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As expat numbers grow, what does it take to succeed abroad?

December 12th, 2011 2 comments

The BBC has two recent pieces on expatriate professionals, one here from Dec 5, the other here from Dec 11.

The latter article has a list of “Top three relocation tips“:

-Research language and red tape – especially visas
-Closely involve the family
-Keep a firm grip on the process – or have someone else do it

Some excerpts are below (my emphasis in bold).

What are your experiences as expats or potential expats? What are the most challenging issues for you? What are the greatest opportunities that expat life can offer?

5 December 2011 Last updated at 00:02 GMT
Exodus: Movement of rich people – a life at home abroad
By Rebecca Marston
Business reporter, BBC News

An Italian professor of maths moves from Rome to New York State, a lawyer moves from Sydney to Hong Kong after a spell in the Cayman Islands in between, a Portuguese executive moves from Mexico City to Bogota, a violinist leaves Serbia for the UK.

The movement of professional people on this scale was unimaginable 10 years ago.

The cross-border migration of highly-educated people from upper-middle income countries rose by 44% between 2000 and 2006, according to a recently published study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). In low income countries the cross-border movements also jumped significantly, by 28%.

Intra-company transfers in developed countries rose 39% between 2005 and 2008, and this does not include intra-company transfers within the European Economic Area, says OECD policy analyst Jonathan Chaloff, even though the scale of those “can be considerable”.

“What is clear is a trend towards an increase, albeit interrupted by the economic crisis,” says Mr Chaloff.

Multi-national companies and government organisations confirm that view….

….Some get a strong taste for the life, but for others it is fraught with pitfalls both practical and emotional; there is homesickness, or relationship breakup….

….One of the key mistakes companies make, he says, is to assume that someone who has successfully completed a project in one country will be able to do the same elsewhere: “Most people say you have to be resilient – I think its more than resilience.

“We would argue very strongly that having intelligence on this person, knowing how they tick would help immensely. Some of it is about what you know but that’s only part of it, its about your approach to it as well.

“You may think ‘this guy has done a good job delivering in this country – lets get him to do the same in India – he’ll be good at that’ – well, will he?”

But as globalisation and economic growth – where ever it may be found – continues, the experience of moving countries and continents is becoming better understood….

Many move for a better life and more money, although firms – and relocatees – report relocation packages are less generous than they typically were five years ago. This partly reflects that these days it’s not just the most senior executives that are moving. Amongst the number of middle-ranking professionals seeking a new life abroad is rising, but they are cheaper and may not be expected to stay as long.

Brookfield’s Scott Sullivan says there is a move to more flexibility: “Companies are attempting to leverage flexibility by offering what is really needed for an individual assignee… as opposed to a blanket policy with full entitlement to all provisions.”

Relocation itself is big business. Brookfield says relocation expenses for its business total $3.6bn a year….

And parts of the second article below…

11 December 2011 Last updated at 17:37 GMT
The new job that means relocating your life
By Rebecca Marston
Business reporter, BBC News

The world awaits professional skills but it takes a huge range of abilities to make the move to another country

“I often wonder why people don’t take the opportunity to move abroad more often – if you don’t like it you can always go back,” says Colin Smith, general counsel in Hong Kong for hedge fund managers Orchard Capital Partners Limited.

He’s one of a growing number of professionals to whom the location of a job is as important as the length of commute for most of us.

His qualifications as a corporate lawyer make him very portable.

“Banking and corporate legal professionals move quite a lot, what we do can essentially be done in any global financial centre. I have requested every move I’ve made myself.”

One of these moves was to Sydney, which he decided to leave for what might seem a contrary reason: “It was primarily my work-life balance.”

For a corporate lawyer, a 12-hour day is a short one. Perhaps the workload was too light.

Colin explains: “In Sydney, life was good. Every weekend was like a holiday. But, after five years it switched from every weekend being a holiday to almost every weekend in the office. Plus in comparative terms, it is very expensive. I decided to relocate again to find a better balance.”

That sort of moving around takes some organisation – something that many people would find far too daunting.

Check list
On top of the challenge of preparing for a new job, with a new office, in an alien location, there are visas to arrange, flights, accommodation, and shipping your goods – after you have decided what to take.

