Lending a Helping Hand

When an assignee arrives in their host country, it can be hard to find community outside of work or children’s school friends. Many expatriates report a desire to make local friends and experience more in their host location, but don’t have a clear idea of how they can, particularly when a language barrier is in play.

Volunteering can be a great way to become part of a community, improve your language skills by using them in practice, and do good at the same time. In many cases, volunteer organizations have positions that can be done with limited language ability. In Japan, I walked dogs and cleaned kennels for an animal shelter and packed lunches for a soup kitchen. Neither required a high command of the language, but were necessary, hands-on tasks, and similar to volunteer work I had experience in. If there’s a social problem you’re passionate about in your home country, there are likely locals working on the same issue in your host country. Genuine belief in the good of a project will go a long way towards building relationships with others who are invested in the same issue, regardless of their backgrounds.

Volunteering abroad is not without challenges. Even if you’ve been involved in similar outreach in your home country, locals may have a different way of approaching situations, different or fewer resources than you are used to, or have to take cultural factors you aren’t aware of into account. The local chapter of international volunteer organizations can also be an accessible inroad to local volunteering. Many of these international groups are listed in Living Abroad’s sections on Clubs and Organizations in our destination reports. Some companies even work in partnership with charities in the host location; Human Resources may be able to tell you if this is the case.

Assignees’ unique positions as a global workforce can bring extra value to volunteer organizations. They may be able to organize international fundraisers, offer to create a website in their native language, or write an article for a newspaper back home to spread awareness. Global mobility offers us opportunities to give back on a worldwide scale, and those who take advantage of these opportunities are likely to have a more fulfilling time in their host country.


Written by Kate Havas, GMS-T, Content Manager

A Conundrum – Relocating Diverse Talent To Less Diverse Locations

We all strive for diversity in our mobility programs, but what happens when diverse talent is scheduled for an assignment in a less diverse location? Choosing employees from different backgrounds allows companies to tap into a larger pool of talent, but managing this talent in destinations where diversity is not the norm can be a challenge. Some employees may be willing to give it a go, but companies have a duty of care, and must consider legal and cultural norms that may not allow for a safe and comfortable relocation

Here are some of the key challenges to consider:

  1. Limited acceptance of diversity: In locations where diversity is not widely embraced or tolerated, companies may face resistance or even discrimination when sending assignees who come from different ethnicities, nationalities, genders, or sexual orientations. This can create barriers and risks for the assignees, affecting their well-being and ability to perform their jobs effectively.
  2. Legal and cultural considerations: Less diverse locations may have laws or cultural norms that restrict certain behaviors or relationships. For example, sending non-married couples to destinations where such couples are not tolerated can pose practical and legal challenges. Companies must navigate these legal and cultural considerations to ensure compliance and avoid putting their employees at risk.
  3. Duty of care and employee well-being: Companies have a responsibility to prioritize the safety and well-being of their employees. In non-inclusive locations, this duty of care becomes even more crucial as the risks and potential barriers to mobility increase. It is important for companies to assess and address any potential risks, provide necessary support, and ensure that employees are not exposed to discriminatory or hostile environments.
  4. Facilitation and cultural training: To mitigate the challenges, companies can provide facilitation and cultural training to assignees. Facilitation involves assisting assignees in navigating local customs, laws, and practices. Cultural training helps prepare assignees for the cultural differences they may encounter and equips them with the skills to adapt and work effectively in less diverse locations.  Host country staff may also benefit from training, not just the assignee.
  5. Planning and open discussion: Openly discussing and anticipating potential issues is essential. Companies need to engage in proactive planning, considering the specific challenges and risks associated with diversity. This includes addressing potential biases, prejudices, or discriminatory practices that assignees may face and finding ways to mitigate or overcome them.
  6. Balancing diversity and business needs: While promoting diversity is important, companies must also balance it with their business needs and the specific requirements of the assignment. They need to find a way to align their goals of fostering diversity with the realities and constraints of operating in less diverse locations.

