Planning for Emergencies While Living Abroad

Even the savviest travelers can encounter emergency situations while abroad. Preparation is key.
Emergency plans
In the event of a crisis, a prearranged plan provides direction and alleviates panic. The plan may entail removal to a safe in-country location or evacuation from the country, with or without belongings. Consider carrying additional evacuation coverage on your insurance.
You should have a household plan and make all family members aware of it.
Start from the inside out. With your home’s floor plan in mind, discuss the best means of swift departure. Draw up a map if it helps younger children understand what to do. Make arrangements for care of any pets in case you can’t take them with you. Discuss this possibility with your children. Establish a meeting place outside the home in case someone gets separated.

Keep important travel documents together in a safe place. This saves time when minutes count.

The second phase of a family emergency plan is to arrange a place to meet if no one is at home during an emergency. For example, if civil unrest breaks out on a weekday morning, parents may be at work and children at school. Contact each other by phone, if possible, and have a predetermined spot where all will meet. Note that cell phones are invaluable, but if service is down, prior planning is critical.

From there, follow the established plan for getting to a safe place or out of the country. Contact family members at home as soon as it is feasible to let them know you are safe.

Relying on friends
Give someone you trust the contact information for family members. This will help outside people locate you if necessary.

If you feel comfortable doing so, give someone a key to your home. If you cannot return to your home but need some belongings or have left a pet behind, your contact person can assist.

Help from your embassy or consulate
Local information and assistance
Many embassies or consulates request that you register with them upon your arrival. This is helpful in the event of an emergency evacuation, to reissue a lost or stolen passport, or if someone at home is trying to reach you. Registering is also good idea in case of a natural disaster, civil unrest, or if you plan to travel to a remote or isolated area.

Your embassy or consulate can also keep you updated on the latest security information in the country.

If you find yourself in a financial emergency and out of funds, the consulate also can help you obtain funds wired from your home country.

Legal and medical recommendations
If you become involved in a legal problem, your consulate cannot represent you legally, but can provide you with a list of local attorneys who speak your native language. If you get sick, they can also recommend local physicians or a medical facility.

The consular officers can advise you of your rights under local laws; they can assist you if you are treated unfairly or held under inhumane conditions. If detained, you have the right to talk to your consulate or embassy. Keep requesting this communication, even if it is denied you at first.
by Ellen Harris, International Product Director, Living Abroad LLC

Rick Roberts, Shamrock Mover Service, was the Moose Passport Winner in Houston!

Living Abroad would like to thank our partners, AIRINC, ACS International Schools, Switchplace, International Auto Source, Cultural Awareness International, CORT Global Furniture Rental Network, and Fragomen, for sponsoring the Moose Passport at the Houston Totally Expat Show!

Click here to watch the contest unfold.

How to Get a Killer Deal on a Furnished Rental in NYC

“I just found the perfect short-term apartment!  But wow, it costs WHAT?”

Have you been relocated by your company, in between selling and buying a home, or assigned an extended assignment elsewhere? If so, you probably have some experience with researching and booking furnished extended stay (>30 days) rentals and have a sense for the market rates for these temporary accommodations.

For the largest market for furnished extended stay rentals, New York City, the process of searching for and booking a rental is a daunting task that comes with stress, frustration, and often, feelings of overpaying.

When you begin the search, you will notice that there is a plethora of options.  You will find lots of housing providers in your target neighborhoods that offer varying types of furnished apartments.

Not surprisingly, the size of your desired furnished apartment is a driving factor in the monthly rate., a NYC-based company that specializes in helping clients find and book furnished, extended stay housing, reports the current typical rental price ranges for furnished rentals in New York City as follows:

New York City 

Studio $3000 – $4500
1 bedroom $4500 – $6000
2 bedroom $6000 – $7500
3 bedroom $7500 – $9000


Looking at year-over-year data, rental rates in NYC continue to rise.

A quick look at the Dec 2012 Manhattan Rental Market Report by MNS[1] shows an 11% rise in rents across all unfurnished apartment rental types in NYC from 2010 to 2012.  The vacancy rate for unfurnished rental apartments continues to be low at 1.59% as of Dec 2012[2], which motivates  landlords to keep rental rates high.

The low vacancy rate and increasing rates in the unfurnished market significantly impact the furnished market and its prevailing rates.

Moreover, the cost of utilities continues to rise as well[3].  The average price for electricity in NYC rose to about $0.19 per-kw-hr from about $0.17 from Jan 2006 to Jan 2011, but could double by 2014[4].

