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 

A tricky situation in Thailand

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On this Thanksgiving, we want to share our genuine appreciation for you. We wish you a safe and healthy holiday filled with laughter, love, and gratitude!

A true story…

A true story I heard recently — names changed!

Ashley Artiste stood at the airline check-in counter, doing her best to contain her excitement. She had been tentatively invited to a studio residency in Malta months ago. After meticulous planning and coordination — not to mention several reschedules — it was finally time to go!

While Ashley handed her paperwork to the airline representative, whose name tag read BELLA, in her mind’s eye she was already in a bright, quiet, airy room in Sliema, paint brush in hand…

“I’m sorry, Ms. Artiste,” Bella said. “I can’t allow you to board the plane.”

“What?” Ashley blinked, suddenly back at the gray, noisy departure gate. “But I tested negative for COVID this morning!”

“It’s not that,” Bella said. “It’s this.” 

She handed back Ashley’s paperwork, and tapped….

…the first page of her passport.

While Ashley had known that her passport needed to be valid in order to finally resume traveling, the global pandemic had brought so many other requirements — and distractions — that she hadn’t thought to check one small, but very important, detail.

Many countries require visitors to have passport validity beyond the duration of their trip. In some, like Malta, it’s three months. In others, it can be six months or more.

Your country’s international travel advisories can be an excellent resource for this information. For example, travelers with USA passports will find this on the US Department of State’s International Travel Country Information webpage:  Type the destination country in the “Learn about your destination” field, and then look in the resulting “Quick Facts” section.

If you are also resuming global travel soon, take a minute to check your passport’s expiry date — especially if it’s from a country with extended passport renewal time estimates. You might be very glad you did!

Written by Erin Fitzgerald, GMS, Content Manager 

We’re traveling again!

Country borders are opening around the globe, and the U.S. borders opened just a couple of days ago (hooray!).  As you may have seen in the news, travelers from all over the world are heading to the U.S.  This is great news for the relocation industry and for international business travel.  There has also been a considerable uptick in domestic business travel recently, and all signs point to increased global business travel into 2022 and beyond.

We are all familiar with common business practices in our home countries. But as we travel abroad again, it’s worth remembering that we are less accustomed to the way things are done abroad. Your globally mobile employees should keep in mind that when they travel for business they are representing your department, your company, and your country.  With so much on the line, every international business trip benefits from preparation.

Knowing even just a little about the cultures and customs in a destination goes a long way. Strategic scheduling of travel, meetings, and rest time can also make a substantial difference.

Before going abroad, every global business traveler should know the answers to these questions:

  • Is my passport up to date, with at least six months before expiry?

  • Do I need a visa?

  • What vaccinations are required?

  • What is the currency exchange rate?

  • What is the time difference?

  • How can I travel from place to place locally?

  • What is the dress code?

  • What are some of the important customs in my destination?

  • How should I greet colleagues?

  • What can I expect in restaurants and at meals?

  • What electronic equipment and adapters are necessary?

  • How should I tip for services?

  • Will I need to take security precautions?

  • Do I need insurance?

  • Who are my contacts in case of an emergency?

Why ask your employees to do destination research when their time is better spent preparing to maximize new opportunities?  A subscription to Living Abroad’s Global Business Travel Center covers over 150 countries — and gives your globally mobile employees the headstart they need, when they need it the most!

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

Written by Cathy Heyne, GMS-T, President

Your destination, chapter and verse

A news feed item caught my eye the other day. It was about finding a particular book when you can’t recall the author or title. It made me smile, bringing me back to my college days working in a bookstore, and the occasional, inevitable vague question about a book… “that’s got a pink cover. Do you know it?” Often, after questions for the customer and with my knowledge of our inventory, I could find it.

I got to thinking about how similar this can be to an assignee going abroad. They know they’re looking for something, but they don’t always know how to define it. What should they be researching about the host country? What questions should they be asking? There’s a rough outline in their minds about the blank pages they need to fill, but arriving at concrete information is elusive.

That’s where we come in.

The Content Team at Living Abroad has been immersed in destination information for a collective 37 years. Much has changed during that time, which is all the more reason why assignees and international travelers need to rely on people dedicated to staying abreast of what they need to know.

If Global Mobility resources were a bookstore, you wouldn’t head straight for the Travel section or spend all your time in the Geography/History section. Nor would you find everything you need to know under Business, Education, Cooking, Finance, Language, or Sociology.