Overall, managing diversity in non-inclusive locations requires careful consideration, cultural sensitivity, and proactive measures to ensure the well-being and success of assignees. It involves addressing legal and cultural challenges, providing support and training, and openly discussing and planning for potential issues. By navigating these challenges effectively, companies can tap into a diverse pool of talent while upholding their duty of care and promoting inclusivity.

In addition to Living Abroad’s International Relocation Center, with detailed information on 235+ destinations around the globe, our Culture Coach Online offers step by step online cross-cultural training, which includes diversity and inclusion for 151 destinations. If you’d like to explore, just click here for a free demo.

“No individual can win a game by himself.” – Pele

I admit it: I’m a late comer. Only recently did I get hooked on Ted Lasso, after a free trial of Apple TV gave me access to the series. Now I’m trying to catch up on the wildly popular show that’s won so many awards.

While I’m still watching the second season, I’ve been struck by the introduction of sports psychologist Dr. Sharon Fieldstone and her effect on members of the team.

The show doesn’t shy away from vulnerability, which is acknowledged in both word and action.Another constant thread is people caring about each other, often coming to each other’s rescue, sometimes with brutal candor and often with a dose of quirky humor that makes us love the characters even as we recognize ourselves in their struggles and failures. In the end, it helps to recognize that we all have vulnerabilities, even the psych professionals who help us.

In essence, Ted Lasso is an American expat in London. There is an inherent vulnerability in being somewhere new, an unavoidable inexperience that even the most capable executive must overcome by spending some time in the new location. A mixture of openness and resilience is required.

Mental health is so important in this journey. Someone who employed emotional wellness practices at home may find those supports are unavailable or don’t work quite as well in the host location. Finding ways to channel stress and deal with other issues while abroad is a must. Knowing where to go for help, locating someone who speaks your language and whom you can trust to understand the cultural undercurrents that influence your feelings, perceptions, and behavior – these are critical to a healthy, productive life.

You’ve heard from us and others, many times, about the importance of mental health. We continue to add content at a country level and across our products to make sure your globally mobile workforce can be informed, prepared, and more comfortable during their travel abroad.


Written by Ellen Harris, GMS – Product Manager, Content Group

When Disaster Strikes

We have been seeing an unprecedented rise in historic climate events around the world, and this isn’t predicted to change any time soon. While traveling or living overseas, we may suddenly have to contend with heat waves, floods, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. When in an unfamiliar area, one in which you may not speak the language, this can be even more frightening than in your home country.

Here are a few things you can do in advance to prepare.

  • Register with your embassy. You may have seen this tip in several lists for different reasons, but it is always good practice to register for any alerts that may be sent out. In extreme situations, your embassy may even be able to advice on evacuation.
  • Your company should have channels in place to deal with crises. If they have not already made you aware of them, make contact with the crisis team in advance of any emergency.
  • Familiarize yourself with what’s happened locally in the past. Find out if your neighborhood in particular has been affected by flooding, fires, or heat waves. By being aware of what’s possible, you can avoid surprise.
  • Prepare an emergency kit. The Red Cross has guidelines on what belongs in a survival kit. Your host country may even sell prepackaged kits based on the local climate and geography; when I lived in Japan, earthquake kits were sold at local stores and online. Keep copies of important documents and numbers in this kit.
  • Familiarize yourself with evacuation routes, shelter locations, and public transportation policy in the event of an emergency. Be aware that your typical modes of transportation may not be available in an emergency, so know alternate routes in advance. Some countries may have routes posted on major streets; others may require you to get a map at a city office.

At Living Abroad, we support expatriates in having a safe assignment. Our profiles have emergency numbers for each country, as well as extra information for destinations with particular risks under Security. In addition, our Relocation Essentials provide information relevant to assignees in general under Planning for Emergencies and When Emergencies Arise.

While natural disasters may not be on your mind among all the other stresses of moving overseas, by the time one strikes, it can already be too late to be prepared.

