Let’s support each other

March 8 is International Women’s Day and the theme for 2020 is equality for all.  In over 25 countries, it is a public holiday and others is it largely ignored.  It can be a day of protest or a day that celebrates womanhood.  It is a day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, and at the same time to focus on continued gender equality.

March is also Women’s History month in the U.S. Here are some ways to celebrate:

Learn more about Women’s History month.

Become a mentor to someone at work, a family member or a neighbor.  Sharing knowledge is helping others reach their goal.

Get inspired by women role models – inspirational quotes.

Support women-owned businesses in your area.

Listen to inspiring podcasts:  The History ChicksStuff Mom Never Told YouThe Well Woman Show

Donate gently used professional clothes for women just starting out.  You can find your local Dress for Success here.

Volunteer at a local women’s shelter or somewhere in your community that supports women.

Read books as inspiration.  These 10 books were written about women by women.

Showcase women at work from all levels and departments either through email announcements or special events.

Watch a movie or documentary on powerful women of influence.  How about RBG (Ruth Bader Ginsburg)?

How about supporting women in the arts?  There is a wide range of exhibitions in the United States.  From California to New York, galleries across the country are focusing on women’s issues through art.  Artists range from Africa to Mexico.  To find the best exhibitions, click here.

To find additional events by country, click here.

However you choose to honor the women in your life, remember that gender equality makes the world a healthier, wealthier and more harmonious place for us all.  Through our own actions, behaviors and conversations, we can all impact our larger society to continue to move towards a more gender equal world.

And, in the words of Gloria Steinem, world-renowned feminist, journalist and activist, “The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.”

Written by Cathy Heyne, GMS, Managing Director

Finding what you lost

Traveling or living abroad is an all-encompassing experience. Parts of your brain that are usually on autopilot at home tend to come alive with awareness, absorption, and adaptation. But that heightened state doesn’t mean you won’t get distracted. Or forget things. Or leave things behind.

A recent article described how efficient the Japanese are at reuniting lost items with their owners. In Tokyo, for example, 2018 saw 83% of lost mobile phones returned to their owners, and 65% of lost wallets, according to the BBC.

Credit is given to Japan’s kōban, neighborhood police kiosks whose ubiquitous presence and friendly officers foster honesty from an early age.

What about other places? Apparently – and not surprisingly – there is a much lower chance of your wallet or phone being turned in to police in New York – about 10% and 6%, respectively, according to a University of Michigan study.

Would you know how to go about finding a lost item in, say, the New York City subway system? Here’s a look at the Lost & Found details from transit authorities in a few major cities around the world:

New York City MTA:
Step-by-step Instructions on What to Do:

Things lost in New York range from blood pressure meters to hockey sticks to dentures, with lots of cell phones, wallets, and umbrellas in between. With 5.7 million people riding the subway on an average weekday, some of those people are bound to lose something.

Items are held by the MTA for at least 3 months (unless perishable or in poor condition, in which case they’re discarded), and up to 3 years.

London’s Transport for London (TFL):

The Underground cautions that it can take up to 7 days to collect and catalog items left behind. Items are held for 3 months, and then donated, recycled, disposed of, or sold.

Authorities will not keep individual credit cards. They are securely destroyed when found, and owners are advised to contact their banks for replacement when they realize they are lost.

Paris RATP: 

Items lost in Paris within the past 5 days are reported by phone, while items lost longer ago are reported via an online form.

Lost credit cards are sent to a centralized payment center in Limoges, where cards are returned to the issuing banks. But note that while French-issued cards are returned within 2 days, it may take up to 60 days to return a non-French card. Customers are advised to contact their bank to suspend the old card and issue a new one.

– One key takeaway is to act quickly but have patience. All mass transit systems take some time to get your item into the system. Then a wide variance in the amount of time items are kept mean that your item could be discarded within 30 days or stored for three years.

– Metro authorities deal with lost tickets in different ways, some simply discarding them while others give their owners an opportunity to file a lost-item inquiry for them.

– Anything monetary related – like a metro card linked to your credit card that automatically reloads – riders should plan to address it quickly.

– Finally, be aware of what you’re carrying in your bag or purse, so if you lose the whole unit you can identify lost items, and replace them promptly if necessary.

And if you should find yourself on the Tokyo Metro and lose something, click here and then rest assured that you have a very good chance of it being returned to you.

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

Which is not a social custom?

In Cambodia, which is not a social custom?

