Does This Sound Familiar?

Moving Across the Ocean

Returning to the US after fifteen years of living in Japan was an undertaking. There were lots of forms, lots of checklists, lots of tears.

There were also lots of boxes. Even after selling off appliances and furniture, there were still so many boxes of books, clothes, and sundry items that I couldn’t justify the expense of shipping services or airmail for. I already had more excess and overweight luggage than was comfortable to carry. Postal sea mail was the best option.

Friends gave me lots of practical advice. Don’t put anything in boxes you can’t afford to lose. Wrap everything in plastic, twice. And with covid and shipping delays all over, just hope you get your boxes sometime in the next year. Not very reassuring when you’re sending half your life across the world in a boat!

In total I sent 12 large boxes. The good news: every box (eventually) made it!

The less-good news: not every box made it in one piece, and they took between two and five months to arrive. One was literally string and duct tape by the time it got back to me, and I was very grateful for the advice to put everything in plastic garbage bags to keep the contents dry and together before packing it!

Tips for shipping bulk goods by sea:

  • Don’t ship anything you can’t afford to lose. Package loss is rare, but not unheard of.
  • Prepare your labels and forms in advance. Different countries require different customs forms, but most can be found on the local postal service website. Don’t spend two hours at the post office trying to sort through labels you could have done yourself more easily at home (ask me how I know).
  • Wrap everything in plastic and tape down openings. Some of my casualties were books that had been wrapped but not sealed, and water made it in.
  • Don’t ship breakables if at all possible. Even mugs and picture frames I had bubble wrapped and packed deep inside nests of clothing were broken. Not a single breakable item made it through.
  • Be patient. Depending on the country you are shipping from, you may receive tracking information, but you also may not. Don’t rely on pre-COVID estimates of one to two months for arrival. Currently, three to four months is normal, and in my case the post office told me not to inquire unless it had been over six.

Wishing all your packages a safe journey and happy reunion with you on the other side!

Written by Kate Havas, Content Manager

Keep Calm and Carry On

I knew it was bound to happen. I have always had the utmost respect for Queen Elizabeth II, and while I had something else in mind to share in this newsletter, I wanted to take a moment to honor her one last time. While I am a confessed anglophile, what impressed me most about her was the way the Queen composed herself, and her outstanding leadership qualities.

Globally, we have all been touched by one of the longest-reigning monarchs in history. What did she teach the world and what can we take away for our own lives?

Here are seven of her leadership qualities we can learn from:

  1. Vision: When Princess Elizabeth found out that at the age of twenty-five she was to become queen, she addressed the nation with the following statement of her vision: “I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.” She stayed true to her vision her whole life, keeping her promise to the Commonwealth.
  2. Leadership by example: Queen Elizabeth considered her work as service to her country and regarded others’ work in the same manner. She gave instruction by example using the servant-leadership concept instead of passing orders from behind a desk.
  3. Consistent hard work: Her Majesty worked 40 hours a week into her nineties, continuing her same daily routine. It was this habit that allowed the Queen to be efficient, create structure, save time, and reduce the need to plan.
  4. Commitment: She devoted her entire life to her duties as sovereign. The Queen created a positive public image not only in the UK, but throughout the world. She devoted her patronage to more than 600 charities, public service organizations and military associations, generating an extremely busy schedule.
  5. Curiosity: Queen Elizabeth II had a curious mind and was fond of asking questions. She posed these questions of interest no matter who she was speaking to. Whether they be world leaders, celebrities, or the public, people genuinely interested her. She was a fantastic listener and showed keen interest in the answers because she loved to learn. It was easy for people to relate to her.
  6. Respect for others: The Queen believed that respect was imperative. Her motto was “Respect and be respected.” She preferred to maintain a low profile, while letting others shine.
  7. Adaptability: She was openminded when it came to change and embraced the changes that each new decade provided. For example, when she was crowned, she opted to broadcast the ceremony on television instead of radio even though Winston Churchill advised against it. The Queen wanted to connect with the people on a personal level, and media would go on to enhance the importance of the monarchy.

