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!

Leaping into 2020

Another leap year is upon us. And while none of us was around back in Julius Caesar’s day, most people know that calendars back then had fewer days per year, which threw off the seasons over time. The 46 B.C. Julian calendar reformed the previous Roman one, bringing the number of days to 365 and standardizing one additional day – an “intercalary day” — every four years.

But adding a day every four years began to accumulate incrementally more time than the solar year. By the time Pope Gregory XIII was head of the Catholic Church in 1582, he was concerned about Easter becoming out of sync with the spring season. His calendar skipped leap year every 100 years – with the exception of every 400 years, when it is a leap year. This adjustment makes the Gregorian calendar as closely aligned with the solar year as possible.

The Gregorian calendar is the international standard today, although there are countries that do not use it – including Afghanistan, Ethiopia, and Iran.

If we did not work leap years into calendars periodically, the seasons would reverse every 730 years or so. Just imagine if the hemispheres’ climates swapped according to the calendar. Not that anyone would notice, since it would take about 24 generations to achieve.

The current generations have some decisions to make this year. Presidential elections are on the 2020 calendar, in the United States as well as in Bolivia, Burundi, Greece, Iceland, and Poland.

Meanwhile, we will enjoy an extra day at the end of February. And those born on February 29 can actually celebrate their birthdays on their birthdays, rather than on March 1 as is the norm. As we start the new leap year, here are two quotes from motivational presenter Tony Robbins, born on February 29, 1960:

         “Success in life is the result of good judgment. Good judgment is usually the result of experience. Experience is usually the result of bad judgment.”

“Change is inevitable. Progress is optional.”

Here’s to a year of new experiences, and of learning, growth, health and happiness. Wishing you a Very Happy 2020!

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

Ready to roll?

Depending on where you live, summer may be a time when you’re in your car a lot. Vacations, weekend trips, and just longer days encourage people to get out and do something. For many, that involves more driving.

But what if you’re moving abroad?  Have you thought about what the implications are for your wheels?

Here are a few things to consider:

Take it or leave it?

Several factors contribute to your decision whether to take your vehicle abroad. First of all, will you need it? If you’re moving to a compact city center with limited parking and great public transportation, a car may be a liability. On the other hand, if you’ve got a family and your children need shuttling around or you relish weekend trips to the country, a car could be a necessity. Between those two scenarios is a sliding scale of personal circumstances and country environment to weigh.

Also, what will it take to get it there? Some countries’ import taxes and duties levied on particular makes and models make them prohibitively expensive to ship. Or perhaps in your host country they drive on the other side of the road, and retrofitting your car is expensive or impractical. In these cases, doing without or acquiring a vehicle after arrival may be the answer.

If you take it

If you do bring your car abroad, the first order of business is to find a reliable shipper. A good shipper will help you assemble the proper paperwork and documentation, which may include duplicate copies of your passport and vehicle title.

Once the physical shipment is settled, find out the rules of the road in your host country.  Beyond which side the steering wheel is on, you need to know what’s required of drivers. In several countries, for example, reflective vests and warning triangles must be carried in all vehicles, in case of a breakdown or accident.  For details on road rules in European countries from Europa, click here.  Europa also offers a GoingAbroad app to help drivers navigate around the different countries.

Will your driver’s license be accepted, and for how long? Many countries have grace periods during which a foreigner may drive with a valid home country license. Often, the International Driver’s Permit (IDP) is recommended or required to accompany the foreign license; it provides official translation. The IDP is obtained in your home country prior to travel. For a list of countries recognizing the IDP, click here.

Insurance is another important issue to understand. What are the minimum requirements in your host country, and should you consider higher coverage? Will your home-country carrier cover you abroad? If not, what reputable companies operate in your host country? Some countries require that drivers carry local insurance. One resource to help you find insurance abroad is Clements Worldwide .

You may also encounter vignettes or other road tolls and taxes. Paid via decal or electronic device, these tolls are typically required for vehicles up to 3.5 tons using expressways or other federal roads. Drivers without them – detected either by police or license plate readers – are fined.

General road conditions and parking availability in the areas you’ll be frequenting are other critical considerations. Do some roads close in winter due to treacherous travel? Will you need a special permit to park near your office? Finding this out ahead of time can make your early days smoother.

If you leave it

Leaving a vehicle behind brings up its own issues. Will you sell it or store it? Is it safe to leave it at a house that is rented in your absence?

