The Challenges of Developing and Maintaining Friendships as an Expat

Building friendships as an expat
Making new friends and maintaining an established friendship is one of the biggest challenges for expats. But remember: there are other people looking for friends like you! Others who are also new to your location, hoping to make indelible impressions that will translate into long-lasting friendships; friendships that will evolve into late evenings, trying out new restaurants together, and sharing brunch on Saturday mornings.

Forming long-lasting bonds
Some people are lucky to form lasting bonds. Given that most expats are almost always in transit, though, friendship in the form of seeing the other often lasts only a short while. Some stay friends on social media while others find that certain friendships fizzle out, having served their purpose.

And then there are those who are brave enough to start a new friendship all over again with another friend or couple. They are in it to win. They believe that, somewhere out there, is the friend (or group of friends) that will be just the match they are looking for! They will go on long weekend trips together and sit around a bonfire while their children play together. They will share many memories and milestones. That is the goal after all, to create a “new family” abroad, and this is what real friends are.

The challenge for long-term expats
We can all agree that one of the worst parts of being an expat is having to regularly say goodbye to friends. Either they are leaving, or you’re leaving, or both!

It is no easy task saying goodbye over and over again. It sometimes makes you wonder what the point is of investing in friendships when you know that one of you will move in a couple of years. This creates a sense of the temporary, of less stability. Friends come, you invest in them, then they leave and you may feel lonely in a host country which seems so familiar but is without real friends to enjoy it. Some long-term expats admit that they will always ask how long the other person will stay and, if the answer is a year or less, they distance themselves. They get detached to protect themselves from another painful goodbye.

Don’t let fear rule
Can you really limit who you like and want to spend time with? How can you stop yourself when you are attracted to a person’s friendship? Why lose an opportunity for friendship because of fear or a past experience? Perhaps it can help to approach this from a different perspective: because your time together may be limited, you know to enjoy the friendship to the fullest and make the most out of it.

What about the locals?
Here is another solution for having meaningful friendships as long-term expats: make friends with locals. Mingle with them, learn about the local culture and the language. Moreover, there is a bigger chance that the friendship will last longer as they are less likely to move away. Of course, nobody can guarantee that that your time together will be infinite.

Real friendships last a lifetime
Friends do not always have to be together to remain friends. Good friends may be separated for years, but when they meet again, they feel as close to each other as they used to. Real friendships last forever. And even though your friends might get busy with their own families, love life or work, all it will take is a little message or a reunion to rekindle all the happy memories and make new ones in the process.

For the long-term expats out there who have said goodbye countless times to their friends or who feel lonely because some of their best friends are a continent away, remember your friends in other places and know that the friendship and love are not gone! They are still there, perhaps in different times zones, but waiting for you to (re)connect or plan your next meet-up.

Remember: having to say goodbye to your friends is one of the worst things of being an expat, but saying hello to them again is just about the best thing!

Don’t let yourself be discouraged
Having a strong friendship is one of most beautiful parts of life and aspects of us being human: laughing out loud, going out for movies, singing songs, making crazy plans about marriage, career and life.

To all the expats out there sitting at home waiting for that Skype call, shorten the conversation on Skype, and get out.

Don’t be discouraged if your first evening at a social event doesn’t yield a Saturday spent at the beach with your newly found friends. Attend the next meeting, and the next one. Eventually, bonds will form, and you will have your coveted long weekends or day at the beach with friends.

It takes time to build long-lasting friendships, and common experiences and values will lead you to this gift.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: Vivian Chiona (Expat Nest) [1], [2]. Image sources: Val Vesa [1], [2].

Relocation Africa Attending EuRA Munich 2019

Relocation Africa Director Rene Stegmann will be representing the company at EuRA’s 2019 International Relocation Congress in Munich. The conference will take place between 30 April and 3 May 2019.

The European Relocation Association (EuRA) is a professional industry body for relocation providers and affiliated services. As a non-profit organisation EuRA aims to promote the benefits of a professionally managed relocation to companies with globally mobile employees.

