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CNN profiles benefits of Lyon over Paris

I love Paris and Lyon, having lived in both cities. I know the advantages and disadvantages that come with everyday living there. Paris retains an aura of excitement for some, but Lyon certainly has a lot to offer in terms of quality of life for French and expats, on a smaller scale. Lyon remains relatively unknown, though, compared to its big brother Paris.

Which is why I’m glad to see CNN recently publish a profile of the city and its advantages.

You can read the article here, titled “8 ways Lyon outshines Paris”. Be sure to scroll through the images and captions as well as the article itself. I personally think Notre Dame de Paris is more impressive (at least in history) than the one in Lyon, but besides that I agree that there is a lot to discover in Lyon.

What do you think of Lyon?

Lyon CNN

Seven Habits of Highly Effective Expats

I saw this really interesting post on Expatica France, written by Maria Foley. You should check out her blog I was an Expat Wife. I think #5 and #6 particularly resonate with me. Since my re-entry into the US since September 2012, I realize increasingly that I’m a better person for having lived abroad several years in France. It has prepared me well for many things.

What other habits do you find helpful in adapting to and succeeding at expatriate life?

I was an expat wife: The 7 habits of highly effective expats
Maria Foley takes a look at effective habits that make expats cope with integration into a new life and culture when moving abroad.

On Monday I presented my interpretation of Stephen Covey’s seven habits as seen through the lens of expatriation. Today all I’m borrowing from Mr. Covey is that iconic title. Here, then, are seven of the habits cultivated by highly effective expats:

1. They prepare: They take the time to study the new culture before they get on the plane, and get a head start on learning the local language. Either by reading, talking to other expats, or taking cross-cultural training, they develop an understanding of culture shock, learn how to recognise its symptoms and how to manage them. They’re then able to form realistic expectations of what lies ahead.

2. They introspect: They examine their own values, strengths and weaknesses. They gauge their tolerance for ambiguity, take stock of their resiliency reserves, and assess their patience levels. The work they did above shows them what’s coming; the work they do here shows them how they’ll respond to it.

3. They keep an open mind: They accept that things will be different and that constant comparisons to their home culture is counterproductive. They peel back the layers of their preconceived notions and stereotypes until there’s nothing left. They resist judgment. They don’t automatically blame everything that goes wrong on the country or its people.

4. They connect: They establish a strong in-country social support system of both expat and local friends. They nurture their family relationships. They keep in touch with loved ones back home, just not 24/7. They make a point of surrounding themselves with positive people, limiting exposure to the bitter and the bigoted expats.

5. They bend: They consciously adapt their behaviour to meet local norms. They’re flexible, but they know where to draw the line so they don’t compromise their values.

6. They take (reasonable) risks: They try new foods, activities, and experiences. They make mistakes and learn from them. They maintain a sense of curiosity and wonder that keeps them engaged in the here and now.

7. They keep a sense of perspective. Effective expats know that life has its ups and downs, no matter where you live. While they’re grateful for the chance to swim in a different pool, they know it comes at a cost. And yet they accept the downside as the price they pay for the richness and texture of expatriate life.

What can you add to my list of habits?

Maria Foley is a Canadian who lived and raised a family as an expat for many years. Aside from writing for Suite 101, Foley still writes about her expat life on her blog, I was an expat wife, and is currently working on a book about overcoming the challenges of repatriation. You can follow her on Twitter at @iwasanexpatwife.

Questions with Bupa International about expat issues, moving abroad

January 10th, 2014 No comments

Bonjour!

I will be enhancing my content this year to provide more insight about expat issues.

Bupa International is known for working with international expatriates, employers and families.

They were recently able to answer some of my questions below that are relevant to expat issues. Please see those questions and answers below (note British spelling at some points).

They also recently interviewed me on expat issues, and that article will be posted later.

In addition, I’d recommend checking out their free guide to moving to France, available on this page.

What issues have you seen develop for expat clients moving abroad for the first time? What kinds of information do expats seek?
Moving abroad for the first time can be both exciting and daunting, and the issues facing expats often depend on individual circumstances. Those who are taking their family with them, for instance, may have the added responsibility of finding suitable schools for their children, and so issues can sometimes relate to the standard of education and any potential language barriers they may face.

A recent study from the Daily Telegraph identified the most common issues people moving abroad requested information about. Unsurprisingly, issues such as tax, domicile and residence featured high on the list, as well as information regarding employment, visas and work permits. International health care and insurance is another important aspect of moving abroad, and one which it is crucial to read up on in order to find the best arrangement for you and your family. Many people also enquire about international money transfers and currency exchange, whilst information on the transfer of UK pensions and overseas pensions is also frequently requested.

