The other day I came across a video about the best places to live, work, or retire abroad. While this isn’t the first time that I have seen these types of lists or compilations, this video really caught my attention. I immediately started to think “is there a such thing?”.
I know that best locations exist for individual expats or retirees. However, is there truly such a thing as a best expat country for the average person? I started watching the video to determine what criteria was used to rank the countries that were on this list. Within the first few seconds the narrator indicated that the list was derived from data collected from an expat survey that’s conducted annually. I only watched enough of the video thereafter to see the top 3 ranked countries.
Afterwards I thought how misleading and misinformed these types of lists can be for the average person who is considering moving abroad. There are so many factors involved in choosing the right or “best” expat location for each individual. What appeals to one person may be the complete opposite for the next person.
Though I don’t feel that any harm was meant by the title or information presented in the video, I do think that prospective expats should focus more on what matters to them. Expats may be able to find their ideal country by exploring such lists. However, these oftentimes very short lists are in no way representative of the global population.
This is why I typically steer away from presenting the “best” type of anything posts. I even steer clear of these types of conversations during my coaching sessions. Instead, I help my clients focus on what’s important to them as an expat. I first have them complete a comprehensive expat profile survey so that I can gain a better understanding of their overall personality. Then, I have a 60 minute meeting with them so that we can discuss their survey results in more depth. Finally, I customize a list of expat countries that I feel are suitable to their needs and desires.
It is important to keep in mind that we are all individuals with different personalities that can and do shape what best meets our needs. Therefore, it is necessary to approach your expat journey with these objectives in mind. You should effectively “know thyself”. Take some inventory of your own likes and dislikes, and needs and desires. Then, focus on the countries that readily offer the things that are conductive to your wants and desires.
Need more help planning your expat journey? Contact us so that we can get you on the right track.
As a three-time loc wearer who recently cut my below-the-shoulder length locs in favor of an Afro, I have grappled with this question a number of times throughout my career. For me, my hair is more than something that sits on my head – it is statement of who I am. Yes, I have missed out on a few job opportunities because of my locs, but these situations did not deter my sense of self-determination none-the-less.
I know that I speak from a very privileged space as my educational background and experience have probably opened more doors for me than my hair has closed. Also, I worked in higher education when I first locked my hair. This is an occupational field that tends to embrace and promote culture and diversity more so than some other industries.
Likewise, I speak from a space of cultural-pride and strong familiar support. As an African American woman, I am very aware and proud of my cultural heritage. I also have very supportive immediate and extended family members who have always encouraged me throughout my natural hair and loc journey.
That being said, I know that everyone doesn’t have some of the same luxuries that I have had in terms of making a decision between my hairstyle and a prospective job. Conversely, I have heard many stories about individuals who had to cut or hide their locs in order to get and maintain employment. And I think that this is absolutely absurd and malicious on many levels.
But, the question is not about how I feel about the situation. The question is about what should be done when a job-seeker is presented with such a situation. And the answer is, “it depends”.
What Does Hair Mean to You?
Locs are generally ostracized in the workplace because they are deemed to be distracting. This is similar to someone wearing blue, purple, or orange hair color. Though, I disagree with this sentiment because locs are natural, cultural, and in some cases spiritual unlike these eccentric hair colors. Nevertheless if you conform to this viewpoint, you might want to consider cutting your locs in order to find gainful employment.
While many culturally-aware loc and other natural hair wearers tend to want to fight the cause, we have to keep in mind that locs are just a hairstyle for some people. Every loc-wearer of African heritage doesn’t have the same level of cultural or spiritual connection to their hair. In fact, a number of people opt for temporary loc extensions in order to experiment with the style rather than as a badge of cultural pride. In which case cutting your locs in exchange for gainful employment is okay once you are not violating your own principles.
On the other hand, if you value your locs as a significant part of your culture and heritage then you may want to continue to cultivate them. Not only will you be able to maintain your sense of cultural pride, you will also be able to maintain your dignity and integrity. If you opt to keep your hair in favor of oppressive and unjust employment practices, you win the game for both you and the next generation.
That is definitely what I choose do for the last 14 years of my career. It wasn’t always easy, but it was worth it. I am actually grateful for any job opportunities that I missed out on because of my locs. Because I feel as though I would have been miserable in such work spaces. I probably would have been perpetually exhausted trying to always prove my value and worth because of my hair and my heritage.
Likewise, I held onto my locs a little longer than I planned to because I wanted to cut them off about 4 months before I did this past April. When I felt that it was time to cut my locs off in January, the case about the student who was being forced to cut his locs in order to graduate from high school was brought to the forefront. At that point I decided to keep my locs a little longer as a statement of solidarity for him and other youths who may be experiencing similar situations.
