Looks Like You Need…

These days, many of us would benefit from a good, therapeutic scream!  Fortunately, the country of Iceland has stepped up to the task.

Since travel remains limited throughout the globe, the website Looks Like You Need Iceland invites visitors to “let it out” virtually. Read through the tips for scream preparation, offered by Icelandic therapist Zoe Aston. Choose one of seven gorgeous Icelandic settings — which include a beach, a waterfall, and even a dormant volcano.  Press the yellow “Tap to Scream” button. (You’ll be told: “Please scream responsibly. The world is listening.”) If you give your browser permission to access your microphone, your scream will be recorded and played over a speaker in the actual location that you chose. And if it helps to know you are not alone, you can also listen to the screams of others around the world!

If the idea of visiting the location of your scream someday appeals to you, the website also offers information to help you plan an eventual trip, as well as the country’s current COVID-19 status and travel restrictions.

Written by Erin Fitzgerald, GMS, Content Manager

The Art of Moving

Any life transition brings fear of the unknown, and moving ranks high among major life events. The emotional impact of moving home, whether domestically or abroad, is one of the most stressful situations we can experience.  Some find the transition after relocating easier than others.

Here are some steps you can take toward emotional well-being and a positive outcome:

1.  Spend time planning for the move.  Make lists of how you want the move to go, what you need to do before and after, and set intentions for the best possible outcome.  This will prepare you internally for unexpected events during the process.  Also, note who will carry out those tasks and start delegating.

2.  Ask for help.  This is the time to rely on family, friends and even colleagues for support.  It’s important to articulate and discuss any anger, fear, sadness or doubt that you and your family experience.  This is especially important if you are relocating with children.  Set aside some time to include the kids in the planning stages before the move and ask them to verbalize their vision of the new home.

3.  Acknowledge your feelings. Recognize that you will feel sad leaving behind familiar people, places and your home.  Anticipating the inevitable emotions – both positive and negative – can help you manage the challenging ones when they do arise. Take the time to say goodbye to friends and family for closure.

4.  Maintain self-care during stressful times.  Self-care is especially important for women, who tend to handle more details of a move while managing work, children, pets and family members.  Often, self-care takes a back seat to everything that needs to be juggled.  Self-care should be the top priority during this transition for emotional stability for the whole family.

5.  Focus on the present moment.  It’s easy to get distracted and start thinking about the past and what the future will hold.  Try to slow down and focus on the tasks at hand.  Taking a moment to stop and take a break can often reset your thoughts to the present.

It’s important to note that everything valuable – people, experiences, place – are memories that travel with us.  In reality, you are not leaving your friends and neighbors, but extending your friendship group as you meet new people in your new community.

Think about the bigger picture and why the move is important.  Life transitions come with new opportunities to grow as a person.  Focusing on self-care and the benefits of the move will empower you to maintain balance during this transition.

Written by Cathy Heyne, GMS-T, Managing Director

Caring for Elders During the Pandemic

Have you or someone you know been separated from an elderly loved one during the pandemic?

Maybe your situation is as simple as not being able to visit a parent or grandparent because of their age or risk factors, or because you live in a hot spot and can’t risk traveling to them. Perhaps an international assignment has left you stranded abroad.

Residents of care facilities and their families have the added burden of being isolated. In an effort to stop virus transmission, visitors have not been allowed in-person contact in many places.

Finally, you may actually be responsible for an elder’s care, which can be complicated by concerns over personal visits, resorting to remote communication with the loved one and medical personnel, and the general angst and separation brought on by service shut-downs.

Here are some ways to address these:

Navigating a virtual world
Workers aren’t the only ones who have quickly adopted new technologies. Senior citizens of all skill levels have embraced Skype, Zoom, Facetime, and other apps and platforms that let them see and talk to family. In some cases, it’s brought far-flung family members together more often than was possible when everyone’s schedules were so full with conflicting commitments.

Due to increased screen time and Internet shopping, make sure your senior has all the latest security protections against malware and viruses. Encourage them to be cautious with any communication or offers coming from unfamiliar sources, and vigilant about sharing personal information.

Increased reliance on Internet shopping has led many people to expand their web presence. Be sure your senior uses strong passwords when setting up new accounts for online deliveries.

Staying on top of managed care
Families with loved ones in assisted care facilities may have been refused visits in the past few months. Tablets, smart phones, and laptops have become lifelines of connection and a good way to lay eyes on the elder person to gauge their health and well-being. Health care staff have ramped up these alternative methods of communications, often providing a device to residents for these virtual visits.

In some areas, outdoor, socially-distanced visits are now possible. Facilities that make these visits available typically require face masks and a distance of six feet maintained between people.

