HOW TO BE A MODERN DAY GYPSY

Monday, 02 October 2017

The Following post is from Vienda Maria’s blog page:

“How do you do it?” is probably one of the questions I get asked the most. The short answer is:

I believe in myself and my dreams. I decide what it is that I want, how I want life to feel and look like, and then I move in the direction of that vision. I’m actually not really sure of the HOW until I see it in retrospect.

But when I DO see it, it looks a little bit like this:

How To Be A Modern Day Gypsy: Part 1. Follow Your Heart

How To Be A Modern Day Gypsy: Part 1. Follow Your Heart

Like all good stories, my story on how I became a modern-day gypsy, starts with unusual beginnings!

I have been a gypsy since the day I was born. My parents, an Italian pirate/gypsy/hippy and an Austrian country girl, met at a party in Salzburg one day, had a wild love affair and traversed the mountains, valleys, lakes and seas of Europe from that day forth. I decided I wanted in on the fun, and joined them on their adventures a year later….”

I have been a gypsy since the day I was born. My parents, an Italian pirate/gypsy/hippy and an Austrian country girl, met at a party in Salzburg one day, had a wild love affair and traversed the mountains, valleys, lakes and seas of Europe from that day forth. I decided I wanted in on the fun, and joined them on their adventures a year later.

Though their love affair didn’t last beyond my fourth year of life, the universe had already set my destiny in motion. I was to become a modern-day gypsy. By the time I was 15 I had travelled and lived throughout many parts of Europe such as Austria, Italy, Spain including the Canary Islands, Portugal as well as Singapore, Australia and Fiji.

I spent large parts of my childhood exploring the Australian native wild forests and beaches and dreaming of places yet for me to discover and when I was 15, with much begging, admonishing and cajoling convinced my mother that I was being called to lands far, far away.

Thus was the turning point and I began my first journey alone, where I lived in the United States as an exchange student discovering what treasures the world held for me, from the worn-out glamour of Hollywood and the Mormons of Utah, to the indigenous American Indian communities of New Mexico and the thick accents and hospitable humor of Texas. Since then, gypsy travels became my lifestyle. I went back to Australia for a year to see my mother and with age 17 completed my high school certificate in one year through a distance education course so I could finally be free of the schooling system and also have the option for further study.

At 18 I moved to Salzburg, Florence and then London over a three-year period, and then at 20 heard a calling to go to university and moved to Cairns, Australia via a month in Thailand to complete a degree in Psychology, and where I started working as an event organiser/ artist manager for music and arts festivals. This work then took me around the world for the next four years: Australia, Turkey, Morocco, Spain, Switzerland, Portugal, France, Italy, England and the United Arab Emirates.

I was growing up and at 27 realised I needed to take time out and redefine the direction I wanted to take in my life. Working in festivals was growing tiring and I wanted more freedom to express myself and my talents and passions. I took a year to myself and travelled through India, Japan, Thailand and Laos during which time I immersed myself in my secret passion: writing! I also rediscovered my love for helping people overcome their own obstacles in life and started developing my career as a life coach.

In 2010 I moved to Sydney, where I based myself for two and a half years whilst I worked full-time running a small business for a corporate motivational speaker and building my own business from the ground up.

Since July 2012 I have been on the road again, first 5 months in Europe writing, coaching and doing workshops whilst traveling through Portugal, via Amsterdam for three months, Prague, Leipzig, Manchester, followed by 3 months in Central America moving from Mexico through to Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica and now, finally settling in San Francisco for some time. I plan to stay in the Americas for the next year or two. But as always with gypsy travels, you never know when and where the north wind will blow me next!

The question I get asked the most from people is, now do you do it? This very simple question usually comes loaded with much more detail: how do you do it financially?, what do you do for work?, how do you make the decision to leave? and how do you know where to go next?.

How to Be A Modern Day Gypsy: Part 2. Count Your Pennies

 How to Be A Modern Day Gypsy: Part 2. Count Your Pennies

How much money you have is generally less important than what you do with that money.

Travels can last much longer if you use your money is thoughtful and clever ways, and you think outside of the box. Here are 7 of the most poignant tips on how to make your money last on the road.