  1. Taking care not to touch another person’s head.
  2. “Pointing” with your palm facing palm.
  3. Taking photographs in monasteries.
  4. Leaving uneaten food on your plate.


Click here for the answer!

You’re coming home

Repatriation is commonly cited as one of the most challenging phases in a globally mobile lifestyle. While there is a great deal of support available for assignees in unfamiliar destinations, preparation for a return home can be much more elusive. Many assignees and their families are surprised at how their experiences have changed them, and at how much their home country has changed during their absence.

Here are five things assignees can do now that will support their journey to repatriation later:

Consider challenges
In many ways, repatriation should be viewed as a new assignment rather than a homecoming. Many changes — some small, and possibly some substantial — have taken place in your home country during your time abroad. Take the time to review your perceptions and identify your expectations.

Plan ahead
Think about where the children will be academically on your return home, and compile a list of possible schools or colleges. An accompanying spouse or partner may need to consider whether they are likely to return to their career at home, or use this opportunity to change direction. Those who have learned a new language, or wish to continue developing their interest and involvement in a new culture, should research how they will be able to do so at home.

Talk about what you are going through with friends, family, and colleagues. Connecting with others who have repatriated, and who have experienced reverse culture shock, can prepare you for the unanticipated. Looking for counseling sessions, reentry workshops, and ex-expat clubs in your home destination and online can be helpful, as can determining how you will keep in touch with friends you made abroad.

Stay familiar
Being in sync with your peers will be important when you return. Magazines and newspapers from home, whether in paper or online format, can be a good way to maintain this connection, as can podcasts and other streaming media programs.

Maintain data
Moving from one destination to another requires organization, regardless of what location is “home.” Make sure the following information is up to date, and in easy places to access:

  • Household goods inventories
  • Personal documents such as birth records, citizenship papers, passports and driving licenses
  • Legal documents relating to wills, family matters, property ownership, or insurance policies
  • Medical and dental records, including test results, X-rays and MRIs, prescriptions, and vaccination updates
  • School records and documents such as examples of student work, certificates, and test results

These are just a few of the things you can do to prepare for repatriation. The International Relocation Center offers many other resources to begin thinking about the challenges and processes of returning home.

Written by Erin Fitzgerald, GMS, Content Manager

Lead the way

Is yours one of many companies that is still hesitant to invest in cultural training? Do you question the potential return on investment for soft skills training? Do you believe your employees can develop these skills on the job?  By then it may be too late to repair the damage or avoid a costly mistake.

In our 30 years working with global organizations, we have learned that soft issues – such as learning the host country language, navigating daily encounters, and achieving cultural understanding – can make or break an international assignment.

In our survey, over 80% of responding organizations believe it is important for their global team members to be culturally competent, and that cross-cultural training is a necessity. Over 90% of respondents said their organization would like to provide employees with cultural training, using a flexible online learning platform.

Research shows that improved access to content motivates employees to learn more. The newest learning platforms offer a high degree of portability. This means users can learn anywhere — not only in a classroom environment or the office, but at home, or even during travel.  New learning platforms are also designed to assess a user’s unique needs, and provide content to meet those needs.

Customized cultural training content can minimize misunderstanding, reinforce business relationships, and guide you to a more successful outcome.

Let’s look at one of the globe’s top assignment destinations, India:

  • What are typical working hours?
  • What is appropriate business attire?
  • What are common attitudes regarding women in the workplace?
  • How are business meetings conducted?
  • When and where do businesspeople socialize?

Businesses should strive to create the kind of culture that maximizes learning and brings ongoing performance improvements.

“The single biggest driver of business impact is the strength of an organization’s learning culture.”
-Josh Bersin, Principal and Founder, Bersin by Deloitte

If you don’t already provide cultural training, what are you waiting for?  Cultural understanding provides the confidence required for global roles.  When you invest in your employees, they feel valued and supported.  And your customers know you care enough about them to see the world from their perspective.

Written by Cathy Heyne, GMS-T, Managing Director

Are your children schooled in what’s important?

“Where will they go to school?” is one of the most critical questions relocating parents ask. Finding an answer can take several paths, depending on what’s available in the host country, what’s important to the parents, and the particular needs or strengths of the child.

When all three align on assignment, the resulting educational match can ease parents’ minds and help students thrive. Often, however, parents have to prioritize their needs and wants, and compromise somewhere to find the best fit. Some countries present unique opportunities for learning in different ways. 

