Expat holidays

Planning your relocation can hit significant snags when you least expect them. Right now is one of those periods: many Europeans are on vacation, taking usually at least two weeks off at a time - a concept that is pretty much unheard of in the USA and therefore not anticipated. For arriving expats that might mean your colleagues or bosses aren't available to help you set up shop. For expats in the planning stage this might mean the arrival of your household goods might be delayed, or that real estate agent who was supposed to show you around is out of the country. Tip: As soon as you know when you're supposed to move, check the international calendar for significant events and ask your in-country contacts whether to expect any disruption in service.

As you are going on an expat assignment, you should also be aware of which nation's holidays you will be expected to follow: those of your host, or those of the country that sent you. Here's an interesting piece about how likely some nationals are to even take their holiday allowance. When asked my opinion, I'll always say to maintain a healthy work-life balance, and that includes taking time off to recharge. And by time off, I mean no laptop, no blackberry, just being. Unwinding.

Another important event is currently influencing the Muslim population around the world: the fasting of the holy month of Ramadan began yesterday. If you are an expat in a predominantly Muslim country like the UAE, Saudi Arabia, or Egypt, it would be respectful not to eat or drink unless you're in private and can't be seen. In fact, it might be against the law to eat or drink where it might tempt Muslims, and you might get into trouble and be arrested. Read about a personal account about Ramadan in Turkey here.

If you are working with Muslims in a Christian or secular society, I invite you to use opportunity to learn more about their tradition. Fasting from sun-up to sun-down does mess with one's ability to concentrate and it might make people short-tempered. You can support your friends and colleagues by practicing your own understanding and patience, and the Chicago Tribune wrote a piece about just that here.

Eid Mubarak, and thank you for your comments below!