I wanted other young people to see that you can wear locs and be professional at the same time. Though I ultimately decided to cut my locs this past March for personal reasons, I still stand by my principles on matters such as this.
What are Your Economic Options?
One thing that you can always accuse me of being is a realist. While I have many ideas about the way the world should be, I also know that the majority of us live in a world that requires us to be gainfully employed in order to survive. Except when it comes to occupations that specifically employ or emphasize such principles, cultural pride and spirituality don’t usually pay the bills.
So sometimes you have to make hard decisions when it comes to your principles and values versus your livelihood. That’s not to say that you must compromise in order to live a fruitful, prosperous life because there are many options when it comes to economic stability.
Instead of a searching for integrity-compromising employment opportunities, you can start your own business. I know a number of loc wearers who did just that. They decided to start their own business rather than cut their hair to get a job. Most of them ended up being appreciative of lost employment opportunities because those situations forced them to find a more viable solution.
Another alternative is to seek employment in an industry or company that embraces cultural diversity. While more and more corporations are promoting cultural diversity within the workplace, some industries consistently embrace this concept on a broad scale.
Here is a list of professions that may be more conducive for loc wearers:
As you see, loc wearers have options when it comes to their hair versus gainful employment. There is rarely a time when cutting your hair is the only choice that you have. Making the decision to keep your locs may require you to make some hard decisions like starting your own business or changing careers. The important thing to remember is that you don’t have to sacrifice your hair for finances.
There are many things to think about when choosing an expat country. After living as an expat in three different countries there are many things that I wish I had considered before moving abroad. Although I tremendously enjoyed my experiences, I think very differently about moving abroad at this stage in my life. In fact, I have been diligently contemplating my next move overseas for quite some time now. Though I don’t plan to move right away I have started planning key aspects of my next expat journey.
Here are some things that I consider important when choosing an expat country:
Cost of Living
This is always at the top of my list. I like to live a comfortable life no matter where I am. So I choose destinations that will afford me the comfort level that I desire. It is important for me to move somewhere with a reasonable cost of living. I like having enough disposable income so that I can enjoy my leisure time.
Of course this is not the case for everybody. For some, the basics is more than enough as long as they are in their dream destination. And this is perfectly fine. But either way, cost of living is a very important factor in choosing an expat location. Cost of living impacts your overall quality of life in any given location. So you need to consider your budget and your living situation before heading to you expat destination.
As I have shared before in other posts, I lived in the Middle East for most of my time abroad. The cost of living in this part of the world is similar to that of areas like New York, California, and Hawaii. However, all of my accommodation and transportation expenses were covered by my employer. Thus, the cost of living did not adversely impact my standard of living. Therefore, I had more disposable income to enjoy my preferred standard of living.
If you have health issues that require special treatment or services you need to ensure that this is available in your desired expat country. If you are otherwise healthy and generally only need routine health screenings this concern is not as urgent. However, you should investigate the availability of preventative, acute, and emergency care services before you move abroad. Getting the right care when you need it can literally be a matter of life and death.
Health insurance is another factor, especially in high income countries where healthcare provision is absorbent. Employers generally cover such expenses for expats. However, you may need to supplement your policy so that you can access private care when needed.
Climate and Weather
Every time I think about this dynamic I recall a story about an African student who studied abroad in America. He was from West Africa where the climate is tropical and warm during most of the year. His study abroad trip was scheduled in December and his flight was set to arrive in Pennsylvania.
December is considered the dry season in his country of origin. The temperatures in that region are generally in the mid to high 70’s in December. So he packed his luggage and dressed accordingly. After arriving in Pennsylvania in shorts and a light jacket he encountered a very unpleasant surprise. He was cold, shivering, and did not have an appropriate change of clothes. Fortunately a stranger came to his rescue and gave him a jacket. Needless to say he learned a very important lesson that day.
Likewise, I tell this story so that prospective expats who have never traveled abroad can learn a valuable lesson. The climate and temperature is not the same all around the world. It is important to think about what type of weather you enjoy when choosing an expat country. You could be pleasantly surprised or deeply disappointed by the climate and weather in a given locale.
If you are religious you need to consider how you will practice your faith while living abroad. Some countries are more conducive to and/or tolerant of certain religious practices and belief systems than others. In general expat-heavy countries usually tolerate religious freedom among its expat population. But even in the most tolerant nations, there may not be many places for expats of diverse religions to worship.
