What’s your unexpected?

From cross-cultural communication challenges, to last minute meeting changes, to unexpected traffic in an unfamiliar city, to your toothbrush not making it into your luggage, to needing a cup of coffee or a quick mile run, business travel requires expecting the unexpected.

While staying in a larger hotel makes many solutions available on site or nearby, more and more business travelers use homestay services such as Airbnb. In any lodging situation, taking just a few minutes to locate key conveniences ahead of time can go a long way toward making your trip frustration free. Be sure to think about your destination, the goals for your trip, and your likely needs.

Here are some common unexpected but necessary destinations. Which ones could be important to you on your next trip?

  • Taxi stand
  • Mass transportation stop or station
  • Alternate route to appointment or meeting
  • Reservable meeting space
  • Dry cleaning services
  • Clothing store
  • Library
  • Pharmacy
  • Supermarket
  • ATM
  • Parcel shipment and business services
  • Sports/fitness gym
  • Biking/jogging paths
  • Urgent care facility

Your concierge, homestay host, and colleagues can all be good sources of information. Another option is to visit Google Maps and, for example, type “taxi stand near (lodging address)” in the box that appears on the top right. This will open a map with pins on all nearby options, allowing you to determine for yourself which option is likely to be the most convenient.

Written by Erin Fitzgerald, GMS, Content Manager
 

Don’t lose track of the small details!

Are you involved with your company’s global mobility program and the many moving parts that go with handling successful international relocations?  Busy mobility professionals know that it’s easy for small details to pass unnoticed until things stop running smoothly, especially with all the juggling of local security, healthcare, tax, visas, benefits, and insurance.

One of the key areas of support for an international relocation, no matter the length, is access to pre-departure information.  Another is in-country guidance.  Assignees need to become familiar with their host locations by having access to detailed country descriptions, as well as robust housing information, discussions on schools, and business etiquette and social customs.  They’ll be relieved to know more about their new destinations before they go, as they settle in, and when they do business.

How does providing destination-specific information to your assignees and business travelers benefit your company?

  1. Raises assignee & family confidence levels
  2. Protects your company’s talent investment
  3. Eliminates questions to HR through up-to-date and local destination descriptions
  4. Guides assignees through setting up home and doing business in new environments
  5. Increases potential for assignment success

Your globally mobile colleagues also need answers at their fingertips and often reach for their smartphones first.  Make sure the information they reach for is not only easily accessible but also vetted and targeted to business users.

With Living Abroad’s International Relocation Center, your assignees and business travelers will never be far from getting the information they need, when they need it, no matter where they are in the world!  Subscribe to the destinations you need – from 1 to 230 – with easy access from all mobile devices.

The best-prepared assignees are happy and productive, so equip them today for success in the future. Delivering on this takes time and research. Thousands of employees and their managers rely on the IRC, allowing users to focus on business goals and eliminating the distraction of random destination research. Informed employees stay happier on assignment, and are more likely to achieve their business goals.

We believe in giving you a proven solution that works time and time again!
Curious?  Click here for a demo.

 

What are you waiting for?

Last week’s devastating fire in the Notre Dame Cathedral had onlookers struggling to comprehend the damage. Losing an irreplaceable piece of history prompted immediate, generous support toward rebuilding. But for those who never got a chance to lay eyes on the original 12th Century Paris masterpiece, that opportunity is now forever lost.

The world is full of wonders, and people who travel for business are in an excellent position to experience them.  Some things are so obvious that we put off visiting. Or they are so close to us, we tell ourselves that ‘someday’ we will get there. Then something intervenes, and the window of opportunity closes – even temporarily.

New York’s Statue of Liberty, for example, was closed over safety concerns for three years following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. U.S. national parks have closed – or been left unstaffed – at various times due to federal budget shutdowns.

And it’s not always negative events that make venues off-limits. Ongoing maintenance and restoration work – like Notre Dame had underway – causes closings, reduced schedules, and/or restricted access.

If you live or plan to travel near any of the world’s most famous landmarks, here are some links to help bring you one step closer to that visit:

Eiffel Tower – Paris, France
Great Wall of China – various locations
Machu Picchu – Cusco, Peru
Statue of Liberty – New York, NY
Stonehenge – Wiltshire, England
Sydney Opera House – Sydney, Australia
Taj Mahal – Agra, India
Victoria Falls – Livingstone, Zambia

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) lists 1092 World Heritage sites around the world. More than three-quarters of them are cultural, and one-fifth are natural. Fifty-four sites are in danger.

