Ask Me Anything: I Am A Living Abroad Content Team Member

Living Abroad’s Content Manager, Erin Fitzgerald, answers top-of-mind questions.

What is most enjoyable about your work, and what is most challenging?

Much of the time, these are the same things! My colleague Ellen Harris wrote a great post about what it’s like to research, develop, and write content at Living Abroad: What Is Good Content, and Why Should You Care?

What are you thinking about when you’re reviewing an article in a destination report?

  • What facts need to be updated?
  • What links need to be updated?
  • Which sections can be expanded and/or improved?
  • What other changes can I make that would help this article serve our users better?
  • How do these considerations affect other areas of the destination report?

How has the global pandemic affected your work?

Living Abroad was a remote workplace for a number of years before 2020, so very little changed internally — and usage of our reports and other products never stopped! However, the pandemic did present some brand new challenges. For example, rapid and frequent changes to health and immigration policies occurred in just about all of the destinations we cover, and often a few times over. Our team had to develop some new strategies to ensure that our clients and users got the information they needed, as soon as possible. Those strategies were so successful that we’re now using some of them to expand our coverage in other report topic areas, like LGBTQ resources and sustainability.

If I’m looking to support my employees with good content, what are some important questions to ask?

  • Is the information vetted for validity, reliability and authority?
  • Does the content provider have expertise in the specific, unique needs of your employees? In the case of Living Abroad, this means your corporate assignees, business travelers, their colleagues and families, and more.
  • Is the content provider highly knowledgeable about functions such as online writing and editing, content management, content strategy, design, and accessibility?
  • How receptive is the content provider to questions, comments, suggestions and other feedback?

Our content team is simply first-rate, bringing you the best and most relevant information for those moving or traveling abroad for business.


Written by Erin Fitzgerald, GMS, Content Manager

What gift should you bring?

Polish social life is centered in the home partly due to society being so family oriented. When invited to a Polish home, it is always customary to bring a gift. What is the most common gift to give when invited to a Polish home?

  1. Something from your home country
  2. Box of candy
  3. Wine or vodka
  4. Flowers
Click here for the answer!

How to get the most out of a conference

Some of you will be attending the biggest global mobility industry event this week in Boston:  ERC’s Global Workforce Symposium.  Professional conferences are excellent places to connect names with faces, discover new industry trends, and network with others in your industry.  It helps to have a plan before you go.

Here are some tips to make the most of your time:

Have a goal.  Do you want to extend your professional contacts, advance your subject matter expertise, find suppliers, develop a partnership or brush up on new technology?  Whatever your goal, take an active role at the conference.

Use the conference mobile app.  This is a convenient and efficient way to do some preliminary planning and a great way to navigate the event.  Make a list of which sessions would be of interest or beneficial to attend.  The app is also a good opportunity to review the attendee list to make the most of your connections and interactions.

Divide and conquer.  Ask your work colleagues to spread out over the conference and attend different concurrent sessions.  This strategy will ensure maximum exposure to what the conference has to offer.  Set aside time to share information with each other.

Introduce yourself to at least three new people.  Make it a point to expand your professional contacts by introducing yourself to at least three new people. If you are not comfortable, network with an extroverted friend who can help with introductions.

Take notes.  Write down a few key takeaways from each session.  Take away at least one idea, tool, concept or bit of information that can be applied to your daily practice.

Attend social events.  If you are invited to social events, try to attend as these are actually a lot of fun and really help to extend the excitement, enthusiasm and energy of a conference.  Don’t be afraid to relax and mingle.

Bring conference highlights back to the office.  Not everyone will be able to attend the conference. Consider yourself an emissary for your entire working group and be committed to sharing what you learned with others.

Follow up.  If you have exchanged business cards, make sure to follow up after the conference.  This is a great way to form and strengthen professional networks over time.

Save the conference program.  The conference program can be a great professional resource. They are directories of expert level knowledge and subject matter expertise. Let your program act as a professional resource and directory.

Thank your boss.  Tell your boss what you learned and express your gratitude for the time off and funding that allowed you to attend.

Attending regular conferences are a great way to grow your professional goals.  Keep these tips in mind and you’ll be sure to get the most out of the event.

Relying on an expert

When it comes to traveling internationally – whether it’s to relocate for a year’s work or to stay for a few weeks on business – there are many aspects that call for precise actions on your part. Professional guidance is critical in areas that are complex and subject to change, those that pose high risk, and those that require in-depth local knowledge. For example:

  • Immigration
    Entry requirements can be quite complex, and what you’ll need can depend on many factors, such as nationality, purpose for visiting, length of stay, and even what other countries’ visas are stamped in your passport. Stepping outside the host country’s law —even inadvertently — can put your presence within its borders on perilous footing. Rely on an immigration professional to keep up with changing, country-specific details.
  • Taxes
    Like immigration, taxes are complicated. Even business travelers, who may think their stay is too short to trigger tax liability, can put themselves and their companies at risk for non-compliance. A tax professional is the best source for the details that apply to your home and host countries, activity while abroad, and number of days traveling.
  • Shipping/Customs
    Referring to a host country’s customs website may be enough to advise a business traveler with a carry-on bag how to enter legally. But when shipping household goods, and maybe a vehicle, a vetted shipping company can provide valuable help with packing, container size, timing, insurance, customs paperwork, and arrival procedures.
  • Housing
    While there’s a lot we can do to educate ourselves and set expectations about host-country housing, some regions – especially hardship locations – are best served by a local agent who knows which neighborhoods answer the assignee’s needs: safety, comfort, accessibility to work, and nearby schools.
  • Schools
    Depending on your family needs, an educational consultant can be invaluable. Families who need to place multiple children, students with special needs, and families moving to hardship locations are examples of those who can benefit from an expert’s advice and contacts.