In Denmark, for example, empathy is taught in schools. Students aged six to 16 receive one hour of Klassens tid each week.  Fundamental to the Danish curriculum, Klassens tid allows for problem solving in an environment in which children feel safe while practicing understanding and support of one another. Educators and parents alike credit this early introduction to empathy with building adults who are among the happiest in the world. 

South Korea has the distinction of achieving 100% literacy, through a culture of hard work and great emphasis placed on exams. Students go to school year-round and learn to persevere past options that lead to failure. Proponents point to goal-oriented young people who accept that early toil leads to success later.

At the other end of the spectrum is Finland’s belief that personal choice and self-motivation lead to a satisfying course of study. School days are short, compared to those in other Western countries. While taking education very seriously, schools also count extracurricular activities as important to student development. The schedule and curriculum allow time for these activities, typically chosen by the student. This ‘whole student’ approach has worked for Finland, whose education system ranks among the best in the world.

These three examples point to different measurements for success, both while in school and after. Only your family knows what you deem most important. School placement experts can educate you on your options in the host country – or even at home or elsewhere if boarding is the best solution. They can also guide the process of appointments and interviews, while pointing out the nuances of various choices. 

When relocation is on the horizon, start early to get on the path to your children’s education abroad. Coupled with your own parenting and the experience of living in a new country, their opportunities will take them fascinating places. 

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

When in Portugal…

In Portugal, exchanging gifts is not expected when doing business, but small social gifts are more common. When invited to a Portuguese home, bringing red carnations should be avoided as they are a symbol of ________.

  1. Revolution
  2. Bad faith
  3. Courage
  4. Illness
Click here for the answer!

The Australian bushfires: Five facts, and ten ways to help

While bushfires are a regular springtime occurrence in Australia, record-breaking hot and dry meteorological patterns are among the factors contributing to their current unprecedented scale and intensity.

To date, at least 27 people and an estimated 1.25 billion animals have died due to this season’s bushfires, and over 72300 sq km/18 million acres of land have been destroyed.

In many parts of the country, mobile telephone and Internet service has been intermittent during the crisis. This has made it difficult for many to receive evacuation warnings, and has challenged rescue efforts.

Haze from the fires has been visible from as far away as Auckland, New Zealand, approximately 2150km/1300mi southeast of Sydney.

The Sydney Morning Herald’s coverage of the bushfire crisis is free of charge to all online readers.

How you can help communities affected by Australia bushfires:

Givit Disaster and Emergency Recovery Service: Current campaigns

New South Wales Rural Fire Service

Red Cross Disaster Relief: Australia

Save the Children: Australia: Bushfire Emergency

St. Vincent de Paul Society: Vinnies Bushfire Appeal

How you can help animals affected by Australia bushfires:

Animal Rescue Collective

Animal Welfare League

Port Macquarie Koala Hospital

WIRES: New South Wales Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service

World Wildlife Federation: Help Save Koalas

Written by Erin Fitzgerald, GMS, Content Manager

Let Living Abroad’s International Relocation CenterGlobal Business Travel Center  and Culture Coach Online equip your assignees, families and global business travelers with the tools they need to navigate the unfamiliar with confidence.

Plan ahead for health

While medical issues are stressful in any location, they can be especially daunting in a new and unfamiliar environment. Here are some ways you and your family can reduce the risk of health issues while abroad, even before you depart for assignment:

Research and schedule


Are there any regional outbreaks, diseases, or health hazards of which you should be aware in your new home? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC) and World Health Organization, (WHO) are good sources for current information on endemic and short-term health problems in locations around the world. In addition, government agencies often issue regular country-specific advisories, available to their citizens who are traveling or relocating abroad.  These advisories can include health considerations. Examples include Foreign travel advice in the UK, Smartraveller in Australia, Travel Advisories in the USA, and Travel Advice and Advisories in Canada.


It is also critical to determine well in advance what your options for health care insurance will be while you are abroad, and if the available coverage will meet your family’s needs. In the event that neither your employer nor your destination country’s government offer health care insurance, other expatriates, business colleagues, and international schools are all good resources for guidance in this area. International firms specializing in supplemental or comprehensive overseas medical coverage can also have helpful information.

Even if there are excellent doctors and dentists in your destination country, there will be plenty of things to keep you busy after your arrival. Therefore, before departure, arrange medical and dental checkups for every member of your family. Schedule these checkups far enough in advance to accommodate any necessary treatment. Be aware that some travel-related vaccinations are administered in a series, and may require even more time.