For instance, the UAE is a Muslim nation full of mosques and other artifacts related to this religion. As an expat, you are free to adhere to any belief system as long as you don’t proselytize in the country. Even though people are free to practice whatever faith they believe in there are few places of worship dedicated to other faith systems such as Christianity or Hinduism. Usually practitioners of other belief systems congregate in malls, lounges, and other make-shift places of worship to conduct their religious services.
While you can practice your religion in some countries, you may not have easy access to a similar community of believers. Even more, it may be forbidden to practice your belief system in certain countries that don’t embrace religious tolerance. So you definitely need to do some research in this area if religion is important to you.
After the initial excitement of your move has worn off you are going to need a viable source of entertainment. Everyone is different so there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to this issue. You may be fine with taking nature walks or going to the beach every weekend. Or, you may enjoy regular trips to the theater and performing arts shows. There are so many entertainment options that are suitable for different types of individuals.
So you need to think about what entertainment choices are important to you. You also need to research the types of entertainment that are available in the expat country. Depending on your purpose for moving abroad the availability of entertainment choices could make or break your expat experience.
This consideration if self-explanatory. Understanding safety elements in a given location is vital to your overall well-being. This is especially the case for solo female travelers. In general, international employers will ensure that their expat employees live and work in a safe area. However, they generally don’t control your comings and goings outside of work hours. Therefore, you need to be aware of the general dangers common in the locale.
Transportation is a major factor when moving abroad. In some countries you won’t be able to buy, lease, rent, or drive a vehicle as a foreigner. In other areas public transportation may not be easily accessible so you. Either way you need to think about the cost and availability of transportation options when moving abroad.
During my various expat journeys my family and I had a driver everywhere we lived. However, we also had our own vehicle so I drove myself around on occasion. While I enjoyed having a driver I also like the freedom and independence that comes with the ability to drive.
Chances are when you first move abroad you are going to want to communicate with your loved ones back home. Unless you are using a free calling app your phone bill can get quite expensive. So you definitely need to factor in the cost of communicating with loved ones abroad.
While calling apps are viable options in some regions, they are not in other areas. Some countries block calling apps. Other countries have such poor internet connectivity that it is difficult to rely on calling apps.
Another important facet of international communication is time zone differences. Your family and friends may be 8 hours or more behind the time that you are on. This means that you will have to plan your phone calls very carefully.
If you are moving with family members then you definitely need to consider their needs and desires when selecting an expat country. They may have preferences on the type of terrain, climate, weather, entertainment choices, etc. that they like as well. Choosing a destination that you all agree on will make the journey more enjoyable.
If you are traveling with children you need to plan for their education. You need to consider which options are available to them, especially in the early phases of the move. It is not uncommon for new expats families to have trouble getting their children enrolled in school at first. This is especially the case for those who arrive within a couple of weeks prior to the start of school. It can also be complicated for those who arrive in the middle of a school term.
Also if you are travelling with family you need to determine if your employer will pay for their relocation expenses. Some expat employers pay for round trip plane tickets for you and your family members to arrive in the country. They also give you annual round trip tickets (or cash in lieu) to travel back home every year. This is a great perk as it makes travel less expensive for your entire family.
On the other hand, there are some employers who only pay for employee travel. Even worse, some don’t reimburse for transportation to and from the country at all. This can make your journey a lot more expensive. So do your research to determine if moving to a specific country is a viable option for your family.
Proximity to Home
The last consideration that I want to share is the destination’s proximity to your home base. This may or may not present a problem for you. Some people desire to be closer to home so that they can have easier access to their sick or elderly loved ones. This way if they have to make an emergency trip it won’t take too long or be too costly. Other people want to be as far away from their home base as possible for a number of reasons.
Need more help planning your expat journey? Contact us so that we can assist you.
An overwhelmingly remote workforce has become part of our everyday reality. As such, many people have come to understand what it truly means to work virtually or remotely. Yet, quite a few envious onlookers waiting for a chance to nab the first beach corner are still not aware of what it really means to work virtually.
Being able to work remotely is an excellent job perk. This type of work environment allows employees to stay home and care for loved ones or travel the world. But the reality is that working from home is certainly not a day at the beach (at least not for the average worker).
Instead working from home requires hard work, dedication, focus, and excellent time-management skills. These traits are not inherent in every worker. This means that everyone won’t be as effective in a virtual work environment regardless of the benefits that can be derived from working in such a setting. Therefore, if you are considering working remotely take a look at some of the pros and cons of virtual work environments below before you commit to such a work environment.