How easy is it for expats to get coverage for their families while living abroad?
We understand that modern day life can often bring about quick changes, such as moving abroad due to work commitments. Whilst an individual may have personal health cover, it is crucial to ensure the entire family are protected by a suitable health policy. Because of this, we have made it easy to tailor your health cover during your policy, meaning additional family members can be included as and when required.

Does Bupa prefer to work directly with both international and local employers rather than freelance consultants?
We strive to work with local employers wherever possible, but depending on location it may sometimes be impossible to rely solely on local or international employers. Varying legislations around the world mean that some Partners or Brokers may be required in order to give us the coverage needed. Our focus is always on providing the best possible service.

Credits:
http://www.bupa-intl.com/

Expatstudy: Interesting Survey of Expatriation (deadline 2/28/14)

January 10th, 2014 No comments

Happy New Year to you all!

I can’t think of a better way to start 2014 right than by partaking in a very valuable and helpful survey of expatriation and international careers.

A researcher and her team in Germany are conducting this important study (more information below).

The full study website
Direct link to survey (which takes about 10 minutes)

Please submit your answers by February 28.
This will contribute to some great insights in this increasingly globalized world.
The results will be shared later this year.

Thank you!

Expatstudy is a research project by Hanna Sophie Simmons for the Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich tackling the question how expatriation influences career success. No existing research has ever sufficiently addressed this relationship and standpoints are very contradictory.

Expatriation and repatriation issues cannot be generalized worldwide, as immense differences in repatriation policies, the recruitment and selection of expatriate personnel, sense of loyalty between the employees and their company, international staffing policies, expatriate contract length, and a country’s volume of self-initiated expatriates exist. Thus, with organizations around the world having never implemented a uniform stance on expatriation, more conclusive research on the relationship of international assignments and repatriates’ career success is absolutely essential.

We need your support and EVERYONE is welcome!

Whether or not you have ever been on an expat assignment, IT DOESN’T MATTER, you CAN still participate. YOU are the key to helping make this study unique and successful.

Without research, there is no development. Without your participation in this survey, there will be less research. So please dedicate 10 minutes of your time and participate. Your effort will not go unnoticed and will be greatly appreciated.

Reflecting on different expat mentalities in France

December 4th, 2013 1 comment

Last week there was an interesting op-ed in the New York Times. It can be found here, and I’ve pasted the article below. It’s a reflection by expat author Pamela Druckerman on her experience living in France and how she has done well but also struggled to fully adapt to her adopted country and especially Paris.

She has some interesting insights and in particular outlines what she believes are the three main angles American expats in Paris usually take: “fantastists”, “denialists” and “authentic” experience searchers. (Bold face sentence below in article is my emphasis).

Personally I relate a bit more to the “authentic” searcher group.

What is your angle? Do you agree, and as an expat from a country besides the US – are there alternate approaches?

Contributing Op-Ed Writer
An American Neurotic in Paris
By PAMELA DRUCKERMAN
Published: November 27, 2013

PARIS — A few years back I took the ultimate expatriate plunge: I started doing psychotherapy in French. I figured that, as part of the deal, I’d get free one-on-one French lessons. And I hoped that if I revealed my innermost thoughts in French, I might finally feel like an ordinary Parisian — or at least like an ordinary Parisian neurotic.

I soon realized this was a doomed enterprise. Each week I’d manage to vaguely sketch out my feelings and describe the major characters in my life. But it was hard to free associate when I was worried about conjugating verbs correctly. Sometimes I’d just trail off, saying, “Never mind, everything’s fine.”

I’m aware that there are worse things to be than an American in Paris. You could be, for example, a Congolese in the Democratic Republic of Congo. But as I spend my 10th Thanksgiving here, permit me a moment of reflection. Because Thanksgiving prompts the question that expatriates everywhere face: Shouldn’t I be going home?

The Americans in Paris tend to fall into three categories. There are the fantasists — people nourished by Hemingway and Sartre, who are enthralled with the idea of living here. The moneyed version of this person lives as close as possible to the Eiffel Tower. The Bohemian version teaches English or tends bar, to finance his true vocation: being in France.

Then there are the denialists — often here for a spouse’s job — who cope with living in Paris by pretending they’re not in Paris. They tap into a parallel universe of Anglophone schools, babysitters and house painters, and get their French news from CNN.

Finally there are people like me, who study France and then describe it to the folks back home. We’re determined to have an “authentic” French experience. And yet, by mining every encounter for its anthropological significance, we keep our distance, too.

No matter how familiar Paris becomes, something always reminds me that I don’t belong. The other evening, as I chastised the lady who had cut in line at the supermarket, I realized she was grinning at me — amused by my accent. During conversations in French, I often have the sensation that someone is hitting my head. When surrounded by Parisians, I feel 40 percent fatter, and half as funny. Even my shrink eventually took pity and offered to do the sessions in English. (It turns out she’s fluent.)