So, in which areas can you become the expert?

With access to the right information, you can quickly educate yourself on your host country’s history and culture, which – while they may seem extraneous to business travel — shed valuable light on national origins and why people behave as they do. Further, learning specifics about the social customs and business practices will ease your transition and speed your acclimation.  Basics like the local language(s) – and the likelihood you’ll be able to speak yours – are essential information. You can plan some courses in advance, on the go via app, or enroll after arrival.

You can also orient yourself about your arrival and other travel, through airports, mass transit, and ride share availability. Find out about Internet, mobile phones, and whether you’ll be safe using public Wi-Fi. And speaking of safety, you’ll need to know the levels of crime and security concerns in your host location.

Myriad other necessary details include banking, dining, food shopping, driving, and what sorts of clubs and activities are available for you and your family.

As a reminder, all of the above topics and more are covered in Living Abroad’s International Relocation Center (IRC). Access is easy, information is clear, and topics are written and presented for busy professionals and their families. Everything you need to become an expert at your own relocation!

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

How to find the familiar

Think about the last time you were in a place that was familiar…yet unfamiliar.

For me, it was yesterday. Because of some construction, my drive home took me on a different route through town — past a large grocery store I’d never been to. I needed to find something for my family’s dinner, and restock the kitchen cupboards. So I pulled into the parking lot, got out of the car, grabbed a cart, and walked through the door.

At “my” grocery store, shoppers enter directly into the produce section. However, this grocery store greeted me right away with displays of bread, boxes of muffins, and other bakery goods. Not that strange, of course. Interesting, maybe even a little exciting! Yet, I realized quickly that I was used to shopping for items in a certain order.

In this familiar yet unfamiliar place, I guessed correctly that the milk and eggs were along the back wall of the store. But I wasn’t sure where to find ketchup, or my daughter’s favorite granola bars. I didn’t know whether they carried our brand of toothpaste, and my husband is very particular about toothpaste.

I zig-zagged across the store several times when at “my” grocery store, one brisk walk-through would have done the trick. When I finally arrived at the cash register, I realized that I didn’t even have the store’s shoppers’ club card.

On my way home, tired and frustrated, twenty minutes late and with a few substitute items I’d have to explain to my family, I realized that my experience was a microcosm of what the globally mobile do every day. Certainly, some aspects of relocation and business travel are familiar. But unfamiliar elements, combined with pressing needs, is a fast recipe for stress.

Had I been greeted at the door by a friendly employee with a store map, a grocery index, and a shoppers’ club card application? My experience in an unfamiliar grocery store would have been positive — not just for me, but for my hungry (and sometimes very picky) family.

Written by Erin Fitzgerald, GMS, Content Manager

Have you committed these faux pas?

Standing in front of a table of appetizers at a recent party in New York, I was surprised by the look the hostess gave me as I grabbed a chip and scooped up some dip.  It wasn’t until sometime later when I was showing a client our article on personal conduct in Brazil that I spotted my faux pas, or kind of faux pas.  You see the hostess was from Brazil, and one thing you never do in Brazil is pick up food with your hands – yep, even appetizers. I wondered why she grabbed a chip with a cocktail napkin.

Or have you ever found yourself in a foreign country relying on the server to tell you whether it is customary to tip in that country or not and how much?  That happened to me in Italy last summer.  While the server mentioned there was no need to tip, she wasn’t quite convincing, making me wonder.  I left a tip.

Although these are minor and subtle nuances of culture, it was still important to the hostess or the server.  And that is the point of seeking to understand one another’s culture.  What might be commonplace in your culture could be unusual or even offensive to a newcomer.  Approaching cultural differences with sensitivity, openness, and curiosity can help to put everyone at ease.

How much do you know about culture?  Try to answer the following 3 questions and then click through to see how you did!

1.   In South Korea, which is considered acceptable?

  • a. Eating in the street.
  • b. Blowing your nose in public.
  • c. Covering your mouth when yawning.

2. In the UAE, which statement is true?

  • a. Make sure you get people’s names exactly right, don’t abbreviate, and do pay attention to the spelling.
  • b. It’s OK to lose your temper and stand your ground in negotiations.
  • c. Try to be direct when speaking.

3. In Russia, what should you never do?

  • a. Remove your gloves when shaking hands.
  • Make the “OK” sign.
  • Hug, kiss or show other public displays of affection.

Click here to find out if you answered correctly!

Who won the bragging rights?

Which was the first non-European city to host the Olympic games?

