Locked Out of Logging In?

Social media has become one of the primary ways we connect with others, as well as giving us tiny windows into new places and cultures. It can be fun to spend an afternoon watching videos of strangers strolling in a foreign marketplace or see curated snapshots of a mountain sunset halfway around the world. Not all countries, however, share the same view of social media. Some, like China, are well-known for their strict internet censorship. Other places, however, may surprise you. For example, did you know that Germany once considered banning Facebook Events? Or that YouTube was banned for nine years in Pakistan, and is still banned in Eritrea?

In most cases, these bans are limited to government workers due to data privacy concerns, but more and more governments are looking into restrictions on who can use social media, and when. Laws are being introduced to keep minors off apps in many countries, citing the negative effects of constant image consumption and potential for bullying. In one of the most surprising new cases, the entire state of Montana in the United States banned TikTok in 2023. Even in countries that don’t legally limit social media, there may be other restrictions, such as a tax for access in Uganda.

Before you send employees on assignment, or take on one yourself, make sure there aren’t any issues with censorship, particularly if your company culture relies on any kind of social media. Even Slack may not operate everywhere, as seen in 2018 when users lost access after visiting places such as Cuba and Syria.

Even if you scan social media to peruse global events, turn to Living Abroad for vetted information about daily life in more than 150 destinations. We touch on major censorship issues, and let you know the popular ways to keep in touch, be they Whatsapp or old-fashioned letters.

Written by Kate Havas, GMS-T, Content Manager

Navigating the Duty of Care Maze

When a company transfers an employee overseas, it has a duty to ensure the employee’s well-being, safety, and a successful transition to the new location. This duty of care extends beyond the workplace and covers various aspects of the employee’s life during the relocation process, including repatriation. Here are some of the most important to consider.

  1. Pre-departure Preparation:
  • Provide comprehensive information about the destination including social customs and business best practices.
  • Offer support in obtaining the necessary visas, work permits, and immigration documents.
  • Assist with housing arrangements.
  • Help with logistical aspects.
  1. Healthcare and Insurance:
  • Inform the employee about vaccination requirements and health precautions.
  • Ensure the employee has access to appropriate healthcare and understands their insurance coverage in the new location.
  1. Cultural Support:
  • Offer some kind of online cultural training to help the employee adapt to the new culture and understand local customs and norms.
  • Provide language training to help overcome language barriers.
  1. Safety and Security:
  • Make sure the employee registers with the local embassy or consulate.
  • Review a risk assessment of the destination for security concerns.
  • Develop a plan in case of emergency and discuss the procedure if employee needs to contact the company.
  1. Family Support (if applicable):
  • Provide support and resources for the accompanying family members.
  • Assist with school enrollments and spousal employment.
  1. Mental Health and Well-being:
  • Recognize the potential stress and mental health challenges associated with an international relocation.
  • Offer access to counseling services or an employee assistance program to support well-being.

While this is a lot to take in, having a resource available like the International Relocation Center can provide peace of mind to both the company and the relocating employee.. Living Abroad offers support in all the aspects listed above.

Additionally, companies need to offer support in the following areas: legal and tax compliance, employment and career development, repatriation planning, and maintaining communication throughout the relocation.

Meeting these duty of care obligations provides well-being and safety for the employee and contributes 100% to the overall success of the international assignment. Failure to provide adequate duty of care can lead to legal, reputational, and employee moral issues for the company. Advanced planning will lead to a successful relocation for both the company and the employee.

Tomorrow is a Holiday?

Travel schedules, business meetings, home-finding visits – all revolve around the local calendar in your host country. Assignees learn pretty quickly about unfamiliar holidays if they try to schedule something at the wrong time, or take a business trip only to find vacations have emptied the office.

National and religious holidays
Acquaint yourself with your destination country’s national holidays and any religious ones, including those that may span a number of days. This knowledge not only optimizes your schedule, it also helps you understand and invest in the local culture. You’ll be a part of it rather than being surprised by it.

