Venice. The staff at most hotels, restaurants, transportation services, and shops are proficient in English. But communication difficulties may occur when travelling to the rural regions or the smaller cities of the country.

It is always a big advantage (besides being quite rewarding) to be able to communicate effectively with the locals, even if it’s with just a few words and phrases. Here are some tips to help you sharpen your communication skills when in Italy...

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Visitors From Afar

Lindsay de Feliz
by Lindsay de Feliz

As an expat, one of the highlights of life is having visitors from overseas. Friends and family from your home country, or, in my case, visits from new friends you have made on line. Someone to remind you of where you came from.

I think that visitors are so much more meaningful when you live overseas than when you live at home. For me it means I have the chance to speak my own language, which I rarely do here, communicate with someone from the same culture, and, best of all, someone to bring me all those things I have been missing so much, like Cadbury chocolate, suet to make dumplings, Bisto for gravy, Bird’s custard powder and many more unobtainable items here. Someone once tried to bring me parsnips but the nasty man at customs took them away!

But it isn’t easy having visitors. For a start, the whole house has to be cleaned, and not just cleaned in the usual way, I also have to get rid of all those nasty bugs which I am quite used to, but I know will cause most visitors to freak out. I now laugh when I see a tarantula in the bathroom, but I am pretty sure that would not be the universal reaction. Dominicans are always so excited to have visitors from overseas that they go into overdrive and the house has to be painted, garden totally manicured, streets swept – they really do put out the red carpet, wanting everything to be perfect...

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Expat Experience - Richard Nahem, Paris, France

Richard Nahem, Paris
Who are you?

Richard Nahem, born and raised in New York City. I was a chef and caterer in New York for 21 years before I moved to Paris. I now have a successful private tour business www.eyepreferparistours.com where I show clients the insiders Paris they never usually see on their own and I also write a popular blog since 2006 www.ipreferparis.net, an insiders guide to Paris with posts about culture, art, food, shopping, and history.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I moved to Paris in August 2005 from New York. I had always dreamed of living in Paris since I first visited in the late 1970s and finally made my dream come true.

What challenges did you face during the move?

Shipping all my stuff over from NYC and getting my identity card.

How did you find somewhere to live?

I was very lucky, I found my dream apartment within two weeks through a storefront real estate agency I stumbled upon and the process was not that hard. A week later I moved in, The only thing one has to watch out for in Paris, is even thought it’s technically illegal, many landlords ask foreign renters for six months or one year additional rent held in escrow. Ours only asked for three months but when we signed the lease they forgot to include it, so I just had to pay the standard one-month’s rent, one-month security...

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Monday, March 10, 2014

If I Knew Then What I Know Now. . . What Would I Do Differently?

Susanna Perkinsby Susanna Perkins

In one month, we’ll celebrate our second anniversary as expats.

Two years. . . sometimes it feels like a very short time. Sometimes I feel as though I’ve been here forever. As I round off the second year of our living overseas, I find myself asking, “if I knew then what I know now, what would I have done differently?” I’m not talking about “if circumstances were different” types of pondering. But if I were moving to Panama today, with a full understanding of the life I’d lead here, what would I do differently?

I came up with three things, of very unequal importance.

Bring fewer clothes

I packed way too much.

Before we left the US, I donated massively to Goodwill. I emptied my closet (I thought) of all but the most essential clothing. I must have given away 20 or more large garbage bags filled with used clothing -- some of it very lightly used.

Still, I brought too much. Somehow I was laboring under the mistaken idea that I would wear long sleeves here, ever. Or jeans. Or dresses. Or shoes. . .


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Starting A Small Business In Spain - 5 Things You Should Know

Starting your own business is a dream for many people – it opens up the possibility of higher earnings, it brings freedom from a regular employment, and doesn’t involve many of the work-related restrictions that go with a regular job. But of course it also comes with a few potential downsides. For one, there isn’t a guaranteed income and you have to begin from scratch. Starting a business in a foreign country poses a few additional challenges.

Before you start your business in Spain, it is a good idea to ask yourself how your business is going to be different from existing business in Spain. Also, is there a market for your business? This initial research will help you start out on the right foot.

Once you’re ready to begin turning your dream into reality, give some thought to the following considerations. These are some important things to know for anyone who is looking to start a business in Spain.