The 2019 EuRA International Relocation Congress will take place in the stunning Bavarian capital Munich. This ancient city is a centre of commerce and manufacturing and is currently ranked number 4 in Mercers Most Liveable Cities index.

The 2019 Conference theme is “Celebrate the Future | Opportunity Defined”. EuRA aims to move away from the VUCA paradigm and concentrate on the opportunities that change can bring. Each year EuRA works hard to deliver exceptional learning and networking opportunities and 2019 will be no different. A program of training, breakout and plenary sessions and keynote speakers has been planned. The primary venue is the Hilton Munich Park, set in the Englischer Garten – a pleasant 20 minute away from the city.

Tickets for the conference have sold out, and non-delegate sponsorships are full. The conference will also feature a Gala Dinner in the Paulaner Brauhaus, one of the great Munich Bier Kellers.

For an overview of the conference program, click here. For a list of sponsors, click here.

To arrange to meet with Rene during the conference period, kindly send a mail to marketing@relocationafrica.com.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].

What Makes a Good Traveler?

Traveling can be a busy, stressful experience. There are a lot of things one can do to make the experience more enjoyable, but it’s not just about looking after yourself. It’s also about taking your fellow travelers into account. Below is a list, compiled by Kristin Newman and posted on Joburg Expat, about a few things that could make you a better traveler, and by extension, a better expat.

What Makes a Good Traveler?

  1. You are open. You say yes to what comes your way, whether it’s a foreign food you’ve never tried, or an adrenaline-inducing experience you’ve never considered taking part in. You say yes because it is the only way to really experience another place, and let it change you. This is the mark of a great trip.
  2. You venture to the places where the tourists aren’t, in addition to hitting the “must-sees.” There are many lesser-known sights, that can provide a more personal, relaxing, and less tourist-oriented experience that may be much more memorable. Or at least provide some photos that aren’t full of other visitors.
  3. You are easygoing about sleeping/ eating/ comfort issues. You don’t change rooms three times, you’ll take an overnight bus if you must, you can go without meat in India, etc. Sometimes during travel, there are compromises to be made. After all, it’s not as though most people set out to travel so that they can have the same experiences they have at home.
  4. You are aware of your travel companions, and of not being contrary to their desires/ needs/ schedules more often than necessary. If you find that you want to do things differently than your companions, you happily tell them to go on without you in a way that does not sound like you’re saying, “This is a test.” And it’s perfectly fine to split up, do different things, and meet back up again later.
  5. You can figure it out. How to read a map, how to order when you can’t read the menu, how to find a bathroom, or a train, or a castle. Modern technology makes this much easier these days.
  6. You know what the trip is going to cost, and can afford it. If you can’t afford the trip, don’t go. If you do it, you might as well do it properly. Conversely, if your travel companion can’t afford what you can afford, you are willing to slum it in the name of camaraderie.
  7. You are aware of cultural differences, and go out of your way to blend. This includes things like greetings and dress codes. Basically, just be aware of what the culturally-accepted norm is, and acknowledge that you need to respect the practices/traditions of the place you’re visiting or moving to. Not everyone does things the way you do, and that’s what makes the world beautifully diverse. Think of these situations as learning opportunities.
  8. You are polite when dealing with local hotel clerks/ train operators/ tour guides etc. This can go a long way towards a more enjoyable trip.
  9. You are able to go with the flow in a spontaneous, non-uptight way if you stumble into something amazing that will bump some plan off the day’s schedule. Missing one planned thing on your itinerary may allow for an even more enjoyable, unplanned activity.

There you have it. A few simple tips to ensure you have more enjoyable travels. For information about where your country’s international agreements allow you to travel visa-free, visit Arton’s 2019 Passport Index website, by clicking here.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: Joburg Expat [1], [2]. Image sources: Jay Dantinne [1], [2].

15 Destinations South Africans Can Visit Visa-Free in 2019

Residence and citizenship planning company, Henley & Partners, recently published its Passport Index for 2019. With its citizens enjoying visa-free access to 101 countries in total, South Africa is the third highest African country on the index.

