As we posted earlier this week, ExpatExchange is running a new report that examines Culture Shock. Please add your Expat Culture Shock Report, too!
Here is another excerpt from an expat in the Netherlands:
Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?
Prepare for it. Research it, plan for it, plan for it to put stress on you, your family, and your relationships, but also know that it will pass, and that there are resources available to help you through it if you need them.
Also, biggest learning for me: Don’t wait until the honeymoon phase is over to work on making friends and integrating. Learn the language immediately. Show up at ‘meet up’ groups and social gatherings immediately. Even if you don’t ‘want’ new friends now, you’ll need them, and the worst is when you need them and don’t have any, and have to start from scratch during a time when you could have had people to call on.
ExpatExchange has been running a new report that examines Culture Shock, one of the topics that all expats will become familiar with to some degree. Please add your Expat Culture Shock Report, too!
Did you “commit” any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you’d like to share them, please do tell!
I had very good handlers so I did not commit any big mistakes. But I saw others do so. One example came when we went out to dinner with a large group of friends and family. The man who invited us, American, wanted to split the bill at the end of the night. This is NEVER done in China. I told him this but he didn’t listen. He insisted that we calculate the bill at the table and came up with what he thought everyone should put in. From that day on he was branded a cheapskate and shunned by almost everyone. The word spreads quickly in China and in a few days all of the extended families and friends turned a cold shoulder to him in every way. In China the one who invites, or even suggests, going to a restaurant pays the entire bill, the wives of girlfriends will scrutinize it for any possible errors. It should be paid with no fanfare once the women OK the amount.
Separately, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are the leading destinations for expatriates in the Gulf Cooperation Council, according to GulfTalent.com, a recruiting firm that conducted the recent survey.
According to the article on Gulf-Times.com, Qatar is seeing the benefit due to its natural gas industry. The article points out that it’s deposits are the third largest in the world. Massive spending on infrastructure is cited as a key factor in Saudi Arabia.
A new survey conducted by NatWest and highlighted on Telegraph.co.uk suggests that the vast majority of British expats earn more and abroad and that the experience of moving overseas improved their quality of life:
They earn up to £20,000 more and the vast majority (87 per cent) believe their work-life balance is better.
And even more said living abroad exceeded their expectations – 92 per cent compared with 86 per cent in 2008, according to the a report conducted by NatWest.
Also, quality of life also generally seems to improve, although not everywhere. Further, increase of pay does not seem to have a relationship with quality of life:
And life abroad is not only about money – the highest reported earning countries (Singapore, UAE, China and Hong Kong) ranked bottom of the quality index, with the majority of expats in these areas planning to return home in the future (62, 67, 84 and 69 per cent respectively).
Americans living abroad can expect to feel the scrutiny of the IRS more than they have in the past. As this article from PRweb via Yahoo News points out, the deadline for expats is June 15th.
This quote provides the reasoning for this additional focus on expats:
“There is a hole of about USD 400 billion in the current US budget,””said David McKeegan, founder of Greenback Tax Services. “The Obama administration thinks that offshore tax abuse costs the US Treasury as much as USD 100 billion each year, and the President has authorized an additional USD 128 million for the 2010 IRS budget. Part of this money will be spent on 800 new IRS agents to try to track down who is filing and paying their taxes from abroad and who is not.”
And, separately, this CNN.com article volcano in Iceland threatens the European economy, which is obviously already under strain. Expats in Europe should be paying attention to how this might affect them.
An increasing number of U.S. citizens and green card holders overseas are taking the extreme step of renouncing their American citizenship due to tax hikes, among other reasons.
An Ohio-born entrepreneur, now based in Switzerland, told Dow Jones he is considering turning in his U.S. passport. Mounting U.S. tax and reporting requirements are making potential business partners hesitate to do business with him, he said.
“I still do dearly love the U.S., and renouncing my citizenship is not something I take lightly. But more and more it is seeming like being part of a dysfunctional family,” said the businessman, who asked that his name not be used for fear of retribution.
Last month, the Treasury Department announced more rigorous requirements for Americans living abroad to report information on foreign bank accounts. The reporting requirement has been in place for years, but only in the most recent couple of years has the IRS gotten tough about enforcing penalties.
The information return must be filed by any U.S. citizen or resident whose balance in all foreign accounts combined exceeds $10,000 at any time during the year. Stiff penalties, up to 50% of the annual account balance, punish failure to file.
It will be interesting to see what kind of comments we get on this topic. While expats often voice concerns about the direction of the U.S., renouncing their citizenship is not something we read about often on ExpatExchange.com. Leaving the U.S. to live due to political objections is something we’ve read about on our forums in the Clinton, Bush and now Obama administrations. This seems to be something altogether different.
Being caught amid political upheaval has to rank among the greatest fears of expatriates. The uncertainty involved in being in a foreign country and the long history of violence associated with political turmoil is simply not a comforting mix.
This article from Sun.co.uk about British expats caught in Bankok political violence captures some of the terror that can be involved with such an ordeal:
Brit holidaymaker Sarah Colvin got caught in the cross-fire.
“People started running and screaming,” the 19-year-old said. We were being shot at. It shook us up a lot. We needed Valium to sleep. A lot of people we’ve spoken to are getting out of here.”
This reality is no fun, and other nations, such as Kyrgyzstan, have also been in the news lately due to violence in the streets due to political unrest. This highlights the need to do all research and get as much training and advice as possible before moving overseas. It was not that long ago that this taking place in Bankok would have been unthinkable.
Now that Prime Minister Gordon Brown has asked Queen Elizabeth to dissolve Parliament and called for a general election, British Expats are being urged to register and vote, as noted on Telegraph.co.uk, in numbers that exceed the paltry showing four years ago:
An estimated 2.5 million Britons live overseas and those that still own property in the UK or have lived abroad for less than 15 years are entitled to cast their vote in UK Parliamentary elections.
But in Spain alone, where upwards of 1 million British expats are thought have homes, only 18,000 bothered to register to vote in the last general election four years ago.
The registration deadline is April 20th for the May 6 election. British Citizens Living Abroad Register to Vote Here.
Americans Abroad Voter Registration
Americans that live abroad are also being encouraged to register to vote for the upcoming elections.
VoteFromAbroad.org is managed by Democrats Abroad, while Republicans Abroad offer the opportunity to register at Republicans Abroad Voting League. Registering at either obviously does not require you to vote for a specific party.
British expats continue to face the impact of a weak pound. These few paragraphs sum it up nicely:
It said people in Europe who received their incomes in sterling and then had to convert it into euros, were having to use a higher proportion of their money to meet their day-to-day living costs, leaving them with less cash to repay their debts.
Pensioners living abroad have been hit particularly hard by the weakness of sterling, as not only do their incomes tend to be fixed, but they also typically spend more of it on daily living expenses.
British expats and BBC Crimewatch have bagged another suspect in Spain. This time, an alleged child abuser was found in a bar in Malaga.