How to be proactive

New jobs, new schools, new activities, new weather seasons…for many households around the globe, this time of year marks beginnings. As a reminder, here are a few basic things you can do now, and should do at least annually:

  • Evaluate your insurance coverage. This can include home insurance, health insurance, and supplemental coverage depending upon your locale, assets, and medical history. Is it still adequate? Is your contact information for your insurance provider up to date?
  • Scrutinize emergency numbers. Make sure local emergency numbers are posted near landlines and saved as mobile contacts. Especially if you don’t have a landline, make sure to keep a physical copy of your key contact names and telephone numbers in the event of a power outage.
  • Inventory supplies.  Look through any supplies that you keep in the event of power outages or natural disasters. Are medical and food items still safe to use? Is your water supply adequate? Do batteries need to be replaced? Do additional items, such as a supply of masks or new medications, need to be added?
  • Review paperwork.  Take a look around for paperwork. Are important documents, such as passports, medical records, and legal documents, stored in their designated places?
  • Check online, comprehensively. Are your passwords truly secure? Have you received and personally authorized all credit cards, debit cards, and ATM cards? Do you know all the steps to take if you must report identity fraud or theft?
  • Double check emergency plan.  Review your family emergency plan. Does it need to be adjusted or updated?
  • Renew or update registry.  If applicable, renew or update your registry with your country’s consulate. This allows the staff to inform and assist you and your family in the event of emergency situations.

Quick and simple review of your plans and provisions can make a real difference, especially when it’s time to master whatever the rest of the year brings!

Written by Erin Fitzgerald, GMS, Content Manager

The Popularity of Lump Sums

Quickly becoming one of the most popular relocation policies, the lump sum option is a one-time, fixed payment provided by the employer to an employee to cover all relocation costs. While these programs became popular with U.S. domestic relocations over the past decade, companies are increasingly using lump sums for international relocations, which can be more complex. A large part of this recent growth is due to its popularity among younger employees, who are the rising majority of the globally mobile.

What are the benefits of a lump sum relocation program?

​​​1. Save money – Lump sum programs can save a company money in the short-term.  This can make it easier for businesses to control the costs. Lump sums also offer fewer fixed benefits, keeping costs down. However, this could also mean that destination services, home-finding, settling-in services, cultural training, and school-search may not be company-required support, risking a failed assignment and poor ROI for the business unit.

2. Easy administration – Global mobility teams have less of a strain handling the relocation in-house since they would not be managing the entire process.  It also reduces the record-keeping and expense tracking burden on the employer.  Compared to a supported relocation, where the global mobility team guides the employee through every step of the process, lump sum relocations also save the company time.

3. Employee flexibility – Employees may choose how they spend their relocation money in ways that best suit their situation. The catch is that employers don’t mandate additional support, leaving employees with little relocation experience making the wrong choices, and who may find themselves short on cash. Leaving the employee to handle multiple aspects of their own relocation can mean they divert time they could be applying to their job. The result could be another reason for an unhappy transferring employee or boss.

4. Cost transparency – The lump sum payment makes it easy to keep track of relocation costs. However, unless you keep track of how the employee spends their money, you won’t have the opportunity to fine-tune your lump sums program or offer the employee some additional support. The more successful relocation programs track how employees spend their lump sum through digital tools.

Other factors to consider:  Is this the first time the employee has moved?  Even if the employee has moved before, what are the challenges associated with the new host location?  Ultimately, the business units should always consider the balance between the time and stress incurred by the employee during a self-managed move versus a corporate-managed relocation.

How can Living Abroad help support your lump sum employees?  Through an unlimited company subscription to the International Relocation Center, all employees have access to over 235+ destinations, all curated and vettedfrom a business perspectiveHundreds of resources are available giving relocating employees the support they need for success.  Subscribing to the destinations that best fit your relocation program and budget is simple and easy.

Please contact us to see how!

Reconciling Elder Care and Travel

Human beings are living longer, and at the same time we have become a more globally mobile society. Though the pandemic has slowed relocations, work-from-home options have opened up travel opportunities. What happens when a decision to move affects the care of an older family member?Whether you are caring for a parent in your home or are only peripherally involved, a move is going to disrupt your family’s routine. Good planning can mitigate that upheaval. Elder care takes different shapes in different cultures. Government services vary, too. Senior support is robust in some areas and thin in others. Some questions to ask:

  • How should I arrange for/continue care?
  • What to do in an emergency?
  • What if my parent declines into a worsened condition?
  • What’s the best way to stay informed about my parent’s health status?
  • Is he/she fit enough to make the move with us?

