New (School) Year Resolutions

Many cultures celebrate a new year at different times, and in different ways. But for many families throughout the globe, there is also another sort of new year to observe — the school year!

No matter what month your school year begins, here are some New Year resolutions to consider:

  1. Update the information kept on file at your child’s school.

It’s amazing what can change in twelve months. Health records, work telephone numbers, and email addresses are just several of the items to which a school office might need to refer, and might also be out-of-date.

  1. Check old obligations against new schedules.

Sometimes, we must make appointments weeks or even months in advance of knowing if they will coincide with team practice, drama rehearsals, or field trips. Taking a few moments to review your calendar now can catch conflicts before they happen later.

  1. Evaluate regular services.

Grocery delivery, telecommunications packages, musical instrument rental, transportation services, and even mobile telephone plans may offer more for less than they did a year ago. Compare and make changes, if necessary.

  1. Welcome back successful habits.

Think about what has worked during the school year in the past. A central location for coats and bags? A particular time of day for organizing papers or completing homework? Selecting clothes for the next day the evening before? When possible, restart your best practices before the first day.

  1. As with other types of new year, find opportunities to have fun.

A new school year can mean many changes and is often stressful. Even simple activities, such as meals, board games, or outdoor activities, can help ease transitions and allow family members to celebrate!

Living Abroad subscribers will find more destination-specific tips and information for families in these International Relocation Center topics: Choosing a school, Family matters, and Country resources.

Written by Erin Fitzgerald, GMS, Content Manager

What’s Boeing doing about it?

Having just returned from attending the GBTA conference in Chicago, I was most impressed with one of the speakers, Dennis Muilenburg, Chairman, President, and CEO of Boeing.  Boeing’s the 5th largest defense contractor in the world and designs, builds, and sells airplanes, rotorcraft, rockets, satellite communications, and missiles on a global scale.

Last year there were 90 million accident-free flights.  There are 5 million people traveling daily on a Boeing plane.  Sadly, two deadly crashes of its 737 Max killed 346 people recently.

The first question out of the interviewer’s mouth was “what changes are being made right now and when can we expect the Max to fly again?”  The travel managers, travel management companies, and travel suppliers in the audience, who are responsible for the lives of many global business travelers, were waiting to hear his reply.

Muilenburg stated that Boeing consistently focuses on safety as their core value.  The company is concentrating on these top 5 initiatives to make sure the 737 Max is the safest plane in the air when it flies again in Q4:

  1. Software updates that will be certified by the FAA in September.
  2. Continuous training & education updates.
  3. Deep engagement with the stakeholders.
  4. $100 million fund to address the family and community needs for the victims’ families.
  5. Ongoing investment in their employees and their commitment to safety.

As a young girl, I was nervous to fly on a DC10 to Australia right after several DC10s crashed due to engines falling off the wings. My father, who is an engineer, said that after all the safety updates, they were the safest planes in the air.   I had heard of the two recent plane crashes over the news and it was comforting and inspiring to hear what lengths Boeing is taking to make sure the 737 Max stays one of the safest planes in the air.

Muilenberg also shared some exciting new projects on the horizon.

  1. The development of the 777X, which will be able to fly farther than any plane with a 7200-mile range.  The cabin will be more spacious for passenger comfort with LED cabin lighting, noise reduction, larger windows, and twice the volume for carry-on bags with easier closing bins.
  2. Currently testing flying vehicles with wrap-around technology for future airspace travel for both piloted and autonomous vehicles.
  3. Supersonic travel that will be more economically viable than the Concord.  Boeing is working on a business jet that will take 3 hours off the flight time across the Atlantic.
  4. Hypersonic technology where planes will be able to fly 5 or 6 times faster than the speed of sound.  This will be able to connect any two city pairs in about 2 hours.
  5. Space travel will become more routine and companies are developing space hotels. Boeing is developing a vehicle to fly in space called the Starliner, which is scheduled for a test flight later this year.

Given Boeing’s investment in the future, it sounds like we have a lot to look forward to and places to visit in record time–and that includes space!

Do you have employees working remotely?

When we wrote about telecommuting a few years ago, a study by Ipsos had produced the figure that one in five employees around the globe works remotely on a frequent basis.