Colin says the most important thing to tackle is the visa: “That is the first issue, but if you’re moving with a company the firm works that out for you so you don’t have to worry about that.”

For these intra-company moves, there is often plenty of help, with the firm paying towards housing, flights, one month’s accommodation and the shipping of goods.

Even with that help from the firm, there are still other vital practicalities to be tackled.

“You have to find out who provides telephones, the internet, the best way to get to work.”

Most multi-nationals provide a check-list for staff moving, as well as the practical help. And there are relocation firms themselves to whom you can turn for advice….

The Euro-trip is still “a rite of passage”

I loved this BBC News look into interrailing around Europe (from a British perspective). I know that as a student in Angers, France from 2004 to 2005, and since then, I’ve been able to visit many countries in Europe. But the Angers year was more akin to backpacking with friends and staying in hostels. There is excitement, new discoveries, self-reflection, learning about new cultures and languages, accompanied by the occasional logistic problem, cultural barrier, perhaps pickpockets…but it’s all part of the adventure.

If you’re lucky enough to do it, go for it.

This particular article talks about the differences (modern technology, nicer hostels, the Euro…) that have changed backpacking today…but much remains the same. My favorite passage is below. What are your experiences in traveling Europe this way?

“…The essence of an interrailer is constant, Matthias Schwender, who runs an independent hostel in Prague, said to me.

“Someone who is independent-minded, that can connect to other people, that is culturally aware, wants to learn about new cultures and cities, they want to know where the locals go. They know the value of taking some time off in your life for travelling.”

Another interrailer, Titi, argued that you learn about Europe’s tumultuous history by being there, understanding what happened, rather than reading about it in books.

How French media is adapting to Web 2.0 name bans

The BBC has a short video report featuring interviews with French journalists about the recent ban on citing Facebook, Twitter, Google and other social network companies on air. This stems from a French law preventing the promotion of brands on news broadcasts.

So instead of saying “Follow France24 on Twitter and Facebook”, they will have to say “Follow France24 on our social network channels” or something of the like. Not a big change perhaps, but the debate is whether or not these companies have penetrated the social fabric of our culture so deeply that their names are cultural references first, brands second.

What do you think?

You can watch the video here.

Christine Lagarde elected head of IMF: American reaction

BBC/AFP: Christine Lagarde will start her five-year term at the IMF on 5 July

As former French Finance Minister has been named IMF head, effective July 5th, and François Baroin has been named her replacement, Le Figaro has an interesting article on Christine Lagarde from an American perspective, as well as a longer article into her path that lead her to Washington.

Meanwhile, she appeared in 2009 on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Check it out here.

French finance minister Christine Lagarde tapped for IMF job

In the wake of the DSK scandal (Dominique Strauss-Kahn), there is plenty of competition to replace him as IMF Director. French finance Minister Christine Lagarde is considered the favorite for the position, but there is debate whether or not a European should continue to be director (as has been the case since 1944, the founding of the IMF), or if an expert from an emerging economy should take the position. In any case, Lagarde just officially announced her candidacy for the position.

As is noted in the French press, the US is hesitating to give Lagarde its support since it might want to see an emerging economy director instead. The debate will continue.

She has vast experience, expertise, knowledge and was Chairman at a top firm (Baker & McKenzie) in the US, based in Chicago. She was even a guest in 2009 on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show. Watch here.

French economic growth highest since 2006

Good news for the French economy, at least relatively speaking. It grew by 1% during the first quarter of 2011, compared to the last quarter of 2010, “its fastest rate since the second quarter of 2006.” This in part due to a stronger manufacturing sector.

More from BBC:
“.,.All of the eurozone countries are due to report GDP figures on Friday. France’s economy minister Christine Lagarde said she was now “very confident that the (government) forecast of 2% growth for 2011 can be met”.She added that the manufacturing sector had been a particularly strong driver of growth in France.”

French 2012 election dates set

The French government has set presidential election dates for April 22nd and May 6, 2012 and parliamentary election dates for June 10 and June 17, 2012. French elections are traditionally held on Sundays over two rounds.

Right now it looks like the UMP candidate will be current President Nicolas Sarkozy, and polls indicate that the strongest Socialist Party candidate would be current IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Meanwhile, far-right FN candidate Marine Le Pen is fairing surprisingly well in polls, but most people think she will not be a serious contender for office.

