Expat Pets

Friday, 11 August 2017

The following blog post is from the FIDI-FAIM blog. Starline Overseas Moving is proud to be a member of FIDI and the only FAIM accredited moving company in the Province of Alberta, Canada.

Expat Pets: Do What Johnny Depp Says

Last year Johnny Depp and his then-wife, Amber Heard, featured in this remarkable video for the Australian Customs authorities. The video was recorded as ‘punishment’ for failing to declare their Yorkshire terriers, Pistol and Boo. Johnny’s performance was less than convincing, but the celebrity couple’s involvement not only helped them to avoid a hefty fine, it also highlighted the difficulties of travelling abroad with pets.

Since our readers are unlikely to have the same get-out clause if they get into trouble when relocating with pets, we propose five simple pieces of advice:

1. Check Out The Rules And Regulations

The critical question: will your pet will be allowed into your host country? Taking dogs and cats along with you is accepted by most countries, but not all. Many place unexpected restrictions on certain species. Australia, for example, will not allow rodents into the country, so exotic pet owners need to check out the rules of the country they are travelling to.

Some countries have agreements that simplify the process significantly. Moving between EU member states is made easier by pet passports which are standardized throughout European member states. Pets must be vaccinated and health-screened against certain diseases before pet passports can be issued.

The one thing you cannot do is try to cut corners. Failing to declare pets to customs, or generally contravening biosecurity rules is taken very seriously. Offenders are typically fined although, in extreme cases, the animal may be put down.

2. Talk To The Airline

Pets are normally transported as “live animal” cargo. In this case, the animal will be carried in the specialist cargo hold of the plane which is heated and pressurized. Such arrangements may be made by a specialist ‘pet shipping’ company or you can, of course, handle this directly with the airline. Not all will allow pet travel, and some may place certain restrictions on certain types of pet. Then again, others may be more flexible, with some airlines even permitting pets to be shipped as “accompanied baggage” (but only if you are on the same flight as your pet).

3. Get The Right Crate

The crates used to house your pet during the flight (which should be direct if possible) must meet the current IATA regulations – but bear in mind that more exotic pets often require more exotic (and therefore expensive) accommodation during the journey. You may consider getting the crate a few weeks in advance of your journey to give your pet a while to become accustomed to it. Crates should also be the right size, they should be comfortable, and their ‘contents’ should be clearly marked on all sides. However, note that the cost of the pet’s flight depends mainly on the volume of the crate – so giving your pet more room may leave a little less room in your budget.

4. Make Your Pet Comfortable

While living quarters are perhaps the main factor in the in-flight comfort of your pet, there are other steps you can take to make him or her as comfortable as possible. Ensure, for example, that there is enough water available during the flight (although most airlines will not allow the animals to eat as this is deemed to be a choking hazard). If they have a favorite toy, blanket or another suitable item, it may be placed in the crate with them.

Animals are also often relaxed by the presence of natural pheromones, which are widely available in spray format, although sedatives are not normally allowed.

5. Don’t Forget About The Journey Home!

It may be a few years away, but you may find that border control regulations are stricter on the way back. In the UK, for example, incoming animals (whether British or not) must all be micro-chipped and fully vaccinated. You should, therefore, ensure your pet receives all necessary boosters during your time abroad.

Make Life Easy For Yourself

As with most aspects of a relocation, you may find that an experienced and reputable relocation partner will handle the safe transportation of your pet along with your other belongings. As pet transportation is one of frequently requested extras, FAIM certified movers often work together with trustworthy agencies specialized in relocating your furrier family members.

You will find the process easier if you start earlier. Talk to your vet at least six months prior to the intended departure date, and start researching the entry requirements for your new host country as soon as possible. After all, if Amber and Johnny had got organized in time, the whole problem – and possibly their most regrettable screen performance ever – would have been avoided.

Expat Life In Barcelona

Tuesday, 01 August 2017

The following blog post is from the FIDI-FAIM blog. Starline Overseas Moving is proud to be a member of FIDI and the only FAIM accredited moving company in the Province of Alberta, Canada.

The Pros And Cons Of Expat Life In Barcelona

A popular destination for expats of all kinds, Barcelona is frequently quoted as one the most desirable cities in Europe to live in. We have gathered some pros and cons of the city from an expat perspective.

Pros: The Beach

You may be going to Barcelona to work, but the fact that it is one of the few big cities in the world that is built right next to a beautiful sandy beach is a definite plus. The city enjoys hot summers and predictably cloudless days too, making Barcelona a wonderful place to relax when you’re not at the office. The beach culture does of course attract huge numbers of tourists during the summer, which to some long-term visitors such as expats is an annoyance. However, to others, this contributes to Barcelona’s undoubted energy and reputation as one of the most animated and vibrant cities in Europe.

