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What to Expect When You're an Expat

Free eBook CoversI'd love to get your feedback on my writing, can you help me out? Apart from this blog and the occasional article (like this one on Type dichotomies, or this one on how to use culture knowledge in the real estate market), I've been trying my hand at eBooks - like the ones you can sign up for on the right.

If you're comfortable sharing your email address with me and let me visit you email inbox with (very sporadic, I might add) newsletters, please go ahead and sign yourself up.

If not, that's ok too. You can view the eBooks here:

Getting Your Point Across Cultures takes a quick look at different communication styles and how you can flex your behavior to suit each style.

What to Expect When You're an Expat describes Maslow's levels across his hierarchy of needs framework and relates it to different stages along the expat journey. I've posted blogs about this very topic last week, and in this ebook you'll find links to more resources and coaching questions for each stage to help you find your own answers.

When you flick through them, please drop me a line to let me know if they're helpful or where I can improve them. I'd be ever so grateful. :-)



101 Relo Hacks - A Cheat-Sheet for your expat assignment!

International Assignments are a challenge to organize - here are some links for your convenience! Please note, clicking on these links will take you to their respective pages, and I'm not responsible for those contents.

Click responsibly!

Blogs / Information Forums

Expat Blog - The Leading Veterans Site

Expat Exchange - International Living and International Jobs

Expat Women - Helping Expat Women living overseas, expat blogs

EAS - Expat Advisory Services Asia

Expat Angels - Making life abroad better

FEM - Forum for Expatriate Management

How to Germany - Extensive information on living, legal, language and much more

Internations - Connecting global minds

FSYF - Foreign Service Youth and their Families

NMFA - National Military Family Association

Talesmag - Tales from a small planet

The German Blog - keeping Germans in the D/FW Metroplex up to date

Trailing Spouse Network - Forum hosted by the Ausmerican

Transitions abroad - Portal for work, study, cultural travel and living overseas

TCK World - Third Culture Kids

YFA - Youth for Understanding


by Craig Storti - Cross Cultural Communication

by Robin Pascoe - The Expat Expert

by Jo Parfitt - Writer, book-cook, Expat

The Expert Expat - Melissa Brayer Hess and Patricia Linderman

Riding the Waves of Culture - Fons Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner

Coaching across Cultures - Philippe Rosinski

Interkulturelle Kommunikation - Helga Losche

A Portable Identity - Debra Bryson and Charise Hoge


Skype - Voice over IP, free Internet phone and video

Facebook - connect with friends and family

Twitter - Answering the question, "What are you doing?" in 140 characters or less

Toastmasters International - Helping men and women become confident speakers and leaders

Hulu - Watch your favorite (american) TV shows online

wwi TV - World-wide internet TV (UK, France, Spain, Germany, Netherlands)


XE - Currency

Online Conversion - Height, weight, length, angles, etc.

World Electric Guide - Power, outlet, adaptor, and plugs information


SIETAR - Society for Intercultural Education, Training And Research

ICI - Intercultural Communication Institute

Intercultural Press - Publishing

Trompenaars & Hampden-Turner Consulting - Premier researchers for country and business culture

Cultural Dimensions - Geert Hofstede


IRS - Internal Revenue Services, Taxes in the USA

Bundeszentralamt für Steuern - Taxes in Germany

Hacienda - Taxes in Spain


Rosetta Stone -Creative language learning, endangered language programs

Leo - Online dictionary English/French/Spanish/Italian/Chinese to German

Free online language courses - article on by Jamie Littlefield

Word2Word - collection of links for various languages


EISIL - Electronic Information System for International Law

ASIL - The American Society of International Law

INTPV - International Passport and Visa

US Department of State - Applications and Forms

Fragomen - International attorneys, immigration

Article: Top 10 Tips for Expats, by Jeremy Morley, International Family Law


International Movers - with "practical guides" on how to pick your mover, supplies, customs, etc.

FEDEMAC - Federation of European Moving Associations

Groups / Organizations

ECA - The Expat Coach Association

The Expat Coach Directory - Find an expat Coach near you!

