How is the summer solstice celebrated in Finland?

In Finland, summer solstice celebrations are important to Finns and are celebrated with midsummer festivals. The Finnish flag is flown everywhere with silver birch and ______ serving as decorations.

a.  Roses

b.  Lily-of-the-valley

c.  Lilacs

d.  Dahlias


Answer: C – Lilacs

The Finnish flag, silver birch and lilacs all serve as decorations during the summer solstice celebrations. Traditionally, Finns travel to the countryside and have bonfires which illuminate the festivities. Performers who celebrate Finnish folk traditions also wear the national costume.

Written by Nicole Nichols,  International Administrative Services Manager

Back in the Saddle

In which city will you find 62% of residents biking to work or school?

Would it surprise you that the same city’s traffic lights are coordinated to favor cyclists over motorists?

What if I hinted that this city has built bicycle super highways to promote commuting for cyclists?

You may have guessed that the answer is Copenhagen, the most bike-friendly city in the world. According to resident data, there are 5.6 bicycles for every car in the city.

Copenhagen’s design and culture make it easy to adopt biking as a method of transportation, even for newcomers.  Rentals are everywhere, with 100 Bycyklen(City Bikes) stations around the capital. Each bike is equipped with a tamper-proof tablet that transacts the rental and facilitates navigation.

After a quick registration, anyone can borrow a City Bike on a per-hour basis, with a prepaid package, or via monthly subscription.

Biking ease doesn’t end at Copenhagen’s city limits. In an effort to combat traffic congestion, reduce harmful CO2 emissions, and support residents’ health, Denmark’s Capital Region partners with 23 surrounding municipalities to create safe cycling infrastructure for two-wheeled commuters.

Fourteen of the top 20 most bike-friendly cities are in Western Europe, but Bogotá, Colombia breaks into the list for the first time in 2019 at number 12. See the list here.

What makes cycling work in all these cities is a combination of factors. Bicycle infrastructure that provides designated cycling space and traffic calming measures that prioritize biker safety are critical.  Bike-sharing options are important, as is a general culture that accepts cycling as a good way to get around – even for commercial transport. Urban planning, strong bicycle advocacy, and political support also contribute to successful bike-friendly cities.

For individuals, the health benefits, relief from traffic, and greater connection to the city are all good reasons to ride a bike. So even if your last spin on a bike was as a child, maybe it’s time to hop back in the saddle and join the cycling culture.

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

You Might Need A NZeTA (And An IVL)

Travelers to New Zealand who currently do not need to obtain a visa for their stays may soon be subject to new immigration requirements.

Nationals of visa waiver countries and transit visa waiver countries may be required to obtain a New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority (NZeTA) in order to enter New Zealand on or after October 1, 2019. The NZeTA application will be available in July 2019, via website (fee: NZ$12) and smartphone app (fee: NZ$9).

Nationals of visa waiver countries may also be required to pay the International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy, or IVL. The IVL, according to the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment, is “a way for travellers to contribute directly to the tourism infrastructure they use and to help protect and enhance the natural environment they will enjoy during their stay in New Zealand.” The IVL is anticipated to cost NZ$35, and will be charged to travelers in the same transaction as the NZeTA.

Here are some steps you can take to determine how new immigration policy developments in a destination country may affect short term business travel:

  • Most important: Consult your company’s immigration and compliance resources as early in advance of travel as possible.
  • Bookmark government resources. New Zealand has created an informative webpage for the NZeTA and the IVL.
  • Sign up for updates and notifications when the option is available — in this particular case, you’ll find it at the hyperlinked word “Register,” on the NZeTA/IVL information page.
  • Review related official information. For example, the New Zealand government also provides lists of visa waiverand transit visa waiver 

Early awareness of potential immigration and compliance issues, as well as other travel challenges, can dramatically affect cost, employee satisfaction, and assignment success.

Written by Erin Fitzgerald, GMS, Content Manager

Are we play deprived?

“To the art of working well a civilized race would add the art of playing well.”

George Santayana
American philosopher


Recently I came across a blog post about fun deprivation.  Is this really true?  I do believe that cultures all over the world are suffering from too little fun.  The pace of life has increased, technology is the new reality, and a rise in daily stress has cause a deficit in our “play time.”
Play is important for children, but it’s just as important for adults.  It’s the food that feeds the soul.

It’s especially important to take the time for a break when you’re an assignee or a global business traveler who is always on the road.

Effects of play deprivation can include:

-Lower impulse control
-Poor anger management
-Relationships with little depth
-Propensity towards depression and addictive behavior
-Brain stagnation and malfunctioning of vital brain regions.