The number of counties is down from 102 in 2018, with South Africans now requiring a visa to enter Turkey – although this can be done through a simple online process designed to issue your visa within 48 hours.

Below are 11 countries South Africans can travel to visa-free right now.

1: Panama (Visa-free for 180 days)

Panama is a country on the isthmus linking Central and South America. The Panama Canal, a famous feat of human engineering, cuts through its center, linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans to create an essential shipping route. In the capital, Panama City, modern skyscrapers, casinos and nightclubs contrast with colonial buildings in the Casco Viejo district and the rainforest of Natural Metropolitan Park.

2: Peru (Visa-free for 180 days)

Peru is a country in South America that’s home to a section of Amazon rainforest and Machu Picchu, an ancient Incan city high in the Andes mountains. The region around Machu Picchu, including the Sacred Valley, Inca Trail and colonial city of Cusco, is rich in archaeological sites. On Peru’s arid Pacific coast is Lima, the capital, with a preserved colonial center and important collections of pre-Columbian art.

3: Philippines (Visa-free for 30 days)

The Philippines is a Southeast Asian country in the Western Pacific, comprising more than 7,000 islands. Its capital, Manila, is famous for its waterfront promenade and centuries-old Chinatown, Binondo. Intramuros, a walled city in colonial times, is the heart of Old Manila. It’s home to the baroque 17th-century San Agustin Church as well as Fort Santiago, a storied citadel and military prison.

4: South Korea (Visa-free for 30 days)

South Korea, an East Asian nation on the southern half of the Korean Peninsula, shares one of the world’s most heavily militarized borders with North Korea. It’s equally known for its green, hilly countryside dotted with cherry trees and centuries-old Buddhist temples, plus its coastal fishing villages, sub-tropical islands and high-tech cities such as Seoul, the capital.

5: Thailand (Visa-free for 30 days)

Thailand is a Southeast Asian country. It’s known for tropical beaches, opulent royal palaces, ancient ruins and ornate temples displaying figures of Buddha. In Bangkok, the capital, an ultramodern cityscape rises next to quiet canalside communities and the iconic temples of Wat Arun, Wat Pho and the Emerald Buddha Temple (Wat Phra Kaew). Nearby beach resorts include bustling Pattaya and fashionable Hua Hin.

6: Macau (Visa-free for 30 days)

Macau is an autonomous region on the south coast of China, across the Pearl River Delta from Hong Kong. A Portuguese territory until 1999, it reflects a mix of cultural influences. Its giant casinos and malls on the Cotai Strip, which joins the islands of Taipa and Coloane, have earned it the nickname, “Las Vegas of Asia.” One of its more striking landmarks is the tall Macau Tower, with sweeping city views.

7: Hong Kong (Visa free for 30 days)

Hong Kong is an autonomous territory, and former British colony, in southeastern China. Its vibrant, densely populated urban centre is a major port and global financial hub with a skyscraper-studded skyline. Central (the business district) features architectural landmarks like I.M. Pei’s Bank of China Tower. Hong Kong is also a major shopping destination, famed for bespoke tailors and Temple Street Night Market.

8: Fiji (Visa-free for 120 days)

Fiji, a country in the South Pacific, is an archipelago of more than 300 islands. It’s famed for rugged landscapes, palm-lined beaches and coral reefs with clear lagoons. Its major islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, contain most of the population. Viti Levu is home to the capital, Suva, a port city with British colonial architecture. The Fiji Museum, in the Victorian-era Thurston Gardens, has ethnographic exhibits.

9: Chile (Visa-free for 90 days)

Chile is a long, narrow country stretching along South America’s western edge, with more than 6,000km of Pacific Ocean coastline. Santiago, its capital, sits in a valley surrounded by the Andes and Chilean Coast Range mountains. The city’s palm-lined Plaza de Armas contains the neoclassical cathedral and the National History Museum. The massive Parque Metropolitano offers swimming pools, a botanical garden and zoo.