Along with your parent, talk directly to the doctor about their condition and potential future needs. This can help you decide on levels of care, and to determine whether it’s possible for your parent(s) to move with you.

If you do consider moving abroad with them, investigate the host country’s entry requirements. When looking for a home, consider the physical layout and space options in available accommodations.

Look into support for seniors at your destination — in physical environment, medical access, and recreational opportunities, as well as cultural norms that can affect quality of life. Check into any required equipment like oxygen tanks or medications that may need regular replenishing, and special treatments like dialysis or chemotherapy.

For a parent staying in the home country, siblings should discuss shifting responsibilities in the traveler’s absence. Talk to your parent(s) about their needs, wishes, and practicalities like paperwork. Wills, power of attorney, trusts, and health care proxies should be in place and updated if the situation warrants.

If your parent will need to change their current residential status, research and visit facilities, or line up home health care that will meet their needs. Make a list of people who will directly manage your parent’s care, and support people who will be in regular contact with her/him. Keep contact information for these people, along with doctors, lawyers, and pharmacies. Checklists and guidance are very useful in this process and are available from organizations like AARP.

Plan to take part in health professional meetings by phone. Case managers and staff can share status updates on your parent’s condition, answer your questions, and provide opportunities to share your concerns or wishes going forward.

With all the serious logistics on everyone’s minds, it’s easy to forget that a simple bouquet of flowers, plant, or their favorite edible treat delivered to the parent can bring cheer and raise spirits. Some thought and planning can ease the transition for everyone involved.

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

Let the Games Begin

After a one-year delay due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, the 2020 Summer Olympic Games have begun in Tokyo, Japan! Just over 11,000 athletes from 205 countries are converging upon the city to compete in 33 different sports, with millions of viewers around the globe.

While live spectator attendance and travel to Japan have been extremely limited, the Games always generate a lot of interest in their hosts, and the 2020 Summer Games are no exception. Living Abroad’s International Relocation Center (IRC) provides a wealth of information about Tokyo, as well as Japan overall.  Here’s a three minute video introduction to the country — it’s one of many you’ll find in our reports:

Living Abroad’s IRC reports will also have you covered for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, China, the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in Paris, France, the 2026 Winter Olympic Games in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, the 2028 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles, USA, and the 2032 Summer Olympic Games in Brisbane, Australia. (The host city for the 2030 Winter Olympic Games will be announced in Mumbai, India in 2023.)
Written by Erin Fitzgerald, GMS, Content Manager

The 3 Pillars

The importance of sustainability

Today’s business world demands social, environmental, economic sustainability.  These three are often call the main pillars of sustainability, corresponding to people, planet, and profits. Business leaders realize that creating long-term value will foster company longevity. There are many benefits to being a sustainable company: adding brand value, attracting new talent, creating new opportunities, increasing efficiency, and meeting customer demands.

While we seek sustainability via many solutions, depending on a company’s focus, here are a few useful actions companies can take now:

  1. Align values. Businesses should focus on the most important sustainability issues which align with company strategy and core values.
  2. Do research. Read articles about sustainability, join industry groups, attend conferences, and hone in on the sustainability initiatives that your company can support.
  3. Focus on compliance. Adopt regulations on waste management, pollution, and energy efficiency.  Include labor and human rights responsibilities.
  4. Contribute to community. Contribute to the community by partnering with other businesses, local governments, customers, and your employees to reach your sustainability goals.
  5. Foster transparency. Foster an open environment in the company as well as within the community through candid communication.
  6. Build diverse leadership. Focus on diversity and gender equality in building your leadership team, ensuring that your company will be sustainable into the future.
  7. Encourage collaboration. Start with having a conversation with your supply chain.  Ensure that they have their own sustainability goals that are in alignment with your sustainability and business goals.
  8. Establish long-term goals. This helps to stay on track.  Make sure these goals are thoughtfully researched and achievable.
  9. Remain accountable. Have a strong commitment to sustainability and continue to find ways to decrease your footprint.

It’s easy to understand why a focus on sustainability has become mainstream, with over 90% of CEOs believing that sustainability is imperative for business success.  Initiatives underway include creating sustainable products and services, carving out a position for a chief sustainability officer, and preparing sustainability reports.

Many companies have already started by recycling waste, replacing bottled water with filtered tap water, and taking advantage of natural light in the office.  At Living Abroad, our carbon footprint is very small.  For the most part, we all work from home and did so, even before the pandemic.  Since all our services are online, trees are spared as no paper products are needed.  Our content can be customized and saved as a PDF to be read later on any devices, eliminating the need to print the information.

The reality is that we all need to do our part.  What are you doing?