Cons: The Language

As with many minority languages, Catalan is both a delightful curiosity and an everyday obstacle at the same time. While a passing knowledge of Spanish (strictly called Castilian) will help you decipher signposts and basic written instructions, learning Catalan is not only difficult, but also less useful unless you are going to stay in the region for life – which excludes most expats. Catalonia is fiercely proud to be culturally distinct from the rest of Spain and expats would do well to remember this. This has led to reports of atypical coldness from the Catalans, but this is more frequently directed at non-Catalan speaking Spanish than expats from abroad. Then again, because of Barcelona’s popularity with tourists, many inhabitants are more skilled at English than their other compatriots.

Pros: Low Cost Of Living

The website Numbeo provides a cost of living comparison of European cities based on user-contributed data. Zurich tops the list with an index of 145 (compared to New York as the benchmark at 100): Barcelona has a rating of just 68, and is one of the lowest ranked major European cities. This makes it a cheap place to live: groceries, travel, eating out are all reasonable – yet the flip side is that economic opportunities are fewer and further between. Global assignees working for the large corporates are unaffected by this, but younger expats and students often struggle to find work.

Cons: Bureaucracy

The most frequent expat complaint about Barcelona is the endless – and apparently needless – bureaucracy. The classic example is the job of applying for your NIE (número de identidad de extranjero) – an identification number for foreigners in Spain. You will need the NIE for virtually anything official that you do, and it is the only thing that separates you from the indignity of being officially classified as a tourist. Many expats report long hours spent sitting in uncomfortably hot waiting rooms before having your carefully prepared forms rejected on a technicality. Although some mention a more streamlined process. In any case, the advice is to book an appointment online as early as possible in the day, to prepare meticulously and, if possible, take a Spanish-speaking friend or colleague. Oh, and photocopy your NIE and commit the number to memory. It’s that important.

Pros: Gaudi

Culture is everywhere in this amazing city but it is perhaps best exemplified by Antoni Gaudi. The influence of this extraordinary architect is everywhere, but there are three examples which no tourist should miss (so, as an expat, you have no excuse whatsoever). Thrill at the ornate textures, shapes and colours of the Casa Batillo, take a stroll through the unparalleled Park Guell, and gaze up in awe at the twin spires of the Sagrada Familia, against their inevitably cloudless blue backdrop. The latter is unfinished (completion date estimated 2026) but you will not see a more glorious construction site.

Cons: Mind Your Valuables

If there’s anywhere in the world where you shouldn’t leave your phone or bag on the café table, it is Las Ramblas, the central thoroughfare in Barcelona. Bustling with people – and therefore potential takings – it is the main hunting ground for the casual thieves who have made pilfering and pickpocketing an art form. Just keep your wits about you. If a stranger engages you in conversation, check first to make sure their accomplice isn’t helping themselves to your belongings. We’re not saying you should stay away from the tourist hotspots; just be aware that petty thieves operating in some of those areas are perhaps the best in the world. Keep your valuables close and you’ll be okay.

Summary

It’s Spain, but it isn’t Spain. Enjoy Barcelona for its Mediterranean climate, rich cultural heritage and highly affordable cost of living, but don’t overlook its quirks: the incidental anti-Castilian snobbery, the language, the eccentric architecture. It all combines to make Barcelona a fascinating expat destination –just remember to keep your paperwork straight and your hand on your wallet, and spend the rest of your time enjoying everything this wonderful city has to offer. Oh, and watch a FC Barcelona football game at least once.

The Best Cities For Expats

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

The following blog post is from the FIDI-FAIM blog. Starline Overseas Moving is proud to be a member of FIDI and the only FAIM accredited moving company in the Province of Alberta, Canada.

The Best Cities For Expats – From All Angles

Here at FIDI we hear a lot of travelers’ tales and have built up a pretty good idea of which are the best places for expats to go to work. There are also a number of resources online that rank international destinations in order of preference. But Top Ten lists rarely tell the full story, so we have combined our own experience (and that of our affiliates) with data from elsewhere on the web to compile our very own list of winners in a few key categories. Ladies and gentlemen, we proudly announce the best expat cities – from all angles.

Best Expat City for Personal Safety: Luxembourg

Mercer ranked 230 cities based on internal stability, crime levels, the performance of local law enforcement and the home country’s relationship with other countries. The winner, perhaps unsurprisingly, is the largely danger-free Duchy of Luxembourg.

While there is a certain amount of organized crime and drug trafficking in Luxembourg, violence is rare, and expats can safely walk the streets at night. Nor is there any political or social unrest to speak of. There are occasional protests, but these are – much like the country itself – small and usually extremely civilized.

Best Expat City for Education: Stockholm, Sweden

Two countries keep popping up in internet reports on expat schooling: Sweden and Singapore. According to HSBC’s Expat Explorer Survey, 75% of expat families in Sweden believe the quality of early years care is higher than back home.

