Size Yourself Up

Whether their reasons are sustainability, affordability, or just the thrill of the hunt, clothing shoppers around the world are adding more gently used and vintage items to their closets. If you’re thinking about taking the leap, it’s important to keep some things in mind.

Recently I read a novel set in 1950’s Sydney, The Women in Black. Descriptions of the titular women included dress sizes that had me stymied and looking for answers online. Knowing that sizing systems vary around the world, I was also reminded that standards have evolved within my lifetime, and maybe within yours.

In Australia, an “extra slim, small woman” would wear a size XSSW in the 1950’s, then a 10 when sizes were converted to numbers more than a decade later, and likely an 8 or a 6 today. Designers and manufacturers realized that appealing to women’s vanity with smaller sizes was good for sales. They made changes accordingly, adjusting numbers downward.

These days, people are repurposing and reselling clothes, with the help of local shops and online platforms like Depop, Poshmark, The RealReal, and thredUP. Vintage looks are popular, as is the eco-friendly choice of buying something used.

Anyone relocating or just traveling abroad might keep their eyes open for unique finds. Knowing your size by various international standards can help you decipher labels.

While European sizing is based on actual measurements, in many other places women’s clothing labels bear numbers ranging from 0 or 2 or 3, increasing in even or odd increments. While numerical systems are used overwhelmingly around the world, you will also encounter Small/Medium/Large/XL sizing, typically for garments that are less fitted.

Men’s clothing is much more likely to be measurement-specific, but children’s clothing can be labeled by age, metric measurement, or some other method. Shoes sizes present their own challenge, with numbers that only occasionally correspond to an actual foot measurement.

The bottom line is that, while conversion charts are useful, taking measurements will always give you the best chance at a good fit. If the item you’re shopping for is online rather than in person, often there are ways to contact the seller to clarify any missing information.

In the interest of sustainability, people are more willing to reuse, repurpose, and recycle, even for clothing. Buying something locally in your host country, and then selling it on or making it into something else, reduces your shipping load. Knowing you’re minimizing waste can make your find even more attractive.

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

Five Interesting Facts About Ramadan

April 2, 2022 was an ordinary day for many. But for 1.8 billion Muslims around the world, it was Ramadan 1, 1442.

Here are five facts to know about Ramadan, the most holy month of the Islamic calendar:

  1. Ramadan is a month of fasting, abstinence, and contemplation.

Between dawn and dusk during Ramadan, Muslims commonly refrain from all eating and drinking, including water. Prayer, reading from the Quran, and acts of charity are also common Ramadan activities.

  1. Ramadan is determined with precision.

As with every Islamic month, Ramadan begins with the appearance of the hilal, the crescent moon which follows the new moon. In some predominately Islam countries, this must be observed with eyesight and certified by a court.

  1. For users of other calendars, Islamic months may seem to “move.”

The Islamic calendar and the Gregorian calendar both have 12 months. But because the lunar cycle is approximately 29.5 days long, months on the Islamic calendar “move” backward about ten days each year when compared to the Gregorian calendar. Ramadan was observed from approximately April 12 to May 12 in 2021, and from approximately April 23 to May 23 in 2020.

  1. Observance of Ramadan can greatly affect daily life for visitors to predominantly Islamic destinations.

Government offices, banks, and stores may have shorter business hours during Ramadan. They may also shift some business hours to after dusk. Because most residents fast during the day, many restaurants also alter their business hours, or may even close entirely during the day. If you are not Muslim and plan to travel to an Islamic destination during this time, it’s also important to familiarize yourself with local customs and any provisions for foreigners, such as daytime meals at hotels.

  1. The end of Ramadan also marks the beginning of an important holiday.

Eid al-Fitr, which begins the day after Ramadan ends, is a celebration. While traditions vary from place to place, new clothing, family gifts, and sumptuous feasts are common. Islamic countries often observe Eid al-Fitr as a national holiday. In some, Eid lasts multiple days. This year, observation of Eid al-Fitr will begin the evening of May 1 in most countries.

 

Written by Erin Fitzgerald, GMS, Content Manager

This Girl is On Fire

This Girl is On Fire

With Women’s History month concluding, it’s important to note that many global changes have affected women specifically over the past several years. The ongoing pandemic, economic challenges, and the current crisis in the Ukraine have influenced everyone, and some would argue that women have borne the brunt. Signs indicate that mental health challenges and burnout will continue to affect women. Woman have added responsibilities at home and work, often doing more for their companies, but not getting recognized for it.

What can we focus on to collectively support women?