Of course, any payments must be kept up, either manually from abroad or with automatic transactions. And while you may be tempted to suspend insurance on a car that is garaged, note that vehicle registration often is contingent on insurance coverage. Therefore, cancelling your insurance makes the registration invalid. Also, the lien holder (if your car is financed) may require some level of continued insurance coverage even if the vehicle is not driven.

Talk to your insurance company. They may offer a “storage discount”, at a hefty savings, keeping your car insured but allowing for the fact that is it off the road for a period of time.

With advance planning and knowledge of your destination, your overseas driving experience can be as smooth as a summer road trip.

By Ellen Harris – International Product Director, Living Abroad

A simple formula to make your assignment ROI rock

Every business around the world wants to make sure their company has a healthy bottom line, and that any services they provide or procure have a minimum Return on Investment, or ROI.  ROI measurements can be calculated for many aspects of an international move. By making a few educated value decisions or using hard numbers from your CFO, you can calculate a percentage return.

The standard ROI formula is:

               Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 9.13.31 AM.png

For instance: If language training is provided for an assignee, what is the monetary value gained by the company? Twelve weeks of language lessons would cost the company $6400. But let’s say that after six months in a new location, Simon closed a deal by using some of his new language skills during a meeting.  The deal created $500,000 of new business, yielding $100,000 in net profits for the company in one year.  In this case, the ROI for providing language lessons is 1463%!  While the company might have appeared to have saved money if Simon eventually learned enough of the new language to close a deal in nine months, he would not be as well positioned to close even more sales.

Looking at both versions of this scenario illustrates the true return on investment for language training.Chart for today's blogpost.png

In this case, an investment of $6400 yields an increased annual profit of $100,000.  (This analysis does not take into account the cost of sending the assignee and other related costs.)

How can this help you?  If language and local knowledge is critical for success in the destination, this analysis can help you make a good decision with a solid payback.  It may also mean finding an assignee with the requisite skills, or looking for a local resource.

Language training can specifically help get employees on the ground and productive faster.  This same model can be used, with modifications, for Cross Cultural Training and Destination Services.

Only 4% of multinationals calculate ROI for international assignments as a whole. Not being able to measure the full ROI of an assignment doesn’t mean you can’t measure other services that support your assignees and families. This practice helps to justify the costs. Creating values for certain services offered to international assignees can start the ball rolling for calculating the full ROI for assignments, in which all known values associated with the move are included.

Not being able to measure the ROI of an assignment doesn’t mean you can’t measure other services you are providing to support your assignees and families, which helps to justify the costs.

Written by:  Cathy Heyne, Managing Director, Living Abroad LLC

How about being a tourist?

If you’re like us, most of your working days are spent on fairly serious topics.  Our usual focus is on things like finding suitable expat housing abroad, compiling details on international schools, host country banking services, security issues, and business style – just to name a few.

Rarely do we spend time on tourism websites. And when we do, it’s typically in the context of rounding out cultural content or linking to detailed information on business entertainment venues.
Since it is officially summer — in the northern hemisphere, anyway – this might be a good time for a newsletter that serves as a vacation for the mind.

Some countries’ and cities’ official tourism websites are gorgeous and arresting, presenting a sea of information with clarity and beauty. Skift, a travel industry intelligence and marketing company, compiled a list of the best tourism websites.  These are definitely worth a look.

Take a little virtual trip and enjoy a feast for the eyes with these selected websites, with my own notes about particular gems:

Belize: http://www.travelbelize.org/

Brazil: http://www.visitbrasil.com/
Good practical tips: http://www.visitbrasil.com/visitbrasil/opencms/portalembratur/en/dicas-praticas.html

Britain: http://lovewall.visitbritain.com/en

Copenhagen: http://www.visitcopenhagen.com/copenhagen-tourist

Los Angeles: http://www.discoverlosangeles.com/

Malaysia: http://tourism.gov.my/en/us
Impressive number of language options!

New Zealand: http://www.newzealand.com/int/

Norway: http://www.visitnorway.com/us/

Oregon: http://traveloregon.com/

The Philippines: http://itsmorefuninthephilippines.com/#

Skane: http://visitskane.com/en
Another good one for business:  http://www.skane.com/en/business-region-skane

Stockholm: http://www.visitstockholm.com/en/
I’m partial to this amazing relocation section: http://www.visitstockholm.com/en/moving-to-stockholm/

For a look at the rest of the top 20, click here. It seems the Scandinavians’ reputation for design is well deserved, leading them to heavily represent the top picks. Copenhagen, Norway, Skane, and Stockholm all have beautiful sites.