Keep the standard dates in your calendar, noting holidays that are moveable, or which may fall on a weekend and so are observed on Monday or some other weekday.

Note any practices that affect daily life, such as fasting during Ramadan or store closures during certain observances. Being forewarned allows you to navigate your own needs while respecting your new community’s way of life.

Increased attention to employee wellbeing has led some merchants to voluntarily close during certain times. For example, the U.S. tradition of “Black Friday” shopping on the day after Thanksgiving reached a frenzy of midnight store openings and all-night sales, until some retailers cut back those hours to protect their workers’ option to celebrate and rest.

While not a holiday, in observance of the Sabbath every week, stores in Israel are closed from sundown on Friday until sundown on Saturday or Sunday morning. In general, a holiday in Israel begins at sundown the day before.

School holidays
In addition to national holidays that close businesses, one of the most important calendars in family life is that of your child’s school. Perhaps the school year itself is different from your home country experience.

Holidays throughout the school year are important to note – especially for elementary school children who will need someone home with them on those days – but the longer vacations have even more impact on a family’s schedule. They will determine childcare needs, family trips, and friends or family who are planning to visit you.

Celebrations old and new
Plan ways to keep your own family traditions even if they are not observed in your new location. Maybe you had standing date at home with another family for a Passover Seder, or an annual gathering with the whole family for Easter dinner. Marking these occasions without your usual tribe of loved ones can be dispiriting. Plan ahead and bring whatever decorations or special recipes from home that will bring the holiday to life in familiar ways.

Finding new ways to celebrate can make a holiday even more meaningful. Does your host country observe the holiday differently? Can you invite new friends to share your beloved family traditions? However you mark the day in this new location will become part of your family’s communal memory and a valuable experience for all.

Living Abroad’s International Relocation Center provides worldwide holiday information, as well as country-specific national holidays and festival events in every destination report.

 

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

What is True in Indonesia?

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Here Comes the Nevesta

Summer is a season of festivities, from national events to personal celebrations such as weddings. Your host country likely has its own wedding customs, and in one country a traditional wedding has become an important event for both preserving cultural heritage and tourism: North Macedonia’s Galičnik Wedding Festival.

While you can count the number of year-round residents of the village of Galičnik on one hand, the population swells in summer with tourists as well as family and friends celebrating a couple’s marriage. While traditionally a couple had to have some family connection to the village, today any North Macedonian couple can apply to take part. One couple is chosen among the many applicants to represent the country during the festival.

While the ceremonies used to last a week, now they have been compressed into a few days to make them easier for visitors to understand. Key events include the groom visiting the cemetery to invite dead relatives to the wedding, shaving the groom at the town fountain, an entourage of flag-bearers and horses parading to the bride’s house to officially ask for her hand, and the groom’s mother carrying a kettle to splash well-wishers on the way to the church. All participants wear the country’s traditional folk costumes, with the bride dressed in red, white, and gold. The men perform a traditional Teškoto dance.

Though the official festival only dates back to the last century, some of the traditions presented are hundreds of years old. Even the drum and oboe-like zula played are of Indian origin, which may date back to the era of Alexander the Great. This history led North Macedonia to apply for, and be granted, the protected status of Intangible Cultural Heritage for the ceremonies.

One of the most enjoyable parts of living in a new country is getting to know the local history and customs. Check out our new North Macedonia content for more about this unique Balkan country, and know that you can continue to rely on Living Abroad’s information for details about any of the more than one hundred and fifty countries covered in the IRC.

Written by Kate Havas, GMS-T, Content Manager

Unlocking Success in International Relocation:  A Win-Win Solution

A note to Global Mobility Leaders, HR Professionals and Valued Relocation Service Providers:

Every day you navigate the complex world of international assignments while shouldering the responsibility for the seamless transition of expatriates and their families to new locations. You understand the long hours, the level of detailed planning, and the delicate balancing act required to make these assignments successful. While it might not always be visible to others, we recognize the immense efforts it requires, even when things don’t go as planned.