Medications, doctors’ visits, and therapies can be monitored from the outside via phone calls and emails between the family and staff. You might also tap into the routine professional meetings that may now take place remotely between care team members. Regularly calling in or participating on Zoom can keep the family up to date with changes in health and to help plan for future needs.

Planning for what’s next
Though things are opening up in many places, older people will likely be the last group to experience a return to pre-pandemic freedoms. While restrictions are still in place, it is a good time to ensure that things are in order. If estate planning is non-existent or documents outdated, now is a good time to address that. Discuss with your loved one what their wishes are for the next stages of care, and beyond.

No one knows how long it may take for our elderly population to be medically safe from viruses like COVID-19. But family members can be creative, flexible, and persistent in making sure elders are cared for and connected to those who love them.

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

Is it safer to turn right or turn left when driving abroad?

Traffic accidents are the number one source of fatalities for international assignees and business travelers. While drivers can mitigate accident risks by adhering to local traffic laws and using seat belts, other strategies can also help.  Since 2007, United Parcel Service (UPS) drivers have been instructed to avoid left turns.  They have found this practice not only reduces accidents, but also shortens trips and lowers pollution from unnecessary idling.

Some cities are getting on with this program.  What major South American city has all but eliminated left turns?

  1. Quito
  2. Caracas
  3. São Paulo
  4. Santiago
Click here for the answer!

Hajj during COVID-19

Due to COVID-19, the Fifth Pillar of Islam will be limited to a very small group of followers this year.

The Hajj is a week-long pilgrimage to the city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It takes place during the month of Dhul Hijjah, the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar — beginning on July 28th, in this year’s Gregorian calendar. It is a journey that every adult Muslim must undertake at least once in their lives, if they are physically and financially able to do so. The Hajj is different from Umrah, a generally shorter pilgrimage that can be undertaken at any time.

The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah is responsible for facilitating these two types of Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca. This includes working with travel and hospitality industries, religious officials, and logistics coordinators, among others, to ensure safe, smooth, and adherent journeys. In recent years, technology has played an important role. For example, pilgrims are issued identifying water-resistant e-bracelets with their medical information and GPS access, that also alert them to prayer times. This is no small feat particularly during the week of Hajj, which typically has 2.5 million attendees.

The Hajj has been cancelled occasionally throughout history, but not since the establishment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in 1932. This year, the Ministry has declared this year’s Hajj pilgrimage will be limited to individuals under the age of 65 who are already in the country, do not have chronic health conditions, and test negative for COVID-19. In addition, participants will be further limited to a number that officials feel can be safely accommodated using social distancing methods. Currently estimates are that these limitations will result in approximately 1,000 Hajj pilgrims — a very dramatic decrease from the usual.

For more information about this year’s Hajj, as well as services and programs available to all pilgrims to Mecca, visit the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah website.

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.

The International Relocation Center contains a wealth of information about national, cultural and religious observances — many of which will also be greatly affected by COVID-19.

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

What every assignee wants to know

As borders start to open, assignments that were on hold will start to move forward.  No matter how much someone prepares to move internationally, there are always surprises along the way.

Here are a few common concerns you can address before your assignee moves abroad:

It seems more expensive. The COLA or cost of living allowance in a new location is factored into any assignee’s salary calculation, yet many expats say it is not enough to cover the differences.  Is this perception or reality?  This is often caused by comparing costs at home for gas, eating out, and shopping for their favorite foods at a local supermarket.  Often there are many items in the host country that are lower than home.

I can’t find like items.  Expats often complain they can’t find clothes or shoes in their size and that the quality is not the same as back home.  As mentioned above, some food items may be harder to find, adding to the frustration.  Knowing in advance which items will be hard to get will allow them to stock up on these items before the move.

Lots of bureaucratic red tape.  Many assignees express frustration with the length of time it often takes to obtain a residence permit and/or visa, driver’s license, open a bank account and other requirements in setting up a home abroad.

Finding housing within budget.  Expectations need to be managed when it comes to housing.  Many expats expect a certain level of housing when compared to the home country, but often that housing doesn’t exist in the host location and/or doesn’t fit their housing budget.  The expat should be updated on any additional costs such as housing taxes and legal fees that may need to be paid, too.

Is it safe to drive abroad?  Driving conditions vary greatly around the world.  It is best to discuss the driving conventions with the expat before departure.  Is traffic unmanageable?  Is it dangerous to drive around the host city?  Is there an efficient public transportation system?  Discussing transportation ahead of time will lessen the stress associated with getting to the office.

Living Abroad’s International Relocation Center’s destination reports provide detailed information on all the topics above and takes the stress out of your employee assignments and business travel by providing detailed solutions to obstacles and questions…even during the most complex relocations and business trips.