This might also be a good place to point out some favorite government websites I’ve come across in my work. New Zealand makes it easy, clear, and fun to learn about relocating there. Canada, though not named in the “best tourist websites” above, always delivers a tremendous amount of online information in a direct and organized way – no small feat for a country as large and varied as Canada.

Maybe this will inspire you to visit somewhere you’ve never thought about. Or, if you’re already traveling for business, perhaps you’ll want a closer look at the leisure activities nearby.

Written by Ellen Harris, International Product Director

What’s Johnny Depp doing down under?

Johnny Depp is currently in Australia, shooting the next Pirates of the Caribbean movie. And, like many globally mobile professionals, he misses his pets. Last month, Depp arranged to have his Yorkshire terriers, Boo and Pistol, flown into the country via private jet. But the dogs returned home a few days later after Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce threatened their euthanization, as well as a fine and imprisonment for their owner.

Had the award-winning actor consulted Living Abroad’s International Relocation Center before trying to reunite with his furry friends, he would have learned that relocating pets to Australia is a complicated, lengthy process. However, he would also have discovered a number of resources to make it easier. The Department of Agriculture provides comprehensive information about pet importation online, not only for cats and dogs, but other pets as well.  If they provide a few pieces of information, cat and dog owners can even obtain a customized calendar that outlines the entire importation process, and provides key dates.

In fact, the Australian government provides a wealth of online information for its visitors. Other highly useful sites include:

Tourism Australia’s directory of annual events and festivals throughout Australia:
http://www.tourism.australia.com/story-ideas/2015-australian-events-2015-city-calendar.aspx

The Australia.gov directory of all government smartphone apps: http://www.australia.gov.au/news-and-media/apps

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection website, where visitors can determine their visa type and apply for it online: http://www.immi.gov.au/

The National Public Toilet Map, which provides comprehensive information on 16,000 publicly available restrooms throughout Australia: https://toiletmap.gov.au/

Now that several weeks have passed since Boo and Pistol’s return to the United States, entertainment news headlines suggest Mr. Depp’s stay in Australia is pleasant again. But if he decides to bring his other pet to Australia, we hope he’s now aware that there’s more to the importation process than coaxing a horse named Goldeneye onto a private jet.

By Erin Fitzgerald, GMS, International Product Manager

Connecting in Hong Kong, communicating in Canada, transporting in Lagos

If you are reading this in Hong Kong right now, you may be using one of the city’s many Wi-Fi options. Connect to “GovWiFi” in major parks, visitor centers, public libraries, sports and cultural/recreational centers, and government buildings. In addition, Hong Kong’s mass transit system, MTR, now provides up to five 15-minute sessions of free Wi-Fi access per device daily. More free Wi-Fi access is provided by Hong Kong Broadband Network (HKBN) and Y5ZONE, as well as csl Wi-Fi.

All these Wi-Fi options around Hong Kong help residents and visitors work and communicate on the go.

Speaking of communicating, citizens of every nation are using more technology and less paper. In fact, Canada Post was headed toward operating losses of $1 billion per year before a five-point plan was developed to better serve Canada’s 15.7 million addresses. Now they’re changing the way mail is delivered to about a third of Canadians, installing Community Mailboxes rather than delivering house to house.

Other changes include tiered postage pricing, new retail franchises, and streamlined operations that aim to save money while still meeting today’s customer needs. With completion expected by 2019, it will be interesting to watch the evolution of the postal service in this vast country.

Of course, the postal service isn’t the only way to deliver things. Would it surprise you to know that in Lagos, Nigeria, a taxi company offers parcel delivery? Tranzit allows people in Lagos to hire a taxi from its pool of licensed drivers, book a car and driver for several hours, or – yes – even deliver packages, documents, and other items. Services are arranged via phone, web, or Android app. Easy Taxi also offers taxi service in Lagos, and offers apps for iOS and Windows as well as Android. Taxi arrival can be tracked, and driver photos are provided.

It’s knowing details like where to access Wi-Fi in Hong Kong, how to pick up your mail in Canada, and how to get yourself around Lagos that makes living abroad easier.