How do you bring play and fun back into your life no matter where you live or what you do?

The author of the book Play, Dr. Stuart Brown, has observed 8 “play personalities,” which identify activities that will bring you joy.

The 8 play personalities are:

1. The Joker savors practical jokes, and making people laugh.

  • Tell jokes and laugh
  • Look for comedy events

2.  The Kinesthete celebrates movement of the body.

  • Learn a new activity or play sports
  • Enjoy walks outdoors

3.  The Explorer takes pleasure in discovering new things.

  • Do something new
  • Investigate what fascinates

4. The Competitor plays to win.

  • Enjoy a game
  • Tune in to sports

5.  The Director enjoys arranging and executing events.

  • Plan a party
  • Organize your belongings

6.  The Collector loves to gather things.

  • Go on the hunt for an item to add to a collection
  • Exhibit or share the collection

7.  The Artist/Creator appreciates anything involving creativity or art.

  • Express yourself through an art activity
  • Take time to appreciate art

8.  The Storyteller delights in adventures through the imagination.

  • Write a story
  • Watch, read or listen to a captivating story

– Stuart Brown, Play (2010)
The National institute for Play

Life is short and play is an essential part of a complete life that increases our brain activity, reduces stress and opens our mind to see different options. Whether you’re a Joker, Kinesthete, Explorer, Competitor, Director, Collector, Artist/Creator, and Storyteller, or a combination of several, you can choose activities that can make you feel most alive. Don’t just sit there – start playing!

Written by Cathy Heyne, GMS-T, Managing Director

Changes in the vaccination landscape: How should transferees adjust?

The health landscape is shifting as communities deal with a rising number of families opting out of vaccines for their children. The World Health Organization (WHO) identifies “vaccination hesitancy” as one of the 10 threats to global health in 2019.

What does this mean for a globally mobile workforce?

It means that transferees need to be vigilant about vaccination guidelines, and careful to protect their family members when moving into areas where diseases are more prevalent than in the past. For example, the WHO has seen a 30% increase in measles cases worldwide since 2016.

In places where vaccinations had eradicated certain diseases, non-vaccinated people were still protected thanks to ‘herd immunity.’ Gaps in immunized populations now put those who cannot be vaccinated at greater risk. These vulnerable individuals include people who are severely immunocompromised due to cancer or other conditions. They may need to take greater care when settling into new communities where illnesses now pose a greater threat.

To prepare for travel and protect your family’s health, be aware of the vaccination situation in your destination country. Established by the WHO, Vaccine Safety Net is a global network of websites that provides reliable information on vaccine safety.  The network includes 72 member websites in 34 countries. Search by country or language here.

In addition, below are links to health organizations in a selection of countries: 

Australia: Australian Department of Health – Immunisation
Get the Facts” campaign

Brazil:  Sociedade Brasileira de Imunizações (SBI) (in Portuguese)

Canada: Health Canada
Provincial and Territorial Immunization Information

China:  National Health Commission (in Chinese):
Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention – National Immunization Program (NIP)

EU: Throughout Europe, each country has its own vaccination policy, but the EU also establishes some common guidelines.
European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)
Vaccine schedules in all EU countries

UK: National Health Services (NHS)
NHS England
NHS Scotland
NHS Wales
Health and Social Care (HSC) Northern Ireland

US: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Also be aware of changing laws. Just last week, New York State passed a law ending religious exemptions for immunizations, leaving only medical reasons why a child will be allowed to enter school unvaccinated.

Staying informed and consulting with your physician before travel will help keep your family healthy abroad.

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

What is the best way to communicate in Angola?

In Angola, Portuguese is spoken as the primary language of business.

What is a good backup language if you do not know Portuguese?

a.  Angolese
b.  French
c.  German
d.  English

Click here for the answer!

From swipe to tap

This past Friday, New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority took an important new step. OMNY, or One Metro New York, is the city’s new fare payment system. Passengers who use OMNY pay their fares using a contactless card, or a digital wallet. Here are videos that demonstrate how to use them:

Contactless card: 

Digital wallet: 

Riders must create an account in order to use OMNY, and can do so at the OMNY website.

As of Summer 2019, payment via OMNY is only available for full-fare, transfer-free rides on portions of the 4, 5, and 6 subway lines, and all Staten Island MTA buses. However, OMNY rollout will continue over the next several years. Eventually all passengers on all MTA bus, subway, and commuter rail lines in the New York City metropolitan area will be able to use OMNY to pay fares. A replenishable OMNY fare card will be made available. In 2023, the MetroCard, which riders currently use to “swipe” through turnstiles, will be retired.