Advantages of Virtual Work Environments
Many virtual working situations come with the added benefit of scheduling flexibility. While workers are still required to maintain a set amount of hours, they sometimes have the ability to work during variable hours of the day. The is an excellent benefit for individuals who have other obligations that they may have to tend to during regular business hours.
Oftentimes working virtually comes with location independence. This means that you aren’t tied to a specific geographical location when it comes to fulfilling your work duties. You can work from home, which can be down the street, across the country, or on the other side of the world. This gives employees the freedom to travel whenever they desire.
Many employees have reported that they are more productive when they work virtually. They don’t have to deal with the constant interruptions or distractions that are inherent in many workplace environments. They can also work the way they want to work, which means that they can plug in their earphones or blast their music in the background.
Virtual employees don’t have to change locations to attend meetings and they can take breaks at times that are convenient for them. They also don’t have to spend hours driving to and from work each day. This means that they can get more work done and often the quality of their work improves because of these factors.
Not having to drive back and forth to work also has other benefits which includes saving money on transportation costs. Virtual workers don’t have to spend as much money on gas, vehicle maintenance, public transportation fare, etc. for work-related purposes. Virtual employees can also save on their wardrobe budget, laundry and dry cleaning, dining out (lunch), etc.
Disadvantages of Virtual Work Environments
Work-Life Balance Challenges
Working virtually also comes with its share of challenges. When you work virtually your office is in your home, which means that there is no true separation from home and work. Even if you have a dedicated office in your home, work is literally only a few feet away from your home life.
This can be daunting for workaholics who find it hard to separate themselves from their work. Or, it can simply be unnerving for individuals who prefer a solid division between their work and home life. It’s very easy to find yourself putting the last touches on that project in the midnight hour or responding to emails three hours after you have officially completed your workday. If you find that you are overworking yourself you can easily experience burnout.
Time Management Difficulties
On the opposite end, individuals with poor time management skills can find that working from home is quite challenging. If you are a procrastinator or have challenges working independently, you may quickly find yourself in the unemployment line when you work virtually. You must have sound time management skills in order to be able to successfully work in a virtual environment, otherwise you may not be an ideal candidate to work in this type of setting.
While technology is great and has many benefits, it is also subject to error. Virtual meetings are the norm in virtual work environments but they can be easily stalled or completely interrupted when technology issues ensue.
Also, miscommunication can easily occur with written communication which is also the norm in the virtual work environment. Most work environments rely on email communication to a heavy degree in today’s workforce. This reliance is doubled or tripled in some cases when it comes to working remotely. As such, email messages can be easily misinterpreted causing conflict or complications among employees.
Another challenge with email communication is that it can get overwhelming. As previously stated, email communication tends to be overused or excessive in virtual work environments. This means that many emails may go unread or half read if they consume too much of an employee’s day.
Lack of Community
The workplace presents a great opportunity to meet and interact with people throughout the day. When you work from home you usually only interact with your colleagues on an ad hoc basis. In which case the majority of your day is spent in isolation unless you have a public facing job that requires you to interact with internal and/or external customers on a regular basis.
Even then, these tend to be one-off situations that don’t satisfy an individual’s need for lasting, meaningful relationships. Thus, working from home can led to isolation and loneliness especially for introverted individuals who already find it difficult to make meaningful social connections.
So there you have it. Working virtually, similar to other work settings, has both pros and cons. Some individuals easily thrive in remote work environments while others may not be as successful. Either way is not an indication of who you are as a person. It is simply a matter of your personal preference and aptitude.
Need more help navigating your career options? Contact us and we will gladly assist you.
When I first embarked upon my expat adventures, I had no plans of returning to the U.S. My goal was to perpetually live abroad though I wasn’t married to any particular country during that time. I simply loved the thrill that I got from exploring different parts of the world and I knew that international travel would forever be part of my life at the onset of my first expat adventure.
However, I was forced to move back to the U.S. in July 2018 due to some major health complications that my husband was experiencing at the time. So I reluctantly packed my bags and headed back home so that my husband could get the help that he needed. Fortunately, my husband has recovered and is doing much better now.
While I still miss being an expat, I realize that we came back home just in time. We had no idea that a global pandemic would hit less than two years after our return. Though, I am greatly empathetic toward expats who are experiencing precarious situations. My heart goes out to anyone who is suffering in any way due to COVID.
Being in our home country has many advantages in situations like this. One of the most important benefits of being home is that we are closer to our extended family and friends during this time of uncertainty. This gives us easier access to a support system that we would not have readily had access to if we were still abroad.