The world is changing at an astounding rate. And yet these places anchor us in history, astonish us with ingenuity, architecture, or engineering, and calm us with natural beauty – all of which have lasted for decades or centuries. Isn’t such an experience worth a trip soon?

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

How do you greet someone in Gabon?

Which of the following is a greeting you might encounter in Gabon?

a.  Raising both hands into the air
b.  Hugging with air kisses (in the French manner)
c.  Taking someone’s offered hand with both hands
d.  Shaking the offered wrist or forearm
e.  All of the above
f.  None of the above

The world’s most popular rideshare hits 10!

Last month marked ten years since the launch of one of the world’s most popular rideshare networks, Uber. Since then, it has been joined by countless other car service networks, such as Lyft Go-JekGrab, and Bolt.  These networks are known for their convenience and competitive fares…but unfortunately, there is sometimes cause for concern about passenger safety.

Here are a few tips to help ensure good rideshare experiences:

As always, plan ahead. 
What are the best ways to travel in your destination? A little research can go a long way. Just as safety and security can vary by location, they can also vary by transportation method. In addition, be aware that local legislation may have a dramatic effect on rideshare availability, service hours, pickup locations, and fares. This is particularly true for transportation to and from airports. It’s also important to know that in many cities, taxi companies provide apps that are similar to rideshare apps. Download the apps you plan to use before visiting your destination. Set up payment methods within apps, where applicable. Doing this ensures that you are prepared when you arrive, and can mean considerable savings on your mobile Internet usage.

When possible, rideshare with a group. 
While this is advisable for safety reasons, it can also be more economical. Rideshare fares can be affected by a number of different types of surcharges, including rush hour fees, but additional passenger or baggage fees are less common.

Use all of the information you receive from the rideshare app.

When you order a rideshare, many apps provide the vehicle’s color, make and model, license plate information, and a driver photo. Use those details, in that order, to identify your ride as it approaches. Rideshare apps give drivers and riders each others’ first names. Listen for or ask drivers to call you by name first, then confirm their name before you board. If any of the in-person details do not match the app, decline the ride and contact the rideshare network.

Give someone you know access to where you are.
Before you get in a rideshare car, van, or minibus, tell a friend or family member where you are going, and when to expect a call or text that you have arrived at your destination. Allowing a trusted person to track your travel can be a valuable safety tool as well. If the rideshare app you are using does not provide this capability, there are a number of other options. They include Find My Friends for iOS, and Trusted Contacts, Glympse, and Life360 for both iOS and Android phones.

Public libraries: local, global, and everything in between

Some of the most dramatic changes in recent history have been in how we develop, seek, obtain, and disseminate information. Libraries, sometimes originally established as repositories for physical books, have evolved to keep pace with today’s needs.

The advent of ebooks and other digitalizations has opened many offerings to library users. Services such as Overdrive, Kanopy, and Pressreader, to name just a few, make millions of ebooks, audiobooks, databases and online courses readily available to library patrons — often from great distances. Many libraries also work toward creating their own digital archives, exhibits, and resources.

While one might think that library physical locations would become less important as a result of these changes, many systems have discovered the opposite is true. Library systems and their branches are often uniquely positioned to encourage the development of groups and serve needs of specific populations. Members of public libraries can learn more about a new location and meet other area newcomers, enjoy meals with discussion groups, participate in events designed for children and families, use space and equipment for telecommuting and developing entrepreneurial initiatives, familiarize themselves with up-to-date technology and research, and take advantage of many other newer offerings designed to advance knowledge and build local community.

Here are four public libraries from around the world that offer a wealth of resources to their users:

State Library Victoria

Melbourne, Australia

Founded in 1854, State Library Victoria is Australia’s oldest public library. It occupies a full city block, and its space includes The Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas.  Membership is open to residents throughout Victoria. While State Library is not a lending library, its members can access over 5 million books, photographs, documents, and other materials — and borrow from a library of 16,000 ebooks. State Library also maintains relationships with public libraries throughout Victoria and abroad, and hosts communities and activities for all ages and interests. Many talks and presentations held on site are later available to the general public for viewing online, as are exhibitions, research guides, and even open data sets.