Many other cities throughout the world have already made the transition to contactless fare payment systems for mass transit, including London, Rio de Janeiro, Adelaide, Toronto, and Seoul.

Business traveler, we’ve got your back!

When you hit the road or take to the skies for a business trip abroad, you’ve got a lot on your mind. Even before you leave home, you need to plan the logistics of travel and assemble documents required for entry. While the business purpose of your visit dominates your focus, you’re also aware that culture and protocols may differ from home. Knowing them can set you at ease and accelerate your business goals. Finally, there are aspects of daily life that affect your experience in very practical ways, such as weather, money, national holidays, and taxes on restaurant meals.
How would you like some help with all of that?

Living Abroad’s Global Business Travel Center delivers all this and more. Take a look at Canada, for example:

– Right at the top, you’ll find links to 2019 Canadian holiday dates, weather forecasts, currency calculator, and news. A real-time clock lets you know at a glance what time it is at your destination.

– Descriptions and links to major international airports and details on ground transportation help you plan your travel.

– Find out what entry procedures you need to follow, keeping in mind that business travel is scrutinized at the Canadian border, necessitating proper documentation and support information.

-Learn what languages are used in business, and access translators’ listings and government language resources.

– Familiarize yourself with important aspects of doing business in Canada, like hierarchy, relationships, how meetings are conducted, whether to give a gift, and general style concepts.

-Know what to expect in restaurants, from the excellent beef in Calgary and seafood in the Maritimes to the provincial or harmonized sales tax that can add five to 15% to the cost of your meal.

Access nearly 150 destination reports from your mobile phone, tablet, or computer with your company’s subscription. And watch your next business trip really take flight.

Culture anyone?

Do you have colleagues traveling for work or moving to another country? Is your sales force traversing across continents? Entering a new international market can be a nerve-wracking proposition for even the most seasoned businessperson.  How can you and your team avoid offending foreign business partners? Consider discussing etiquette.’s recent research showed that 62% of business travelers polled feel that lack of cultural understanding and resulting errors in etiquette, affect a company’s reputation and bottom line.  Ouch!  Certain gestures and behaviors that are acceptable in one country or city can cause offence in another and cause a business deal to flounder. surveyed 4,500 business travelers across eight countries. One third admitted to a cultural faux pas during business travel. About half had observed a colleague make one.”

According to the survey, here are the top 5 business etiquette blunders:

Being on a mobile device during a meeting    46%
Not greeting people appropriately    43%
Inappropriate attire    36%
Speaking loudly    32%
Not responding to emails within 24 hours    19%

Believe it or not, 83% of business travelers know the importance of correct etiquette when traveling to a different country.  While about three out of four business travelers say they research the country’s business etiquette before they go, that does not fully guarantee against an error in etiquette.

Top 5 countries who admit to business etiquette faux pas:

China     67%
Italy    65%
USA    58%
Germany    56%
Spain    52%

What are the top concerns for business travelers?

Dining and pleasantries:
There are many cultural nuances when it comes to food and small talk.  About 25% of the respondents were uncomfortable going to a restaurant with people they did not know well.  One-third worried about being served too much alcohol along with what topics were safe to discuss over a meal.

Mobile devices:
Half of respondents strongly believed that being on your mobile device during a meeting is the most offensive.

43% of global business travelers believed that not greeting a business associate properly was one of the biggest cultural faux pas one can commit.  Japanese business travelers (61%) viewed improper greetings as the highest form of rudeness.  Speaking loudly, for (50%) of Chinese respondents, was the biggest cultural faux pas in their country.

What should happen if you accidentally offend a foreign colleague? While 37% of Italian business travelers felt an apology should be offered right away, 69% of Japanese business travelers believed it was important to make amends immediately.

There are more nuances to global business etiquette than meet the eye.  A strong understanding of how culture impacts business is essential to recognizing the specific cultural differences between countries.  If your employees are hitting the road, ask about any concerns they might have. Offer resources for your global employees to make the most of their assignment, business event, or business meetings.  The results will yield a more productive and confident employee and a successful outcome to your global business relationships.

How do they celebrate fiestas in Spain?

Fiestas and performing arts are important parts of life in Spain. _________ is in a class by itself and is considered to reflect the soul of Spain.

  1. Flamenco
  2. Jai-alai
  3. Bull fighting
  4. A musical production

Click here for the answer!