More from BBC News below (BBC actually made a mistake, it’s May 6th, not May 5th).

You can also read more at Le Point.

11 May 2011 Last updated at 11:39 GMT
France sets 2012 presidential election dates

The two rounds of the 2012 French presidential election will be held on 22 April and 5 May, the government has announced in Paris.

A two-round parliamentary election will follow on 10 and 17 June, said government spokesman Francois Baroin.

Opinion polls suggest sitting President Nicolas Sarkozy would struggle against a strong Socialist contender.

The popularity of far right leader Marine Le Pen has alarmed other parties across the political spectrum.

Since Mr Sarkozy won the 2007 election by a convincing margin, the centre-right leader has had to grapple with public anger over his austerity policies.

While the Socialists have yet to pick their candidate, opinion polls suggest IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn would be their strongest choice.

French fighter jets enter Libyan air space

After the UN passed a resolution to protect the Libyan civilian population from government attacks (Libya background), with support for military intervention, French military jets are currently flying over Libya, near Benghazi. According to Figaro, there are five fighter jets preventing Libyan government forces from using airplanes to bomb civilians. Footage below from French news BFM TV. We will see how this develops.

UPDATE: 20 French aircraft are now participating, along with US and UK forces.

Japan nuclear risks and European worries about nuclear power

As BBC News reports, the current nuclear risks (and potential meltdown disaster) in Japan has brought public fears about nuclear power to the forefront of debate in several European countries, including France and Germany. Some political parties, including the Europe Ecologie, want to hold a referendum (public vote) on nuclear power in France.

Conservative daily Figaro has a poll on this issue, to which, at the time of publication, over 73% of French said there should NOT be a referendum on the issue. As the BBC highlights below, logistically speaking, it is nearly impossible to imagine France getting rid of its reliance on nuclear power, as 75% of its energy comes from it (with 19 nuclear plants and 58 reactors making it the 2nd biggest network after the US). Figaro also has an article about the risks of nuclear power.

French liberal, gauche daily Libération has an in-depth feature on this question, with a map of France’s nuclear installations that I’ve pasted below.

The French government has indeed said it wants to “learn lessons” from this case to optimize the security of France’s nuclear installations, which government officials assure have little risk.

What do YOU think?

BBC excerpts:

“…France gets 75% of its energy from nuclear power, exporting the excess and earning useful currency by so doing. In addition, some in government want to sell French reactors to emerging economies. Greenpeace immediately called for a reversal of this nuclear policy which France embraced in the 1970s after the “oil shock” when the price of oil jumped. The group Sortir du Nucleaire protested by the Eiffel Tower, unfurling banners saying “Nuclear is killing the future”.

Daniel Cohn-Bendit, who is a member of the European Parliament for the Green Party, told French radio that there should be a national referendum on the country’s dependence on nuclear power. “It begs the question of the need for civil nuclear power,” he said. “Is it not time to sound the alarm?” This is difficult for the government because France’s dependence is so great.

Paris transport system slowed down by snow, Eiffel Tower shut

December 8th, 2010 No comments

So after much of France was hit by significant amounts of snow (15 inches in Lyon, etc.), Paris is finally getting hit by some winter weather (very uncharacteristic for Paris in general, especially at this time of year). However it is not as bad, and total snowfall for the Paris region is predicted to be 5 to 6 inches maximum. But you can never be 100% sure. For the latest weather conditions, check out Méteo France’s map of weather warnings (you’ll see the weather warnings are not limited to Paris).

Right now the Paris RATP public transport system is experiencing significant delays, with the bus network “paralyzed” as crews clear the streets (they are not used to snow here). Metro lines 5, 6, 8, 9 and 13 are experiencing delays. RER A and B are having some technical problems as well. See their site for more information. You can also see for RER trains updated information on this site.

National railway operator SNCF has also warned of 30 minute delays or more for some TGV’s (high-speed trains). France24 reports on traffic delays due to weather and that the Eiffel Tower was shut down today.

For up-to-date air travel info, check with your airline. BBC says that Charles de Gaulle airport had temporarily stopped flights.
You can see some video here.

I know I walked to lunch today from my office, the snow was coming down quite hard and the streets had yet to be cleared. Good luck and try to enjoy the beauty of the snow!

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