New York Public Library

New York, USA

Perhaps best known for its location on the corner of 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue guarded by two large stone lion statues, NYPL also serves 17 million patrons from another 91 physical locations throughout Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island. (While Brooklyn and Queens residents are welcome, these two boroughs of the city have their own library systems.) More than 93,000 programs are offered annually, including English language education, job search support, technology skills, art classes, hobby clubs, after school programs for children, and even exercise. Many are free of charge. NYPL patrons also have access to other services. SimplyE allows for quick and easy downloads from NYPL’s collection of over 300,000 ebooks, movies, and periodicals. Culture Pass offers free admission to area cultural institutions. Ongoing public projects, such as transcribing of audio recordings and text on digital images, are among many volunteer opportunities. Membership to the NYPL is open to those who live, work, and/or pay property taxes in New York State, and temporary memberships are available to visitors from elsewhere

Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam

Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Twenty-six branches of the OBA serve Amsterdam, Diemen and Ouder Amstel. In addition to robust online and media collections, the OBA has much to offer its members. English language programs and groups are available throughout the system, as are programs for Dutch language education. The central library, located on the Oosterdokseiland in Amsterdam, has cultivated partnerships with Alliance Francaise and Instituto Cervantes. It also offers a unique program called Studyshare. Modeled after the popular “Pomodoro” method of time management, Studyshare participants enter a shared quiet space for a three hour “block.” Each block consists of three periods of study lasting 45 minutes each, with 15 minute breaks between, with each change marked by the ringing of a bell.

National Library Board

Singapore

The National Library Board oversees 27 national, regional, and local libraries throughout Singapore. Memberships are available to residents and to foreigners. Materials and programs are available in the country’s four official languages: English, Chinese, Malay, and Tamil. The NLB offers in-person and online exhibitions, regular research about national reading habits, and recommendation guides for children, teens, adults, and seniors. Courses and activities focused on professional skills, history, creative arts and business topics are frequently and widely available throughout the system. “Play@Library” is a series designed for children and parents, and “STAR” (Seniors Tech and Read) courses help older members to advance their computer and Internet skills.

These examples are brief summaries! When evaluating the libraries to which you have membership, keep in mind that some advice has stayed the same: often, the best guide to a library is a librarian who can listen to your needs, and point you in the right directions.

 

Let’s get moving!

There is no doubt about it – international assignment experience is a boon to anyone’s resume.  The numbers show that only about 20% of international assignees are women, yet the percentage of interested parties is almost equal for both men and women.  In many companies, going on international assignment and having extensive international experience is essential to reach senior executive positions. Low numbers of women in the assignee talent pool disrupts gender equality at leadership level.

What can HR Managers do?

•    Do not assume women (or their partners) are not interested in international assignments.
•    Select the very best person regardless of gender.
•    Provide diversity and cultural training for female expats, their entire families, and colleagues in the host locations.
•    Make sure the company policies have evolved to better address the issues of female expatriates.
•    Offer in-country support networks, women’s expatriate groups, and mentor programs.
•    Support the entire family throughout the assignment.
•    Offer detailed destination information on the host location.

What can women do?

While businesses must remove barriers, women can also take positive steps to improve their own chances for an assignment.

•    Raise your hand and let the company know that you are interested in an overseas assignment.
    Build strong and rich social networks within the office and outside of work through networking groups.  Establish a strong network and develop social skills to build connections and cultural bridges.
•    Seek out the truth about challenges in moving internationally in advance.
•    Find a mentor or champion within the company or, if need be, outside the company.
•    Focus on the attributes that make many women successful overseas, such as:

-Confidence and self-reliance
-Flexibility and problem-solving skills
-Tolerance and interpersonal skills
-Skill at handling and initiating change in a collaborative manner

Currently, new types of assignments with more flexibility are making it easier for women with family responsibilities to go on assignment. Through the combined actions of talent management teams and the practical assistance from global mobility teams, there will likewise be more opportunities for women to be offered assignments.

The company that actively seeks the participation of women into its global workforce and then sufficiently supports them in their work and life is the company that doubles its potential for growth and productivity. Women also need to be equally proactive in making sure to express their goals.

Is Homeschooling for You?

What do two million children in the United States, 60,000 in Canada, 48,000 in the United Kingdom, and 30,000 in Australia all have in common?