Advantages of working with us:

  1. Location-specific information on moving, living, and doing business
  2. Web links to in-country resources
  3. One source for employees’ international relocations
  4. Professionally written for business use
  5. Comprehensive topics – including the most current issues
  6. Cultural learning for international relocation, business travel, and international teams

If you move employees around the globe or manage business travelers – or both – tap into our 30+ years’ experience, a wealth of trusted information, and our exclusive suite of innovative tools that remove all the guesswork from your assignments.

Written by Cathy Heyne, GMS-T – Managing Director

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.

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

The Sounds of Solace

When those of us in Global Mobility talk about “talent,” we normally mean a person with skills, aptitude, and experience particularly suited to a job or project.

But during the pandemic, we’ve discovered new ways to appreciate a different kind of talent. With performing arts venues closed, musicians, dancers, actors, and comedians have made their way from their homes into ours, via the small screens on our computers or phones.

Video collaborations have been sources of both calm and soaring beauty, like the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra performing Beethoven’s 9th Symphony or the New York Philharmonic’s performance of Boléro as a tribute to healthcare workers. The lovely “Raining on the Border,” by the globally-mobile band The Troubadours, was composed as a project to instill relaxation in its musicians as well as listeners.

Professional musicians have popped up in the unlikeliest of places. American actor John Krasinski surprised a little girl — who’d been disappointed that her long-awaited Hamilton performance was cancelled – with the Broadway cast serenading her with the title number from their homes. See the SGN (Some Good News) link, at the 8:27 mark.

Now that things are opening up in some countries, residents may once again venture out to public performances. Outdoor venues will open first, especially those suited to groups that have space to spread out. Indoor venues have a bigger challenge to keep performers, staff, and patrons safe.

People in countries that are “open” now have a better chance of seeing some live performances. For example, Sweden’s stunning natural outdoor arena, Dalhalla, starts its summer of performances in July. Reykjavik Iceland’s Harpa concert hall is open for a range of music and other acts.  In Seoul, South Korea, there are shows and musicals happening at various venues around the city.

Of course, while these events are accessible to residents, there may still be border issues for travelers and regulations are subject to change. Check with the appropriate authorities before booking travel to any of these locations.

By the way, you will find these links in our Sweden, Iceland, and Korea reports, for your easy reference when the time is right for you to attend public gatherings again.

Meanwhile, those of us who are still in some degree of shut down are counting the small steps toward healthy freedoms with gratitude and hope.

Stay well!

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

In which country will you be beckoned this way?

Some countries are opening up their borders. Which country uses the following hand gesture to summon people and is now opening its borders?

“If you need to beckon someone, do not do so by moving a single finger towards you. Instead, extend your arm palm down and move your fingers up and down.”

  1. Iceland
  2. South Korea
  3. Taiwan
  4. Brazil

Click here for the answer!

Looking at the familiar

In what feel like new and overwhelming times, it can be helpful to look at the familiar. Here are five articles from the Living Abroad blog that are as useful now as they were on their dates of publication, before the pandemic:

What You Should Know: Emergency Readiness offers a checklist of things you can do now, whether you are at home or abroad, to smooth processes in many kinds of emergencies.

With so much interaction occurring at long distances, cross-cultural communication skills are more important than ever. “Good morning, Mr. Morris.” “Hi, Julien.” looks at the challenges global communicators face, and the opportunities that cultural agility provides.

Streaming media use is at an all-time high, and many new services are launching this year. Digital Content at Your Fingertips outlines important considerations before buying equipment and clicking the “subscribe” button.

Those who are sheltering in place, or otherwise compelled to purchase goods online, may find some things to think about in Order Items Online around the World.

While global mobility has become more complex and challenging than ever, Voting Whilst Abroad reminds us all that preparation for civic duty should be a part of everyone’s plans.

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.

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

Attack of the Zombies

While the pandemic has pushed telecommuting and online interaction to all-time highs, another unfortunate Internet activity has also been on the rise: cybercrime.

Criminals exploit COVID-19 fears and our new online reliance with schemes that range from spreading misinformation about the virus to creating e-commerce links to protective gear that capture a victim’s personal information.

What’s more, botnets, zombie computers, IT equipment infected with malware, and viruses are among readily available for criminals to buy and sell. Whether based in technology or social engineering, we need vigilance against cybercrime more than ever.

Here are some protection tips:

•    Only download or install programs/content/apps/add-ons from sources you trust.
•    Do not provide any personal, medical or financial information unless it is via an official channel by a competent authority.
•    Confirm the origin of the source of information you receive.
•    Share only vetted information, and use official sources to keep from spreading scams, false information and messages containing fraudulent links.

As difficult as it may be in the midst of other challenges, we need to pay close attention to what we choose to accept and interact with online.  Fighting cybercrime is everybody’s business — keep yourself safe!

Written by Cathy Heyne, GMS-T, Managing Director