We frequently hear, on the other hand, that Singapore offers the best schooling for older children. Indeed, the same survey reported that the same proportion (75%) of expats thought that schooling was better in Singapore than they would experience at home. The major difference between the two is that Singaporean schools are not necessarily free of charge, so the award goes to the socially-minded Swedes for including expats in some of the most generous state-funded childcare benefits available anywhere.

Best Expat City for Transport Infrastructure: Tokyo, Japan

Forget the bullet train; in Japan it’s not about speed but efficiency and reliability. According to Internations, no expats are more impressed by their local transport infrastructure than those living and working in Japan. Eight in ten respondents rate the transport infrastructure as excellent, while globally only 29% feel the same. In fact, less than 1% give this factor a negative rating, compared to the global average of 25%.

Best Expat City for High Pay v Low Hours: Lausanne, Switzerland

When the OECD released its Taxing Wages 2017 report, it highlighted that an expat’s location made a big difference to his or her real income, when measured in terms of hours worked. In some cities, expats can enjoy higher average wages, but quality of living will be offset by an expectation that longer hours will be worked. The website ExpatFinder.com analyzed the figures and concluded that Luxembourg, Switzerland and Norway were the countries with the most attractive ratio. Switzerland takes the prize with an average hourly expat wage of $36.73/hour, plus a trend that the OECD observed of a generally improving tax situation which makes it very attractive for expat families. No wonder 24.3% of the working population is from overseas.

Best Expat City for Clean Air and Healthcare: Vienna, Austria

With all that Alpine air, it should be no surprise that Vienna comes out on top in this category. According to a recent survey by Internations (PDF l 8.05 MB), expats living in the Austrian capital rate the quality of the environment very highly (e.g. water, air), with 96% giving it a positive rating. Moreover, only 3% have something negative to say about it, compared to 20% globally. The quality of the medical care is rated as very good by 38% and 34% are also completely satisfied with its affordability.

Best Expat City for Internet speed: Kansas City, USA

An unusual category perhaps, but who needs decent communication more than business expats? Whether it’s file transfer, collaborating reliably with overseas colleagues, or simply Skyping the folks back home, a decent broadband connection matters. A lot. Based on data from the Nomad List, the average reported Internet speeds experienced by expats were all over 100mbps in Singapore, Seoul, Bucharest and Chattanooga – but the prize goes to Kansas City, Missouri for a blistering 150mbps. Send them a congratulatory tweet if you like; they’re probably online right now.

Expat Schooling

Monday, 17 July 2017

The following blog post is from the FIDI-FAIM blog. Starline Overseas Moving is proud to be a member of FIDI and the only FAIM accredited moving company in the Province of Alberta, Canada.

Expat Schooling: Your Questions Answered

One of the most bewildering tasks facing an expat family is finding the right school for the children. Not only is there often a linguistic and cultural barrier to overcome, there is also the decision of which school to choose, how the new curriculum will match with the previous one, and the inevitable red tape. While your assignment may be a critical career move for you, you also know that this is a formative experience for your children. Getting the schooling right will make sure it is a positive and enriching stage in their lives.

Our experience of helping expats move and settle overseas has taught us a lot about how schooling works for expats. We have gathered some resources to answer your main questions.

How Do I Choose The Right School?

It is important to establish from the outset what you are looking for in a school. Set out your criteria – for example, the type of school you prefer, and whether you want to or are able to pay for it. Ask yourself how near you need it to be, and what are the most appropriate qualifications you want your children to gain during their time abroad.

Dr. David Willows, the Director of Admissions and Advancement at the International School of Brussels, provides a 26-question check-list that may help. Rachel Yates, writer, speaker, and creator of ExpatLifeLine.com, also offers a realistic guide on how you can ensure your child thrives as a “third-culture kid” during their time abroad.

Another key question is whether you want your children to be schooled in their own language or in the local language. The ExpatInfoDesk offers some solid advice on choosing between expat and local schools. Further advice on the different types of schooling available – including special educational needs – is clearly outlined by Expatchild.com.

There are many more websites like these, although most advice online focuses on specific countries and locations. ExpatArrivals.com, for example, offers good advice (and paid-for reports) for expats moving to the USA. A more general starting point is to read the regional guides in the excellent Guide to International Education and Schools, published by RelocateGlobal.

How Do I Prepare My Children For Schooling Overseas?

If your children are considering local language tuition, you may consider giving them a head start. Resources such as DuoLingoPetraLingua, and LiveMocha offer online language learning for your children, while there are also a number of useful apps that make language learning fun.

What About Private Tutoring?

Tutoring can be either an alternative to mainstream schooling or an easy way to help ease the transition into a new and different educational system. Find out more about the suitability of private tutoring or go directly to organizations, such as Tutors International, that help you to find suitable, local tutors.

What Qualifications Will My Children Get – And How Useful Are They?

For older children, internationally recognised qualifications such as the International Baccalaureate (IB) are increasing in popularity. Some maintain that it is the perfect route into university or college education, while others advise against assuming it is right for every student. A useful summary of the pros and cons of the IB can be found here. Alternatives include Edexcel qualifications, another widely recognised educational model, giving children continuity in their education wherever they go in the world.

