Feeling Creative?  Try this…

What do building a phone app, developing global mobility policies, and even stocking your pantry have in common? All these projects can benefit dramatically from using a structured approach to complete them.

At Living Abroad, we’ve begun to talk about what’s next for the International Relocation Center, and we’ve found the structured approach of design thinking to be a very useful tool.

Design thinking is usually comprised of these stages:

  • Understanding the feelings and experiences of users. Be a good listener and ask good questions.
  • Defining the specific problems users need to solve. Identify what it is that users need, and why, very specifically, they need it.
  • Brainstorming solutions to those problems. Encourage all ideas in a friendly, relaxed, supportive environment.
  • Prototyping one or more solutions. Consider factors like quality, complexity, and cost.
  • Testing solutions to see if they meet user needs. Does the solution solve the identified problem? How does it affect the user’s feelings and experiences?

Design thinking stages may overlap, occur out of order, or even repeat. But making specific time for each stage can yield results that are innovative and even offer solutions for the future. They also help us achieve our most important goal: making users feel truly heard and supported.

Want to read more about design thinking? A good place to start is Google’s The Design Sprint, a guide to setting up a five day “sprint” for tackling all sorts of business challenges.

(And if you need a short break between stages: The puzzle game Wordle has taken the Internet by storm, but have you tried Globle? Instead of a five-letter word, you must guess a country by name on an unlabeled globe. As you get geographically closer, the color of your guessed countries gets darker and darker. Just like Wordle, you can share your progression through the game with others every day.)

Written by Erin Fitzgerald, GMS, Content Manager

How to provide partner support

How are you supporting the partner?

Partner support has come a long way over the last 10 years. Not only are more dual-career couples relocating, but it’s also more common that both partners want or need to work. With COVID-19, work permit complexities have increased based on location/country. Tax issues need to be addressed from the beginning.

The pandemic brought the family unit into sharper focus, making sure everyone is safe and healthy, which drives home the importance of partner support. Companies that continue to offer resources that support partners will have a better chance for happy, successful relocations. Perhaps in this ongoing struggle for talent, employees and family members who are treated holistically will stay for the long haul.

Companies are focusing on the employee experience and understand that supporting a partner is very important to the assignee and the success of the assignment. Most global companies have policies that cover different types of partnerships. While this is a step in the right direction, employees and their partners may encounter challenges at assignment locations.

Immigration regulations are constantly changing, and both the company and employee need to stay on top of them. It’s imperative that the assignee understand the legal, cultural, and social challenges of their host location. For example, some counties do not recognize unmarried partners at all.

The good news is that Living Abroad provides detailed information to support all partners. How do we help?

  1. Thorough information on moving with spouses and partners includes assessing needs, corporate assistance, employment, work permits and visas, financial issues for dual-career families, alternatives to paid employment, international labor issues, and other issues that non-married partners might face.
  2. Country specific LGBTQ+ support covering legal, socio-cultural and workplace situations for LGBT people on top destinations along with many global resources.
  3. Comprehensive support on social environment and social customs, including how to cope with culture shock.
  4. Resources for partner employment abroad.
  5. Current visas, permits, and entry requirements by destination.
  6. A directory of podcasts, which share practical solutions to help assignees and partners adapt and succeed, stay connected to those who matter, improve emotional well-being and resilience, and appreciate diversity of all kinds.

If you are a global mobility professional, chances are you are juggling many pieces of the relocation puzzle, making sure employees and partners are compliant with country rules before moving. It’s hard to provide everything partners may need, and employees that have access to the International Relocation Center (IRC) will have a wealth of information available and so will their partners.

Play It By Ear

When is your favorite time to listen to audio?
Is it while commuting, to hear traffic and weather reports? Passing the time on a long trip? While exercising? Playing music in your home? To keep up with news or listen to an interesting podcast?

When you’re traveling, do your listening habits change?