Yet the components you need to prepare for living and working successfully in another country touch on each of those areas. The great news is that you get all that, comprehensively covered but concisely written specifically for a business audience, from Living Abroad.

Our thoughtfully curated online content flows through a typical chronological journey, providing overviews, details, links, and tools to guide the assignee or business traveler. But it’s also a custom experience, with users able to pick and choose their topics, revisit any part of the process at any time, and chart their progress with proprietary features like our Move Planner.

So, whether you’re a seasoned traveler who just needs to brush up on a new destination’s immigration regulations, a first-time assignee looking for the right school for your children, or something in between, come to Living Abroad and you’ll find answers to questions you didn’t even know how to ask.

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

Plan ahead to get what you want

It’s no secret that the global pandemic has caused great disruption to manufacturing and logistics — supply chains — throughout the world. Many merchants are urging online shoppers to plan ahead, especially with demand as high as ever. For example, Singles Day — the November 11th holiday which had already become the biggest shopping day in the world — still broke previous years’ sales records in 2020.

Here are five things you can do to make the most of your online shopping experiences:

1.  For your online purchases, use a globally accepted credit card that does not draw funds directly from your bank account. Review all credit card issuer documentation, as well as your invoices when they become available.

2.  When purchasing items via auction or marketplace websites, evaluate seller information and policies before bidding. Know what resources the service provides for buyers, and what recourse is available to you if needed.

3.  If shopping on a website in another country, familiarize yourself with importation laws and restrictions in the country where items will be received. Your purchases may be subject to inspection and tariffs, and the recipient may need to pick them up at the customs agent. Know that in many countries it is against the law to ship items abroad without an enclosed invoice.

4.  Be wary of email requests, even if the sender claims to be representing a legitimate business or service. You may want to contact the service directly to confirm the request, via telephone or on-site chat service, before clicking on any links or responding to it.

5.  Choose merchants who ship using trackable methods. When possible, use a shipping address that allows for indoor, monitored delivery. Some larger online retailers offer the option to pick up items from a local store or locker service.

Written by Erin Fitzgerald, GMS, Content Manager

You’ve got skills

The skills that make us successful in our jobs have changed due to continued remote work.  And remote working – in some form — is not going anyway any time soon.  A KPMG survey found that 80% of U.S. workers would turn down a job opportunity if it did not include flexible working option.  So how can we be successful and thrive?

Here are some skills you need to be a good remote worker:

  1. Teamwork – Most workers continue to be part of a larger team, so even though you are remote, you are not working separately.  Finding a balance between video meetings, phone calls, and emailing is important so overwhelm doesn’t set in.  Shared documents and project management software are a good way to let teams share updates and documentation.
  2. Clear communication – Working remotely means that almost all the communication between a team is through email or messaging apps.  Being able to communicate clearly and succinctly will go a long way in getting your ideas across.  Good communication skills are a foundation for team success.
  3. Time management – Self-motivation and time management often go together. It’s easy to get sidetracked working remotely.  Many productivity coaches suggest carving out a period for intense work followed by a break.  If you’re used to working in an office, you would have been able to chat with co-workers during a break.  Now, plan you breaks in advance so you have something to look forward to.
  4. Focus – Distractions are numerous working from home.  From outside noises of a garbage truck, construction, or lawn mowers to indoor sounds of children, pets, or other adults, the list of distractions is endless.  Learning how to remain focused is a skill to develop.  Setting up a quiet space, devoid of clutter, and some good noise cancelling headphones will go a long way to maintain your focus.
  5. Adapt – Challenges will always come up and how you deal with them will affect the success of your team.  Maybe a big storm will knock a colleague’s internet out right before a big project is due.  Flexibility and creative problem solving will lead to a solution.  If you’re suddenly assigned to a new team, you will need to adapt to their way of working.
  6. Trustworthy – Research has found that employees who are trusted are better at teamwork and more productive.  When working in a team, the most important aspect is to set clear goals and objectives, be transparent, and communicate often. Feedback during the process is very important.

The KMPG survey also found that employees believed that working remotely increased their focus and productivity. As we continue to hone our skills of teamwork, communication, time management, focus, adaptation, and trustworthiness, the future will be filled with much success for employees, their teams, and ultimately our companies.