Queen Elizabeth II possessed so many more traits that leaders can learn from. She was excellent at being impartial, devoted to her country and her family. She always took the high road and dealt with issues head-on. She was steadfast and composed under pressure. She maintained the many traditions and protocols of her role with dignity and grace, which was part of the beauty and elegance of the position. And in the end, there is something to be said and honored for a sovereign swearing an oath to the Commonwealth and keeping her promise for 70 years. That alone is magnificent.

Rest in Peace, Your Majesty.


Written by Cathy Heyne, GMS-T, President

Make Good Choices

How many of us have heard that instruction passed from parent to offspring as the child faces a crossroad or new situation? We say, “Make good choices!” to a new driver transporting friends for the first time, to a teen going to their first party, to a college freshman.

For many of us, our awareness of sustainability issues is in its adolescent phase. We’re informed about some things, but we don’t know everything, and we are still learning the far-reaching consequences of our behaviors. Here are some considerations and tips that can help us choose wisely when planning a trip or moving abroad:

– Be mindful about what you pack or ship, from clothes to furniture. Heavy and bulky items require more transportation space, leading to a larger carbon footprint.
– Take direct flights whenever possible. This reduces carbon emissions over trips with connections.
– Book a train, if possible. Planes can produce twice as much carbon emissions as trains, depending on flight duration and other factors.
– Consider your local transportation options, such as personal vehicle – gas powered vs. hybrid or electric – and walking, biking, rideshare, or public transit.

– When choosing a home, look for features that help you conserve. These include both green touches within the home and transit impact from distance to work and school.
LEED certification is a globally recognized standard for sustainable building practices. The LEED rating system can steer you toward responsible choices.
– Do local accommodations offer energy choices like solar or wind power?
– Adhere to local recycling and waste collection practices that support sustainability.
– Consolidate and reuse wherever possible.
– Consider low-energy, low-water appliances like clothes washing machines and dishwashers.

– Consider your real needs before buying.
– Choose fresh locally sourced food whenever possible, both to support local suppliers and to reduce carbon emissions produced by transportation.
– Consolidate trips, whenever possible, to reduce travel while shopping multiple stores.
– When ordering online, consolidate purchases to reduce shipment frequency.
– Make purchase choices based on low-impact packaging and reuse whenever possible. Some merchants offer carbon offsets for shipping.
– For frequently used items like laundry detergent and shampoo, look for refill options rather than single-use disposable packaging.
– Seek out second-hand items.

Some of the larger decisions we make while traveling or moving can have significant environmental impact. And smaller steps, adopted as habits, also make a big difference over time. Our sustainability knowledge will continue to grow as we participate more fully in thoughtful practices.

Take advantage of Living Abroad’s helpful list of global Sustainability resources, as well as our growing country-specific content to help travelers and new residents make sustainable choices.


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

Fun Facts About Us

Given that we’re halfway through July and deeply entrenched in the summer, I thought it might be fun to share some fun facts about Living Abroad. A lot of us are suffering from long hot days, so we have some “cool” facts to share with you.

Living Abroad’s International Relocation Center (IRC) is an invaluable resource for any corporation that has an international presence.  Most of our client companies have sizable assignee populations, but our information also serves business travelers and HR people in companies newly expanding into the international arena.

We have worked closely to support companies in many industries, including accounting, broadcasting, computer technology, construction, education, government contracts, hospitality, insurance, payroll, petroleum, pharmaceuticals, product manufacturers, relocation… and many more.  The IRC also integrates well with online platforms and apps.

Here are some fun facts about Living Abroad:

How long has Living Abroad been in business?

Living Abroad started in 1987, providing country profiles to moving companies. At the time, there were 84 destinations available. When a rep went to a home to give an estimate, they would also bring a printed profile on the country to which the family was moving.

How many destinations are available today?