It’s not too early to think about school

I’d like to begin this piece with a shout-out to all educators. My husband was a math teacher for 35 years before moving into alumni relations this year. Lots of our friends and many of our neighbors are teachers. So even though our children are grown and we personally missed the challenge of remote learning during a pandemic, we witnessed the astounding fortitude, creativity, and flexibility shown by people with students in their care.

According to the World Economic Forum, 1.2 billion children in 186 countries had to leave their classrooms during the COVID-19 pandemic. We shifted, adjusted, and kept adapting as things changed. For many, the 2020-21 school year ended with deep breaths of relief as vaccines made it possible for schools to reopen.

While it may seem like we just finished the school year, the 2021-22 academic year is only weeks away. Depending on where you live, your children may already be in school.

Here are few ways you can prepare for the start of school:

– Continue to stay connected to your school district or private school communication channels. Know what they plan to require, what might change from last year, and what might stay the same. Hours might vary, or schedules may be staggered to allow for more space between students of different grades. Will students still need masks, and will there be a hybrid option?

– Stay informed about the COVID situation in your region, or anywhere you might have to travel to attend school — college campuses in another state or country, for example. Though this can change rapidly, especially with the Delta variant spreading. Country entry regulations are fluid. Monitor trusted sources so you are aware of changes discussed or if adjustments become necessary.

– Take care of your general health, so that you and your children are in the best possible condition when returning to more crowded buildings and activities.

-Take stock of tech and other materials that will maximize the learning experience – whatever it may be in the fall. Take the time now to set up a place to study and focus, for general work done at home but also in the event that in-person attendance is scaled back for some period of time.

– Vaccination requirements are still unknown in many schools. Will they be required of eligible students? Arrange now to obtain the vaccine or find out how to proceed with school preparations if you plan to forgo it.

– Learn which extracurricular activities might resume, and how. If your child played a sport or an instrument – and teams or bands were cancelled last year – some conditioning and practice might be useful this summer before resuming the activity.

– Reach out to friends and family and plan any visits that are feasible while school is out of session.  Not only can this bring isolated family members closer, it immerses your children in the family experiences of which they were deprived.  The recognition, connections, and love among family members are important for personal development and emotional grounding.

– Do something completely freeing and enjoyable! After enduring so much stress and change, treat yourself to a healthy break and do something that lifts your spirits.

The good news is that we had to adapt in so many ways last year, we already have many fire-tested contingency plans available to us, and plenty of materials and know-how when it comes to physical distancing and hygiene. Contrary to March 2020 when we were plunged into a frightening, unknown situation, we now have knowledge and experience with practical measures that can help us in the future.

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

Which Countries made the Top 10?

While the pandemic has dramatically reduced international relocations and business travel, our clients have continued to access Living Abroad’s International Relocation Center and Global Business Travel Center.  It’s no surprise that usage remained reasonably robust, but we wondered: What destinations generated the most interest in a time when most business travel, as well as many business plans, were so uncertain?

Below, you’ll find our ten most frequently accessed country reports from March 16, 2020 to June 23, 2021. Some have always been in our “top ten,” but others are new and interesting surprises. Given all the changes that have occurred around the globe in the last sixteen months and that will continue to happen — especially in the world of work — looking at IRC usage by destination will be a fascinating metric in the coming months and years.

Since all of these countries are undoubtedly important destinations for upcoming assignments and business travel, we’ve included a current official immigration resource with each entry here. (By the way, all of the IRC’s 230+ country reports have this information, as well as links to Fragomen’s comprehensive immigration reports where available, on their very first page.)

10. Denmark
Danish Immigration Service: Corona (COVID-19)

Top 10 in 2019? No

9. Sweden
Swedish Migration Agency: Living in Sweden

Top 10 in 2019? No

8. Germany
Federal Ministry of Health: Current information for travellers

Top 10 in 2019? Yes

7. Guyana
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation

Top 10 in 2019? No

6. Netherlands
Government of the Netherlands: Coronavirus COVID-19

Top 10 in 2019? Yes

5. Switzerland
Federal department of foreign affairs: Focus coronavirus (website in German)

Top 10 in 2019? Yes

4. USA

Top 10 in 2019? Yes

3. United Kingdom
UK Visas and Immigration

Top 10 in 2019? Yes

2. Singapore
Immigration and Checkpoints Authority

Top 10 in 2019? Yes

1. Australia
COVID-19 and the border

Top 10 in 2019? Yes

The biggest surprise was seeing Guyana in the top 10. Further investigation revealed that only a small number of clients, all in the same energy and construction industries, accounted for this surge. Keep an eye on Guyana! Japan & India, previously always in the top-ten, fell off this list during the pandemic – no surprise, given that both countries are still mostly locked down.