By Ellen Harris, GMS, International Product Director, Living Abroad

Top strategies to identify and deal with “expat fatigue”

Expat fatigue isn’t one of those things like the stomach flu, where you know it when you’ve got it. If it were, it would be fairly obvious how to identify and deal with it. Instead expat fatigue has this sneaky habit of flying under the radar.

If your excitement for being in a new place has ever taken a nose dive into intense frustration or listless exasperation, you may be experiencing expat fatigue.

Sure, expat fatigue is expected and natural outcome of adapting to a new place. Left unchecked, however, this may be a form of self-sabotage. When you allow yourself or your loved ones to get consumed by expat fatigue, you hijack the very sense of adventure that inspired your expatriate life in the first place. What is really at risk? The expatriate assignment, important relationships and one´s own happiness. These are high stakes.

I don´t want this to happen to you. That is why I am going to share with you the ins and outs of expat fatigue so you can know what it is, be able to spot when it starts creeping in and have a handful of strategies at your fingertips to be able to deal with it successfully.

Name the Beast

Road rage on the way home from work. Refusal to learn the local language. Religiously stirring up evening cocktails. Gut-wrenching homesickness. On their own, none seem to point in an obvious direction, but when you recognize the name of the beast you are facing, you are better able to cope with it. Dr. Dan Siegel of Mindsight calls this strategy, “Name it to tame it.” By knowing the signs of expat fatigue, you are better positioned to get out of it.

Let me share with you my “name” for expat fatigue so you can get on with taming the beast.

Expat fatigue is intimately woven with the process of adapting to a new culture. It may begin with culture shock, that initial discomfort or disorientation when you are in unfamiliar waters. This initial blow to the system is just one of the many steps along the winding and bumpy road of adaptation. After the jolt of the unfamiliar fades, cultural fatigue may set in. You can think of it as the long-term impact of being in a culturally different environment. David L. Szanton’s often quoted definition gets at the heart of this:

 

Cultural Fatigue is the physical and emotional exhaustion that almost invariably results from the infinite series of minute adjustments required for long-term survival in an alien culture. (1)


David Szanton goes on to name the demanding nature of suspending our default responses, including how we evaluate something, and the tiring effort required to constantly adapt our approach. Szanton is straightforward, “conscious or unconscious, successful, or unsuccessful [this process] consumes an enormous amount of energy leaving the individual decidedly fatigued.”

Throw this hefty extension of energy upon a layer of fatigue from the cyclical nature of expat life (i.e. prepare to leave, say painful good byes, pack, leave, arrive, unpack, meet new people, adjust, find a routine – rinse and repeat), and voilà! You´ve got expat fatigue.

Tame the Beast

If you want to deal with expat fatigue effectively, you will want to have laser-like focus. Cross-cultural psychologists Ward, Bochner, and Furnham (2) help us simplify the complex process of adapting to a new or unfamiliar cultural environment by breaking it down to the ABCs (Affect, Behaviour, and Cognition).

A is for Affect: Pay attention to your feelings.

What to look out for: Take note when you feel confused, anxious or feel isolated. You might experience the overwhelming desire to simply be somewhere else or catch yourself flipping out at relatively minor incidents. Be careful if you notice these red flags appearing at an increasing frequency. Pay attention if your body is screaming at you in the form of sleep or digestive problems, or a dramatic loss of appetite. Letting any of these tendencies go may lead down a dangerous path to depression.

Try this: I hate to state the obvious but taking care of your health and well-being should be your top priority. This means enough rest, exercise and excellent nutrition. Seems simple enough, right? It’s not. Think of how many people struggle with eating well and sleeping enough in a non-expat context!

• Focus on your health so you can regain strength and clarity. It is imperative.
• Try slowing down how quickly or intensely you dive into the unfamiliar.
• Be creative in building “safe havens” of familiarity once a week.

Who knows! Adding in time to eat comfort foods on the sofa with a feel-good movie may be just what you need.

B is for Behaviour: Pay attention to your actions.

What to look out for: When we are in a new cultural context our “natural” behaviour may not always fit in. You know this when you come across as awkward or even inappropriate. (Arg…I hate it when that happens!). This can be draining on so many levels. What is simple for the locals (say, driving in erratic traffic and waiting in line at the bank or even greeting people) ends up requiring a huge extension of your patience or effort. Going through your days feeling like you are always “messing up” or that everything you do is a momentous challenge takes a toll.