FIGT - Families in Global Transition

ICC - International Chamber of Commerce

ICC - Internet Chamber of Commerce

Global Charity Jobs - International Charity and NGO recruitment website

UN -United Nations - It's your world

World Chambers Network - Where the world does business

Worldwide ERC - Employee Relocation Council

WHO - World Health Organization

UNESCO -United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

Visa HQ - Links to embassies world-wide

Health / Insurance

Clements - Global Insurance Solutions

Expat Financial - Global financial security

HealthCare International - International Health Insurance

International Citizens - International Health Insurance

ihi Bupa - International Health and Travel Insurance

International Business News



Global HR News

International Business Times


Air Animal - Pet movers since 1977

Canine Carriers - Domestic and international pet relocation since 1972

Foreignborn - Bringing animals into the US

Pet Travel Scheme - Bringing animals into the UK

Schools / Education

ASH - The American School of The Hague

DAAD - German Academic Exchange Service

Dallas International School - Mission Laïque Française

IPP - International Professors Project

K-12 - Find and compare public, private and charter schools - US Schools that offer International MBAs

NAFSA - Association of International Educators

US Dept. of State - Office of overseas schools

US Dept. of State - Overseas Special Education Reference Guide

SIT - World learning, study abroad


Building the Life You Want LLC - Supporting expatriates and their families to make the most of their personal international transition experience

Living abroad - Interactive tools, culture compass

NetExpat - A global leader in assessing, training, and coaching Expatriates and their Partners

RW3 - Online cultural tools

Spectra Plus - Global Real Estate Services

Takt Global Partners, Inc - Global Real Estate Services

UK Work Permits - Corporate and individual immigration services


World Travel Guide - Travel articles, discount airfare, adventure travel, family vacations

Lonely Planet - Destinations, community forum, hotels, travel services

Expedia - Airfare, hotels, vacation packages

Rumbo - European & Latin American travel services

Hotels - Reviews, booking, deals

Europa - Gateway to the European Union

Wonderland Euro Tours - Personalized travel planning



German Pension System

Greetings fellow expats! As you might know, I'm on file as "agony aunt" over at I usually receive questions regarding immigration, which I cannot answer because I'm not a lawyer. This week's question was only slightly different, but I did find some more sources of information you might find helpful. When working in Germany, you and your company are jointly paying into your pension fund. The current rate is at 19.5 %, and both employers and employees pay 50 % each. To find out more about how long you have to pay in to become eligible to receive a German pension, what age you can start claiming it, and how circumstances change e.g. if you get divorced or move abroad, please peruse these links (at your own peril!):

An article with general information on German pension system

Basic facts on the German retirement system

Expat's Guide to the German Pension System

Pensions and divorce (in German)

German pension and international FAQ (in German)

Please share your own sources / experiences in the comments below!

Til next time,


Thanks to Simon for the free pic!



Effective goaling, Part 2

comfortzonecomicsmWelcome to the second of three blog articles on effective goaling. This is an invitation for you to take some time for yourself to make your life better than it already is. Set a goal, organize the necessary steps and support, learn how to deal with setbacks and obstacles, and celebrate your outcome. May I suggest you subscribe to my posts' RSS feed and you'll receive a convenient notification when the next installment arrives. Make this your own private "How to plan for success in 2009"- online course.

Last week we talked about setting goals the SMART way. You know where you want to go, you're feeling good about it, you're motivated, and you're aware of what you are truly pursuing. Now let's get to the beef, the juice, the action! Let's start by having a look at that Time-box again: you have answered the questions of when you want the goal accomplished and when you want to make your first step. Can you be sure that you are able to begin your journey right now, or are there any inner or outer obstacles that you need to get rid of first? One way of finding out is simply starting and then dealing with obstacles as they arise. This is particularly advisable if you're prone to procrastination, so don't give yourself any excuses, get on with it!