10: Belize (Visa-free)

 

Belize is a nation on the eastern coast of Central America, with Caribbean Sea shorelines to the east and dense jungle to the west. Offshore, the massive Belize Barrier Reef, dotted with hundreds of low-lying islands called cayes, hosts rich marine life. Belize’s jungle areas are home to Mayan ruins like Caracol, renowned for its towering pyramid; lagoon-side Lamanai; and Altun Ha, just outside Belize City.

11: Bahamas (Visa-free for 90 days)

The Bahamas is a coral-based archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean. Its 700-plus islands and cays range from uninhabited to packed with resorts. The northernmost, Grand Bahama, and Paradise Island, home to many large-scale hotels, are among the best known. Scuba diving and snorkeling sites include the massive Andros Barrier Reef, Thunderball Grotto (used in James Bond films) and the black-coral gardens off Bimini.

12: Indonesia (Visa-free for 30 days)

Indonesia, a Southeast Asian nation made up of thousands of volcanic islands, is home to hundreds of ethnic groups speaking many different languages. It’s known for beaches, volcanoes, Komodo dragons and jungles sheltering elephants, orangutans and tigers. On the island of Java lies Indonesia’s vibrant, sprawling capital, Jakarta, and the city of Yogyakarta, known for gamelan music and traditional puppetry.

13: Ireland (Visa-free for 90 days)

The Republic of Ireland occupies most of the island of Ireland, off the coast of England and Wales. Its capital, Dublin, is the birthplace of writers like Oscar Wilde, and home of Guinness beer. The 9th-century Book of Kells and other illustrated manuscripts are on show in Dublin’s Trinity College Library. Dubbed the “Emerald Isle” for its lush landscape, the country is dotted with castles like medieval Cahir Castle.

14: Singapore (Visa-free for 30 days)

Singapore, an island city-state off southern Malaysia, is a global financial center with a tropical climate and multicultural population. Popular attractions include Gardens by the Bay, Universal Studios Singapore, Chinatown, the Singapore Zoo, the Merlion statue, Clarke Quay, and the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

15: Argentina (Visa-free for 90 days)

Argentina is a massive South American nation with terrain encompassing Andes mountains, glacial lakes and Pampas grassland, the traditional grazing ground of its famed beef cattle. The country is famous for tango dance and music. Its big, cosmopolitan capital, Buenos Aires, is centered on the Plaza de Mayo, lined with stately 19th-century buildings including Casa Rosada, the iconic, balconied presidential palace.

 

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: Octavio Fossatti [1], [2], Cahal Pech Village Resort [3], Florian Wehde [4], Dennis Rochel [5], Fancycrave [6], Leighton Smith [7], Sander Crombach [8].

10 Fitness Tips for Expats in a New Country

After making a big move to another country, keeping up a fitness routine can linger near the bottom of your priorities as an expat. Read on for expert advice for expats on how to stay healthy and fit while living abroad.

Moving to a new country can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but dealing with the stresses of a move and adjusting to a new culture can be overwhelming, not to mention the added pressures of juggling a demanding job and a family life. Kick-starting an exercise regime can be a fantastic way to not only improve your physical and mental health, but meet new people and help you discover your new home.

While gyms are easy to find in cities and towns all over the globe, they aren’t necessarily for everyone. Whether you’re a casual jogger, a weekend warrior or a competitive athlete, physical activity can provide a much-needed boost and transform the place you live into your fitness playground.

With the help of expat bloggers who’ve been there and done that, along with expert advice from a counselor specializing in expat issues and a personal trainer, we’ve curated some helpful tips to help you keep fit anywhere in the world. So lace up your trainers, warm-up, and get ready to explore your new country with our suggestions for ten ways to get fit in a new country.

1. Find your feet
With so much to think about after a big move, the beginning can be the most stressful period. “Keeping a healthy lifestyle can be challenging, even for people who aren’t expats, so it’s natural that it can be particularly tough if you’re settling in a new country,” say Agness and Cez, best friends who run fitness travel blog Fit Travelling alongside another travel blog, eTramping. “There are so many new things to adapt to: cuisine, culture, interactions and relationships, accommodation, climate and much more.”