Traditional radio broadcasts, streaming audio services, and smartphone apps provide the soundtrack to our lives, whether at home or abroad. Relocating families often find comfort in listening to familiar programs or series on apps or streamed in the host location.

Broadcasters with global reach make it easy to find their content from wherever you are around the world. BBC World Service, for example, broadcasts over air in many countries, as well as online and via app. iHeartRadio broadcasts, streams, and has an app for music as well as news, features, and hundreds of thousands of podcasts. Based in New York, it has affiliates in Australia, Canada, Mexico, and New Zealand.

Terrestrial radio still enjoys a huge audience. For example, 83% of Americans still listen to it in an average week. While listeners in cars declined in 2020 during the pandemic, the numbers are bouncing back. And all those ears are powerful: local radio in the U.S. accounts for an estimated $12 billion in annual advertising spending.

The sheer breadth of options is astounding. My 91-year-old mother listens to an AM news station on her battery-operated transistor radio, and she also listens to classic radio shows from the 1940s with her SiriusXM subscription. My children favor music on Spotify and podcasts for entertainment and information. Outside of mainstream broadcasts, there are specialty stations and podcasts on every imaginable topic, from religion, politics, and tech trends to true crime, psychology, and extreme athletes.

Fans of public radio often have a choice of national and regional broadcasts.

Around the world, Poland, South Africa, Germany, France, and the United States have the highest percentage of radio listeners, according to Statistica. Countries undergoing instability often rely on radio to stay abreast of political volatility. In locations where censorship is an issue, journalists struggle to convey balanced information to the public. Underscoring the importance of radio for basic safety, it is often the first alert system for a pending weather event or in a natural disaster.

The power of radio is unmistakable. A few years ago, the BBC’s Steve Martin gave an interesting talk about innovative radio stations in Africa. On a lighter note, the movie Pirate Radio takes an entertaining look at the 1960s when the BBC’s exclusive hold on radio prompted unlicensed stations to broadcast popular music from ships offshore in international waters.

Wherever you are in the world, you’ll find audio options in a variety of delivery methods. Living Abroad International Relocation Center subscribers can check out our Media & Communication section for “Media Worldwide” resources.

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

Peace of Mind

In my household there are three people with three jobs, one car, too many pets, and countless remote and in-person activities and obligations. We rely heavily on knowing who needs to do what, when. After our holiday decorations are put away every January, I turn to a task that takes less than an hour but pays off substantially over the following 12 months: adding reminders and important dates to my new planner, and to our household digital calendar.

Here are some entries to consider making in your calendar every year:

  • All appointments scheduled for the new year, that were set up in the previous year
  • Expiry dates for identification and documents such as passports, permits, and licenses. (Don’t forget to check estimated renewal times and required validity for travel!)
  • Birthdays and anniversaries
  • Bill payment dates
  • Delivery and subscription dates
  • Lease expiry dates
  • Commuter pass expiry dates
  • Auto registration and inspection expiry dates
  • Health, vehicle, and home insurance policy change dates
  • Home and host country tax related dates
  • Company holidays
  • Home and host country national and cultural holidays
  • School holidays
  • Academic calendar dates for all schools that influence your schedule
  • Meeting dates and membership renewal dates for organizations to which you belong
  • Reminders to check any of the above if their dates have yet to be determined!

A new addition to your calendar might be COVID-19 vaccination dates. I’ve found that noting them in our calendar makes it easier to keep track of eligibility, and to schedule subsequent vaccination appointments.

If you’re relocating this year, these calendar suggestions only scratch the surface! You should know that Living Abroad’s International Relocation Center offers the indispensable International Move Planner, which is designed to support you through the entire process. You can customize your tasks, select the number of tasks you want to see at one time, sort tasks by priority, and hide completed tasks…in other words, you’ll have the tools you need to master the process, and to create success.

Written by Erin Fitzgerald, GMS, Content Manager 

Make it happen!

There’s something so satisfying about starting with a clean slate, a fresh perspective, and setting new goals.  That’s what the start of each new year gives us.  Meanwhile, we often start with the best intentions and then lose track somewhere along the way.