Written by Erin Fitzgerald, GMS, Content Manager & Michael Cadden, GMS-T, VP – International Operations

Top 5 Advantages of Working with a Certified Woman-owned Business

Here at Living Abroad, we’re excited to announce that we became certified by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) earlier this year. WBENC’s mission is to fuel economic growth globally by identifying, certifying, and facilitating the development of women-owned businesses. A business must be at least 51% owned and controlled by women and undergoes a rigorous certification process.

Here are five reasons why doing business with a women-owned company offers a global competitive edge:

  1. Tax Incentives – The United States government supports supplier diversity as a business strategy. As a result, working with a women-owned business can result in some federal tax benefits. Some states, like California and Georgia, even offer tax incentives for working with women-owned companies.

  2. Quality and Reliability – While starting new partnerships with suppliers can be risky, research shows that you can mitigate that risk by partnering with a diverse supplier.  According to a study from The Hatchett Groupninety-nine percent of diverse suppliers met or exceeded their clients’ expectations.  ​​

  3. Community Growth – Diverse companies are some of the fastest growing and most innovative in our country.  The good news is that these companies are everywhere.  Working with women-owned businesses means you will be investing in communities spurring economic opportunity and growth.

  4. Revenue – Working with diverse organizations is proven to be good for business.  Many companies see an increase in market share, and access to new opportunities.

  5. Job seekers inquire about company diversity – About two-thirds of those seeking new employment opportunities will inquire about a company’s diversity policies. This is especially true for Millennials and Gen Z professionals. They want to know if the company hires a diverse workforce, helps employees in underrepresented groups advance, and seeks out diverse suppliers.

Michael Robinson Program Director – Global Supplier Diversity, IBM, says, “Diverse suppliers help us provide value to the customer, strengthen our brand, understand our markets, and identify what’s coming next in the world of technology.”

Written by Cathy Heyne, GMS-T, President

If you support expats, their families and business traveler, Living Abroad can help.  To access a free, no obligation demo of our curated destination information, request a demo below.

Supporting your diverse workforce, wherever they are!

Question of the month: Where do I find LGBTQ information?

Maybe you have heard some form of this question recently. Perhaps it came from a client, an employee, or as part of an RFP.

For us, clients have been increasingly asking about this information, and we’ve been happy to direct them to the details we provide on same-sex relationships, legislation, and culture as it relates to their employees’ business presence in a particular country.

But we wanted to do more. And the Global Mobility industry has been asking for more. As Jason Suto from BlackRock said on a recent FEM panel, “People have to feel valued, respected, and safe at any organization.” Educating all employees helps satisfy those needs. And so we have extracted, developed, and given a distinct place in our country reports to specific LGBTQ+ content.

Through this ongoing project, there are now “LGBTQ+” articles under “Family Matters” in 60 of our destinations. And the list is growing.

Developing additional content for this topic has revealed some interesting points. One is the fact that certain languages – like Czech, for example — are heavily gender-based, and adopting more inclusive, gender-neutral terms can be more of a challenge in these places. Another is that some nations have achieved such a level of inclusiveness – as Norway has — that LGBTQ groups are fewer than elsewhere, due partly to less need for advocacy as well as less social distinction among the larger population.

As companies’ policies and strategies evolve, the need to be informed will continue to build. While by no means exhaustive, here are a few organizations that operate around the world and provide meaningful information for specific countries:

Collaborative LGBT knowledge base providing timelines, maps, and other displays of legislation on various topics worldwide.

ILGA World
The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association is a worldwide federation of more than 1,600 organizations from over 150 countries and territories campaigning for human rights. Established in 1978, ILGA World has ECOSOC consultative status at the United Nations.

International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association
Provides travel resources and information while continuously working to promote equality and safety within LGBTQ+ tourism worldwide. IGLTA’s members include LGBTQ+ friendly accommodations, transport, destinations, service providers, travel agents, tour operators, events and travel media located in over 80 countries.

Global LGBTQ+ business network. Scroll down for briefs on LGBTQ+ business climate score, current legal status, and impact of discrimination on business and talent for 25 countries.

Stonewall Workplace Briefings
Briefings outline the legal, socio-cultural and workplace situation for LGBT people in the specific countries, advise employers on how they can create inclusive and equal workplaces for LGBT employees around the world, and showcase progressive workplace practices.

Workplace Pride Foundation
Not-for-profit foundation dedicated to improving the lives of LGBTIQ+ people in workplaces worldwide, striving for a world of inclusive workplaces where LGBTIQ+ people can truly be themselves, are valued and, through their contributions, help to lead the way for others.

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