Creating flexible work policies and allowing autonomy over the way work gets done will help to reduce burnout and slow the rate of women leaving the workforce. According to a study done from Lean In and McKinsey, women are more burned out than a year ago, and significantly more so than men.

Gender parity in leadership positions hasn’t been achieved yet. Individual organizations need to reexamine causes behind the numbers. Is it due to individual choice? Are candidates less assertive than they could be? Are there institutional or systemic barriers, like discrimination? Creating an inclusive environment will help support women.

Mental health support needs to be a priority. The pandemic increased symptoms of anxiety and depression. It’s important to destigmatize it and make it okay and easy for people to ask for help. Well-being and mental health go hand in hand with productivity and performance. Companies that are providing support in these areas will create change for the better.

Now is a good time to offer mentorship programs. Mentoring promotes women’s success and economic self-sufficiency. Mentors are not only a source of support, but provide inspiration when times are tough. They have walked the path before. Think about becoming a mentor to someone in your organization. Good allies and co-conspirators make space for everyone to be their full, authentic selves.

Childcare continues to be a major concern for those with young children. Not only is it expensive, but childcare workers are quitting in droves and providers are closing their doors. Parents must find childcare somewhere else, which isn’t always easy. Because of this, in some instances women are having to leave the workforce.  This crisis needs to be addressed.

Moving into 2022, women need to be supported in many ways to stay engaged in the workforce or to reenter it. Organizations gain strength from the female perspective. Not just diversity of color or gender, but diversity of thought, diversity of belief, socioeconomic diversity, religious diversity all help with problem solving and benefit the organization, which benefits the world.

Some women are rising to the moment as stronger leaders and taking on the extra work that is required in these times. Women are doing more to support their teams and advance diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Yet this critical work is going unrecognized and unrewarded by most companies.

If this work isn’t prioritized, companies jeopardize losing the very leaders they need right now to help navigate the pandemic and build inclusive workplaces. Women have changed their world. Their world is the family, workplace, and people they interact with daily. These insights can change the world. Women are creating a future that is more just, more equitable, and more flexible, but they must be recognized and rewarded for this crucial work.

 

Written by Cathy Heyne, GMS-T, President

Keep Yourself Informed

When Global Mobility was in its infancy, corporate travelers abroad often relied on foreign newspapers in their host countries. Searching for publications in their language – sometimes a day old or more – was the best way to keep up with world news in a lot of places.

How media has evolved! To access current news now, you need look no further than the small device in the palm of your hand. Less official sources also fill in the blanks for media consumers, with YouTube channels and one-off posts, as well as aggregators who combine journalism with games, recipes, trends, celebrity stories, and other content.

When changeable situations make current, reliable news a necessity, assignees and travelers need to know where to turn. Here are a few sources:

– Traditional global news outlets like News Corp, Daily Mail and Trust, or New York Times deliver coverage on a broad range of subject matter, whether in print, digital, televised, or streaming.

– Regional news sources focus on topics pertinent to a certain population and are useful for staying abreast of local happenings.

– Tech companies like Alphabet/Google, Meta/Facebook and Apple now represent a large presence in the news space. With a social media foundation, these organizations open the field to unlimited views – which often means that consumers become their own curators and sometimes leads censoring governments to block them.

– Radio is popular in peaceful times and powerful in crisis. Over-air broadcasts, digital and streaming services inform, entertain, and provoke thought with an enormous variety of content. BBC World Service and Voice of America (VOA) reach audiences around the world and serve populations under stress in wartime.

While not a media source, your home country’s embassy or consulate in the host location is a key source of information and advice. Register your presence upon arrival so that your contact information can be used to reach you with alerts.

Also, take full advantage of your Living Abroad International Relocation Center (IRC) subscription to support those affected by events in Ukraine and Russia. Companies are moving people out of both countries and Ukraine-based personnel, especially, need information on the spot. This includes details about evacuation countries like Poland, Romania, Lithuania, Germany, Italy, and any number of final target destinations farther afield.

Even with enormous humanitarian efforts and aid rendered to those in need, the volatile situation can cause frequent changes to cross-border processes and required documentation. Always consult your immigration expert for the best advice and swiftest possible results.

Staying informed can keep you safe and make you more effective, wherever you happen to be.

 

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

Ways Around It

Recent world events have served as a reminder: it’s important to understand safety and security issues you might face before traveling abroad.