Choosing your business structure

You may consider buying an existing business if you have the capital and want to get started quickly. An existing business that is already profitable will enable you to start earning right away, while avoiding the initial obstacles that go with setting up a new business. It is of course essential that you have your accountant check the details of the existing company first. An alternative business opportunity is starting a franchise. There are many such options in Spain...

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Expat Experience - Anja, Singapore

Anja, SingaporeWho are you?

My name is Anja aka CurlyTraveller. I am a fifty-something woman from the Netherlands, and my blog has articles and lots of pictures about my travels and explorations in Asia, about art, mixed with snippets of my personal life and thoughts. Am crazy about cats and dogs, sketching and the Argentine Tango. Drawn to quirky places and people and to kitsch stuff.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I basically follow my husband around wherever his job brings him. Since 2009 that is Singapore.

What challenges did you face during the move?

Do you know how they call Singapore 'Asia for beginners'? Well, everything is quite well organized here, which makes things not that hard. Also, it was just the two of us. No pets, no children, no furniture. Easypeasy!

How did you find somewhere to live? (e.g. how did you locate a suitable property? what was the buying/renting process like?)

Now THAT was hard! It is one of the biggest nightmares of expats in Singapore. Because it is a seller's/landlord's market. Meaning that houses are strongly overpriced! Also landlords get away with the most insane demands and rules. Very stressful...

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Expat Life – A Matter Of Flexibility

Toni Hargisby Toni Hargis

When I came to the USA in 1990, there were quite a few Brit things I couldn’t get. I remember looking for mint sauce (to go with the lamb), being gone for hours and finally settling for fresh mint and vinegar. It worked by the way, but there wasn’t a hope of buying a jar of mint. Ditto with egg cups, electric kettles and melamine table mats with beautiful prints on them. (Those I had to haul back from the UK, and they weighed a ton.)

Of course, back then there was no Internet. I know. Gasp. I had to locate items myself, phone up and order things or ask visitors for the UK to bring things over.

These days, not only can you get a lot of British merchandise in American shops, you can also peruse the plethora of online British goods web sites, pay through the nose and pretty much order whatever you want. Indeed, given the limits on baggage these days, it’s probably more socially acceptable than asking your guests to use up valuable luggage space with M&S underwear for you...

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Are These The Best Golf Courses For Expats In Portugal?

Tourists and expats alike quickly fall in love with the pleasant buzz and the warm natives of Portugal. The warm climate, economical property prices and modest cost of living make it an attractive destination. A big advantage is that Portugal has a diverse and thriving expat community, which makes it easy for foreigners to adjust. Over the last few decades, Portugal has also served as a major golfing destination. There are a variety of courses to choose from, ranging from inland stadium style to sprawling countryside layouts. There are also clubs and luxury resorts located throughout the country. Whether you’re a golf enthusiast looking to practice your swings or a newbie who wants to explore the golfing culture in Portugal, here are some hotspots that are worth checking out:

Monte Rei

Nestled in the countryside between Portugal’s eastern Algarve and the Serra do Caldeirão mountains, Monte Rei is one of renowned American professional golfer Jack Nicklaus’ signature golf courses. It opened in September 2007, and ever since has maintained a remarkably high level of class and quality. Beautifully constructed, with self-contained holes, the layout and landscape are truly memorable. The club too is known to offer great service, which includes fine dining. All of this comes at a steep price, but the pristinely maintained course with its stunning surroundings of rolling hills and valleys may well be worth it...

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Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Sterling Strength and Fall In French Housing Prices Provide Perfect Expat Opportunity

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

If you’re thinking of moving abroad, one of the main considerations is what kind of house you’ll be able to get for your money. This is determined obviously by the value of the house you’re buying, but also by the exchange rates, which can have a significant impact on what kind of property you’ll end up in.

If, for example, the pound is strong against the euro, you’ll get more for your money, and you may be able to afford more than you thought. The exchange rates can fluctuate dramatically in the space of just a few weeks or even days, so it’s always worth keeping your eye on the markets.

If you’re purchasing a house in France, and you were transferring £200,000 to pay for it, you’d get around €243,000 based on the current GBPEUR exchange rate. If you were transferring the same amount one year ago, you’d have got €13,000 less for your money. That could be the difference between a good home and a great home, and demonstrates the importance of keeping abreast of what’s going on in the currency markets.