The questions I invite you to work through this week are designed to help you figure out how to break down your goal into manageable steps. Few things in life can be accomplished from one moment to the next. Goals are complex, they have to do with change, they challenge the status quo, and they may even alter your personal relationships. What does the road to your goal look like? For example, if your goal is to learn a language, you may want to give yourself some time to figure out whether you'd prefer going to classes or doing a home-study course, you'd be well advised to set aside an hour or so on a daily basis for vocabulary training, grammar exercises, and perhaps invest in additional history and culture lessons to round off the experience. Immersing yourself even further by watching original movies without the subtitles, taking cooking classes of the region, and reading their most famous poetry are also options.

What I would ask you to do in the first instance is to brainstorm ideas of what you would need, who and what could help you reach your goal. As you may know, brainstorming means that you take note of every idea that pops into your head regardless of how wild and crazy it may appear - there is neither judgment nor censoring in brainstorming. I suggest to write the points down so your mind doesn't get a chance to wonder off too far into one direction, although some people have the ability to remember all the ideas they have. Personally, I'm not of them, I have to write things down or they're gone. Ready? Alright then, grab pen and paper, or open a new word-processing document, and start writing. If you get stuck, keep repeating the last thing you wrote down until another idea pops up - you have 8 minutes to find as many ways as possible to reach your goal. Go.

Done? Excellent. Now you take a deep breath and have a glass of water to rehydrate your brain and body. Let's take a look at all the wealth of ideas you came up with, and decide which ones you can realistically make work, and how. To continue with the language example, if you want to take additional classes to your home-study language course, the first step would be to decide which classes you want to take. Say history and culture. Where can you find out about what's on offer? Who can help you? You could ask your friends, or search the internet for educational institutes or evening classes at your city's college, or contact the embassies of the country whose language you're interested in. Maybe they also have a chamber of commerce or expatriate gatherings that you could join. Follow-up question: When are you going to go online / call the chamber / sign-up / send the necessary cheque? On a personal side-note, once you've learned the basics I recommend to try and find someone native to practice the language with, because you won't always learn how people actually speak through a book. Hey, if you have the resources - take a vacation! Travel! Broaden your horizon, even better. :-)

Once you figured out what the in-between steps for reaching your end-goal are, plan for them, think how long each step might take, which order they should come in, and add in some buffer times so you don't get stressed in case one bit or another takes longer than expected. Depending on how comfortable you are with detailed planning, you might want to get your organizer out (or calendar, or hand-held device, or blackberry, etc) and schedule certain time slots for your activities. Mondays 5.30 to 6.00 pm - vocabulary. Tuesdays 7.30 - 8.00 pm - grammar. Wednesdays 7.00 - 9.00 pm - meeting Jean-Luis and Françoise at La Madeleine for conversation. Thursday - night off! Going like this you could have the basics down in three to six months. Too long? Back to the brainstorming! More ideas, filtered out according to workability, put in order, and allot time. How about: buy audio CDs (next Saturday) to listen to in the car on the commute from work, subscribe to blogs or magazines (Sunday), and read for an additional hour every day. Is that realistic, or would "every other day" be more manageable?

This is probably where I've lost the more creative and free-spirited minds who don't like to be bogged down by conventional time-tables, who are used to working when they're inspired, be that last-minute-panic or simply less structured. I understand completely, so here are some questions that are useful to look at when trying to overcome any kind of obstacle:

  • Which resources do I need to work through the smaller as well as the bigger steps towards my goal?
  • Am I already using those resources, or similar variations, in other areas of my life?
  • Is this the first time I've encountered this problem?
  • How was I able to overcome similar obstacles in the past?
  • Do I know anyone who is successful in what I'm trying to accomplish?
  • How can I get in touch with them? WHEN will I do that?
  • Which support can my family and friends give me? WHEN will I ask for it?
  • What would I need to learn to deal with the steps and reach my goal? WHEN will I go out and buy that book?
  • How am I limiting myself, how am I standing in my own way?

Come back next week for more tips on how to reach your goals and make 2009 the best year yet. If you have any questions about goaling, find yourself stuck, or think there's another aspect I should have mentioned, please leave a comment and do not hesitate to contact me.

Til next time!

Thank you Mike for the cartoon!

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