Written by Kate Havas, Content Manager

“The earth is what we all have in common.” — Wendell Berry

Spring is the perfect time of year to celebrate Earth Day. It’s a great time to reflect on the importance of sustainability in our global mobility practices. Living Abroad has taken a few steps towards becoming more sustainable, as well as providing sustainability information in our destination reports. We recently achieved Bronze Medal status from EcoVadis, which is a sustainability rating company.  It’s important as a partner in the supply chain to think about our role, and what part we play based on our company’s sustainability practices.

Sustainability is important for corporations that move employees around the world for work because such movements can have significant environmental, social, and economic impacts on the communities and ecosystems where employees work and live. By adopting sustainable practices in global mobility, we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote social equity and ensure long-term economic stability.

For example, sustainable transportation options like electric vehicles, public transportation, and cycling can reduce the carbon footprint of travel, while also reducing traffic congestion and improving air quality. Sustainable logistics practices like reducing packaging waste, optimizing delivery routes, and using renewable energy sources can also reduce the environmental impact of moving goods across the world.

Frequent air travel for business purposes can contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change. Additionally, corporations that do not consider the social and economic impacts of their employee movements may contribute to environmental degradation, displacement of local communities, and other negative outcomes.

By prioritizing sustainability, corporations can work to minimize these impacts and contribute to a more equitable and sustainable future. This can involve measures such as investing in renewable energy, reducing carbon emissions, supporting local communities, and ensuring that employees are aware of and committed to sustainable practices.

In addition, prioritizing sustainability can also have benefits for the corporation itself, such as improving their reputation, attracting environmentally and socially conscious employees and customers, and reducing costs associated with environmental damage and social conflicts.

It is essential to adopt sustainable practices in global mobility to ensure a more sustainable and inclusive future for people and the planet. I encourage companies to apply for the EcoVadis sustainability rating.

If you’re curious about our sustainability information for over 60 countries, feel free to request a demo below.

We’re in this together!

International Schools in Post-Brexit Europe

Who remembers, about six years ago, when advice started to emerge for parents after the Brexit vote? Families in the UK, or contemplating a move there, were warned of Brexit’s likely effects on international school enrollment. Britain’s schools would surely see a shift in European student enrollment, as work and immigration regulations changed for their parents.

The 2016 referendum to leave the EU threw all parts of UK society into serious consideration of what the future might look like. That future was coming fast, with a March 29, 2019 deadline initially agreed upon. That deadline would be extended three times. But as early as 2017, we began noting the ramifications for international schools. And not just in the UK. Cities in other EU countries might absorb students otherwise headed for the UK.

Anticipating a shift, international schools in cities like Amsterdam, Dublin, Frankfurt, and Paris started preparing for an uptick in applications. French officials planned new international schools around Paris. Irish educators recognized the country’s status as the largest English-speaking EU member, once the UK left.

No one knew for certain how it would play out, and many schools were not able to expand facilities or accommodate a surge in students.

On Jan 31, 2020, Brexit did bring sweeping changes to the UK’s place in Europe, though a transition period allocated to last until December 31 was meant to ease the immense adjustments. But then, no one had planned for the COVID-19 pandemic which not only shut down schools and borders, but also brought economic engines to a standstill.

Now, three years later, both Brexit and COVID have changed the landscape of international schools in Europe. Applications to Irish universities have tripled since Brexit. Schools everywhere accelerated their digital capabilities and are now in a better position to handle students remotely. Economies are recovering and business travel is returning, but the full effects of the past several years on school choice are still evolving.

The best advice for parents continues to be: Plan ahead. Wait lists can be long at schools in popular locations. School placement professionals can be helpful in informing you about educational offerings, connecting you with contacts at local schools, and guiding you through the application process.

Living Abroad’s destination reports are designed to prepare you for work or relocation abroad. Where to educate your children in a new location is one of the most important decisions parents make. Those of you who read our France, Germany, Ireland, and other reports back in 2017 benefitted from our advice to prepare for Brexit’s effects.

Thank you for trusting us to inform and guide you as your family chooses to live abroad.

Written by Ellen Harris, GMS, Product Manager, Content Group

Fool me once…

What do you do if you are an assignee in Paris, and your child comes home telling you about having a paper fish stuck to them at lunch? Or if you are new to the U.S., and suddenly see the news that you can legally print your own money?