Another major factor in the rate is location.  Neighborhoods such as TriBeCa and SoHo are in tremendous demand.  There are numerous benefits to living in these desired neighborhoods, such as easy access to public transportation, shopping and dining options, and privacy.  Keep in mind that rates are significantly higher in hot neighborhoods, even if the size of the furnished apartment is smaller.

So, how do you get the most value for your money?  You need to do your homework, and find all of the providers in your target destination.  In New York City, there are 100 professional providers, with inventory of 30 to 300 furnished rentals each.  These providers offer very different value propositions, and you need to identify which one best fits your needs.  In Brooklyn and Harlem, for example, a few housing providers offer no-frills rental units.  These rental homes could still work for your purposes, but you would just need to find them.

As the global population becomes more mobile, demand for furnished extended stay rentals will continue to grow. Quickly finding the right furnished rental at a reasonable rate is more important than ever.

Reykjavík, Iceland

If you were being relocated to the world’s northernmost capital, where would you be going, and what could you expect to find there?

Reykjavík, Iceland, is the northernmost capital city in the world. Iceland itself is a country of superlatives: It is Europe’s westernmost country.  Icelanders publish and purchase more books per capita than any other people in the world.

It also tops the World Economic Forum’s list of countries with the greatest equality between genders. The world’s first democratically elected female head of state was Iceland’s President Vigdís Finnbogadóttir in 1980, who at the time was a single mother. Progressive attitudes with regard to women’s rights are the norm.

Sparsely populated – with only three people per – Iceland has the lowest population density in Europe. There are, in fact, twice as many sheep as people on the island nation.

It is also a nation of fascinating geological characteristics – from natural thermal swimming pools to massive glaciers.

Icelanders enjoy an excellent quality of life, with very high life expectancy – Icelandic women compete statistically with the Japanese for longevity, and men live long lives as well. The literacy rate is effectively 100 percent. Newcomers will find, in Reykjavík, a cosmopolitan city that is technologically advanced, while retaining an old-world feel. At this time of year, it is also dark much of the time. Today, January 29, residents enjoy just under seven hours of light, after the sun rises at 10:17am.

The environment is clean – if widely divergent – and pollution is not a problem. You may remember the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull’s eruption in 2010. It sent ash high into the atmosphere, flooded surrounding areas with glacial melt, and seriously disrupted European air traffic. Eruptions of this magnitude are rare, but scientists are watching Katla, a volcano on Iceland’s southern coast that is showing signs of a significant event.

Iceland’s banks faced a different kind of eruption during the global recession. Major banks failed, shaking the economy while unemployment spiked. Recovery is well under way, and Iceland’s per capita GDP is one of the highest in Europe, at about US$35,600.

After applying for EU membership in 2009, and beginning accession negotiations in 2010, Iceland is considering a referendum to withdraw the application. Many Icelanders have opposed joining the EU, increasingly concerned about home fishing rights and current Eurozone instability. Iceland continues to be a nation of affluent, educated people who blaze their own trails, and offers a unique experience to anyone relocating there.

Traveller help on the go: Government mobile app portals

Smartphone technology has revolutionized tasks of all kinds. Mobile “apps” provide easy access to tailored information and are so useful that a number of national governments provide web portals for easy download. Residents find many useful apps in these portals, as do travelers to and from these countries.  Find out what Australia, USA, UK, and Hong Kong offer.

Written by Erin Fitzgerald, International Product Manager, Living Abroad LLC for ACS International Schools, Market Update, Winter 2013.

Click here to read the full article on a selection of government apps around the world.

Women Abroad – How to Get the Most from an International Assignment

Rosalie L. Tung is all too familiar with the challenges that women face when it comes to international assignments. As the Professor of International Business at Simon Fraser University in Canada, Tung has devoted countless hours to researching and writing about these challenges, but they may not be what you think. In her groundbreaking work Female Expatriates: The Model Global Manager?, Tung asserts that women are actually ideal candidates for overseas assignments and the challenges they face have little to do with the difficulties of being in a new country, but rather in the difficulty they experience actually getting the opportunity to work abroad.

The percentage of women in international assignments increased from 3 percent to 16 percent in the late 1990s. Throughout the 2000s, the percentage increased, though very slowly. Most recent studies have either put the percentage of women in international assignments at or slightly below 20 percent. Tung sites three factors outlined by Nancy J. Adler that are commonly provided by companies for the low deployment of women in international assignments: women don’t want overseas assignments (due to family considerations), other countries don’t want female expatriates in business dealings, and women lack the skills or competencies to succeed. These are “misconceptions” and as Tung wrote in Female Expatriates, “As long as women remain under-represented in international assignments, they will continue to lack the opportunity to acquire one of the critical competencies required of global leaders.”