1. Be Flexible.

Being flexible is probably the NO. 1. tip I can give anyone who wants to become a traveller. That means be flexible with your plans, with where you want to go, with whom you will meet and what you will do. Leave it up to the travel gods. They will always guide you to have the best experience possible! For example, late last year I had to make a decision. I had been in the UK for a month, doing some work, and had to decide whether to stay for the winter or move on. London is an expensive city if you don’t have a conventional lifestyle, and though I could have stayed and worked my heart was yearning to go somewhere warmer. Both India and Mexico were calling my name. So I started researching flights and my decision was made for me. I found a $250 flight from London to Cancun as opposed to the cheapest flight to Mumbai in India which was $800. I saved $550 simply because I was flexible, and have been having the most incredible time in Central America ever since. This is true for so very many different scenarios. It’s so important to remain open and flexible at all times when you’re a modern-day gypsy, as you never know when and what kind of opportunities will appear.

2. Don’t Make Solid Plans.

This may seem counterintuitive for many people who haven’t had a lot of experience travelling, but actually making solid, fixed plans such as hotel bookings, trips and tours may be your demise because you often can’t change them if something better shows up. In many parts of the less-developed world, you won’t get the best deals and experiences by booking them online. You get them by talking to the local people, making friends and connecting in “real” life. Only a couple of weeks ago I was working at a music festival in Costa Rica, in Uvita called Envision. They had camping spaces available for staff but I wanted more comfort (I may be a modern-day gypsy but I definitely enjoy and indulge in simple creature comforts!). So a friend and I went to a local cafe and started speaking with the waiter, the owner and some other locals. Luckily my Spanish is fluent enough to make these kinds of conversations and within minutes the news was out that we were looking for a place for two people with kitchen facilities. The next day we were taken to a beautiful row local tourist apartments, each complete with private kitchen and bathroom, a fabulous swimming pool, hammocks and a lovely outdoor area and a 5 minute ride to the festival site. We wouldn’t have found this if we hadn’t gotten in with the locals and we praised and felt gratitude for our lovely temporary home every day.

3. Always Barter the Price.

This is really important. Always, always, always ask for a better price. You won’t always get it but more than often than not you will. I do this every where I go, because I know that my sale is valuable to the seller and that if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Not only did we find a beautiful place to stay in, in the tip above. But we also got a really good price because we asked for it. When we initially spoke to the locals about finding an apartment to rent during our stay in Uvita, we told them that we were planning to stay for 15 nights and that our budget was $20 per night for the two of us, so $10 each. We knew that the prices in the area were mostly above and beyond this unless we wanted to stay in some dodgy backpackers but we both know from experience that you generally always get what you put out to the universe. It’s just how modern-day gypsies roll! Because we were staying for more than two weeks, and it meant that the owner of the Cabinas had a definite income for that entire time, and we paid in cash, he was happy to fulfill our needs. The apartment we received was normally priced at $60 per night so we actually saved $600, which is HUGE in the grand scheme of things.

4. Be Generous.

This tip is based on the law of attraction. What you give out you get back, and when you’re on the road there’s nothing more beautiful and fulfilling than giving something to someone who is in need. Not only does it feel great, but it also has the added benefit of your generosity being reciprocated in the most unexpected ways. This may not happen directly from the people you have been generous with, but you simply never know. The amount of times that wonderful things have happened to me is countless: complete strangers offering me a place to stay, free taxi rides to airports when I ran out of local currency, a shared meal with people living below the poverty line, generous gifts of books or other things that I’ve needed along the road. Being generous is a wonderful attribute to take with you wherever you go, and although this act should come from a pure place without any expectation, you will find that when it is reciprocated, it will often save you money in the most unusual ways.

5. No Bills.

One of the wonderful benefits of being a modern-day gypsy is that I have no bills. I don’t own property, I don’t have any ties, I don’t have telephone, electric or gas bills. I pay for the things that I need as I go. Certainly this makes the way I care for and spend my money quite different. I’m very aware of what my expenditures are and deal with money on a day-to-day basis.

6. Stay With Friends.

After having travelled for such a long time, and having made lots of friends wherever I go, I have the wonderful opportunity to stay with friends in many places along the way. I am always so incredibly grateful for every single individual who is kind enough to open their doors to me and share their home. I always make an effort to reciprocate their kindness and hospitality but putting my home making talents to work and making some beautiful meals and leaving some kind of light, love and inspiration behind wherever I go. This obviously also means that I get to save on accommodation expenses which is definitely one of the biggest costs when travelling.