Getting It Right

The right choice of schooling is essential to your children’s happiness and development and to your chances of success on your overseas assignment. Domestic difficulties, including unsettled children, is one of the major reasons for expat failure. Preparation is key – and we hope some of the resources linked here will make your time abroad successful and enjoyable for all the family.

Qualities Expats Need

Monday, 10 July 2017

The following blog post is from the FIDI-FAIM blog. Starline Overseas Moving is proud to be a member of FIDI and the only FAIM accredited moving company in the Province of Alberta, Canada.

What Qualities Do Expats Need To Succeed?

The task of managing a global assignment is a complex one. Global mobility departments are constantly asking themselves how best to do it. The cost of failure is high – and according to the most pessimistic figures, 40% of global assignments are deemed unsuccessful. So what can global mobility departments do to ensure success? Should they offer different financial packages? Offer more training? Manage the relocation itself in a different way? Or maybe think more about the assignee’s family?

All of these are valid concerns for global mobility professionals. But one of the most important factors for success is utterly beyond their control: whether the chosen candidate has the personal qualities to succeed. These qualities for success can be grouped into three areas: intellectual, psychological and social.

1. Intellectual Qualities For Expat Success

The cognitive nature of intellectual qualities means that, if a candidate does not already possess them, they can be learned, either during the assignment or before departure.

Technical And Business Skills

These may include knowledge of products and technological developments, as well as the skills required to adapt them to local markets and needs. Frequently the assignee’s role will involve collaboration between geographies, making it important for them to understand global processes and inter-relations.

Industry Knowledge

A successful assignee needs awareness of markets and competitors. For example, if a product expert is sent on assignment from the US to South America, they would need to understand how the market dynamic differs in South America, even though the required knowledge of the competitors’ products themselves remains the same.

Management Knowledge

Understanding of (and a track-record in) management and leadership is important. But one size does not fit all. As Mansour Javidan – dean of research at the Thunderbird School of Global Management and co-author of the HBR article Making It Overseas – points out: “There are fundamental differences in the cultures of different countries, in the expectations of leaders in different countries, so the same style that works in one country not only may not work in another country but it may actually cause some negative consequences”.

Language Skills

Candidates will benefit from having a grasp of the local language. However, truly bilingual candidates, able to conduct business meetings in more than one language, will be at a significant advantage and are more likely to thrive.

2. Psychological Qualities For Expat Success

While harder to quantify than the knowledge-based qualities of the previous section, these ‘softer’ psychological traits are still critical. Broadly, they fit into the following types:

Personal Drive

The desire to succeed is a key factor. Expats will encounter problems, but some are blessed with a resilience that comes from pure ambition. If your assignee has the strength to deal with difficult times and handle the many complications that come with doing business in a different country, they are far more likely to succeed.

Flexibility

In the same way that management skills and leadership styles will have to be adapted, the successful expat will find themselves questioning the way they do almost everything. From technology to business processes, daily routines and even domestic life, expats must be open minded and ready to change rather than expecting the new environment to change around them.

Organization

Flexibility does not, however, mean lack of structure. Expats who are poorly organized are less likely to thrive. An expat’s personal financial affairs, for example, can become quite complex (see our recent post on Expat Financial Considerations) and highly organized individuals are more likely to cope with this, and therefore be able to apply themselves to their work without the stress caused by personal disorganization.

Patience

A very important virtue during a global assignment, patience will help expats to remain stress-free. Different cultures move at different speeds and you cannot expect, for example, German punctuality in a culture that is a little more relaxed about timing. On a people level too, expats are more likely to succeed if they don’t pile pressure on others or expect too much of them too soon.

3. Social Qualities For Expat Success

The last but not least of the qualities required is the ability to get on with others. Building trusted working relationships with people from different cultures is not easy, but some are innately better at it than others. Their social skills no doubt derive from other aspects of their personality (e.g. the patience and flexibility mentioned earlier) but sometimes it is simply a matter of charisma. If you want to choose an expat to go into a new environment and be successful, he or she needs to be able to build effective working relationships quickly.

This was already noted as far back as 1992, when S. Rothwell wrote in The Development of the International Manager about the need for expats to possess a “drive to communicate,” and a “broad-based sociability”. Mr. Rothwell suggested that the expatriates most likely to succeed were those psychologically inclined to establish a rapport with people outside their typical national peer group. Clearly, you can be the smartest business person in the world, but just being friendly is a key factor in the success of a global assignment overseas.

The relationships are of course essential in getting the work done and therefore in proving the success of the assignment on a business effectiveness level – but expats are far more likely to see out the duration of their assignment if they (and their families) forge social bonds quickly.

