Rediscover Your Power and Joy Abroad: 3 Tips for Expat Partners

This article is courtesy of Vivian Chiona and Expat Nest.

What am I doing here?

Have you been wondering how it can be that everyone in your family has settled in abroad, school has begun again, and you feel left behind? Maybe you’re even doubting being in your new location. You wonder how you’ll ever make friends here, real friends, and do something other than playing taxi driver for your kids and making sure your family’s needs are taken care of.

You’re not alone.

Isolation, loneliness and worries about career are the main challenges faced by expat partners. Despite the perks, expat life is not a fairy tale. Tiredness of relatives, relationship troubles, stress, as well as not having a job, can be difficult to navigate at times. The latter is true particularly if you gave up your career for the relocation abroad – after all, our jobs are often a key part of our identity and give us structure, appreciation, results and often. sense of power. That is not easy to replace, especially as it takes time to build up a new life and new friendships abroad.

It is totally normal to feel unlike yourself abroad, while you are adapting to your surroundings. You’re out of your comfort zone! It is a process of rediscovering and recognizing the power you have inside, when the familiar signposts of life back home fall away. However, sometimes we fall into the trap of starting to think we are “useless”, or we compare everything to home.

3 Tips to Start Rediscovering Your Power and Joy Abroad

1. Give yourself permission to have fun
Sometimes when we don’t make money from a job, we might feel we don’t deserve to do nice things for ourselves. You might even feel guilty that your partner is working hard while you do “nothing” (which couldn’t be further from the truth, of course!). Give yourself permission to enjoy life and to feel valuable regardless of whether you have a job and make money or not.

2. Acknowledge yourself
Applaud yourself for the challenging steps you have taken and are still taking. It is no mean feat to move halfway across the world, to rebuild your life and that of your family, to navigate unknown territory, to learn a new language… Most people live their entire life within a 20-kilometer radius from the place they were born; you went much further. Being an expat partner/spouse is also hard work, and you have to shape your own life every day.Acknowledge yourself, not by feeling sorry for yourself, but by recognizing how far you’ve come and by trusting yourself to have the skills and power to make this work.

3. Do things you love
This one may take time to figure out. Maybe you never consciously thought about what gives you joy, about the moments and activities you truly love. Make a list – and include anything from buying a bunch of fresh flowers to brainstorming a new idea. Aim for a minimum of 50 things. Every day, do at least one thing from your “love list”.Go out and experiment with activities offered in your new location. When you do things you love, there’s also a good chance you’ll meet friends who share your interest and passions, and are aligned with who you are.

When you feel uncomfortable because you don’t earn an income, it is easy to forget that you are multi-talented and deserving of happiness. As you grow in confidence and remember that you are valuable, no matter what, you will also begin to see – and enjoy – new possibilities and opportunities within your life abroad.


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

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

Expat Story: Less is More

This article is courtesy of Vivian Chiona and Expat Nest.

Eight times – that’s the number of moves expat Linda Rinn had made in the past six years! If there’s one big life lesson she has learned through this process, it’s this…

“Like many expats, it sometimes feels like my life consists of moving… right now I’m on eight moves and counting! I don’t enjoy the process of moving, even if the end result is living in a great new country. Just the thought of putting every single thing I own, one by one into boxes, and then having to unpack each item again is daunting.

Right before my most recent move, however, I discovered something that might seem scary at first, but that helped me through the packing process and even saved me money: essentialism – the little helper that makes the expat’s life easier.

As opposed to minimalism, essentialism is all about owning the essentials, not owning as little as humanly possible. So please do not picture an empty white room! In this mindset, owning only the things that are essential to you means less clutter, less stress, less discontent, and fewer distractions. While I don’t consider myself an essentialist (not even close!), the idea is tremendously helpful to my expat life.

When you move a lot, owning less helps

No matter whether I am travelling for a weekend, or a few weeks, or relocating my whole life, packing only the essentials helps – physically, financially and mentally. If an item doesn’t serve a purpose or bring me joy, I don’t actually need it. And packing up and moving only the essentials will save me effort, time and money.

When we travel, we can go weeks with a lot less than we have at home. For me, it’s just one (big!) suitcase, and when I unpack it after a long trip, I am always amazed by the huge wardrobe full of all the extra clothes that I have just lived perfectly well without. Having some distance from my possessions makes me realize I really don’t need all the things I own. This always makes a big clear-out a lot easier! I just have to make sure I get to it immediately, before I become re-accustomed to having so many clothes.