7. Travel Slow.

I like to take my time wherever I go. I’m not a tourist or a backpacker, I’m a modern-day gypsy which means that I want to immerse myself in the place and culture that I am visiting. This means that I like to stay in one place for longer periods of time rather than move around quickly. And this can really help make your money last longer. When you live like a local, you pay local prices and you get to know the people. You can rent a place for longer periods of time at the fragment of the price of a hotel or other tourist accommodation, you learn to shop where the locals shop, prepare your own meals and love and more simple life. Taking your time when you travel is not only good for your pockets, but also much mor fulfilling for your soul, as you get to really experience the place that you are visiting rather than just pass through it.

Life as a modern-day gypsy has so many adventures, twists and turns, and how you use your money is definitely one of the important aspects that you are faced on a daily basis.

How to Be A Modern Day Gypsy: Part 3. Giver of Gifts

How to Be A Modern Day Gypsy: Part 3. Giver of Gifts

Generosity is a high priority in the life of a gypsy because the more you give, the more you receive and gypsy life is incredibly co-dependent on human connection and the kindness of others.

As a gypsy I bring a fresh breath of air and an indispensable calm into the life every single person I come in contact with, as well as provide a wealth of spiritual and emotional support. This is often is reciprocated in numerous different ways, and whatever I receive is usually exactly what I need in that moment.

One of the wonderful things about having the freedom of being a gypsy is that you can work anywhere and everywhere you go. I personally tend to have wide range of income streams and one of my main jobs is to find a way to share and give my gifts wherever I go. I’m constantly marketing and connecting with people in order to keep the energy and money in my life flowing through.

Generosity is a high priority in the life of a gypsy because the more you give, the more you receive and gypsy life is incredibly co-dependent on human connection and the kindness of others. As a gypsy I bring a fresh breath of air and an indispensable calm into the life every single person I come in contact with, as well as provide a wealth of spiritual and emotional support. This is often is reciprocated in numerous different ways, and whatever I receive is usually exactly what I need in that moment.

Nonetheless, many of the energy transactions that I engage in are also monetary, which is important because money is a fantastic way to exchange your time and efforts for the things you need. Some of the ways that I work and in essence give my gifts are:

I’m a mentor. I help women become empowered by teaching them to love themselves; to trust themselves and their intuitions and to live their lives on their own terms. It’s all about getting real with yourself, your love, truth and freedom. I encourage women to take courage and live the life they dream of, and I do so by being a leading example of what I believe in. Everyone’s path is different, and it’s important to get clear on what yours is and also be gentle and kind with yourself as this path is constantly changing.

I’m a writer. I do various types of writing which includes blogging for my site viendamaria.com, copywriting for creative businesses, and writing digital guides such as the Build Your Own Business Blog guide which you can buy here (Nadine, perhaps you want to place your affiliate link in there somewhere!).

I give workshops. I am often hired to give workshops to women who are in need of more love, support and empowerment in their lives and guide them on how to nurture themselves and their lives, how to listen to their intuitions and really connect to the spiritual part of themselves in order to live joyful, fulfilled and empowered lives. I really adore speaking to small groups of women and shining my light into their hearts so they can see just how incredibly amazing they are. I love extracting people’s potential for them to see in clear view. It’s such a beautiful thing when someone recognises just how much they are capable of and that they hold the power to do anything they dare to dream in their own hands. Such joy!

I do events and gigs. From time to time, depending on my situation or my fascination, I work at music festivals, coordinating some specific aspect of the event or pick up other short-term and contract gigs which range from small business support, social media, marketing and coordinating. When you’re travelling a lot, it’s financially important to be flexible and open to do different things as they come up. I’m also a massive fan of variety and love doing lots of different things.

I can’t multitask and live a very simple life, but at the same time am conjured into constant adventure. It is the thrill of living a life full of deep and meaningful sensual experiences and the human connections, that lights me up and drives me to keep giving all that I have and seeing what comes back. As a modern-day gypsy, having many different income streams is the only way to keep moving, otherwise you get tied to one space and easily fall into tracks that give you very little flexibility and can limit the chances and opportunities that are available to you.

How to Be A Modern Day Gypsy: Part 4. Listen to the Wind

How to Be A Modern Day Gypsy: Part 4. Listen to the Wind

Being a gypsy is very much feeling orientated.