Living Abroad now has 235+ destinations reports, covering more than 600 cities. This includes reports on 10 regions and more than 80 U.S. cities.  Reports today average about 80 pages. A complete list:

What are interesting ways that our information was used?

At one time Gale, an educational publishing company, published all Living Abroad destination reports in a multi-volume set that U.S. libraries made available as reference books.

Today the PIVT app draws our data in via API.

What about our team?

Three of us have been at Living Abroad for over 20 years!

What was the strangest question you’ve received?

The IRC has a help desk feature, from which the Content Team fields questions. Someone relocating from the U.S. to Canada, once asked if they could drive their collection of 30 houseplants over the border.

How did the pandemic affect Living Abroad?

With a 14-year history working remotely, our team’s largest transition was not to working from home, but rather flexing and pivoting quickly to best serve our clients. We found new ways to serve our clients.  Corporations still relied on the IRC as they supported employees whose travel had been cancelled or changed. Today, usage is up 82% over a year ago supporting over 61,000 users over the last 12 months!

How do you support users that don’t speak English as a first language?

Every destination is available in 100+ languages through Google Translate. Often the relocating employee has a good grasp of the English language. The accompanying family member can now access the information in the language of their choice.

What else?

Our philosophy is to design our services and solutions to meet the unique needs of globally mobile businesspeople, whether they work for a small start-up or a Fortune 100 company. Our focus on quality information and seamless accessibility supports our users, and, in turn, the goals of the companies for which they work.

Users don’t have to know everything about global mobility, but we do. One hundred percent of our work is focused on providing the very best information for our users. Our information is curated, vetted, and flexible. We believe that this work is essential to personal and corporate success.

We believe we do one thing well, and that we do it best. Users of our services prepare themselves for important challenges, and they save time in the process. They, and we, have succeeded for over thirty years, and will continue to do so in the future.

In the spirit of summer, cheers to you and yours!


Check These Out!

When you pursue a career path that takes you abroad – or if you support employees who do – you need a wide range of resources. Reliability, speed, and ease of access guide your search for answers. While some aspects of global travel require deep topic immersion (think cultural training) or a multi-step process (think compiling entry documents), other needs can be met by quick referral to a clear and easy source.

We’ve assembled some of the latter here. Use these helpful references and converters to ease the details and transitions of your travels.

Need to orient yourself to the time zone abroad?
See time zones across the world or view specific times across locations – handy for setting up a call or meeting.

Want to make sure you don’t schedule that call or meeting on a foreign holiday?
Take a look at upcoming holidays in any country to plan appointments that work for everyone.

Is it safe to travel?
Before booking travel, consult travel advisories to make informed choices. Current information is available from government agencies in Australia, Canada, the U.K., the U.S., and others.

What’s the COVID situation?
Are your destination country’s borders open? Do you need a COVID test before entry? Will your vaccine status matter? Get COVID guidance at a glance.

Do you have the currency you need?
Check the currency and exchange rate where you’re going so you can plan for your initial needs and expenses.

Will you need adaptors or transformers?
Find out if your devices and electronics are compatible with your destination’s electrical standard.

Are you trying to decipher a foreign language?
You may receive emails or other communications that are not in your first language. Translate text, documents, or websites with online tools.Make relocation or business travel easier when you need answers to these topics, and others.

Every resource above is among the thousands of links, listings, and tools offered in our International Relocation Center (IRC). Some are compiled together in a Global section where they’re useful across a range of locations. Others are presented as country-specific links in destination reports, giving you direct access to the particulars of your destination.

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

On The Road Again

The world is gradually returning to travel and mobility. For many, this means a return to reliance on our mobile devices when away from home. Meanwhile, there have also been a number of advancements and improvements in how we can perform tasks and get support online — many of which scale well to smaller screens.

As you venture forth non-virtually again, It can be very helpful to even just briefly evaluate your new and renewed needs and habits, and determine what mobile device apps and features will support them.