More recent results by Swiss-based workspace company IWG determined that 50% of the 15,000 global professionals they surveyed work remotely at least 2.5 days each week.

There are other studies and lots of data out there, all pointing to a clear trend: Flexible workspaces are becoming increasingly important to both employers and employees.

Some basic benefits include:

-Employees are more productive (fewer distractions and drains on time)
-Companies save money on real estate costs
-Employees save money on gas, wardrobe and clothing care, food (coffee, lunches out) etc.
-Employees report less stress, higher morale and lower absenteeism than in-office counterparts
-Companies experience less turnover than those with less flexibility – as much as 50% less
-Flex cultures attract millennials, with more than two-thirds of them stating a remote option positively influences their interest in a company

Telecommuting is not without its challenges, of course. Cybersecurity is a concern, especially in smaller companies that don’t have protocols or safety systems in place. Mental health is increasingly on employers’ minds, as about one-fifth of remote employees experience loneliness.

Companies embracing flexible work environments are adapting and innovating in order to keep talent while boosting their bottom line. And as this business culture becomes more the norm than the exception, it’s a benefit many job-seekers can take advantage of to strike a good work/life balance.

For further discussion on telecommuting in our original article, click here.

Are their legal drugs illegal?

Which country’s regulations are particularly onerous when it comes to traveling with prescription and non-prescription drugs?

a.  Canada
b.  The Netherlands
c.  Japan
d.  Indonesia

34 Times More Powerful

Business travel is an important means for companies to expand their businesses, build relationships, and grow brand awareness around the world.  Statistics show that face-to face meetings are 34 times more powerful than remote, text-based conversations, according to an article in the Harvard Business Review.  The GBTA convention in Chicago next week is the perfect opportunity for some face time. What will we all be focused on?

First let’s start with a few facts:

Where are people headed?  Asia is now the top destination for business travel, followed by North America and Continental Europe.  The U.S. and China are the world’s biggest business travel spenders.

Who is traveling?  Millennials are now in the 23-38 age group and they make up the largest group of business travelers.  As they move up the ladder into senior positions, they are changing the way things are done, from integrating technology to combining business with leisure. Almost two-thirds of corporate travelers use their mobile phones to complete bookings.  Millennial business travelers consider business travel to be a perk of the job, and many see it as a status symbol.

What are their needs?  Global travelers are most interested in access to high-speed Internet and media packages as part of selecting accommodations.  They are also seeking privacy, a kitchen, and space to make it feel like a home away from home.  A large percentage of travelers prefer to use one app to plan, book, and track their business travels.

What are corporations focused on?  The cost is always the primary focus, but security for the traveler and safe accommodations are top priorities.  Companies advise their employees on potential risks in certain areas and often work closely with their security partners.

What’s the best way for business travelers to be prepared? The best thing a business traveler can do is learn about the country they will be traveling to.  They should learn a little bit about the social customs, business etiquette, transportation options, how to get connected, visas, customs requirements, holidays, health, security, money and banking, and food options.

What can we learn at GBTA this year?  Sessions range from updates on risk management, technology trends, work/life balance, and accommodation options to best practices, and global business travel trends through 2023.

If you will be attending the GBTA Convention, please stop by Living Abroad’s Booth #3533, and introduce yourself!  We would be happy to show you how our country information can support your travel program and result is a healthy bottom line, and happier and safer business travelers.

For a preview of our Global Business Travel Center, click here!

Are you prepared? Five Posts on Preparedness

Strong earthquakes near Ridgecrest, CA, USA and near Athens, Greece earlier this month fortunately did not result in fatalities. However, they do serve as an important reminder of the necessity of emergency preparedness in any location, as well as regular reviews of plans that are in place.

Do you need to prepare for the unexpected?  Here’s a collection of Living Abroad blog posts that will help you make a great start:

Keeping Employees Safe
How to quickly find safety and emergency resources in Living Abroad’s own International Relocation Center.

What You Should Know: Emergency Readiness
Important tips for international assignees and business travelers alike.

Planning for Emergencies While Living Abroad
Key components to developing emergency plans for a variety of situations.

When the Ground Shakes Under Your Feet
Where to find some of the globe’s most comprehensive emergency preparedness and security alert websites.

Tips for Dramatic Winter Weather Challenges
Emergency preparedness is a necessity for all seasons.

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