Language skills will also help assignees to build relationships. Even if an assignee never becomes proficient enough to conduct business in the local language, showing a willingness to try will help enormously. It is a compliment to your hosts and an assignee who genuinely possesses the qualities to build trusted local relationships instinctively knows this.

Choosing The Right Candidate

Once you know the qualities required, the most important task is to create a candidate selection process that takes these into account. There will be other factors – internal political influences, the need to ‘reward’ key talent, as well as specific experience factors – but if you can ensure that your candidates have at least a fair proportion of the qualities listed above, you will be maximizing your chances of success.

Moving Abroad With Children

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Moving can be hard and confusing for young children. Remember that it is ultimately your choice to move, not theirs. Because of this children might not fully understand why you are moving. Whereas for you it is clear, whether it be for work, for family, for a fresh start etc.

A great way to ease the stress on your children and help them understand why you are moving is to include them in making decisions about other parts of the move. Below are some things you can do. We recommend including their friends in the process for as many of these as you can. Your children’s friends can be your biggest allies or your biggest obstacles during this time. You should do this far enough in advance so that when it comes time to actually move they will be as emotionally prepared as possible.

  • Get them to help researching the country you are moving to. A great place to start is to get them to help find photos, videos, movies, history and online expat communities.
  • Give them the chance to ask all the questions they may have. Answer these honestly. If you don’t know an answer involve them in finding out the answer.
  • Prepare them for possible language barriers by getting language tutors or lessons if necessary.
  • Involve them in deciding what they will take or leave behind.
  • Ask them what they’ll miss most. Research if those things are available in your new country. Being surrounded by familiar things will comfort them in their new home.
  • Get in touch with possible schools and teachers and involve them in communicating with them prior to your move.
  • Help them make a plan for how they will communicate with their friends and family back home. Assure them you’ll help them make that possible.
  • Try to help create a sense of excitement about their new home. Find out about fun and entertaining or unique things and places your new country will have.
  • Research extracurricular activities available in your new country such as sports, gymnastics, dance etc. Do this prior to moving as it can give them something to look forward to.
  • Let them spend time with the people they will be leaving behind.
  • Perhaps the most important thing you can do is LISTEN TO THEM! Also, don’t assume anything. If they don’t ask you, ask them.

Expat Financial Considerations

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

The following blog post is from the FIDI-FAIM blog. Starline Overseas Moving is proud to be a member of FIDI and the only FAIM accredited moving company in the Province of Alberta, Canada.

Money Talk: Expat Financial Considerations

“Money makes the world go round”, or so they say. Maybe – but money can also be a headache for those travelling round the world themselves. Financial considerations are something of a minefield for expats – whether they are taking part in a global assignment organized by their company, or doing it themselves – and getting it wrong could cost you dearly. At the very least you may find you are missing out on investment opportunities or overpaying bank fees. At the very worst, you may inadvertently fall foul of tax regulations, and find yourself with an unexpected tax demand on your return home.

The answer is of course plenty of planning and professional advice. But we thought we would highlight a few key points to help you structure your financial planning while you are overseas. We have divided the financial considerations of a typical expat into four sections:

  1. Your costs (how much you need to live abroad)
  2. Your tax (how much the taxman will let you keep)
  3. Your bank (how you manage it)
  4. Your investments (what you do with what’s left)

1. Your Costs

The starting point for any financial planning exercise is to know what you need. Depending on your lifestyle, your major costs are likely to be:

  • Existing financial obligations (e.g. mortgage)
  • Accommodation
  • Childcare/schooling (if private)
  • Healthcare (again, if private)
  • Travel/transportation
  • Utilities
  • Food
  • Insurance
  • Entertainment

The cost of living can vary greatly between your ‘home’ and ‘host’ countries, and it is important  to budget in advance so that your expenses will balance. In short, ensure you can live within your means.

There are online tools that will help give you a general idea of how the cost of different items varies across the world – or there is always the slightly more frivolous Big Mac Index to give you an idea of your purchasing power in your new location.

2. Your Tax

Your tax situation will depend on a number of factors, e.g.:

  • Your earnings
  • Where your earnings come from (local salary, salary from head office, or receiving other income – e.g. interest, dividends – from ‘back home’)
  • Whether you are paid in local currency or other currencies
  • Whether you are considered ‘resident for tax purposes’ or not. Note that tax residency is very different to your nationality
  • Whether double taxation applies (this often depends on your tax residency, but different rules apply to nationals of different countries)

Tax rules can become enormously complex. While Americans, for example, working abroad do not generally have to worry about paying domestic income tax on their first $97,600 (in 2013) in foreign earned income, they still need to file a return with the IRS and tell them about any other income earned abroad. Also, some countries may try to collect income taxes even after an expat moves abroad, unless they actually terminate their residency.

These examples give an idea of the complexity of national tax laws that every expat needs to be aware of.