Additionally, we don’t have to worry about other nuisances involved in expat life right now. Since we are home, we qualify for and have access to job, business, and other forms of governmental assistance, if we need it. We don’t have to be concerned about passport, visa, contract, or other document renewals and/or fees during this time. We don’t have to worry about the possibility of being stranded outside of our home country for extended periods of time. And, we have access to a strong, viable healthcare system and healthcare insurance scheme among other things.
Don’t misunderstand me – I still wholeheartedly support expat life. Yet, as amazing as being an expat can be it also has its disadvantages during both good and bad times. This shutdown has just made me truly appreciate being home for these and many other reasons.
Being from a Developed Country
Until now nothing has made me more appreciative of the comforts, amenities, and luxuries that are available in the U.S. As my son and I were taking a stroll through the almost deserted walkway in the back of our house a few weeks ago, I began to marvel at just how clean and inviting the space was. This is by no means nothing new as our neighborhood is always immaculately clean and beautifully landscaped. Even more, our community is normally filled with the laughter of young children, the barking of dogs, the thunder of little bodies moving around the playground, or the peaceful quiet of daybreak.
But what dawned on me this day was not the absence of these sounds or activities, but instead the absence of such scenery in other parts of the world. I have lived in and traveled to some of the most destitute parts of the world where living in a clean, safe community is considered a luxury. The majority of the population in these countries lived in extreme poverty and in very depressing environments.
I am definitely not saying that the U.S. is always clean and safe because we likewise have poverty, homelessness, and crime. However, there is a stark difference in the everyday environment in developed versus developing parts of the world. And, it is heartbreaking. So in that moment I started to give thanks and praise for the many comforts that I have enjoyed throughout my life as a U.S. citizen living in America and abroad.
Being Able to Travel
As the saying goes, “you don’t miss your well until the water runs dry”. And indeed the travel waters have ran dry over the past few months. My family had a few trips planned for this summer that are now forgone wishes. Fortunately, we were planning to purchase our plane tickets the week after COVID was declared a pandemic but we weren’t able to because of the virus. So we didn’t have to deal with complicated cancellation or exchange policies. However, we are dealing with an impending thrills-free summer and possibly winter and spring too.
Though this is not the ideal situation, I can easily cope with it because of the many adventures I have had through my expat journeys. I have amazing memories and beautiful pictures of some of the most exotic places that I have visited around the world. These thoughts and images are enough to pass the time during the next few months or so.
Undoubtedly these cherished memories have given me plenty of reasons to be grateful for my past travel experiences on every level. Not only I am appreciative of the tangible benefits I have experienced by being able to live in and travel to different parts of the world, I am also thankful for the myriad of mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits that I have reaped from my expat journeys.
Mentally, my expat travels have changed the way I view the world and how I think holistically. I am no longer an American citizen (except according to my passport) – instead I am a global citizen. I am concerned about how everything impacts the world at large because I know that the world is united by one common thread.
Emotionally, I am better able to cope with difficult situations because of my travel experiences. If you travel abroad enough, you will inevitably experience hardships and difficulties that you have very little to no control over. So you learn to cope – the sooner you learn to do so the better. At this stage in my life I can adjust to almost any situation. I didn’t even flinch when COVID was declared a pandemic. I simply started making plans to adjust and deal with our new reality.
Spiritually, I have grown and shifted in so many ways because of the things that I saw and experienced while I was living abroad. I learned so many things about religion and spirituality that changed my entire belief system. To dig into it now would be a disservice to my experiences so suffice it to say that I am immensely grateful for the spiritual lessons that I learned during my expat experiences.
Being with My Family
I am very blessed to have a wonderful husband and two amazing children whom I was able to share all of my expat experiences with. I always had someone by my side during my expat journeys so loneliness was never a major issue for me during that period of my life. However, as awesome as my family is I tend to take their compassion and love for granted at times.
COVID-19 has made me realize the value of having constant companions by my side through thick and thin. Unfortunately, there are many single people who have been shut in by themselves throughout this lockdown. While they may have family and friends, they live by themselves which can make being inside for weeks or months at a time very lonely and depressing.
So I am most appreciative of having my family with whom I can laugh, cry, giggle, scream, and simply just be with.
Need help planning your expat adventure? Contact us so that we can assist you.
COVID-19 has taught us many lessons in many forms. It has undoubtedly reshaped the way we do business. Aside from the health implications of the virus, it has impacted the workforce greater than any other sector. And, of course, this has had a major impact on the economy as a whole.