Some areas to consider include:

  • Mobile and/or touchless payment methods.
  • Maps, automobile, driving direction, and city navigation.
  • Mass transportation schedules, fares, and ticketing.
  • New cloud, productivity and communication services used while working remotely.
  • Digital security and protection against monetary, identity, and device theft.

By the way, here’s how to add Living Abroad’s International Relocation Center (IRC) to your mobile device’s home screen:


  • Launch Safari.
  • Navigate to your link to the IRC.
  • Choose the “Share” icon at the bottom, a square with an arrow pointing upwards.
  • Choose “Add to Home Screen”.
  • Give your link button a name.
  • Choose “Add,” in the upper right hand corner.


  • Launch Chrome.
  • Navigate to your link to the IRC.
  • Choose the menu button.
  • Choose “Add to homescreen.”

Written by Erin Fitzgerald, GMS, Content Manager

The Popularity of Podcasts

Did you know there are over 2+ million podcasts in the U.S.? The rise of podcasts stems mostly from their accessibility, availability, variety, and convenience. Not to mention that podcasts are free. Podcasts are something to enjoy while you’re doing something else that doesn’t require your full attention, and you might learn something, too.

An organization called Edison Research measures the relative audience size and demographics of the top 50 podcasts based on actual listening time. They have created the Podcast Consumer Tracking Report.  According to Edison Research, the number one show in the U.S. from Q2 2021 – Q1 2022 was The Joe Rogan Experience.

Given the sheer number of podcasts, it’s no surprise that there are many specifically for the global mobility industry. Here are our favorites:

  1. Expat Happy Hour
  2. Tandem Nomads
  3. Two Fat Expats
  4. Diesel & Clooney Unpack the World
  5. The Expat Cast
  6. The Expat Files: Living in Latin America
  7. The Empowered Expat Wife
  8. China Jedi – Shining Humour and Light on Chinese Life
  9. Meet the Expats
  10. Nomadtopia Radio

These podcasts are great for expats as they cover all aspects of a new move to another country and help with the settling-in process. Being an expat is more than surviving – it’s about thriving. Studies show that listening to narrative stories can help people feel involved, connected, and inspired.

These podcasts — and more — can be found in Living Abroad’s International Relocation Center.  Chocked full of useful resources and destination-specific information, Living Abroad is the most reliable and trusted source for all your assignees, their families, and business travelers. We have your back, and theirs, too!

Looking Forward to Smooth Travels

Where is your next trip taking you? Are you traveling for business, or maybe planning a vacation? We all want the smoothest experience possible, despite a number of challenges this year.

High gas prices have everyone thinking carefully about road trips, especially in places like Hong Kong where gas costs nearly US$3 per liter — more than US$11 per gallon. In May, the global average was US$5.13 for a gallon of gas, according to GlobalPetrolPrices. More people are turning to electric vehicles or seeking out transportation like trains for trips within range of a railway system.

Apps and websites can do everything from telling us which petrol station has the cheapest gas to showing us different transportation options. For example, tools like Gas Buddy let you search gas prices by location or brand in the U.S., Canada, and Australia, while providing trip planning and cost estimates. New Zealand-based CombiTrip displays options for mass transit, rail, rideshare, and other choices to your destination, and provides a tool to check whether you need a visa for the trip.

Keeping track of current entry requirements and COVID restrictions is essential. Business travelers, check in with your company’s immigration resource. If you’re planning a trip on your own, consult the immigration authorities along your route and at your destination. Everyone should look into any COVID vaccine requirements and testing rules that may still be in place.

Air passengers are also encountering higher ticket prices and more cancellations due to staff shortages. Without enough pilots to fully restore all pre-pandemic routes, many airlines are changing their service options. Book early and be prepared for changes or delays. To help you avoid long security lines and the worst traffic, consider booking through a smaller airport that serves a major city. This can sometimes be less expensive, though you may have fewer flights to choose from.

Preparation and flexibility are more important than ever these days, and a little advance planning can help you save money and make travel more pleasant.


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