3. Your Bank Accounts

Should you have multi-currency accounts? Many expats find that keeping their home bank account rolling along, and opening a local bank account for the duration of their assignment is the easiest way. However, ‘serial’ expats – i.e. those who spend their whole career moving from assignment to assignment, or who spend a significant amount of time working overseas – may find benefit in setting up multi-currency accounts with a single bank. Again, whether this is advantageous depends on many factors (your location, your income – or indeed, your preferred bank). This may also be useful for those who derive income in different currencies, for example having customers abroad, or perhaps drawing income from investments back home.

A multi-currency account typically makes it easier to transfer money between accounts without punishing transfer fees, but be careful. While your own bank is an obvious starting point for advice on this matter, it’s easy to assume that all banks charge the same (or similar) charges to transfer money and manage accounts. However, many banks make nice big margins on the customers who cannot be bothered to look around – so make sure you’re not one of them! Check out the various accounts and money transfer options online – you may save a lot of money.

4. Your Investments (And Debts)

Alongside the day-to-day book balancing exercise, you also need to take a long-term view on finances. Your time abroad may be an opportunity to save – or it may be a period of your life that causes financial concerns. The outcome largely depends on the planning you do in advance and the advice you take. Here are a few considerations expats should bear in mind with their long-term financial planning.

Wealth Accumulation

Expats frequently find that their assignments bring with them more disposable income and that the assignment is a great time to put some of that money aside. International expats have a greater variety of investments available to them since they may be officially considered as local ‘residents’ for tax purposes. This, in turn, may provide opportunities for tax-efficiency. As always, the aim should be to find investments that match your own personal attitude to risk – and bear in mind that investments overseas may be linked to the strength of the local economy.

Investments Back Home

Should you retain investments back home or is it time to sell? This question is most pertinent if you own a property. If rental yields exceed the mortgage payments and the management costs,  renting out your home may be a great way of earning income while you’re abroad. However, there can be complications (property maintenance, finding tenants etc.) – and you may decide instead that the relocation is also an excuse for a fresh start on your return.

Pensions

Unless you are drawing your pension and see your relocation as part of your retirement itself, you will want to ensure that your retirement plans are still in place and that you are contributing towards that end goal. If you are part of a corporate pension scheme, you should discuss this with your company and may be able to remain in the scheme as part of your overall package. If you have an individual pension plan, take professional advice on how best to fund it, given the change in your financial and tax situation. You may also contribute to a local state pension during your time abroad (although Brexit has thrown up some confusion over this issue – as this example shows).

Currency Exchange

Over a three-year assignment, exchange rates can fluctuate hugely. An expat may start their time abroad with an overseas income that translates into plenty of ‘home’ currency to meet their financial planning targets, such as mortgage payments back home and pension contributions. However, this may change and it is a good idea to stay abreast of the currency markets and ensure that this is still the case. There are occasional crashes in the relative values of currency, but more common is a gradual ‘creep’ over time, which may gradually chip away at your ability to meet financial obligations. If you see the changes happening, you will simply be able to ‘tighten your belt’ a little and adjust your spending.

There’s No Substitute For Good Advice

Given the enormous variety of global assignments – to different places, with different earnings, and different personal situations – there is no single answer. But our experience of working with individuals from different countries tells us that those who plan early usually have the best experience, and this is certainly true when it comes to money. Speak to an adviser as soon as you can so you can focus on getting the most out of your life and work during your time abroad – instead of worrying about how you’re going to pay for it.

Expat Life In Vienna

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

The following blog post is from the FIDI-FAIM blog. Starline Overseas Moving is proud to be a member of FIDI and the only FAIM accredited moving company in the Province of Alberta, Canada.

The Pros And Cons Of Expat Life In Vienna

With its baroque beauty and cultural riches, Vienna is an archetypal European city, and one that always ranks highly for expats. It has topped Mercer’s ranking since 2011, and The Economist ranked it second in its 2015 study that looked at 127 world cities. Yet it is a complex picture and if you are considering relocating there, be aware that beauty may be skin deep.

Pros: High Quality Of Life

A report by InterNations notes that 67% of expats in Austria say they feel secure in their current job and are also incredibly happy with the balance between their professional and personal lives. In fact, the report places Austria as second of 67 countries in terms of work/life balance, adding: “Those figures might explain why 32% of expats consider staying in Austria for life.” Austria also comes tenth in the league table of earnings versus typical hours worked, with a typical worker in Austria being paid $28.36/hour, according to the OECD. As the capital, Vienna embodies these national qualities: its streets are clean and safe, and it offers expats a highly efficient and extensive public transport system and high-quality schooling and healthcare.

Cons: Not Such A Warm Welcome?

There has been some criticism of Vienna as an unwelcoming city, at least at first. Expat stories abound of spending years living in the city but making few friends outside the expat community. Despite its location and cosmopolitan history, English is not as widely spoken as in other European capital cities. Once (and if) accepted by the locals, you will undoubtedly enjoy it – but it may take a while.