As an expat, essentialism is both really easy and really hard

Because I move a lot, I automatically have many opportunities to purge the house. On the other hand, because I can’t see my friends and family very often, I tend to hold on to less useful material things that remind me of home.

Selling or donating non-essential possessions works really well for me before a big move, because (a) with a set deadline, I am motivated to get it all done on time, (b) it is easier to give a “mediocre” item away when I suddenly have to put a lot of time and effort into bringing it with me, and (c) I know for a fact that a major declutter after the move is never going to happen! I won’t find the time between adjusting to the new job and creating a new network. It’s now or never.

I still have a long way to go until I own only the essentials. But I’ve noticed that every little purge helps – even if I’m just going through one drawer. The process has been made a bit easier with books like Greg Mckeown’s Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, which remind me that letting go of excess things will benefit my mental and physical health… and leave me with more time for the important things in life.”


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

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

South Africa Holds Tax Equalization Payments Taxable

This information is  courtesy of Pete Scott, via WERC

In a case decided 6 September 2019, the Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa held that payments by an employer for consulting services to expatriate employees were taxable fringe benefits. The case is BMW South Africa v. Commissioner for the South African Revenue Service.

As is frequently done by companies with employees on expatriate assignments, BMW followed a tax equalization process designed to ensure that the employees are not tax disadvantaged from the assignment. In doing so, BMW hired big 4 consulting firms to assist the employees with tax matters, including registration as taxpayers, preparation and submission of income tax returns, review of annual income tax assessments, preparation and submission of provisional tax returns, and resolution of disputes with the tax authorities.

The South African Revenue Service (SARS) took the position that the payments made to the consultants were taxable fringe benefits to the employees. BMW argued that the services were in fact for its own benefit in order to ensure that South African taxes were neither overpaid nor underpaid and that employees did not run afoul of the tax authorities. It also argued that the employees did not receive a benefit because they had no choice but to accept the services, and that the employees were placed in a financially neutral position with respect to their taxes.

The court rejected these arguments, holding that ancillary benefit to the employer was not enough to remove a payment from treatment as a fringe benefit when the employees received services for which they would have had to pay significant amounts had BMW not provided them. Accordingly, the entire amount paid was taxable to the employees.

This position is similar to that taken by the United States Internal Revenue Service.

Employers with expatriate employees in South Africa must begin including in their incomes the value of tax equalization services provided to the employees, with consequent tax gross-up issues.

To view information about the case, click here.


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

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

Unpacking Tips to Help You Settle Easily

This article was written by Erin Strasen, and published by Vivian Chiona on Expat Nest.

You’ve done it – after weeks or months of preparation and planning, you’ve finally arrived on the other side! But now what? Although there’s a lot of helpful information out there, as well as services to help with packing, once you get to your new location, you’re pretty much on your own. Erin Strasen, an interior designer who specialises in helping expats bring simplicity and functionality to their homes, shares some unpacking tips so you can settle quicker into your new home.

Packing and actually getting to your new home is often the “easy” part of the process. There’s a formula. You know what to do. But no one offers guidance about how to deal with the stress after a move, because they assume the hard part is over. And even if you’re fortunate enough to have movers who will unpack for you on the other side, they usually just place items where there is space.

Here are some post-move tips to make your move a little less stressful.

1. Think before you unpack
Are you unpacking a box because you want to get it out of the way? Do you know where these items are going to live or are you just sick of looking at boxes? Taking a moment to be more strategic and intentional about where things go will help you in the long run. Rather than unpacking for the sake of unpacking, you’re making the best use of your time and avoiding unnecessary time spent rearranging or moving things around.

2. Imagine a blank slate
Many people set up their furniture in the same way they saw the previous tenant do it, or even in a similar way to their previous home, without thinking about their specific needs in this home. Do you want to be able to talk to your partner in the kitchen while you sip wine in the living room? Do you want a TV view or a window view? What’s the first thing you want to see when you wake up in the morning? Try to ignore past ideas about the space set-up and imagine your home as a blank slate. This helps you visualize yourself in the space and ensures that you’re placing things in a way that is personal to you. With this approach you’re more likely to be happy with the results in the long term.