They are all homeschooled.

Roughly four percent of students around the world are homeschooled. Families choosing to educate their children at home are growing. The number of homeschooled children in the UK rose 40% from 2014 to 2017, according to the BBC.

Families cite several reasons for choosing to homeschool. Many parents want to include religious instruction or some nontraditional element to their children’s education. Some children have mental health issues that parents feel are not adequately addressed in school. Others are bullied or negatively influenced by peers. A significant number of parents feel their school options are poor and that they can serve their children’s educational needs better at home.

Some countries – such as Germany – make it illegal, while others like Canada, the U.S., and Australia allow for homeschool regulations by province or state. In some countries, it is legal only for non-residents, such as in Kazakhstan where homeschooled children are mainly expatriates.
For relocating families, homeschooling can be an option worth exploring. Children already being homeschooled can keep the continuity of their curricula while abroad. Students for whom enrollment in a local school doesn’t make sense – due to length of stay, educational offerings, or other considerations – may find homeschooling is a solution.

Along with legality, information and resources vary. Residents of some regions can access well-organized information online, such as the Ontario Federation of Teaching Parents (OFTP) which makes parents aware of provincial regulations, supports their right to educational choices, and provides all sorts of homeschooling resources.

The UK provides a starting point for parents looking to homeschool on this government website. You can search for local council information (England and Wales only) by entering your postal code.

In South Africa, the subject of homeschooling was contentious beginning in the early 1990s and through iterations of policy making it legal. Today, various Homeschool Associations operate around the country.

In the U.S., the Home School League Defense Association (HSLDA) has info on each state’s stance on home schooling. It also details, by state, how to go about withdrawing a child from traditional school, what sort of records to keep, and how to keep up with state assessments.

For parents interested in homeschooling, where do they start? First confirm legality and local requirements. Beyond that, assistance with organization, scheduling, curriculum, testing, reading lists, and creative lessons abound. Online courses can be invaluable. For some families they form the core of an educational day, while others use them to supplement parental lessons. Khan Academy is one source of free online coursework.

This very personal, important decision can be made once the family is educated on all requirements and choices.

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

What’s served on special occasions in Holland?

Dutch cuisine highlights hearty dishes.  On special occasions, the Dutch serve ________ as a cocktail snack before dinner?

  1. Stamppot
  2. Zuurkool met spek en worst
  3. Gerootke paling
  4. Uitsmijter

Click here for the answer!

Apps with lasting power!

In an era where new smartphone travel apps are released daily, sometimes the best usefulness indicator is how often one uses an app over time. Here are three apps I downloaded six months ago that have remained on my smartphone’s front screen:

Transit   

Transit offers one of the most comprehensive ways to decide on the best travel route, and what transportation to use to get there. Entering one address provides a detailed list of nearby mass transportation routes and stops, as well as taxi and rideshare options. Entering two or more addresses offers all available travel options between them, with estimated journey times for each. As of this writing, Transit is available for 191 regions in 10 countries on four continents — a list of them is available here.

Workfrom 

While primarily designed to support remote workers around the world, this is also a useful app for business travelers who need to find spaces that meet their needs. Searching by destination yields entries for cafes, libraries, workshare services and public spaces, which include photos and user-reported information about operating hours, Wi-Fi availability, cost when applicable, and even noise level. (A good complement to the Workfrom app is your preferred Internet service provider’s Wi-Fi hotspot finder app — as well as always remembering that public Wi-Fi connections can make your data more vulnerable.)

iExit        

This app is invaluable for business travelers who drive within the United States. Do you know what you need when on an unfamiliar highway, but not where to find it? Search for a highway — or let iExit find you via your phone’s GPS — and you’ll be provided with a list of nearby notable destinations. These include gas stations (with current prices per gallon), restaurants, lodging, rest areas, medical services, shopping, and even just where to find a cup of coffee. If you are on a highway, your results will include exit names and even what’s available at upcoming rest stops.

What’s your favorite travel app?  Email us and we’ll post the results next week!
Living Abroad’s Global Business Travel Center 

Designed especially for business travelers, Living Abroad’s Global Business Travel Center works in all smartphone browsers. In just a few taps, you can quickly get what you need to maximize your global travel success. GBTC includes travel requirements, health and security information, transportation options, and key resources, as well as business and social customs for your destination.

Click here to try it out!