Monitoring news and advisories for your destination is crucial. A number of countries provide international travel information, and easy access to consulate and mission contact information, and available services for their citizens. Ten resources, from some of Living Abroad’s most accessed destination reports, are below:

USA

Department of State: Travel advisories

Netherlands

Netherlands Worldwide: Travel advice

Website in Dutch

United Kingdom

Government UK: Foreign travel advice

Finland

Finland Abroad

France

Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs: Country files

Australia

Smartraveller: Destinations

Canada

Travel advice and advisories

Japan

Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Overseas safety information

Website in Japanese

Switzerland

Federal Department of Foreign Affairs: Traveling abroad

Bear in mind that some countries ban domestic media coverage of information the government deems sensitive. If you are in such a country, arrange for some way to receive information about immediate events – be it your embassy or mission, employer, or other methods.

 

Written by Erin Fitzgerald, GMS, Content Manager

You Did What?

The Importance of Cultural Competence

For a number of reasons, many companies have found themselves in positions  where having many more remote employees working abroad is advantageous. As a result, they are developing policies that take into account new and unique factors, including compliance and tax regulations.

If your company allows global nomads, are you offering a cross-cultural training tool?  Even for employees who work abroad remotely, understanding a new culture is extremely important.  Supporting the global nomad’s development of cultural competencies will only increase their value to the company and the bottom line.

Cultural competence is a journey that takes a concerted effort to achieve.  The good news is that it can be developed.  The trick is to nurture a set of skills that grows and expands over time.

Here are 7 ideas to get started:

  1. Understand personal cultural work style: Everyone sees the world in a certain way because of culture, personal history, and background. A cultural profile questionnaire can provide insight into an individual’s work style.
  2. Focus on learning a little: Even knowing a little about the host country can prove invaluable. Focus on those aspects that are important to getting the job done.
  3. Seek opportunities to learn: Even though the employee is working remotely, there are opportunities every day to learn about the culture. For instance, food shopping is a great learning experience and can be added to their repertoire of cultural awareness.
  4. Note unexpected behavior: This can offer clues as to why the culture behaves in a way different from the home country. Figure out why and add to your toolbox of understanding.
  5. Connect with locals: Test the ideas learned about the culture by asking a native. Your assumptions may be incorrect, and many locals are happy to share their culture.
  6. Think about daily experiences: Review situations that may have felt uncomfortable and try to understand why.
  7. Be genuine: Seek to understand a new culture by being free from pretense and show sincere appreciation and curiosity.

Having strategies for learning about other cultures will reduce uncertainty, improve interactions, and help your employees adapt to any new culture. Providing globally mobile employees with learning tools to build their cultural competence will be a real benefit to both the employee and their company.

Put More Money in Your Pocket

Are you feeling a bit pinched these days, with prices rising on just about everything? Basics like grocery staples, automotive parts, new and used cars themselves, home building materials, appliances, and furniture all cost more these days.

Supply chain issues are contributing to price increases, as is the cost of labor, as well as shortages caused by shutdowns and lack of workers.

At the same time, we shop online more often than we did pre-pandemic. Global retail e-commerce sales in 2021 amounted to US$4.9 trillion, a 47% jump from 2019*. The good news is that our growing comfort with e-commerce also provides opportunities for saving.

Online coupons and discount apps have been around for a while. Now financial firms and tech platforms offer their own services and widgets, prompting shoppers to compare prices across sellers or automatically scan for discount codes that ensure the best price.

Here are a few to help you find your next deal:

BeBlue: A cashless payment app offering instant cash back refunds at stores and restaurants across Brazil.

Capital One Shopping: This browser extension automatically applies coupon codes and compares vendor prices for US-based shoppers. (Formerly Wikibuy)

DesiDime: Users get deals and coupons at more than 1500 online merchants and stores around India, as well as a discussion forum where shoppers share comments.
Groupon: Though its popularity has fallen off in recent years, this e-savings pioneer still has 24 million buyers in 15 countries.

Rakuten: Japanese-based group whose offerings include cash back and deals at select stores, whether in person or online. (Formerly eBates in the United States)

Reebee: Canadians can peruse store flyers by merchant, location, or with a strong search engine, for a one-stop look at what’s on sale locally.

Vouchercloud: UK and some European shoppers can save on brand-name goods, meals, services, and utilities. Also available in the U.S.

These sites often feature a browser extension and most have apps for easier mobile transactions. Loyalty points and other incentives may apply.

In the interest of sustainability, many of us are looking for second-hand goods. Sites like Chairish, a decorating and design marketplace in the U.S., allow users to buy and sell upscale pieces. C2C giant eBay has 22 distinct websites around the world, and a presence in 100 countries, where people buy and sell just about anything… maybe enough to furnish a host-country home, and then sell it back when you leave.

Happy shopping – and saving!

*Statista: Worldwide retail e-commerce sales

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