Pros: Cultural

If you have an ounce of culture in your soul, you will fall instantly in love with Vienna. The patronage of the wealthy Habsburgs in the 18th and 19th centuries made this city the beating heart of European culture, and home to many of its most noted composers from Strauss and Schubert to Mozart and Mahler. It features street after street of imposing architecture: churches, palaces, opera houses and theatres and of course the famous Viennese coffee shops, as frequented by famous former Viennese resident Sigmund Freud. Revel in the faded elegance of a truly beautiful European city.

Cons: Old-Fashioned

The history that has created such a cultural marvel also creates problems for expats who are more used to more progressive locations. Moreover, Vienna is not as commercially vibrant as other European hubs such as London, Frankfurt and Paris. A common complaint amongst expats is that most shops are still closed on Sundays (although this is gradually changing). There is also a surprisingly open attitude to alcohol and smoking that expats may find almost anachronistic.

Pros: Location

Located in the heart of Europe, Vienna is an excellent base for European travel. It straddles Eastern and Western Europe, with close links to Italy and the Balkans on one side, but is also firmly part of the DACH (Germany, Austria, Switzerland) group of countries. Its location, along with its historical importance, has made it a key transport hub enabling easy rail and road access to the rest of the continent. Expats clearly love spending time in Vienna but if they do get bored, they have plenty of alternatives to choose from.

Cons: Long Grey Winters

Sun lovers, however, may find themselves travelling South whenever they can. Vienna has long, grey winters and daily maximum temperatures in December and January barely creep above freezing. With the Alps nearby, the opportunity for winter sports may offer some compensation, but if you spend a winter in Vienna you will need to either wrap up warm or spend a lot of time in the (very cosy and beautiful) coffee shops. There are worse things to do with your time off.

Summary

The buildings, the culture and the sheer historic beauty are an obvious attraction, and provided you take enough clothing to survive an Austrian winter, there are many things to enjoy in Vienna. It is no wonder the Viennese are so proud of their city – just a shame that it sometimes feels like they’re not that keen on sharing it with everyone else.

The Rise Of Female Expats

Tuesday, 06 June 2017

The following blog post is from the FIDI-FAIM blog. Starline Overseas Moving is proud to be a member of FIDI and the only FAIM accredited moving company in the Province of Alberta, Canada.

The Rise Of Female Expats

Are organizations finally putting their gender bias aside? There has been a gradual rise in the number of female employees posted overseas – and those who are leading the revolution may well be getting the best return on their investment.

According to research from Communicaid, the proportion of female employees being chosen for global assignments has increased steadily over the last decades. In 1980 only 5% of expats were female; in 2010, the proportion had risen to 25%.

Overcoming Prejudice

It’s clear that the industry has a much more balanced and realistic attitude than it once did. Yet the spectre of gender bias still looms, and the same old comments are still sometimes heard (albeit at a whisper) by office water coolers around the world:

  • It’s a man’s job
  • It’s disrespectful to their culture to send a woman
  • A woman wouldn’t want an assignment away from home
  • Wouldn’t it just be easier to send a man?

These comments are unhelpful not only because they are wrong in principle: those organizations that are most active in providing equal global assignment opportunities for male and female employees will be the ones with the greatest chance of attracting the best talent. Here are a few things you can do to help make that happen.

1. Address Concerns Before They Are Raised

There are often intense conversations around candidate selection, with all kinds of pros and cons – and with different opinions on the candidates. The issue of gender should of course be irrelevant, but real life often doesn’t work that way.

You can help remove these concerns by preparing in advance, especially if the assignment involves travel to places with different views on gender equality. Why shouldn’t you send a woman to do business in the Middle East? The answer is that local cultural attitudes towards the role of women have little to do with their ability to do the job and most businesses accept this. The assignee is there to do a job and the fact she is female is not viewed through the same cultural lens.

2. Stress The Benefits (Diplomatically)

It is important to let colleagues – and the potential candidates – know of the research conducted into the qualities required of expats, and how female expats have been shown to demonstrate those qualities in abundance. Research from the Society for Human Resource Management states that female expats, amongst other qualities, have greater self-awareness and are better able to operate outside their comfort zone. In general, they are less confrontational and are more likely to adapt to a different culture or working practice in order to bring harmony to a team and a successful conclusion to a project.

However, be careful. Your job is to remove the gender bias – not reverse it. It is not an argument over which gender is best. Instead, you may want to focus on the task in hand, which is choosing the right candidate.

3. Prepare For Local Challenges

Myths abound on the subject of the role of women in different cultures. As explained earlier, this is not the problem some people believe it to be – but the best thing you can do to encourage female employees to put themselves forward for roles overseas is to do some of the ground work for them and make them aware of the precise cultural challenges they may face.

4. Give Them A Female Mentor

Try to make former assignees available to take on the role of mentor. Female employees will be encouraged to know that they are not the first, and that the role they are considering has previously been successfully filled by a female assignee. This idea of mentoring can also be extended to providing a network between female expats in different parts of the world, helping them to share their experiences with prospective assignees.