Here are some things to think about for 2022 goal planning.

  1. Deal with challenges – The way we reach our goals is to face our challenges.  Working through these issues is the only way we change, and we become better people when we overcome them.
  2. Focus on an aspiration – We lose interest in life when we have nothing to work towards.  Find something challenging that you want to accomplish to bring to the world.
  3. Set a deadline – Knowing when we want our goals accomplished helps us stay focused, engaged, and interested in our story.

How can we stack the odds in our favor to achieve our new goals?  Neuroscience explains the need to write down our goals with the steps to achieve them.  Many of us may have heard of a survey, attributed to Harvard, where before graduation:

  • 84% of the entire class had made no goals
  • 13% of the class had written goals but had no details on how to achieve them
  • 3% of the class had both written goals and details plans

Ten years later, the 13% of the class that had set written goals but had not created plans, were making twice as much money as the 84% of the class that had set no goals at all.  However, the 3% that had both written goals and a plan, had 10 times more success than 97% of the class.

When we write things down, we are creating external storage and encoding. External storage is taking our written goals and placing the piece of paper in a location that is easy to access and review at any time.  These goals can be posted in our office, on the refrigerator, or next to our computer or all the above.  Staring at our goals every single day will give us a visual cue that helps the brain remember.

The deeper phenomenon of encoding is a biological process where the things we perceive travel to the brain’s hippocampus, where they are analyzed.  In the hippocampus, decisions are made about what we store in our long-term memory, and what gets discarded.  Writing improves the encoding process, and another chance for our goals to be remembered.

Setting ourselves up for success takes a few simple steps.  Address a challenge.  Focus on something aspirational.  Set a deadline.  Write down goals in vivid detail.  Study after study shows we remember things better when we do, and will be victorious in reaching our goals.

Here’s to you in 2022!

Cheers to 2022!

‘Twas the fright before Christmas that COVID would spawn
with a virulent variant, that darn omicron.

The tunnel had brightened. We all saw the light
at the end that surely meant an end to our plight.

We were traveling again, in the skies, on the seas,
in our cars and on trains or however we please.

Some moves had resumed, and some business travel.
How dare COVID take our plans and unravel?

Well anyone familiar with a certain Mr. Grinch
knows the Whos who refused to give Humbug an inch.

Our industry, also, is tough and resilient.
We’re optimistic, joyful, and many are brilliant!

We’ve HAD to be smart, helpful, hard-working,
and flexible to deal with a virus so irking.

So we puzzle and solve, and we puzzle some more,
And we keep on adapting until we are sure

That we can deal with anything that’s thrown our way.
Global Mobility is changing, but it IS here to stay.

Whatever the holidays look like for you –
whether you’re with a crowd or only a few –

Within your neighborhood or on distant shores,
The warmest of wishes to you and yours!

Happy New Year from Living Abroad!

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

You’re #1

Even during seemingly ordinary times, year-end can be busy and stressful. Small acts of self-care can make a difference.

If you haven’t had a good therapeutic scream since we last suggested one, it might be time to pay another visit to Looks Like You Need Iceland. You might want to select a new setting for a new scream — or revisit your last choice if it worked well before! If you think you might be ready to try for an in-person scream, Iceland provides an entry rules resource area in its comprehensive national public services portal.

While screaming in Iceland has no set deadline, you have until December 28th to make a wish for 2022 in New York City. At 12am on 1/1/22, more than 2000 lb/907kg of confetti will be dropped on the enormous party in Times Square. Fill out the form at The Wishing Wall, and your wish will be among thousands printed on that confetti! You can follow the hashtag #ConfettiWish on popular social media venues to share your wish or read those of others. Want to write your wish on a piece of Times Square confetti yourself, instead? Here are the current guidelines for travel to the United States.

Whether you scream, wish, travel, or stay at home in the weeks to come, here’s hoping that you reap all the benefits!