The question of whether to stay is especially resonant for Americans in Paris, because many feel that they live here by accident. Not many foreigners move to Paris for their dream job. Many do it on a romantic whim. Expatriates often say that they came for six months, but ended up staying for 15 years. And no one is quite sure where the time went. It’s as if Paris is a vortex that lulls you with its hot croissants and grand boulevards. One morning, you wake up middle-aged — still speaking mediocre French.

I wasn’t sure how long I’d live here, but I did expect my stay to follow a certain expatriate narrative: You arrive; you struggle to understand the place; you finally crack the codes and are transformed; you triumphantly return home, with a halo of foreign wisdom and your stylish bilingual children in tow.

But 10 years on, I’ve gone way off that script. Those stylish children threaten to mutiny if I even mention the possibility of moving. I’ve got a French mortgage, and I’m on the French equivalent of the P.T.A. It’s like being a stranger in a very familiar land. I haven’t cracked the codes, but I no longer feel entirely out of sync: When the whole country goes into mourning after a beloved singer or actor dies, these days I actually know who the guy was.

Sometimes I yearn to be in a place where I don’t just know more or less what people are saying, but know exactly what they mean. But I’m no longer fully in sync with America either. Do people there really eat Cronuts, go on juice fasts and work at treadmill desks?

The thought of becoming an ordinary American again scares me. We expatriates don’t like to admit it, but being foreign makes us feel special. Just cooking pancakes on Sunday morning is an intercultural event. I imagine being back in the United States and falling in with a drone army of people who think and talk just like me — the same politics, the same references to summer camp and ’70s television.

But the fact is, those drones are my people. I end up gravitating toward them in Paris, too. The biggest lesson I’ve learned in 10 years is that I’m American to the core. It’s not just my urge to eat turkey in late November. It’s my certainty that I have an authentic self, which must be expressed. It’s being so averse to idleness that I multitask even when I’m having my head shrunk. And it’s my strange confidence that, whether I stay or go, everything will be fine.

Pamela Druckerman is the author of “Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting.

U.S. Embassy France important update for citizens

November 17th, 2013 No comments

I wanted to let my readers know that the U.S. Embassy in France recently posted this update regarding its citizen services in its offices outside of Paris. It will affect particularly those near the cities of Rennes, Bordeaux and Toulouse. Please visit their website for more information.

U.S. Embassy
Paris, France

Effective January 1, 2014, American Presence Posts (APPs) in Rennes, Bordeaux and Toulouse will no longer accept applications for U.S. passports and birth registrations, Social Security numbers or other federal benefits, or provide notarial services. After January 1, 2014 passport and birth registration applications and notarial services for U.S. citizens in those consular districts can be scheduled at either the U.S. Embassy in Paris or at the U.S. Consulate General in Marseille. Please contact the Federal Benefits Unit at the U.S. Embassy in Paris for information on applications for Social Security numbers and other federal benefits.

The U.S. Mission to France will schedule periodic visits by consular officers to provide routine services to American citizens in the districts of APP Rennes, Bordeaux and Toulouse. We will publicize these visits to citizens actively listed in our Smart Travelers Enrollment Program (STEP), so please ensure that you are signed up in order to receive notices about such services as well as other messages from the U.S. Government. U.S. citizens can enroll online at https://travelregistration.state.gov.

Cultural readjustment for an American returning from France

August 8th, 2013 1 comment

I wrote this piece in French for the French in Chicago newsletter, a shorter reflection of my feelings readjusting to life in the US after 5 years in France.

The piece can be read here and below.

It is obviously limited in scope by nature since it’s a concise opinion, and I tend to lean towards the optimist side by the end of it. The truth is that although I’m doing fairly well in Chicago now, it took a while to truly readjust to a new life here. France has had and will continue to have an indelible effect on my life. For the better.

Entre deux pays : Réajustement culturel aux Etats-Unis pour un américain
July 12th, 2013

Des amis partagent des bouteilles du vin, des baguettes et des plats, pendant qu’un mec joue de la guitare à côté. L’amitié autour d’un verre avec une belle vue un soir d’été près du Pont des Arts. Les sons des quais de la Seine rajoutent à l’atmosphère déjà électrique de Paris. On peut constater une énergie similaire au long des berges et sur les péniches du Rhône à Lyon. Pour ces deux villes, leurs rivières restent des endroits au cœur de chaque ville.

Chicago est une ville magnifique, diverse et offre des activités culturelles enrichissantes. Et pourtant, cet air magique manque à Chicago pour moi. Il n’est pas facile de trouver une explication pour ce sentiment. Peut-être parce que j’ai toujours un peu d’amertume ayant dû quitter la France après un problème de carte de séjour. Peut-être parce que j’ai beaucoup d’amis qui restent en France, et j’ai laissé un réseau construit pendant les années les plus formatrices de ma vie.