Agness and Cez share their passion for keeping fit and maintaining a healthy lifestyle while travelling, and write destination-based fitness guides to inspire and inform about ways of keeping fit in locations around the world.

“Once you arrive at your new destination and arrange your accommodation, legal documents, bills and work, you simply might not have the time or energy to work out and eat healthy at first,” they explain, and it’s OK not to expect too much of yourself when you first get your bearings.

“Many people often have a stressful time setting up everything, which requires much time and energy. It’s a new environment, so give yourself time to work out what’s best for your situation and establish a healthy routine.”

2. Establish your routine
Moving to a new country inevitably brings a big change in your usual routines. Take advantage of the transition, as this time can actually be a perfect opportunity to turn a new leaf and implement healthier habits through a fitness routine alongside your new lifestyle. “Create a daily routine that will help you become your personal best,” says Vivian Chiona, founder and director of Expat Nest, which provides emotional support to expat fitness tips for travelers and their families through online counselling services. “Exercise will boost your self-confidence in multiple ways: you will feel better in your skin and gain a ‘can-do’ attitude by challenging yourself to sweat a little more every day. Exercise can also help to sharpen your memory; indeed, a healthy mind resides in a healthy body.”

As a bi-cultural and multilingual expat herself, Vivian created Expat Nest’s e-counselling service as a way of offering counselling without borders to expats globally. “While going for a walk once a week is much better for your body and mind than not going for one at all, for most optimal outcomes to result, physical activity should be regular,” Vivian says. “It can be hard to break out of our cycle of habits, but try to think of ways to exercise that bring you joy. Do you enjoy spending time with your dog, or love chatting away with friends? Try to incorporate these elements into your routine. Do what works for you personally.”

3. Get social
“Finding a new skill or hobby to take up, whether it’s a sport, language or art, can offer you a sense of achievement and can boost your confidence,” says Vivian. “Join dancing classes or (re)start a hobby. It helps you build social networks and is a fun way to get to know people.”

Getting involved in organised or informal sports and fitness groups can be a great way to meet like-minded people in a new place, while also improving your health. Meetup.com is a free and easy way to find sociable get-togethers based around a diverse range of interest categories, including sports and well-being. So if you’re looking for some hiking buddies, yoga classes or a kick-around, browse the local listed events or create one yourself on Meetup.com.

4. Fitness for free
“If you think you need a gym to stay fit, you’re wrong,” say self-proclaimed fitness and travel enthusiasts Agness and Cez. “There are countless ways to keep fit outside of a gym. For example, think about starting a body-weight training routine, which has the benefit of saving you a lot of time and money.”

Governments and local authorities in many countries are finding different and new ways to promote easily-accessible fitness to its residents. One of the most widespread and successful ideas has been the 4,100 Calisthenics outdoor workout spots which have been installed in parks, inner-cities, green spaces and beaches across the globe.

From full outdoor cardio equipment to pull-up bars and parallel bars, outdoor gyms and Calisthenics spots are a free way to exercise 24/7. You can easily search for workout spots by specific equipment or by location on their website.

5. Earn your rewards
It can be tough to stick to a healthy routine, particularly if you are an expat in a city with tempting restaurants and nightlife around every corner. “We can be enticed by it all,” says Omar Al Duri, an award-winning personal trainer, football coach and nutritionist in the United Arab Emirates.

“Although striking the right balance is important,” he adds. Having helped Ghana’s under-20 national football team reach the Youth World Cup and advocating for healthier school lunches with his passion for children’s nutrition, the British native has worked with communities, athletes and celebrities around the world.

Omar advises using foodie treats in a positive way as your motivation to work towards, however you choose to exercise, ensuring you feel good and guilt-free about your little indulgences. “Map out your week ahead so that you can earn the treat,” he suggests. “Whether that’s a special outing or a cheat meal you’re really craving.”

6. Take care of you
Self-care is vital through stressful periods, and Vivian advises you not to forget to take care of yourself and your vital needs. “Try to make your daily activity choices carefully, as they can have a great impact on the way you feel physically and emotionally,” she says. “It is really important to try and keep a balance in your sleep and nutrition when moving to a new country. Try to meditate, or try a breathing exercise after a workout session.”