Consider your circumstances

Special conditions can dramatically affect a family’s experience on assignment. Well before departure, it is very important to determine whether an assignment will take you to any places that you or a family member may have difficulty accessing. You should also learn if there are any other challenges of which to be aware. For example, prescription medications may be more limited in your destination, or there might be fewer support services.

If a family member has a chronic health condition, determine whether it can be adequately treated in your new country. If they are under the care of a specialist at home, the specialist may be able to provide information or helpful references. Another source of information may be your country’s consulate in your destination country.

If you have family members who have depended on you for care while you are at home, it is very important to make and secure arrangements for them before your departure. Many countries offer visiting nurse or home help services, which may present a better alternative to residential care in some circumstances. Good sources of information for care options include physicians specializing in geriatric care, hospitals, health centers, social workers, support organizations, and community centers.

Gather personal data

Secure each family member’s complete medical records, so that they will be available to medical professionals in the new country. Make sure that these records are kept up-to-date, as you will need them when you return home.

Obtain written statements from your physicians and specialists that identify specific conditions, as well as recommendations for treatment. Medical imaging such as MRIs and x-rays, as well as any official analysis reports regarding these images, may also be worth taking with you. Sometimes, these materials are available in a digital format.

In case there are additional questions or more information is necessary, bring all contact information for home country medical professionals with you. In some countries, fax numbers or secure website logins are important communication tools, because they are commonly used for the transmission of medical documentation.

Your pharmacist can provide the generic names of prescription drugs so that pharmacies abroad will be able to match them with local equivalents. Any medications you take with you should be in the original labeled containers. You should have a signed and dated statement from the prescribing physician describing the health problem requiring the medication, as well as the dosage. Be aware that some countries require special documentation to accompany large quantities of medication, and that some countries do not allow the importation of certain types of drugs.

Store your family’s medical information in multiple and secure places, to reduce the risk of theft or loss.

Pack other important items

A small first aid kit is always useful, and over the counter medications, especially those for which you have specific brand or formulation preferences, are a wise addition to it. A health reference book from your home country may help you identify and treat simple maladies. An overnight bag with extra medication, toiletries and a blanket can be useful in the event of an unexpected hospital stay.

Many health conditions require items other than oral or topical medications for monitoring and treatment. If your preferred devices, testing materials, or other equipment is difficult to find in your destination country, be sure to bring a more than adequate supply, or make appropriate alternate arrangements.

Wearing a medical bracelet can be important if you or a family member has serious allergies, reactions to certain drugs, or a medical condition that should be immediately known in the event of an emergency. It may be useful to have its information translated into the language of the destination country, especially if English is not widely spoken.

Be prepared

Making key decisions and plans in advance can not only make a substantial difference in how you are able to handle medical emergencies while abroad, but also in the quality of your family’s assignment experience overall.

A new decade for business travel

It’s the beginning of 2020 and time for another year of corporate travel, which is crucial for any business.  Customer meetings still top the list as the reason for business travel, with average travel plans ranging from once or twice a month to once every two months.  Business travel supports business goals, skills development, recruitment and initiatives for the coming year.

What trends will influence business travel in 2020?

  1. “Bleisure” travel continues to grow with the influx of younger employees into the workforce.  More than half of international business travelers also plan to extend trips to accommodate leisure activities.
  2. Boutique and unique accommodations are growing in popularity.  They often feel homier and offer a little more flavor of the destination.
  3. Self-booking travel options and accommodations are on the rise. However, speaking with a customer service agent is still important for canceled flights and other travel emergencies.
  4. Travel policies are becoming more flexible. Dynamic travel policies, which adjust according to options available at booking, are on the rise.  Dynamic policies tend to have a higher adoption rate.
  5. New biometric technologies such as facial recognition will speed up security lines.
  6. The use of blockchain as secure storage of traveler preferences will continue to increase.  This supports secure and seamless cross-border travel.
  7. Dynamic corporate travel programs will help encourage organizational growth, improve retention, and increase employee engagement.
  8. Political tensions, trade issues, regional conflicts and rising oil prices will challenge growth in the travel industry.
  9. China will continue to dominate the business travel market, and India is slated to be in the top 5 business travel markets by 2022.

If you have employees who are frequent business travelers, it’s crucial to stay ahead of trends, and to keep your corporate policies updated.  The overall goal, of course, remains the same: making business travel efficient for better experiences and investments.

Written by Cathy Heyne, GMS-T, Managing Director

Living Abroad’s Global Business Travel Center  supports global business travelers with the tools they need to navigate the unfamiliar with confidence.

If you’d like to learn more about the depth of our content, request a demo!