It’s no secret that the challenges can be many. Helping assignees adjust culturally, creating support systems, dealing with expatriate family concerns, and communicating clearly – all this coordination constitutes a heavy load. We understand that you may not receive recognition for your hard work and the burden that you bear.

But let’s look at the bigger picture:  the strategic contributions you bring to your organization. You’re not just managing logistics; you’re a key player in decision making, analyzing risks and optimizing the overall processes. Your role is vital for the business, and we believe it should be centered on what matters most.

Our International Relocation Center is tailor-made to address the challenges relocating employees face. We inform and prepare them with information that’s constantly updated and accessible 24/7, allowing them to acclimate at their own pace, in their own time, to their new location. Our mission is to minimize your disruptions and make the relocation experience a smoother and happier one. We provide valuable, curated information and support, so you’re freed from the endless demands

Imagine the possibilities. Successful and content expatriates, fully immersed in their new environment, lead to higher productivity, reduced turnover, and increased focus on the task at hand. As we handle the details, you gain the time and freedom to focus on what truly matters – the strategic aspects of your business. Your contributions and your insights won’t be overshadowed by the day-to-day whirlwind. It’s a win-win scenario that we make a reality for our clients every day..

So, to all the Global Mobility heroes, HR champions, and Relocation Service Provider warriors, we’re here to be your partner in this exciting journey. When we work together, we make international assignments not just successful but transformational. Your success is our success, and together we’ll continue to drive growth, support your organization, and have successful and happy expats.

With gratitude and a shared vision – Living Abroad

P.S. – Stay tuned…we have a BIG announcement coming in September!

Dressing in style from head to toe

If you are traveling to Croatia and looking for a casual work outfit, you could do worse than wearing a pair of classic navy Startas trainers on your feet, neat pants, and a collared shirt with a sporty necktie.

You would also be making a sartorial nod to your host country, as two of those items are domestic inventions.

The accepted origin of the necktie – or cravat – dates back to the Thirty Years’ War in the 17th century. Croatian soldiers wore silk or linen cloths tied around their necks, many bestowed by sweethearts to signify remembrance and fidelity. This accessory set them apart from the other European soldiers. The French took notice and began donning similar neckwear — à la Croate, or in the style of the Croatians.

French royalty adopted the “cravat,” the word derived from the people who originally wore it. King Louis XIV wore the cravat in 1646, and it swept through Europe to become a symbol of elegance and culture.

Every year on October 18, Cravat Day is celebrated in Croatia. In 2003 when the day was established, the organization Academia Cravatica tied an enormous red necktie around the Pula Arena, a 2000-year-old Roman amphitheater.

Today in Zagreb, statues of famous Croatians are adorned with red cravats on October 18, thanks to the efforts of Academie Cravatica, which aims to promote and preserve this particular piece of Croatian heritage.

As for the shoes, Startas may not have withstood soldiers’ marching in the 1600s, but since the 1970s they have been the choice of comfort-seekers looking for fashionable, well-made casual shoe. Initially created as a tennis shoe, Startas sponsored the University Olympic games in Zagreb in 1987. The footwear, which comes in a wide variety of colors and patterns, became the popular darling of its manufacturer, Borovo, which was established in 1931 in the town of Voukovar.

Croatia’s war in the early 1990s took a heavy toll on the company, whose headquarters was in the crossfire. Slowly restarting the war-damaged factory in 1998, Startas eventually rebuilt momentum among Croatians and sparked interest in other markets around the world. Borovo is now a 92-year-old company, representing a history of craftsmanship and resilience.

From head (or at least neck) to toe, these distinctly Croatian items are worn with pride by locals. Visitors and newcomers will fit right in wearing them as well.

Check out our new Croatia country report, which covers clothing and other topics you’ve come to rely on us for in our IRC’s comprehensive country coverage.

Written by Ellen Harris GMS, Product Manager, Content Group

What is true about Japan?