Agness and Cez add: “The life of an expat can be pretty challenging at the beginning, but try to keep your mindset positive and use organisation as a tool. When cooking, for example, prepare healthy meals you want to eat in advance for maximum efficiency, freeing up time to establish your new fitness routine throughout the week.”

7. Join in
“To lead a healthy lifestyle where you can reach your potential, aim to develop discipline and stay motivated until you achieve your goals,” say Agness and Cez. “That goes hand in hand with a healthy lifestyle as it will lead to higher energy levels, which will keep you motivated and feeling more positive.”

A good goal to aim for is to participate in regular fitness events such as parkrun, which are free weekly 5k runs in unique locations all over the world. The local volunteer-organised aspect means you’ll feel part of the community in no time, and get to know people while you exercise.

After registering once, you can run in any parkrun event across the world, making it perfect for frequent travelers. Keep adding up your runs from different events in order to reach milestones, and when you’ve completed each run, track your progress on the app or website to see your position compared to other runners, your exact time and other data. Spark some friendly competition as well as working on improving your personal best every time you run.

“Joining communities is now easy to do once you find something that interests you,” adds Omar. “There are some really cool teachers and instructors all over the world who are truly passionate about what they do. They encourage and motivate people to get active and have fun. Take advantage of any good weather and get out!”

8. Explore feet first
It’s been said that walking is the most ancient exercise and still the best modern exercise. A hike in the fresh air can boost your mood and give you a good workout, as well as giving you an opportunity to explore your expat country. Maybe you’re surrounded by interesting landscapes, beautiful spaces or great walks which you haven’t yet discovered.

Walking is also an entirely versatile exercise, meaning you can tailor your hikes, strolls or power-walks to exactly the level or time that suits you, and work your way to harder trails gradually. “Physical health can boost mental well-being and vice versa,” says Vivian. “When you achieve an improvement in physical health, then you have a positive influence on your mental well-being too.” So find a trail to suit your level and grab your walking boots.

9. Pedal push
Getting around by bicycle is a healthier alternative to the daily commute, and is fast becoming more recognized by local authorities as an active and cost-effective method of inner-city travel for residents.

More and more government-funded bike-sharing schemes are popping up in cities globally, and chances are that if you live in a big city, there’ll be an efficient scheme for renting bikes near you.

London, Paris, Barcelona, Shanghai and New York City are just a few cities in which you can easily pick up and drop off one of thousands of bikes at different bicycle stations, with some cities even offering free time slots as an incentive.

10. Talk about it
In addition to the significant physical health benefits, adopting a physical activity routine can positively impact your mental well-being, reducing the symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress through inducing chemical chain reactions in your brain and body. The sudden loss of a support system, loneliness and culture shock can enhance the feelings of isolation that many expats experience, regardless of where they have relocated from or to. Out of the 300 million people around the world who suffer from depression (World Health Organisation), a study has shown that expats are over twice as likely to experience anxiety and depression than the general population.

If you’re struggling to motivate yourself and feel like you need someone to talk to, don’t hesitate to seek further help. Above all, don’t be too hard on yourself: adjusting to a new life can be difficult. “When you keep your mind in a good shape, then you will also feel the need to improve your physical state,” says Vivian. Although she warns: “There may be challenges in accessing support, for example language barriers, cultural differences and lack of specialized mental health services for internationals, but see what options are being offered in your local community and online. Of course nowadays, with online counselling, these barriers are easily overcome – that’s why we love what we do and can help people all over the globe.”

“In counselling, we help clients learn how to manage their emotions,” she says. “We offer them a safe place to express their thoughts and feelings so they find solutions that are right for them so they can move forward.” If you’d prefer to speak to someone face to face, the international therapist directory is an online directory of suitably qualified and experienced therapists in different countries, so no matter where you are in the world, there’s always someone to talk to.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: Vivian Chiona (Expat Nest) via Expat Assure [1], [2]. Image sources: Victor Xok [1], Sara Dubler [2], Mike Bowman  [3], Aaron Benson [4].