Written by Erin Fitzgerald, GMS, Content Manager

Why 2022 looks promising

While international relocations were slow and steady in 2021, a recent survey suggests that by February of 2022, we should begin to see an uptick in global relocations. Based on employee feedback, this is due to pent up demand. Motivation for moving to a new country remains largely driven by work and job opportunities. Top countries most favorable for relocation were cited as the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, Japan, and Spain.

Reasons for continuing with a postponed planned move include:  lifted travel restrictions or border openings; personal desire to proceed with the move; plans had changed; a delay was fixed (visa, other requirements met, etc.); and some had no choice but to move.

Based on the survey data, key factors that will influence the timing of a return to global mobility include:

COVID-19:  Host country reaching herd immunity.

Vaccine passport:  Agreement of a standardized passport and vaccination of children.

Shipping Costs:  Costs of global shipping are extremely expensive and need to be reduced.

Container Freight Rates:  Lowering of container rates which have more than quadrupled since the start of the pandemic.

Regional overviews from respondents:

Australia – The Aussie way of life is a huge plus for international moves.  For those choosing to relocate to Australia, 47% of respondents would do so for a better lifestyle.

Hong Kong – Survey results showed an increased desire to move due to COCID-19 related issues.  The most popular relocation destinations cited were United Kingdom (21.7%), Japan (15.6%), and Australia (14.2%).

South Africa – The pandemic was also cited as a reason to relocation. Almost fifty percent indicated they were in search of a better lifestyle and about twenty percent stated they wanted to experience a new culture.

United Kingdom – While the U.K. was the most popular global destination according to the survey, those who wanted to leave the U.K. focused on other countries with lots of sunshine and/or also spoke English.

United States – Those respondents from California and New York were happy to stay in their respective states.

Key points from the survey:

  • Reasons to relocate vary across countries.
  • Protocols for Covid-19 around the globe affect relocation, but the key consideration for moving remains the same worldwide: job opportunity.
  • Some respondents are undeterred in moving abroad, but the pandemic created complacency for others.
  • There is more than one reason that people are motivated to move abroad.
  • The U.K. is the top relocation destination.

It’s clear that even though career opportunities are still driving an international relocation, remote work is becoming more common.  What this means for global mobility remains to be seen.  Physical offices are no longer a requirement for productivity.  While companies can save money on office space, employees can work and pursue a lifestyle of their dreams.

What’s in a date?

Today’s date is a palindrome here in the U.S., where we write December 1, 2021 numerically as 12.1.21. With the weight of the past 20 months, and the busy season ahead, I thought it would be nice this week to take a lighter look at some dates in December.

Everyone is familiar with Hanukkah, which normally falls entirely within December but this year began on November 28, which is as early as it can possibly start. Christmas Day on December 25 is perhaps the best-known holiday of the month. In some places, Christmas Eve is also observed as a holiday – especially this year with Christmas falling on a Saturday – and Boxing Day is observed on the 26th.

But did you know that December 3 is International Day for Persons with Disabilities? December 8 is Mother’s Day in Panama, where it is a public holiday that also falls on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. International Animal Rights Day falls on December 10, deliberately coinciding with the Universal Human Rights Declaration made on that date in 1948.

We also have Bartender Appreciation Day on December 3, International Ninja Day on the 5th, Chocolate-Covered Anything Day on the 16th, and Festivus on the 23rd. For more, check out these December public holidays around the world.

Getting back to palindromes: There are some clever, entertaining ones out there, including a particularly long palindrome from comedian Dmitri Martin and some shorter ones on the Grammarly website.

Whether it is word play or some other type of diversion, hopefully you and your traveling employees can take a break from the accumulated stresses of the year. December is typically a quieter month for moves, which is good because it tends to be a busy one personally. Take advantage of any lull in your business to regroup and recharge for the year ahead. Also, enjoy whatever time you may have with family and friends around the holidays. With vaccinations available and lifted travel restrictions, we’ve come a long way from 12.1.20.

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