As many businesses are beginning to open back up, the exact toll of the virus on the employment sector has not been completely realized. There are many nuisances that we are currently faced with that will continue to challenge business operations for years to come. There are likewise many positive lessons that we will continue to implement when the virus is long gone and in our distant memories.
Here a few ways that COVID-19 has and will continue to impact the workforce…
Remote Work Environments
Given the success that many organizations have had with moving their workforce almost completely online, it is likely that the same organizations will increasingly embrace a remote workforce. This phenomenon is certainly not new, however, it’s ability to be successful has been overwhelmingly proven during the peak of the COVID-19 shutdown. Many employers have now realized the value of remote work environments as they have been able to see the impact of such work spaces on their bottom line. They have been able to save money on space, electricity, equipment, etc.
On one hand a number of employers had to invest heavily in virtual meeting platforms like Skype, Zoom, etc. in order to keep their organizations afloat. On the other hand these same employers were able to save money on costs associated with hosting employees in one or more physical locations.
Additionally employers saw an increase in employee productivity, morale, and retention as organizations were able to accommodate their employees with remote work schedules. When employees work in remote environments they experience fewer workplace related distractions that often result in low productivity. They also gain valuable time not having to travel back and forth to work, which also improves productivity.
Additionally, many workers were forced to stay home during this pandemic to care for children and other shut-in loved ones who required round-the-clock care. The ability to work remotely was a major blessing for them. They could maintain their employment while being able to care for their loved ones, which also boosted their confidence in their organizations. Given the benefits that both employers and employees have realized through the increase in remote or virtual work environments, it is most likely that this trend is here to stay and increase.
Financial and Retirement Planning
As stated earlier, the economy was one of the hardest hit sectors due to the COVID-19 shutdown. Global and national economies have been hit quite hard as evidenced by a very bearish stock market. Undoubtedly these economic woes have reverberated to individuals and families at almost every socioeconomic level. A number of people have been left unemployed, underemployed, furloughed, or otherwise facing uncertain economic times.
This pandemic was certainly a wake-up call for individuals with poor money management skills. Many people learned very hard, first-hand lessons on how important it is to save, invest, and plan for the future. They saw just how devastating it can be to not have money stored away to fall back on during difficult financial times.
Thus, another way in which COVID-19 has changed the workforce is in the realm of financial and retirement planning. While this may not change how the average person works, it will definitely change how they interact with their earnings. More and more people have realized the benefit and necessity to save and invest in emergency funds and retirement plans.
So there will most likely be major growth in the financial and retirement planning sectors as more people scramble to store away for the future. Financial coaches, advisors, and planners are likely to see a surge in new clients. Even more, they will probably see an upturn in non-traditional clientele as individuals from all walks of life make efforts to improve their financial future.
COVID-19 has shone a glaring spotlight on the viability of almost every employment sector in the developed world. Through this pandemic we have been able to see which jobs have staying power and which ones don’t. This pandemic has been a definite call-to-action for individuals who were underemployed and for those who work in transitional employment sectors.
This crisis has led many to the unemployment and/or interview line in a desperate attempt to secure their financial future. The fact that these individuals have been left without jobs says a great deal about the need for workers in certain industries. Governmental shutdowns almost exclusively targeted non-essential industries, which ultimately means that in times of economic hardship workers in these sectors will suffer the most.
I stated “almost exclusively non-essential industries” because workers in essential industries were also hit. This is not because their jobs are non-essential, but in many cases their jobs are transitional due to automation. Keep in mind that grocers experienced substantial increases in profit throughout these last few months while a number of other sectors were suffering tremendously.
Though many grocers were increasing their bottom line, a number of them were likewise laying off employees. Why? Because they had the capacity to service customers through automated checkout systems at a greater capacity than they did with human employees. This indicates future job cuts in even robust and sustainable industries.
Fortunately, many workers have taken note of this dynamic and have opted to start or continue their education so that they can secure viable employment. Many colleges and universities are experiencing increases in enrollment as more people have seen themselves in the unemployment line due to COVID-19. This trend will only increase as more individuals are forced out of their current jobs.
While the jury is still out on the overall toll that COVID-19 will have on our everyday lives one thing is for certain – we will not go back to life as usual. This pandemic has shaken and waken us in critical ways. It has given us plenty to think about in terms of how we do business. And it will continue to make us question our old patterns.
COVID-19 has taught us many lessons that we will be unpacking for years to come. Top among them is the need for economically viable careers that can withstand the test of crisis. At the writing of this post, a record 10 million Americans have filed corona virus-related unemployment claims and that number is steadily climbing. While the government is actively implementing economic relief programs, unemployment funds haven’t started flowing for many who are out of work right now.