When people ask me how I decide when it’s time to go, I like to say that I know because the north wind blows and I am compelled to listen and adhere, but this wind that I speak of is more of an internal sensation and push to move than the actual wind that’s blowing outside. It’s a feeling within me that’s akin to the wind….”

One question that I am asked so often is, how do I know when it’s time to leave a place. How do I make the decision to go? I love this question because it is directly connected to me listening to my intuition. I make all of my decisions based on my connection to Soul (you can find out more about how I connect to Soul in this video) and how I FEEL. Being a gypsy is very much feeling orientated. When people ask me how I decide when it’s time to go, I like to say that I know because the north wind blows and I am compelled to listen and adhere, but this wind that I speak of is more of an internal sensation and push to move than the actual wind that’s blowing outside. It’s a feeling within me that’s akin to the wind.

In my life, I don’t make set plans, rather, I create commitments for myself that I choose to fulfil and complete in the space that I am in at that time, and then wait to find out what is to happen next. This gives my life a lot of space and flexibility to co-create what it might entail with the powers that are greater than I. Either, Life will give me reason to stay in one place, or it will send me in a new direction. It is easy to set yourself up in one place in life and to get really comfortable, but if that sense of security and comfort is stunting your personal growth then it’s diminished your possibilities rather than expanding them.

You don’t have to leave the place you live in order to travel. So long as you are able to see your world with fresh and new eyes every single day, and be open to new experiences and the wonderment of life, then you are a gypsy in your own way. As long as you don’t allow your life to become stagnant, as long as you remain curious, connected and enlivened you can listen to the wind and let it guide you to undiscovered corners of your heart, soul, city or village.

For me, I am compelled to grow, blossom and expand by wandering across the soils of this gorgeous planet. I am just made that way. And I know when it’s time to leave because I feel it.

Generally, what I discern is a sense of discomfort, that things aren’t quite right anymore. The flow of life has ceased to move in any particular direction, the colours that were once bright and shining appear misty, my body grows in discontent and I can sense it’s time to move again soon. My body is actually a fantastic signal, it ALWAYS tells me where I’m at with pretty much everything. If my body is unsettled, I always ask it what the root cause of this sensation is, and once I’ve ruled out any other options I recognise that it’s simply telling me that it hears the north wind calling it to move on.

At this point is where I make sure I deeply connect with my Soul and intuition or inner guide and commune with it in order to gain a sense of direction. I’ll meditate and ask if I am being called to lands unexplored and what insight I can be given to make my decision clear. Again, this all occurs within a FEELING field. If the idea of moving feels sweet, gentle, blissful and full of grace and ease, then I know that the winds have spoken. If the idea of moving onto new destinations gives me an uncomfortable grating sensation, a field of resistance of some sort, then I know that there is something else going on and it’s best for me to stay and be still where I am right now.

Once I have recognised that the time has come to follow my dancing gypsy feet again, then I need to get clear on which direction I’m heading. I cannot read the future or tell you exactly what’s going to happen next but I can feel what direction my intuition is guiding me towards and often I also receive intuitive thoughts or images about what’s going on around me that affects the decisions that I am making. I’ll tell you more about that next time!

How to Be A Modern Day Gypsy: Part 5. Choose Your Destination

How to Be A Modern Day Gypsy: Part 5. Choose Your Destination

More often than not, the next destination has already been imprinted into my heart and my heart yearns to go there.

Where to next? That is the question that every modern-day gypsy asks whenever the north wind blows. Where in the world will this journey take me next? Who will I meet? What will happen? How is this going to roll out?

In the previous post, on listening to your intuition and when the wind blows, I discussed how I know when it’s time to go. But once I know that I’ve been called to keep moving, it’s really good to know what direction to start moving. For me, there are four main ways that I recognise my direction, and they tend to generally occur simultaneously, once I have made my decision to move.

1. My Heart Yearns

More often than not, the next destination has already been imprinted into my heart and my heart yearns to go there. This feels kind of like being in love with someone and missing them dearly, but instead of having that feeling for a person, you have that feeling for a place which, more than likely, you’ve never been to before. I don’t wildly choose to just go anywhere though. I always choose to go to places that are in harmony and flow with where I’m at right now. I don’t like to travel too far or too fast, and try to remain in the same country or continent as long as possible, until I am satisfied that I have completed all the things that I am to do, in that specific, geographical area. Sudden, fast movements into obscure, far away directions aren’t good for either body nor soul.