If something seems strange, check the calendar! In many countries, April kicks off with a holiday that some love and some hate: April Fool’s Day. Whether it’s the Poisson d’Avril (April Fish) in French-speaking areas or Humorina in Odessa, Ukraine, the history of the holiday stretches back hundreds of years.

One potentially apocryphal origin says the first April fools were those in France who didn’t realize the calendar had changed from the Julian to Gregorian and tried to celebrate the new year on April 1, 1582. The “April fish” came to be when other townsfolk gave fake fish to those celebrating, teasing them as being young fish who were easily caught, and making a reference to the end of Lent. Even today, French and Québécois schoolchildren try to place paper fish on their classmates on the first day of April. The tradition then spread in various forms throughout Europe. One of the earliest forms of April prank in the UK was sending chain letters or sending friends on fake errands, known as “hunting the gowk.”

The Middle East may even have a claim to the April Fools tradition older than all the rest, with Persian records of springtime pranks dating back to 536 BC! Some historians believe this originated as a way for people to spend time outside, enjoying the high spirits that come with the start of spring.

Nowadays, even corporations get in on the pranking, from melty cheese company Velveeta announcing a skin care line to PayPal claiming that users will be able to print money from their accounts. When living in a new country, or even just taking a business trip in the springtime, stay alert for any potential mischief or fake headlines, as are popular in the USA and Brazil. Just make sure to wrap your jokes up by noon in Ireland and the UK- otherwise you become the fool! At Living Abroad, our country profiles contain lists of local holidays, so you can keep up with the calendar and on your toes.

Written by Kate Havas, Content Manager

Momentum in Music City

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) Conference in Nashville, TN, where “Momentum” was the theme. With over 4000 attendees, it was the largest conference I’ve been to in quite some time, and the largest to date sponsored by WBENC. Since this was my first time, I didn’t know what to expect. In addition to women business owners, there were Fortune 1000 enterprises and government agencies seeking to do business with women entrepreneurs.

Two sessions offered “meet and greet” opportunities with corporations and government entities seeking women-owned suppliers. Each business owner at the table had three minutes to share our company mission, and corporate reps promised to take our information back to the right business unit.

Additional learning sessions covered topics on how to sell to the government, succession planning, how to get access to capital, leadership & growth, women entrepreneurs as drivers of change, and many more.

What did I learn from the conference?

1.  Female entrepreneurship is alive and well in the U.S.
2.  A collaborative environment benefitted all attending.
3.  Answers to all types of business questions can be found among this group.
4.  I gained a greater understanding of how the WBENC organization supports women-owned businesses.
5.  I realized that women-owned businesses are championed by many of Living Abroad’s corporate clients.
6.  New relationships formed within our regional NYC WBENC group.
7.  Exposure to some new best practices was a valuable benefit.
8.  I made lasting connections with fellow entrepreneurs, supplier diversity professionals and others.

It was very inspiring to hear about all the businesses created by women who are striving to provide excellence in their field and thriving in our economy despite the current slowdown.

How does this effect global mobility and our role in it? You need to go outside your industry for new ideas. I did not meet anyone that does what Living Abroad provides, but I can assure you that I came away with some new ideas to support our business, our clients, and the globally mobile individuals who access our information every single day. Between the innovative experiential learning opportunities and inspiring speakers and panels, business owners were provided with tools and resources to develop as leaders and changemakers.

We celebrated and recognized some of the nation’s most successful women-owned businesses and the corporations that are doing the most to level the playing field for women entrepreneurs.  About 20 out of the 300+ corporations in attendance were inducted into the WBENC Hall of Fame, including Accenture, Bank of America, Chevron, ExxonMobil, EY, GM, IBM, JPMorgan Chase, Shell, UPS, and Walmart to name a few.

If you’re looking to do business with a women-owned enterprise and you’re already a member, you will have access to the directory. If not, go to the WBENC website and become a member. Your membership gives you access to the WBENC Directory of all women-owned businesses, where you can search for organizations that fit your supplier diversity requirements while providing the product or service you need.