This is more than just being denied one job opportunity; it’s more like being denied vital experience that can drastically change the course of your career. As Tung points out, the continued globalization of industries has led to a quest by organizations worldwide for global leaders who can help their companies survive in highly competitive work environments. In a global economy, people with global experience are pivotal to an organization’s competitive edge and women have often been excluded from promotions and leadership positions because they appear to lack one of the critical competencies identified for such key roles: a global mindset.

Once again, women find themselves in a Catch-22: they can’t move forward unless they have experience working internationally, but they’re not given the opportunity because of unfair assumptions about their competence and willingness to work abroad.

Fortunately, some women are chipping away at these misconceptions – and providing key strategic advice on navigating the challenges of taking an international post.
Myth or Misconception?

About those misconceptions: in her study, Tung discovered that they were outright myths. In a paired comparison of male and female expatriates (i.e., the men and women were similar in terms of age, years of business experience, etc.), more women than men were willing to accept an international assignment, even when their family objected to the assignment. “In other words,” Tung said. “Women knew that they would be missing out on an important career development opportunity if they refused the assignment. Therefore, they were willing to make more sacrifices.”

In regards to the misconception that some countries will not accept foreign women, Tung says that many male-dominated countries are willing to deal with international women for two primary reasons: curiosity (they assume that if they are sent by their company, they must be very good) and foreign women are considered to be different from local women. Adler even implied that foreign women are considered a sort of third gender, containing characteristics of both men and women. Surely these aren’t perfect conditions (curiosity, really?), but it’s clear that there isn’t an overt unwillingness to work with female expatriates in business dealings. “Because women tend to be under-represented in management circles in male-dominated countries, they enjoy the advantage of standing out and getting noticed. Of course, they are also subject to more scrutiny and therefore they really have to be good,” Tung said. Sounds familiar.

As for the misconception that women lack the skills or competencies, Tung sites current trends in education. “The equal representation of women in MBA programs and the reality that two years ago, there were more women enrolled in Ph.D. programs in the U.S. than men, makes it clear that women are certainly possessing the same skills.” In her 2004 study, Tung’s argument is that because women are better able to cope with the isolation associated with overseas work and possess better human relations and listening skills, they are in fact more suited for international assignments. “Human relations and listening skills are particularly important in high-context cultures and three quarters of the world is high context. As such, my hypothesis is that women are really the ideal global managers,” Tung said.
You Got the Assignment, Now What?

Let’s not misrepresent the facts: all of this is not to say that once you receive your first international assignment it will be a walk in the park. There will likely be instances in which your authority is challenged overseas by subordinates, peers, and clients. If your head office doesn’t stand behind your decision and reaffirm that you’re in charge, it could make your job exponentially more difficult. There’s also the stress that may ensue. As Tung mentioned previously, women are more willing to undertake an international assignment even if their family objected. This does put them under more stress; they have to prove themselves at work and come home and do what they can to make their families feel happy, comfortable, and at ease with their move to another country. In short, if women don’t have a supportive family and home office, they may find themselves questioning why it was that they were so eager to take on an overseas assignment.

There are benefits, however. In Asian countries (where many are sent for their first assignments), live-in assistance is quite common and much more affordable than in Western countries, which frees many women up from the domestic responsibilities they’re often saddled with back at home. This is something Wendy Stops discovered shortly after giving birth and then moving to Malaysia for her first international assignment. Stops is Accenture’s global managing director of Quality & Client Satisfaction for the technology practice. Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Stops is currently on her third international assignment is New York and as Tung suggested many women do, Stops took the assignment despite objections from her family. Her eldest son, who is a high school senior, decided to stay back in Australia so that he could stay on the rowing team and graduate with his friends.

“This time around it’s been very difficult. My son is very intelligent and independent and he’s doing great in boarding school, but I had so much apprehension about leaving my son behind and my husband feels guilty about not being there for him,” Stops said. “It’s been particularly hard on my husband, who’s been playing Mr. Mom since my first international assignment in Malaysia. After Malaysia we were based in Singapore, and Asia is much different than New York, obviously. It’s taken us all about a year to adjust.”