2. My Soul Directs

This is where I go back to my feeling practise which I illustrated in How To Be A Modern Day Gypsy: Listen to the Wind. When I sit and connect with my intuition and Soul, I can feel which way it is swaying towards. The name of a town, city or country will pop into my mind and imagination and I am filled with a sense of joy, warmth and ease at the prospect of going there. This step of discerning where to go is really fun, some and easy. It can however be obscured if you have other worries, fears or concerns around moving forward, which often have nothing to do with your next destination and everything to do with some deeper blockages that you need to take a look at and process. Sometimes I just write a quick love note to the Universe with something like: “Dear Universe/Life/Source, where do you wish me to go next? Where am I most useful and can I give the best of me? In love and gratitude, Vienda.” And then I wait and see what happens. And always, always, always I receive an answer in some way or another. Sometimes from a phone call or an email. Sometimes I just have an inspired idea. It varies, but the point is to listen!

3. The Place Calls

I love it when a place calls my name so loudly and clearly! It makes itself heard and apparent by showing up serendipitously through people talking about this particular place, reading the name in books, overhearing about it in conversations or films, and generally being bombarded by the calling of a place in various and frequent ways. It wants you and is making itself heard by appearing to you over and over and over again.

4. People Connect

Finally, this is always the clincher for me. I know that I am meant to go somewhere when there are people asking me to come. I remember about 6 months ago I was in Germany, and I knew that it was time for me to move on but I simply had no idea where to. So I went through the process described above and within two days I received 20 emails from friends asking me to come to London. And so, clearly, that’s where I went. I hadn’t asked any of them to direct me. I asked only my intuition to guide me. But this just shows how connected we all are. Again, more recently, I had to decide what to do after the event in Costa Rica that I worked at finished, and although I had options and opportunities in Mexico and Los Angeles; San Francisco called the most strongly to me. The people who I have connected with in this area were most compelling and here I am.

Choosing where to go is made so much easier when you know you have a friendly, sweet and smiling face greeting you at your destination and I am always overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity that has been extended to me and can only give back all of me in return as I live the modern-day gypsy life. But it is important to ensure that your decision isn’t based only on one of the tools outlined in knowing where to go, but equally balanced across all four to ensure that you are covering all your bases and your decision is harmonious and in line with your highest good.

Photos: FreePeople.com

Do you like moving?

Monday, 11 September 2017

gypsy

Is there a little gypsy in your blood? Do you yearn for the feel of new places to go and faces to meet? Or would you rather be more comfortable and sure about just what to expect from your neighborhood?

Change can be a great thing, it just all depends on how you look at it. Sometimes it is forced upon us. There are those us who are forced to relocate frequently because of the career paths we have chosen. Some of us are just wealthy and move as we please to where we please.  A lot of us fall in between.

I think the majority of people look upon moving as an unpleasant chore, a thing to be avoided, kind of like having to dump the honey bucket. But by golly, once the bucket has been dumped life does sometimes seem to pick up a little!

We are here to help you with that initial chore, the unpleasantness of it, to help you get moved into your new place, be it in the same city or a different country. We do this with a smile because we’re good at moving people.

Get Ready For China

Friday, 01 September 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 Shift In Global Mobility: Get Ready For China

We’ve been talking about the rise of China as a global power for decades. But recent research from AXA suggests that global mobility departments should be looking at it more closely than ever. Interestingly, China is set to become the key destination for international mobility in the next five years.

The research is based on responses from 250 firms in eight countries and 372 globally-mobile workers. It reveals that traditional Western economies remain strong and dominate the list of countries where employers most commonly send staff to work in today. However, things are set to change. While China is on the rise, the UK and Germany are set to drop outside the Top 5.

The attractiveness of China is also mirrored in another report, The Global Residential Cities Index from Knight Frank (PDF, 847 KB), which shows that the value of residential property in Chinese cites is rising faster than anywhere else in the world. Compared to a global average rise of 6.9% in the year to March 2017, residential real estate showed an increase of 15.9%.

How Can Global Mobility Departments Prepare For China?

The choice of locations for international business expansion is a long-term, strategic decision. While the shift is slow to take effect, it is also unlikely to be reversed any time soon. Given the cultural, economic and language differences between China and Western economies, it would be wise to devote extra time and effort to prepare.