It is time to take note when you notice a dramatic change in your self-confidence or assertiveness. Maybe your leadership style suddenly includes “giving up” or “giving in.” You may even find yourself privately making insulting comments about the locals (especially in the car!). A downslide in work performance, refusal to speak the local language or a gradual yet increasing dependency on alcohol are all signs to watch out for.

Try this:

  • Seek to understand the “whys” behind local practices
  • Seek out credible resources to increase your cultural understanding.
  • Identify low-risk opportunities for you to try out new behaviours and get feedback.
  • Take detailed notes of what you are learning (such as new words in the local language or the best way to negotiate at the market). Refer to these often to celebrate your progress.


C is for Cognition: Pay attention to your thoughts.

This is hands down the most complex and least straightforward aspect. You may start feeling worn down and not be able to identify exactly why. Keep in mind that when you are in the middle of adapting to a place that is significantly different from your familiar stomping grounds, you may discover that the way you see the world, how you see yourself or the groups that you belong is being challenged.

What to look out for: You suddenly notice that how you have typically seen yourself is not how others see you – and it troubles you. Maybe you go from thinking of yourself as middle-class to being seen as rich, from being an American to called a “foreigner”, from a colleague on equal footing to someone of lower (or higher) status.

Shifts like these can spur emotions like guilt, shock, confusion or even frustration.

Try this: Know that when you start grappling with big topics like identity, nationality, poverty, injustice, equality, and generally “what is right and wrong”, it is a sign that you are developing.

• When something new is being presented to you, find out how you can learn from it.
• Take the opportunity to learn more about your own culture. What are my main values? My core assumptions? What did I see as “normal” that isn’t shared by my new community?

Expat fatigue is a mirror of resilience

If you are feeling the effects of expat fatigue, it is time to seriously think about your current level of resiliency. Don´t get close to the breaking point.

Instead, ask yourself these 3 important questions:

• What isn’t working anymore that needs to change?
• What strategies am I using right now that are unhealthy in the long run?
• What is one small thing I can do this week to make things a bit better?

Now it is your turn. What is the number one thing that brings you down the most about expat life? Share it in the comments section of my blog.

Sundae Schneider-Bean is an intercultural specialist, coach and trainer based in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso (West Africa) who helps individuals and organizations meet their toughest intercultural challenges with clarity, strength and wisdom. Sundae is the founder of Trailblazing Spouse®, a program designed to help trailing spouses live in closer alignment with their passions and skills. Sign up for free expert insight and you´ll receive a gift – the Expat Trump Cards – a unique set of digital cards aimed at helping you tackle the toughest aspects of global life.

Contact her directly if you´d like to reverse expat fatigue and get back your sense of adventure.

(1) David L. Szanton, “Cultural Confrontation in the Philippines” in Textor, ed. Cultural Frontiers of the Peace Corps, 36.
(2) Ward, C. A., Bochner, S., & Furnham, A. (2001). The psychology of culture shock. New York, NY: Routledge.


 

Xavier Patrick (Xpat) Moose is coming to Houston!

February is here and Living Abroad is hitting the road! Major stop:  energy capital of the world, Houston, Texas.  We will exhibit and attend the 2nd Annual Forum for Expatriate Management’s Totally Expat Show held at the downtown Hyatt Regency on February 25. If you’re attending, please stop by the Living Abroad booth A9 for some fun.

Living Abroad is hosting the popular Moose Passport program with partners AIRINC, ACS International Schools, Switchplace, International Auto Source, Cultural Awareness International, CORT Global Furniture Rental Network, and Fragomen LLP. Pick up your passport from any of our booths.  Stop by all the others to receive a stamp.  Once your passport is complete, return it to the Living Abroad booth and collect your plush moose doll.  You could win $1500!

Pre-register for your Moose Passport here!

Moose small for Houston<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
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Congratulations to the FEM Global Mobility Summit Moose Passport Winner!

Congratulations are in order for Jayne Neal, Prudential, who was the winner of the Moose Passport drawing held at FEM’s Global Mobility Summit in London on October 19.  The lucky winner went home with £1,000 cash.  The contest was sponsored by Living Abroad, AIRINC, Fragomen, NetExpat, and Santa Fe.  Pictured in the photo are Michael Cadden of Living Abroad, Brian Friedman of FEM/Centaur, Jayne Neal of Prudential, Cathy Heyne of Living Abroad and Phil Hayne of Centaur.