Some of the worst hit industries are food service, hospitality, manufacturing, and retail. The informal economy composed of domestic workers, street vendors, and the like will suffer the most since they aren’t taxed or monitored by the government. This makes them ineligible for unemployment funds and unable to maintain their income, in many instances. The lowest wage earners are also among the largest group impacted by this situation.
Needless to say, the majority of those unemployed don’t have a formal education or training. The corona virus-related unemployment sector is primarily filled with non-essential workers. On the other hand, some jobs are fundamental in this current climate and, in general, are recession-proof. These types of jobs can usually survive the most stifling economic collapse such as the one we are currently faced with. Such jobs include:
Healthcare and medical professionals
Information technology specialists
Law enforcement and correction officers
Primary, secondary, and post-secondary educators
Social workers and counselors
Morticians and funeral workers
Public utility and transit staff
Emergency care workers
With the exception of a few, most jobs in this category require some type of formal training or education. Formal education may involve a 2-month course of study or more than 12 years of education and residency. In some cases, the work is intense and long but the rewards are plentiful whether we are in an up or down economy.
This is why I consistently advocate for my clients, family, and friends alike to obtain and/or continue their education beyond high school. As an educator by profession, I have seen the value of having a formal education in many situations. This is why I believe in quality, affordable, practical, and beneficial educational pathways that can help those around me remain economically viable.
Now, this situation is a wake-up call to many who did not heed my advice or the advice of others who have shared the same message. But, it is not too late. There are many companies and organizations who will still need formally educated and trained workers now and after this crisis is over.
Therefore, now is the time to continue your education. It is best to start while the need is great and opportunities are plentiful for those who choose recession-proof career paths. While many sectors of the economy are down right now, most colleges and universities are open for business. Most in-person classes have transitioned to the online environment so being confined to your place of shelter is not an obstacle.
Since most educational institutes have embraced technology over the past few decades, many colleges and universities are able to support their students’ needs through various learning management systems and other modalities.
I encourage anyone who is thinking about going back to school to do so now. Whether you already have college credits or not, you can start or re-start your education journey within a few weeks to a few months. In the words of one of the greatest educational thinkers of the last century:
The future belongs to those who prepare for it today.
Aside from the obvious future economic benefits of obtaining a formal education, going back to school right now can help you stay productive. Pursuing your education can give you something meaningful and valuable to do during this lock down period. You don’t have to waste endless hours pouring over fear-inducing social media or engaging in other non-productive activities that are not conductive to your financial well-being. Today is the day to begin preparing for the future.
As I was preparing to write this post my mind went back to the many wonderful adventures that I had as an expat educator. These are experiences that I would not have exchanged for anything in the world during that period of my life. The opportunity to work in a foreign country has many advantages and it is something that I still strongly recommend to those who have insatiable wanderlust.
However, right now things are a bit uncertain for a number of individuals in the expat community. Many expatriates are in very precarious situations as they navigate their way through COVID-19 work and travel restrictions that have left many workers vulnerable. I have been in contact with a number of my expat friends and clients who are experiencing various hardships that are unique to the expat community during this time.
This situation has thrown many people for a loop. However, it is in this hour that we must press forward and persevere as we encounter novel challenges that may require us to make some uncomfortable and possibly anxiety-inducing decisions.
As a former expat who worked in Qatar during the 2017 Qatar blockade, I am very familiar with the fear and anxiety that expats can feel during such times. During that period, Qatar cut off ties with a number of its former neighboring allies resulting in political, social, and economic instability in a large portion of the Gulf region. Many of the region’s expats were very unsure of what to do during that time.
After much thought and consideration I ultimately made the decision to leave the country and the region as a whole. That was the best decision for my family and I based on our circumstances.
As such, I have a great deal of empathy for expats who are away from home right now and are trying to figure out what to do. So I decided to dedicate this post to giving expats tips on how to prepare for the uncertainty that lies ahead. Here are my suggestions:
Save, Save, Save
This should go without saying, but you should save as much money as you possibly can right now. Try to spend your money on essential items only and get limited quantities of the things that you need at this time. I know that this advise is contrary to the general recommendation that people stock up on essential supplies during this pandemic.
However, expats are in a very unique situation. They are not in their country of citizenship and chances are they are on a limited contract subject to cancellation and non-renewal. This can result in unprecedented economic and other hardships for this segment of the workforce.
Thus, it is likely that some expats may have to leave the country in which they are currently residing so it is not the best idea to stock up on food. It may be better to purchase enough food and supplies for two to three weeks at a time. This way you will have enough resources for your immediate needs but you won’t waste your precious money, if you end up leaving these resources behind.