Stops and her husband make use of current technology to keep tabs on their son and remain present in his life with weekly Skype session, not to mention endless phone calls and frequent trips back to Melbourne. Despite the initial hardships of all three of her international assignments, Stops knows that she made the right decision by accepting them.
Tips for Making it Work

“If you’re given the opportunity to take on an international assignment, there’s no question as to whether or not you should take it. It gives you much-needed exposure and the experience of working in a different country with a different culture. You can move up the ladder more confidently because your hands-on experience illustrates your willingness to be flexible and adapt,” Stops said. “If you’re going to uproot your family, you just have to make sure that your assignment will actually enhance your career.”

Stops also asserts that it doesn’t matter what level you’re at in your career. If you’re being asked to work abroad, your bosses obviously believe you’re capable of the responsibility. If you’re high-ranking, Stops says, it’s more advantageous because it exposes you to broader leadership. If you’re young and not very far up the ladder, the move overseas will be easier for you because chances are you don’t have children to worry about.

There’s a lot to wrap your head around when moving abroad and sometimes it’s easy to forget that upon arriving at your desired destination you won’t know the basics, like where to go to furnish your home or where to cut your hair. This is exactly what happened to Stops. In Malaysia, she had no idea where to purchase furniture for her home. It took her six months before she could find a hairdresser that could properly deal with her fine, blonde, curly hair in a place where all of the women have straight, thick, dark hair. There are also bigger questions like how your healthcare will work in your new home or how to navigate through cultural differences.

Many countries have large expat communities and Stops suggests tapping into those resources for help, advice, and guidance. The mother of two also suggests having a serious talk with your company about what support structures will be in place for you once you arrive so that you can navigate the medical system and perhaps even undergo some cultural training to ensure you get off on the right foot.

“Assimilating into the country is very important and so is taking the necessary steps to make sure as much is in place as possible,” Stops said. “If you can make a pre-move visit rather than landing on the doorstep kids in tow, that would obviously be ideal. Go ahead of your family, find a place, get it furnished, and figure out some basics like where to shop for groceries. There’s nothing harder on an employee that an unhappy family, so any steps you can take ahead of time will really help you.”

Written for The Glass Hammer by Tina Vasquez, 2012-05-31.

Is an International Assignment “just like traveling?”

Many expats get caught up in the romanticism of moving abroad, and then find that the day-to-day experience is not quite what they envisioned. It’s nearly impossible to live every day like it’s a vacation in an exotic new country, and some expats forget this.

Therefore, it’s important for HR to emphasize the value of these steps:

  • investing time in exploring new venues
  • meeting new people
  • establishing a regular routine of activities you enjoy
  • trying novel activities to maximize the experience of living in a new place
  • educating yourself on how best to accomplish daily tasks

Despite the demands of the job that prompted the relocation, it’s sometimes easy to forget that relocation is a new way of life and not an extended vacation. Often, all expats need is a reliable resource to help them get acclimated.

Living Abroad country reports offer all kinds of suggestions and articles to help acclimate to a new location. Expats can peruse a list of local clubs and organizations that can provide a taste of home or introduce a new interest. Articles like “Everyday Shopping” provide information on where to shop for food and clothing. You can even find the best way around your new city from the section called “Getting Around.”

For a glimpse into the detailed world of one of Living Abroad’s online country reports, simply click here.

Come to the Global Mobility Summit in London and win £1,000

Please stop by our stand at the Global Mobility Summit in London on October 19 to introduce yourself and pick up your Moose Passport.  You may also reserve a passport by clicking on the link below.  Every delegate at the Summit has a chance to enter the Moose Passport competition to win £1,000 CASH. The Moose Passport is available at the following stands: Living Abroad, AIRINC, Fragomen, NetExpat and Interdean.

Click here for the registration form to secure your Moose Passport.

Congratulations to our ERC Global Workforce Symposium Moose Passport Winner!

Congratulations are in order for Sharon Fox of CENTURY 21 Beachside Realtors who was the winner of the Moose Passport drawing held at ERC’s Global Workforce Symposium in Washington D.C. on October 3-5.  The lucky winner went home with $1,500 cash.  The contest was sponsored by Living Abroad, ACS Schools, AIRINC, CORT, DFA (Dean Foster Associates), Fragomen, NetExpat, and Santa Fe.

Congratulations to our Las Vegas Moose Passport Winner!

Congratulations are in order for Jen Levine of Encore Capital Group who was the winner of the Moose Passport drawing held at the Forum for Expatriate Management’s Global Mobility Conference in Las Vegas on September 13.  The lucky winner went home with $1500 cash.  The contest was sponsored by Living Abroad, ACS Schools, AIRINC, Fragomen, ITG Worldwide and Switchplace.