A) Lake Placid, NY
B) Tokyo
C) Montreal
D) St. Louis, MO
E) Sydney

Click here for the answer!

How to be prepared!

For most business travelers, international assignments are an opportunity to immerse oneself in a new culture, explore unseen parts of the world, and grow both personally and professionally. With the prospect of such an exciting venture, it is possible to overlook a crucial aspect of any kind of international travel: do you know what to do in case of an emergency abroad? We all hope that international trips will go smoothly; however, prior planning and a bit of forethought can be absolutely invaluable in the event of an emergency.

One of the simplest steps you can take before departure is collecting the contact information for emergency services in your destination country. This list should include telephone numbers for local fire, ambulance, and police services. Additionally, you should also check to see if your destination has a national general emergency number. For example, the telephone number 112 is used throughout the European Union and many other regions to contact dispatchers that will direct the appropriate services to your location based on your needs. Once you’ve gathered these numbers, keep them posted somewhere visible.

Knowing who to call in the event of an emergency is an essential first step for safety preparedness, but it is also vital to know where to go to and how to seek emergency medical attention if needed. Many of us take for granted the peace of mind afforded by immediate access to ambulance services, but in some areas such services may be unreliable or even nonexistent. And once you do arrive at a medical facility, will you have to pay for treatment? In some countries, universal healthcare is provided free of charge to both expatriates and locals alike, while doctors in other regions may expect immediate payment.

Quality of medical care is another factor that must be taken into consideration. Depending on your destination, there may be a substantial difference between quality (and cost) of care offered by public and private facilities. Still other countries may lack adequate facilities entirely, potentially requiring you to seek treatment from neighboring areas. Knowing this ahead of time, you may choose to take out an insurance policy that covers medical evacuation in order to defray the cost of travel and treatment.

Learning who to call, where to go, and how to proceed in the event of an emergency abroad are all essential steps to take before embarking on your journey. This process can involve sifting through a deluge of information, but Living Abroad is here to help! For a comprehensive guide to the above topics and more, consult the International Relocation Center’s Health and Safety section, as well as the Country Resources section for a listing of local emergency contact information. We take the guesswork out of planning by offering curated, up-to-date content all in one place to help you stay informed and safe abroad.

Supporting your mobile workforce can be easy by subscribing to Living Abroad’s International Relocation Center and/or the Culture Coach Online.  The International Relocation Center has 197 destinations to choose from and the Culture Coach Online, an online cultural learning platform, is available for 150 destinations.  Both services easily link to your company intranet or relocation portal for access at any time.

Check it out with a free demo!  Click here

Written by James Cafferty –  International Content Manager, Living Abroad 

Your Best Shot at Good Health

Your coziest robe. A cup of hot tea. A warm bath.

These sound like the makings of a relaxing day…

But they can also be what you turn to when you have the flu.

This year’s flu season is shaping up to be a vigorous one, and no one wants to get sick while traveling – for business or pleasure.

All the health authorities urge everyone to get a flu vaccine, even while acknowledging that it may be less effective than usual against this year’s flu strain. Still, it does provide protection. This is especially important for the elderly, the young, and those with compromised immune systems.

Australia has seen more flu cases and twice the number of hospitalizations than average, according to the Australia Department of Health. The World Health Organization posts ongoing flu information. Check out the status in your part of the world here.

Of course, standard vaccines are important, too.

Whenever you travel abroad, check with your doctor about the prevailing health recommendations. Several organizations provide useful advice for travelers, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Australia’s Smartraveller, and the U.K.’s Fit For Travel.

Take care of yourself while traveling. As the experts always say: wash hands regularly, stay well hydrated, and get plenty of sleep. That last one is easier said than done sometimes, but with any luck you’ll be enjoying that cup of tea across the table from a friend rather than in a sick bed.

Wishing you good health in the new year!

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

Why Take the Chance?

A recent Brookfield study that measured candidate readiness showed that one assignee in five experiences difficulty adapting to the new host culture. This can lead to lackluster business results, and ultimately to assignment failure. In fact, lack of adaptation is recognized as one of the top three reasons why assignments fail. Providing intercultural training combats this obstacle and supports assignee success, which is a great return on your investment.

Many companies offer their employees cultural learning programs, such as two-day classroom training or/and online applications.  But some employees find it challenging to commit blocks of time to learning about this other culture they are about to experience.  Wouldn’t it be great to have a learning tool that is easy to use and learning can take place when it fits into busy schedules?

About two years ago, one of our clients was looking for a tool that combined our detailed destination information with a cultural learning tool.  This top accounting firm sparked an idea which led us to propose a partnership with a cultural training company.  Pairing Living Abroad’s outstanding country information with a cultural program seemed the ideal product blend.

Since then, we have embarked on a journey leading to the creation of a robust learning tool that complements all our destination information.  In a few days, we will be announcing the launch of this online tool – the first on the market.

We will be announcing the launch of the Culture Coach Online!

Why take the chance?

Living Abroad is committed to supporting those individuals relocating, traveling or working in culturally diverse work teams.

Written by Cathy Heyne, GMS-T – Managing Director, Living Abroad