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Making Summer Memories

While recently talking to an Italian friend about summer, she recalled how as a child she loved playing in the fountains to celebrate the end of the school year, and the long family holidays in August. I shared my own memories: the crowded community pool and day camps, as my American parents didn’t get weeks of summer vacation.

Depending on the country you’re living in, the norm for how children will fill their summers differs. It can also open up logistical hassles, as parents working in international firms may not have holidays that line up with the host country norms.

Like me, many American kids only have short summer holidays with their parents, and then spend time at day camps, summer sleep-away camps, or with grandparents. French children may go on a weeks-long beach holiday with their parents, and Swedish children with working parents are entitled to a place in a government-sponsored leisure center called a fritidshem. Japanese students often don’t get much of a break if they are playing sports or aiming for a high-level university: summer is seen as extra hours for practice or cram school. The amount of time children have away from class also varies greatly, from three months in Italy to just under one in South Korea. For those whose districts have adopted year-round school, the break may be as little as two weeks!

Children of international families often use the vacation to spend valuable time in their family’s country of origin, which adds its own complications. Teens may prefer to spend their time off with school friends in the host destination rather than being taken on a family trip, and work schedules may mean the non-working spouse has to bear the brunt of the travel by taking the kids alone.

In all cases, the summer holiday will depend in large part on which school you select. It may follow the local school schedule, the schedule of the country whose curriculum has been adopted, or an alternate schedule, such as year-round or block term schooling. At Living Abroad, we offer a thorough rundown of local and private school options, with links that will guide you to homepages offering calendars of the school year and an overview of summer programs and obligations, so you aren’t caught off guard by too much or too little time. With a little knowledge and planning, summer can be an enriching time for all.

Written by Kate Havas, GMS-T, Content Manager

How Business Travel Adds Value

As global business travel continues to increase, many companies have been reviewing and changing their travel policies to be more purposeful. Growing confidence in business travel is being driven by multiple factors, including an overall improvement in the global economy, rising corporate profits, and increased demand for goods and services. Businesses are building travel back into their strategies to drive growth and expand their operations

However, business travel faces challenges like increased costs of flights and accommodations, as well as labor shortages, which strain travel budgets. As a result, companies now prioritize the value of a trip over its price. Despite the challenges, demand for flights has surged as companies and individuals recognize the importance of face-to-face interactions and the unique benefits of in-person meetings. They align travel decisions with higher-level business objectives and aim to create balanced and sustainable travel programs. Businesses are paying more attention to the importance of factors like employee well-being, talent retention, and sustainability.

This shift in mindset is evident in the resumption of air travel, particularly in North America. Despite the challenges, there is a large increased demand for flights as companies and individuals recognize the importance of face-to-face interactions and the unique benefits that in-person meetings can provide. The renewed interest in business travel signifies a strong belief in the power of personal connections and the value they bring to professional relationships.

Many companies are also adopting a hybrid approach to travel, driven by rising costs, particularly in hotels. Rather than flying out for short overnight conferences or meetings, employees now opt for a central hub and plan multiple meetings over the course of 3-4 days. This approach reduces travel expenses and maximizes the value of each trip.

Beyond logistics and cost considerations, preparation for global business also involves understanding the culture and business practices of the destination. By gaining insights into local customs, etiquette, and cultural nuances, business travelers can make a positive impression, build stronger connections, and navigate potential challenges with ease.

We encourage businesses to support and empower their travelers with the necessary tools for a successful business trip. By doing so, they will not only enhance their travelers’ experiences but also gain a competitive advantage in their international endeavors. This shift towards purposeful travel ensures that every trip serves a greater purpose and contributes to the overall success of the organization.

One of Living Abroad’s services is the Global Business Travel Center. Our cost-effective solution serves as a comprehensive resource, providing invaluable information and insights on conducting successful business meetings in foreign countries plus much more. Global business travelers can equip themselves with the necessary knowledge to navigate unfamiliar situations.

To try out the Global Business Travel Center, request a demo. Here’s to safe and prosperous travels!