Moving In The Right Direction

The gender gap is definitely closing. But the most effective companies – and the ones who will have the most success in fulfilling the objectives of their assignments and attracting the best female talent – will be the ones who take active steps to close the gap even further.

Peak Season Relocation

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

The following blog post is from the FIDI-FAIM blog. Starline Overseas Moving is proud to be a member of FIDI and the only FAIM accredited moving company in the Province of Alberta, Canada.

Peak Season Relocation: Are You Ready For A Busy Summer?

It all starts hotting up in March. Not necessarily the weather, but relocation fever.

The period between March and the end of the summer holidays marks the peak of the moving season. The better weather (in the Northern hemisphere, that is, where most relocations take place) and the natural break between academic years, makes this the time when most people would like to schedule their relocation.

Companies often find that the summer, with higher numbers of employees on holiday, is the ideal time to relocate staff. Major projects are typically scheduled once everyone is back, and global assignments are often timed to coincide with this timetable.

The summer is a great time to move – but peak season relocation also brings challenges, for example:

  1. Travel and transport are more expensive. Flights are more in demandand prices are often higher – even if you can find availability on your preferred flight. And owing to higher demand, the moving industry may not have enough trucks, people or time at their disposal.
  2. More volume, more pressure. With people being under pressure, mistakes may take place more often. Some – less professional – transport companies respond to the pressure by introducing seasonal temporary staff who may not have the necessary skills or training.
  3. You may have less support. Despite the increased activity in the relocation world,the wider business slowdownthat accompanies the summer months can cause problems. School planning, for example, may be harder once schools have closed for summer, and the agencies that assignees need (such as home search, or accommodation lettings, for example) may be short-staffed or even closed for a while during the holiday season.

Avoid Peak Season Panic

What can you and your assignees do to combat the pressures of moving during peak season?

1. Plan Ahead

The most obvious advice (and the least helpful if you are reading this in July) is to plan ahead. Choosing an experienced relocation partner and discussing schedules in the months leading up to the assignment is critical. In this way, you will know what needs to happen and by when – and you will also have the reassurance of knowing how much it is going to cost. This is especially true if you are travelling to a popular holiday destination: the requirements of your assignee may be very different to a typical holiday maker, but they are often competing for the same space and services.

2. Be Flexible

When resources are limited, you and your assignees will need to embrace a spirit of compromise. For example, when setting the moving day, it helps to be flexible and to bear in mind that certain days are busier (and therefore more expensive) for moving. You can save money and improve your chances of getting the preferred travel options by moving midweek. You may also need a little flexibility in terms of shipping goods. A small air-freight consignment sent ahead of the main shipment may be a wise option – and be prepared to use short-term storage or temporary accommodation on arrival. Try to take problems in your stride if your peak season move doesn’t go perfectly to plan.

3. Keep A Budget Aside For Unexpected Costs

One consequence of the busy summer is that, as demand goes up, so do the prices – and these can sometimes catch you by surprise. Careful budgeting and agreeing prices in advance with a reputable relocation partner will of course help, but you should be aware that unexpected costs can be more likely in the busy summer months.

4. Have A Back-Up Plan

As Plan A won’t always work, it’s more important than ever to have a Plan B. If a problem arises with your normal service providers or your preferred transport or travel options, do you have a fall-back? The choice of supplier in the first place will make a big difference. For example, FIDI’s FAIM accredited moving companies are required to adhere to strict quality standards that are independently monitored on a frequent basis. They are part of a network of companies who know each other and operate to the same standards, giving you peace of mind that your assignee is still in safe hands whatever happens. Of course, there is never a good time to choose a bad supplier. But when the pressure mounts in peak season, your decision to choose a FAIM-certified mover will pay dividends.

5. Tactics On The Day Of The Move

Your assignees will have prepared for their move, but these preparations become more important as the likelihood of delays and disruption mounts. Suggest they follow a checklist (such as this one) and take sensible precautions on the day of the move itself, such as packing suitable supplies and items in personal baggage just in case the main shipment is delayed.

Get Your Timing Right

There is perhaps a bigger question here. If you are likely to hit the peak season unprepared, why not consider postponing? We know the advantages of moving during the summer but bear in mind the flip side. Moving in non-peak times solves all availability problems at a stroke and for some assignees (especially those without family) the pros may outweigh the cons. Whatever the time of year, however, the same advice applies: get your planning, budgeting and your choice of moving partner right and your assignees’ time abroad will start with the minimum of fuss.

We service all of Alberta including Ft. McMurray, Red Deer and Lethbridge!

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Edmonton International Movers
14490-157 Avenue NW
Edmonton, AB
T6V 0K8

Tel: (780) 447-4242

edmonton@starlineoverseas.com

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Unit #18 7115-48th Street S.E.
Calgary, AB
T2C 5A4

Tel: (403) 720-3244

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