The figure below shows you how the exchange rates have moved in the last year and how right now looks like a strong time for British buyers looking to purchase property in France...

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Saturday, March 01, 2014

Moving To London? Read Our Expat Guide To Travelling On The Tube

“The Tube” is London’s underground rail network, a highly efficient mode of travel to and from a large part of Greater London and some parts of Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Essex. The Tube plays an important role in the life of anyone visiting or living in London. Here is our simple guide to travelling on the tube.

• The network consists of 12 different railway lines, and you will find a poster of a Journey Planner at each station. This will tell you which line you need to take for any particular station. It’s also a good idea to get a smaller version of the planner that you can keep with you while you travel. These are available at any station or newspaper agent.

• Except for the 25th of December, the Tube runs every day, beginning at 5:30 am. Rush hours are before and after work, that is before 9 am and after 4 pm. Try to avoid travelling at these times if you can, to keep away from crowds.

• The London Travel card or Oyster card is very useful for regular travellers. You can avail of some great discounts on this card. It also saves you the worry of having to carry spare change for your tickets every time or standing in long lines to buy a ticket. If you register your Oyster card, then even if you lose it, you can get it replaced at no extra charge with your outstanding credit still intact.

• You can buy tickets from a counter at the center of each station. There are also touch-screen machines that are quicker, although you may have to wait in line for these too...

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Relax! It Might Not Be An Expat Thing

Michelle Garrettby Michelle Garrett

Perhaps it was the very specific Northern Mother-in-Law who first instilled the fear of tea in me. If she were in a good mood I would get lots of jokes about an American’s inability to make a cup of tea, or if she were in a bad mood it would be ‘just let me do it.’ I learned from her that there are as many ways to make a cup of tea as there are tea drinkers and so I understood early on in my expat life that offering to make a cup of tea for a British person I was in a no-win situation.

Or maybe it’s just me. Not all Americans have this fear (or inability) or perhaps some expats are just thick skinned. There is some value in a thick skin, as an expat anyway (I think the proper term for it is ‘emotional resilience’: the strength to deal with the howling gales of frustrations in your new life without becoming ripped apart).

I asked my friend Julia, another American to see if I were alone. Julia lives in London and blogs at I Carried a Watermelon.

“I know what you mean. James (her British husband) always tells me my tea is crap. I DON'T KNOW WHAT I'M DOING WRONG! And now I have a complex about it. We need to start a club.”

Then I wondered what a British Expat in the States did to survive being surrounded by people who grew up without ever making a pot of tea. I asked Toni, fellow Expat Focus columnist and blogger at Expat Mum.

“I never thought about how stressful it must be making tea for Brits in the UK. My kids can now make a decent cup of tea.

They used to barely dunk the tea bag in the water, so I showed them what a real cup of tea should be. My 18 year old now takes a PG Tips teabag to school every day for lunchtime!”

So at least Toni can train her family, which helps...

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Expat Experience - Holly Nelson, Hamilton (Ontario), Canada

Holly Nelson
Who are you?

Hi there! Thank you so much for reading my interview with Expat Focus, it means a lot to me to be able to share my story because I love the thought of being able to provide the help and support that I so desperately needed when I was starting out! I am Holly, 30 years old, a great lover of reading, cake and knitting. I was pretty set in my ways in the year before I made this decision to move overseas, so I still find it astounding that I am here!

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I live in Hamilton, Ontario (Canada) and I often write about this city in my blog because I have such a love-hate relationship with it. From what I hear, that is how most people feel about it. I fill my time with the best of my new city though and with my new country! I actually moved here for love. Not much else could have made me leave the safety of my home country England. I rekindled a love with my boyfriend Luke, who had been my boyfriend more than ten years before and, after a year of living through a long distance relationship, finally came here to stay Jan 11th 2013

What challenges did you face during the move?

Oh so so so many challenges! My first challenge was ignorance. I thought it would be easy to fly to a new country and then just stay there. I thought it would be easy to just walk into a new teaching job. As it was, I failed to get my visa when I planned on getting it, leaving me stuck in England, having already handed my notice in at my job through blind optimism! I thought that lawyers would be wonderful people who would just get a job done. I thought that it wouldn’t be too hard leaving my family and friends and that once I was teaching I would be jetting home all the time. Little did I know that there is no such thing as just walking into a teaching job here and that instead I would be left in a poorly paid job missing my family so desperately it feels like physical pain...

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