It is also clear that China itself is changing, and global mobility departments need to be aware of the latest developments. For example, property values in the most common expat destinations (Shanghai and Beijing) are now being outpaced by housing booms in the 2nd tier cities, such as Wuxi and Nanjing. Although less well known to outsiders, each has more than 6 million inhabitants putting them on a par with more internationally established expat locations such as Miami and Singapore. The rise of these “2nd tier” cities is the result of structural investments in business, infrastructure and liveability by the Chinese government.

Do You Have A China Strategy In Place?

The same best practice principles apply to planning and managing global assignments to all locations. The highest-performing assignees (and global mobility departments) plan ahead and make sure they are also ready with the detail. Now is, therefore, a good time to ask yourself a few questions:

  • Do you have an understanding of the immigration and working visa regulations for China?
  • Are you familiar with tax and other legal requirements?
  • Do you have local suppliers and contacts in place?
  • Are you familiar with the cultural challenges of working in China?
  • Are you prepared to help assignees settle, in terms of accommodation, schooling and family life?

Do Your Homework Now

Background research is key. In addition to talking to your own assignees with experience of working in China, there are numerous resources on the web, including:

If you do not already have assignees in China (or if it is not yet central to your global mobility activities) these resources will help you prepare. China appears increasingly likely to play a key role in your future global mobility strategy.

Cross-Cultural Communication

Friday, 25 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.

Cross-Cultural Communication – 4 Books To Read Before You Go

Ask any expat and they will no doubt be able to tell stories – some funny, some tragic, some simply embarrassing – of cultural misunderstandings. Whether it involves linguistic difficulties, misinterpretations of gestures, or simply failing to make oneself understood, communicating with those outside your home culture is difficult. Here a few reasons why it can be so tricky:

  • High-context cultures(e.g. Japan) differ from low-context cultures (e.g. Germany) because much communication is implied rather than communicated directly. Conversely, low-context cultures expect instructions to be explicit and detailed. When the two cultures meet, there is a risk of misunderstandings, especially in a business context.
  • Hand signals and gestures vary widely and what is commonplace in one country can be taboo in another. So it is worthwhile to investigate gestures in your destination country before you go.
  • A smile is not always as it seems. While Western cultures may interpret a smile as a sign of approachability, a few cultures may associate it with dishonesty and even a lack of intelligence.
  • Remembering to say please and thank you is highly important in some cultures, where direct instructions are considered rude and therefore need to be softened. But this same desire to avoid offense may lead to you being ignored if your audience is accustomed to more direct, less polite instruction.
  • Language is an obvious barrier to communication – but it is perhaps more important to know one’s limitations than to avoid trying to use a local language altogether. Indeed, making an effort to speak the local language in safe, social and non-technical environments is to pay a compliment to one’s hosts. Just be aware that an innocent slip of the tongue runs the risk of changing the meaning altogether, so keep a lookout for indications of confusion.
  • Even the distance that you stand from someone varies from country to country, as the concept of reasonable personal space varies throughout the world. A recent study showed, for example, that Argentines will typically stand 30% closer to a stranger than the British.
  • Of course there are subjects that are a minefield: raise the subject of religion and politics at your peril. The risk of misunderstanding and the likelihood of offense may simply be too high.

But What Can Expats Do About It?

Cross-cultural training is available, and used by the more sophisticated global organisations (especially with senior assignments where the wrong turn of phrase can undermine months of planning and jeopardize crucial business relationships). But how can a single blog post hope to explain the complexities of cultural communication and the pitfalls that await the novice global assignee? It can’t – so we’ll leave it to the experts, and simply suggest four fascinating books that every expat (and global mobility department) should try to read.

1. The Hidden Dimension, Edward T Hall (1966)

Born in Missouri, Hall is the grandfather of intercultural communication. Having spent years doing field work, living with different cultures from Europe to the Navajo and Hopi native American tribes in north-western Arizona, he was hired by the US government to teach inter-cultural communications skills to foreign service personnel. He is known for developing the concept of “high context culture” and “low context culture”, and wrote several popular practical books on dealing with cross-cultural issues. His seminal work, The Hidden Dimension, is a detailed, but fascinating read.

2. Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind, Geert Hofstede (1993)

Professor Geert Hofstede paints a fairly bleak picture of our ability to understand other cultures. His analysis, based on years of first-hand research outlines ideas such as culture shock, ethnocentrism, stereotyping, and differences in language and humor. Yet, while he shows that we are a long way from appreciating differences in culture, he also explains how this is also a great opportunity for those willing to make the effort, and offers advice for how organizations and individuals can bridge the cultural divide to their advantage.

3. The Mobile Life: A New Approach to Moving Anywhere, Diane Lemieux & Anne Parker (2014)

Compared to the detail and academic thrust of the previous two titles, this invaluable book was created as a practical guide for those about to depart. Drawing a neat parallel with Sir Ernest Shackleton’s 1914 Antarctic expedition, it outlines a structured and innovative approach to relocating. Each chapter describes how expats can fit in with different cultures and environments, and explains the skills, tools and mindset that help you manage the transition to create a new life anywhere.

4. Cultural Misunderstandings: The French-American Experience, Raymonde Carroll (1990)

Written by a French anthropologist living in the USA, this book uses the specific example of French-American cultural differences to outline the wider difficulties of cross-cultural misunderstanding. A shorter and more accessible read than the other titles mentioned, it is nonetheless detailed and explains how issues surrounding money, friendships, families, parenting and even using the telephone differ hugely between two apparently similar cultures.

No Time For Extensive Reading?

Gathering knowledge yourself takes time, even if you have an outstanding shortlist to start from. If time is a luxury you cannot afford, or reading is not your cup of tea, thorough training session by dedicated experts will be key., FAIM Affiliates are on hand to arrange cultural awareness training. Find one near you.

Managing A Global Assignment

Friday, 18 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.

What Help Do You Need To Manage A Global Assignment?

Organizing a global assignment –or multiple global assignments – is a complicated business and it can feel like an awful lot to do on your own. Fortunately, there is a myriad of suppliers all willing to help you (for a fee, usually) in all aspects of your global mobility program. Some focus on delivering services directly to you, while others work with the assignees themselves –which in turn lightens the burden supporting them.

We thought it would be useful to list the kinds of support that are available to HR teams. Since different organizations work in different ways, you may want to pick and choose from the list below to suit your own situation, the needs of your assignees, and to complement the in-house experience and resources you already have.

Tax Consultants

According to research by the Forum for Expatriate Management, tax is the discipline most frequently outsourced by global mobility departments, which is not surprising, given the complexity and volatility of tax regulations around the world – and the risk of getting it wrong.

Expense Management

The relocation expenses, international payments and salary provision involved with global assignments presents a headache that is often best left to specialists. Salaries may be paid locally and all payments need to be checked, reconciled, reported and paid efficiently and effectively – ensuring compliance and minimizing risk. In addition, external data providers may be used to help calculate compensation packages and budgets that correspond to the cost of living in the host country.

Immigration Advice And Law

The organization of work permits and other necessary paperwork is another area where global mobility professionals may seek specialist help, especially when global assignments break new ground and take employees to unfamiliar countries. While EU workers can travel freely within EU countries, for example, regulations can be more stringent elsewhere.

Accommodation

Global mobility departments or indeed expats seeking accommodation in a new host country can use all the help they can get. Choosing accommodation often requires local knowledge, all while other parameters like budgets and standards need to be factored in. Relocation companies can play a big role here. Provide them with your global assignee needs, they are experts in finding the best property to match a company’s housing policy.

Cultural And Language Training

The need for training will depend on a number of factors, including the host country, the assignee’s level of knowledge (and language), not to mention the strategic importance of the assignment. Courses and online study programs are widely available that can cover everything from broader cross-cultural awareness to advanced language instruction.

Moving Services

At the heart of the whole operation sits the moving partner, who will take on the task of moving goods to the new host country, whilst also typically taking care of customs clearance and insurance issues. What’s more, most quality moving companies are also able to offer relocation assistance and even have departments tasked specifically for this. Their areas of expertise can include anything from pet moving to school and accommodation searches.

Make Things More Manageable By Reducing The Number Of Parties

By now it’s clear that an international move entails far more than just moving boxes, and that a whole range of parties can step in to help. Luckily, you can also consolidate services into one partner to make things easier to manage. An experienced relocation partner, for example, often does much more than shipping goods. A FAIM-certified moving company will also act as a central point of contact: even if they don’t handle services like school searches directly, they still handle thousands of global assignee moves per year. Consequently, they’d have an extensive portfolio of third party suppliers on hand to help meet all of your needs.

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.

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