Je suis arrivé à Chicago en septembre 2012 après avoir passé les cinq années précédentes en France entre Lyon, Grenoble et Paris. Une partie essentielle de mon expérience était une relation sérieuse avec une Française qui était ma meilleure amie pendant près de 5 ans. Alors le choque de quitter une existence en France était rude. Mais je suis plus enrichi personnellement et professionnellement grâce à mes expériences en France.

Après quelques mois de transition à Chicago, je commence à me sentir bien dans mon travail et ma vie quotidienne. J’ai des racines familiales ici (en plus de Washington D.C.), et mon université (Notre Dame) est dotée d’un grand réseau de diplômés dans la ville.

J’ai aussi contacté plusieurs groupes francophones de Chicago dès mon arrivée, pour reconstruire un réseau et trouver des personnes qui comprendraient ma situation plus que l’américain moyen du Midwest. Ma participation avec des structures telles que French in Chicago, le Consulat de France, UbiFrance, GPF, FACC, UFEC, Campus France et l’Alliance Française m’aide à garder mon lien culturel et linguistique avec la France.

Je joue également dans un groupe de jazz parisien (le groupe KEOPS) et nous jouerons pour la Fête du 14 juillet à Chicago.

Même si la France et mes amis me manquent, c’est aussi un plaisir de redécouvrir mon pays natal avec une perspective plus internationale. Je suis content de faire partie de French in Chicago !

Michael Barrett

Increase in expat positions globally

As published on Expatica, Mercer’s Worldwide International Assignments Policies and Practices report (WIAPP) found that “Over 70 percent of companies expect to increase short-term assignments in 2013.” Very interesting article and report.

Excerpts below. For full article, click on Expatica link above.
If you’re an expat abroad, how long has your assignment been?
If you’re a prospective expat, how many years would you be comfortable living abroad?

(full disclosure: this is not an ad for Mercer).

The report showed that 55 percent of companies expect to increase long-term assignments and highlighted that, for the last two years, there has been an increase in the overall number of international assignments. The report found that China, United States, Brazil, United Kingdom and Australia are the priority destinations in their respective regions for expatriates.

Mercer’s Worldwide International Assignments Policies and Practices report (WIAPP) also found that more than half of companies reported an increase of long-term (52 percent) and short-term assignments (53 percent) in 2011 and 2010. The WIAPP report presents the latest trends in international assignment programme management, policies, and practices data.

Anne Rossier-Renaud, principal in Mercer’s global mobility business said, “International assignments have become diverse in order to meet evolving business and global workforce needs. Relatively low pay increases in some regions, and pressure on companies to attract and retain talent, have spurred many to embrace a wider range of global mobility strategies to incentivise high performers. Mobility and HR directors now face great complexity in the number and type of international assignments that need managing.”

According to Mercer, the top five reasons cited for international assignment programmes are; to provide specific technical skills not available locally (47 percent), to provide career management/leadership development (43 percent), to ensure knowledge transfer (41 percent), to fulfil specific project needs (39 percent), and to provide specific managerial skills not available locally (38 percent). Close to half of North American (45 percent) and European (46 percent) companies indicate career management/leadership development as one of the main reasons they have international assignments. In the future, worldwide, 62 percent of participants anticipate an increase in the number of technical-related short-term assignments, 55 percent anticipate an increase in talent development assignments, and half anticipate an increase in key strategic assignments.

US Tax deadline April 15, and June 17 for US expats abroad

Just a friendly reminder that the April 15th tax deadline is fast approaching with our friends at the IRS. Americans living abroad have until June 17th to file their returns, but still any taxes owed to the US government that are outstanding must be paid by April 15th.

For those in France, the US Embassy Paris has a page dedicated to taxation resources, including many links to IRS and forms (like the 2555-EZ form for Foreign Earned Income Tax Exclusion). As the article stipulates, if you’re American and work and reside outside the US, you may be able to exclude up to $95,100 USD annually in foreign income. Check out the links above for further information.

AARO has some views on taxation of Americans abroad, worth the read.

American Clubs in France: a great resource for events

December 17th, 2012 No comments

Bonjour everyone,

I’ve posted in the past about the American Clubs newsletter. It is not just for Americans but more of a resource for expats and French citizens alike to know what’s going on around in France in terms of networking with like-minded individuals in dozens of cities.

I encourage you to sign up for their newsletter (icon on right here to sign up under “Contact Us/Newsletter).

You should also be able to see the latest newsletter edition, for events all over France, here.

Happy networking!

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