The skills that make us successful in our jobs have changed due to continued remote work.  And remote working – in some form — is not going anyway any time soon.  A KPMG survey found that 80% of U.S. workers would turn down a job opportunity if it did not include flexible working option.  So how can we be successful and thrive?

Here are some skills you need to be a good remote worker:

  1. Teamwork – Most workers continue to be part of a larger team, so even though you are remote, you are not working separately.  Finding a balance between video meetings, phone calls, and emailing is important so overwhelm doesn’t set in.  Shared documents and project management software are a good way to let teams share updates and documentation.
  2. Clear communication – Working remotely means that almost all the communication between a team is through email or messaging apps.  Being able to communicate clearly and succinctly will go a long way in getting your ideas across.  Good communication skills are a foundation for team success.
  3. Time management – Self-motivation and time management often go together. It’s easy to get sidetracked working remotely.  Many productivity coaches suggest carving out a period for intense work followed by a break.  If you’re used to working in an office, you would have been able to chat with co-workers during a break.  Now, plan you breaks in advance so you have something to look forward to.
  4. Focus – Distractions are numerous working from home.  From outside noises of a garbage truck, construction, or lawn mowers to indoor sounds of children, pets, or other adults, the list of distractions is endless.  Learning how to remain focused is a skill to develop.  Setting up a quiet space, devoid of clutter, and some good noise cancelling headphones will go a long way to maintain your focus.
  5. Adapt – Challenges will always come up and how you deal with them will affect the success of your team.  Maybe a big storm will knock a colleague’s internet out right before a big project is due.  Flexibility and creative problem solving will lead to a solution.  If you’re suddenly assigned to a new team, you will need to adapt to their way of working.
  6. Trustworthy – Research has found that employees who are trusted are better at teamwork and more productive.  When working in a team, the most important aspect is to set clear goals and objectives, be transparent, and communicate often. Feedback during the process is very important.

The KMPG survey also found that employees believed that working remotely increased their focus and productivity. As we continue to hone our skills of teamwork, communication, time management, focus, adaptation, and trustworthiness, the future will be filled with much success for employees, their teams, and ultimately our companies.

Written by Cathy Heyne, GMS-T, President

 

Prepping for travel? Don’t forget your psyche.

Of all the questions you ask while preparing for travel abroad, how many of them have to do with mental wellness? Probably not many. Chances are the bulk of your focus is on tasks and logistics. Documents, regulations, accommodations, packing, and transportation take up a lot of mental bandwidth.

But just as important is creating space in your new environment for peace and contentment. How do you establish this? One of the best ways to start is to inform yourself about your destination. Knowledge and preparedness have never been so vital for travelers.

As part of your trip preparation, seek out past, present, and future information about your host location:

  • Understand a little about its history and traditional culture to shed light on things you’ll encounter, from interesting architecture to people’s behavior.
  • Identify sources for current news, weather, events, and emergencies so you are plugged in to your surroundings, keeping you safe and engaged.
  • Inform yourself about what to expect and how to get through a business meeting or typical weekend. This can reduce anxiety immeasurably.

We believe that informed people have a better chance of thriving and being successful abroad. Employers can help employees settle into a new locale by providing this information and setting expectations based on company policies and benefits.

During the height of the pandemic in 2020, many companies intentionally made a point to check in with employees, specifically to address their mental health. The isolation of working from home, along with health worries, caused emotional stress for many. Now that people are traveling and moving again, we’ve learned a thing or two about paying attention to our psyches and making mental wellness a priority.

Sometimes, solace is found in forming new social or business relationships. Learning the local language can open doors to understanding, deeper communication, and ease of daily life. Finding ways to stay in touch with people at home is key also. Human connection bridges gaps and feeds the psyche.

Other times, you want to stay home on your couch and allow yourself some space. Maybe you’ll look for a grocery store that delivers or crave the comfort of some home-cooked cuisine. Mindfulness practices, meditation, or going for a run are all solitary pursuits that can ease anxiety.

All of these topics are covered in Living Abroad’s International Relocation Center. You’ll also find a wide variety of articles on our blog, many dealing with wellness-related issues. For example – and for a little fun – this one about therapeutic screaming in Iceland.

At whatever volume you care to say how you’re doing, we hope today is a good one for you!

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

Tea, anyone?

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