3. Prioritize one space at a time
Moving is chaotic, and when you just unpack whatever box is next in the pile, nothing ever feels finished. It’s hard to feel like you’re making progress. Choose one room to focus on that can be your haven. Maybe it’s a bedroom, maybe it’s a living room… the idea is to create a calm place that you can escape to when you need a break; a space where you can take a much-needed coffee break and imagine what your home will look like when all the boxes are gone.

4. Keep a list to avoid distractions
Write down things that come up as you unpack that might distract you from the task
at hand. Whether this list is on your phone or a physical piece of paper, just make sure it’s in one place. Write down everything that comes to mind that you need to deal with later. This will free up some much needed brain space. Did you come across a broken item and you need to file a claim? Put it aside and write it down. Do you need to get nails for the artwork you just unpacked? Put them aside and write it down.

5. Break down boxes as you go
Imagine that feeling when you’re finished unpacking for the day. You let out a sigh of relief and then realize that you have a mountain of empty boxes in between you and your couch. Breaking down boxes as you go helps control the chaos and avoid that feeling of taking two steps forward and one step back.


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

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

Expat Story: Lessons from a Nomadic Childhood

Being born into a family of diplomats has both its pros and its cons, says expat Diana Predosanu. On the one hand is a great adventure, even a life of privilege. On the other hand, many families lack the support they need for the ongoing changes of this nomadic lifestyle. Here are some of the lessons Diana learned as a child ‘growing up between worlds’.

Lesson #1. As a child, leaving friends behind was hard, but making new friends was relatively ‘easy’
Leaving friends in my ‘home’ country to accompany my parents on their mission was never easy, but the excitement of taking a flight and moving to a new country usually outshone any doubts or fears.

I was nine years old when we moved to Brazil. I have memories of learning Portuguese at home and slowly becoming integrated at school. Unlike other diplomats’ children, I never joined the international schools, so every move, every country, came with the challenge of learning the local language and making friends with locals. Often, the only ‘different’ child in school was me. But I found the other children were open and friendly and, as I was quite resilient, I made friends easily in Brazil (and later in Colombia).

My basic approach was: learn the language, go to school, make new friends and keep in touch with friends back ‘home’ via letters.

Later I did my university studies in Australia. In this environment – where everyone is ‘new’ and part of a multicultural society – I found my place and was able to enjoy the melting pot of Sydney.

Lesson #2. Going back ‘home’ was more challenging than I ever imagined it would be
Going ‘home’ was hard, arguably harder than arriving in a new place. Leaving everything that had been built in those years and going back to a place that had changed, as a person who had changed too, was never easy. I was expected to belong, but I didn’t… not really, not anymore. The experiences abroad had filled my soul with other smells, colours, tastes. I rekindled childhood friendships, but found it hard, as a teenager, to make new friends at ‘home’.

Lesson #3. A heart in search of a home and yet ‘itchy feet’…
Growing up constantly moving from one country to another made me think that I would like to settle somewhere and build a home. But my reality has turned out to be so different! I continued to study abroad and I accepted jobs in different countries. I realise I feel the need to keep moving, to keep trying new destinations. Every place I go to, I feel that something is missing. My first reaction is to pack my bags and head somewhere else. I keep trying to find that one place that will feel like my home, a mix of the various experiences I’ve had. Time is passing and I am still looking…

Lesson #4. It’s never the same when you visit any of your adopted countries
In my experience, no matter how well we keep in touch with a place, or with people, things change. In 2012, I went back to Australia, hoping to ‘get back’ my life there and with it my friendships and habits. This turned out to be impossible. Although my friends welcomed me back, so much had changed. My friends were now adults, employed, married, with commitments… we were no longer students. I, on the other hand, was employed part-time and no longer had both my friends and my family in one place. Things had evolved and I couldn’t go back to how they had once been.

Lesson #5. Home is everywhere you’ve lived, and nowhere
(See Lesson #3!) I have called every country I have lived in ‘home’. I am proud to have adapted each time, as a chameleon blends in with its environment. But nowhere have I really belonged. In my ‘home’ country, I don’t feel quite at home – after all, I have lived abroad for more than half my life. I don’t speak the same as my local peers and I think differently to young people my age. In my adopted countries, I may have adapted, but I wasn’t born there, so I am not quite one of them either. Home really is everywhere and nowhere.


Author: Vivian Chiona (Expat Nest). Source: [1]. Image source: [1].

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