Expat employers are scrambling to figure out how COVID-19 will impact their organizations. Many sectors have already experienced a significant decrease in the workforce causing them to lay-off or terminate non-essential employees. Oftentimes in the international workforce, non-essential employees equate to expat workers.
Additionally, many of the economic relief programs in various countries are designed for citizens and permanent residents. Expat workers usually cannot avail these options like in the case of Korea. Some countries simply can’t support the economic weight of providing social welfare for every resident of their nations. So they are left with doing the next best thing, which is providing for their own citizens. And this is completely understandable given the circumstances.
However, this does not create the ideal situation for expat workers who may be on the verge of unemployment while they are away from their country of citizenship. Depending on their situation, these same expat workers may not even be able to take advantage of economic relief programs in their countries of citizenship while they are abroad. Therefore, it is in their best interest to hoard as much money as they possibly can right now.
Avail Emergency Fund Options
While some countries are shutting expats out of their COVID-19 economic relief programs, other countries like the UK are instituting measures to assist certain expats and other non-citizen residents in their countries. These types of programs usually apply to exceptional circumstances and are not generally available to all expat workers. However, such funds may be useful to qualifying expats who are experiencing economic hardships.
Additionally, many countries such as the U.S. and Canada have implemented financial assistance programs for their citizens and permanent residents. In many cases, these funds are available to citizens who are currently working, living, or travelling abroad.
If you filed taxes in the U.S. last year or if you own a U.S. based small business, you may qualify for a variety of economic stimulus programs under the CARES act. The good thing about the relief available to U.S. citizens is that it will be directly deposited in citizens’ bank accounts if their banking information is on file with the IRS. Qualifying small business owners can also apply for loans and grants online. So expats and other citizens who are abroad during this time can still access these programs.
Other countries have similar programs that expatriate citizens may be eligible for. So do your homework and research options that may be available to you through your country of citizenship or your expat country. Don’t miss out on these helpful opportunities as they can be very beneficial during this time.
Avoid Non-Essential Travel
Expat travel adventures during the COVID-19 crisis has led to some pretty interesting travel tales. Many expat educators were enjoying scheduled spring break periods when COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. At the same time a number of countries declared state of emergencies in their nations that resulted in the implementation of some pretty austere travel restriction measures.
It is very common for expat workers to travel to other countries during extended break periods such as spring break. As such, a number of expat educators were globe-trotting as their expat countries were banning all non-essential travel in and out of the country.
Countries like the UAE banned the entry of all non-UAE citizens into the country for two weeks. This left many non-citizen residents stuck outside the country while their jobs, possessions, and, in some cases, family members remained in the UAE. However, the country has now started allowing essential expats back into the country.
However, a number of expats are still not able to enter the country. They have to pay extra money to stay at their vacation location (if a visa extension is possible) or they have to make plans to get back to their country of citizenship. Either way, this situation has resulted in expats spending more money and experiencing higher than normal stress levels in the midst of a pandemic that is economically and emotionally taxing for the entire planet.
This is one reason why it is extremely important to limit travel during this time. Expats have a lot more at stake in terms of job security and life continuity during this time so it is best to travel with caution and trepidation.
Repatriate to Your Country of Citizenship
Now I know my last bit of advise was about limiting travel, but if at all possible expats should try to repatriate to their country of citizenship. There are many air travel restrictions at present so this may not be a viable option for some expats. However, for those who can afford to leave their jobs and pay for transportation and lodging this may be the best option.
We are in a time of grave uncertainty with many predicting that this situation could continue for months. It is best to be around family and loved ones who can support you in your country of citizenship. Without viable employment, many expats’ visas will be cancelled or expire in the coming months, which can result in increased hardships for these displaced workers.
Even countries like Turkey have taken the initiative to bring their citizens back home from hard-hit nations like Kuwait and elsewhere. This shows that national leaders recognize the importance of their citizens being home during a time like this.
Now I know that this is much easier said than done for some expats as there is so much at stake. Some expats don’t have viable employment or means of securing economic relief in their countries of citizenship. Others don’t have a country of citizenship to repatriate to. Still others may not be able to afford the airfare to make it back to their country of citizenship. In such cases, it is best to follow some of the other guidelines listed above.
If you can’t make it back to your country of citizenship right now, be sure to save as much money as possible and research economic relief options that may be available to you. Above all, if you believe in a higher power pray and connect with that power as much as possible.
Need more expat career guidance? Contact us and we can help you determine viable options that meet your needs.